Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Tucker and Park Crash Last Night

Tucker and Park Crash Last Night

I witnessed the aftermath of the horrible car crash at S. Tucker and Park Ave in the LaSalle Park / King Louis Square area.

According to news reports, the crash happened about 6:15 PM. A look at "Safe City" confirms the first call was made at 6:15, with subsequent calls at 6:17 and 6:20.

The bus I was riding passed through the area about 6:25. Emergency vehicles were still in the process of responding, but police had already blocked all traffic southbound on Tucker at Hickory, causing a detour via the newly built sections of Hickory and 13th, to Park then through the rather tight new roundabout at 14th, south to Lafayette then back to Tucker. So, I was about a block away, at 13th and Park, when I got my best view. And it was dark.

Nevertheless, it looked quite bad. The car (according to the news, a Dodge Neon) was still smoky, and appeared to have flipped into the grass near LaSalle Baptist Church. I had a feeling something really bad had occurred.

It infuriates me that the people in the (probably stolen) Volvo that hit the still unidentified woman's Neon ran away. Reports said they headed west on Park, then north on 14th. That's in the general direction of the Clinton-Peabody public housing complex, so I'm sure the police were out in force last night in that complex. Of course, they could have just as easily kept running north, across the viaduct into downtown and hopped onto MetroLink at Civic Center.

This is the same intersection where a guy crashed into a police van and then sped away just after midnight Sunday morning. And according to Safe City, there have been about a dozen accidents there in the past several months.

This stretch of South Tucker is practically a highway. It's really wide, carries a lot of traffic at rush-hour, and many, many drivers on Tucker run that red light, especially southbound after passing the slight curve at Hickory.

Meanwhile, another police-van involved crash happened, also yesterday, at Gravois and Utah. This was somehow related, according to the news, to a police chase after a carjacking at Potomac and Virginia near Gravois Park.

People really need to stop stealing cars! And, it would probably be a good idea to stop driving into police vans. Aren't they kind of hard to miss?

I just hope I'm never involved in one of these kind of accidents - although given how often they're happening, it seems like it's not unlikely I could be. Even if my car was stolen and then involved in a fatal accident, I would feel tremendously guilty.

And, by the way, the "H.E.A.T." program would do nothing to stop these kind of incidents from happening in the late afternoon and early evening hours - i.e., right after school lets out.

Admittedly, a lot of the young people involved in these activities probably don't attend school on a regular basis. So, maybe increasing the mandatory schooling age to 18 and stepping up truancy patrols would be the only way - short-term - to make an impact.

Long-term, of course, we need more and better after-school activity options, and more parental involvement to stop this from happening in the first place. But I recognize, that's easier said than done.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In the Mailbag

In the Mailbag

About this time of year, the volume of direct mail advertising increases noticeably.

While we get plenty of mail order catalogs, we also get tons of mail from "local" businesses.

At my house, we got ads from the following businesses:

  • Globe Drug / Cherokee Station Business District
  • Schnucks
  • Rent A Center
  • Big Lots
  • Verizon Wireless "EasyPay"
  • GEICO
  • RentWay
  • Family Dollar
  • Aldi
  • Church's Chicken
  • Hardee's
  • Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken
  • Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits
  • KFC
  • Pizza Hut
  • Central Cash Advance, 6637 Manchester Ave.
  • MattressFirm
  • Midas
  • CarX
  • Elicia's Pizza
  • Shop N Save
  • Dalco Home Remodeling
  • Save A Lot
  • BCK Communications
  • Papa John's Pizza

    With the significant exception of the Cherokee Station mailer that is full of independent businesses, this selection of mailers targeted to the 63118 ZIP code is skewed toward low-end retail, and fast food. Notice how many fried chicken places, pizza places, rent-to-own stores and discount grocery stores are represented.

    Of course, I guess I can't really complain - I shop at many of these places, or similar chains. I probably spend more, unfortunately, at dollar stores than I do at independently-owned local businesses.

    These ads reflect the perceived buying power of my neighborhood's demographics - as opposed to, say, the Arch City Chronicle's target market.

    I like to think I'm a "bridge" between -- both highly educated, and lower-income! I guess that's the trouble with being in grad school - or, for that matter, being a low-level bureaucrat. You get champagne schooling, but still get Busch beer money. Or, in my case, sparkling apple cider tastes, but root beer money. ;-)

    According to 2000 Census data for the City of St. Louis, in Benton Park West:

  • Median Household and Median Family Income was about $24,400 -- several thousand dollars less than the Citywide median...
  • But because of the high population density, the "Income Density" was actually higher than Citywide: $75 million per square mile for BPW; $68 million per square mile citywide.
  • Still, about one-third the population was considered to be in poverty, nearly 19% of households received public assistance, and more than 20% of the workforce was unemployed.
  • More positively, over 20% of the working population commuted via public transportation; and over 19% carpooled. Both figures are considerably higher than the respective Citywide figures of 10% and 13%. While Citywide, workers driving alone made up 69% of commuters, in BPW they're only about 52%. There should be many people willing to walk to stores in the area, because they already walk to the bus stops.

    So, there certainly are opportunities for independent businesses like those on Cherokee to take advantage of the community's buying power. That's why places like the South Side Outlet and Black Bear Bakery are great. Admittedly, the first comes from a more institutional point-of-view, a social entreprenership initiative of nearby SSDN; while the latter comes from the anarchist view promoted at other nearby places like CAMP and StL-IMC. It's a fascinating contrast. Combine those with mainstays like the two Globe Drug locations, the Casa Loma Ballroom, and Southside TV & Video; plus the array of Hispanic-owned businesses, and Cherokee Station is really a fascinating microcosm of the diversity of today's South St. Louis. One new biz is Tension Head, a punk/metal music store.

    The next step is to try to gradually replace some of the check-cashing places and rent-to-own stores with independent businesses, or maybe even a few more mainstream franchises. While permanent shifts in retail mean that JCPenney, Woolworth's, Walgreens, etc will never return to Cherokee Station, they can be replaced by local businesses instead.

    Although, as noted by Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, there may need to be some attitude adjustments for things to happen faster.


    Benton Park West businesses
    have a bright future! I'm sure of it.
  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Ticked-Off Reverse Commuters

    Ticked-Off Reverse Commuters

    I often ride the #58 Clayton-Ballas bus a short distance, from the Forest Park MetroLink station to WashU.

    But most people ride it a lot farther. They work at places like Saint Louis Galleria, St. John's Mercy, Missouri Baptist, and St. Luke's hospitals, and now as far west as Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

    The new #58 schedule, effective today, includes some major changes, which a lot of passengers didn't know about:

  • Service frequency was decreased from every 14-15 minutes, with alternating trips serving Ballas MetroBus Center or Brentwood Garage, to every 30 minutes;
  • Service on Brentwood Blvd. south of I-64 was eliminated; a transfer to the #66 Brentwood-Airport is necessary at the Clayton MetroBus Center. It runs once every 30 minutes;
  • Service on Clayton Rd. from Brentwood to Ballas was eliminated, except for selected early AM and late PM trips that serve the section from Lindbergh to Ballas. At all other times, a transfer to the new Clayton Road Connector is necessary at either Clayton MetroBus Center or Ballas MetroBus Center. It runs once each hour;
  • Direct service to Chesterfield Valley was added, once each hour mid-day and every trip after 3 PM. The alternating midday trips end at Ballas MetroBus Center.

    According to several passengers, the bus scheduled for 30 minutes prior to the one I caught never showed up! So several people were quite late for work today.

    And to make it even more confusing, the new schedule as printed and as posted online in PDF says "Effective August 22, 2005" on the front cover. This makes you think it's an old schedule! Inside, it does say "Effective November 28, 2005."

    Reminds me of another snafu they made several years back on the #40 Broadway: the printed schedule dropped Saturday and Sunday service entirely! They didn't drop the service; they just forgot to include it in the schedule.

    Details, details, details. I guess as long as Larry Salci gets paid (very well, thank you very much), nothing else matters.

    After all, it's not like most of these long-distance reverse commuters have other alternatives for getting to work. But, if they get ticked-off enough, they might find alternatives.

    And, perhaps, that's secretly what Metro wants - less of that expensive, long-distance service to West County. While it's true transit service cannot please everybody, all the time, Metro seems to have a penchant for ticking-off everybody, all the time.
  • Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    The Future of Carnahan School

    The Future of Carnahan School

    From Craig Schmid via the Marine Villa Yahoo Group:

    "Greetings:

    We have a lot for which to be thankful this year, and we will be receiving an early Christmas/Channukah/Kwanzaa/etc./new year gift this year with a special announcement regarding Carnahan School.
    WHEN: NEXT WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, AT 1:00 P.M.
    WHERE: CARNAHAN SCHOOL (4041 S. BROADWAY AT GASCONADE)
    WHAT: ANNOUNCEMENT OF FUTURE SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL PLANS.
    WHY: BECAUSE THE SCHOOL HAS MADE SUCH A TURNAROUND, SUPERINTENDENT WILLIAMS' COMMITMENT, COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND DEDICATION, AND THE
    AVAILABLE MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE AT THE BUILDING.
    WHO: ALL OF YOU (FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS); UNIVERSITY, HIGH-TECH, COMMUNICATIONS; COMMUNITY AND SCHOOL PARTNERS; SUPERINTENDENT WILLIAMS; ALDERMAN ORTMANN(invited); MAYOR SLAY(invited).
    This will be exciting news for the neighborhood, the City of St. Louis and the region. I know it is in the middle of the work day, but I hope you will let others who may be available during the day know about this, so that we can continue to show our support for our children, our families, our community, our school, and our bright future. A large presence will speak volumes about our efforts to support safe children, healthy families and strong communities.

    Thanks.
    Craig"

    UPDATE (Announcement Rescheduled):

    "Greetings:

    O.K., so in my effort to let you know first and to "get the word out", I ran into a slight glitch. Yes, what is slated to be announced next Thursday is still going to transpire. And so will the event occur. However, I have been told that it just won't be next Thursday. So, please contain your enthusiasm for a bit.
    Whenever there is a major announcement with significant partners across the country there can be scheduling glitches, and we just ran into one. Apparently everyone wants to participate in this major announcement, but not everyone can be there on November 30. AT THIS POINT IT LOOKS LIKE IT MAY BE RE-SCHEDULED FOR DECEMBER 12, OR 14, AT THE SAME TIME. SO PLEASE STAY TUNED.
    Thanks for your commitment. I apologize for any confusion. You are still welcome to visit Carnahan School next Thursday. It just won't be quite as exciting as the announcement next month."



    I'll speculate this could mean a couple things:

    1) Recently, when I specifically mentioned the recent gang-like behavioral issues in the neighborhood attributed to Carnahan Middle School students, a school board member mentioned that "well, Carnahan could become a small high school."

    2) Many observant readers are aware that a group over in St. Louis Hills wants to develop a new community center (for the 16th Ward) funded by a "Community Improvement District" special tax levy. Their desired site is Nottingham CAJT High School, a school which provides training in basic skills for employment and independent living to students with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

    However, SLPS doesn't want to sell the early-1950s one-story Nottingham building, which the neighborhood group claims has a capacity of 300+ but only about 100 students. That may partly be due to the necessary 9-to-1 teacher-student ratio in such a specialized program. So, perhaps Carnahan (also a one-story building) could be a new site for this program?

    I love the idea of converting all the elementary schools back to K-8. The 12 new schools in the eMINTs program are gradually starting the transition this year, by keeping their last year 5th graders there for 6th grade instead of going to middle school. I'm not sure whether Peabody, the original SLPS innovator in eMINTs whose test scores increased dramatically with the program, is also moving in that direction.

    Of course, converting Carnahan to another use would require making its feeder schools K-8: Froebel, Meramec (K-5 since 1980), Monroe (reopened K-5 in 2001 after having closed in 1982), Scruggs, and Shepard.

    Anyway, I have no idea what the true plans are. I guess we'll just have to show up on Nov. 30th to find out.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    On This Date: November 22nd

    On This Date: November 22nd

    Five (5) years ago today, I returned from a semester of study abroad at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

    November 22nd is a pretty significant day, both in my family and the world at large.

  • 2000 - I returned to St. Louis from South Africa.
  • 1990 - Margaret Thatcher resigned as British Prime Minister.
  • 1969 - My parents got married, at St. George Catholic Church in Gardenville (Affton).
  • 1963 - President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX.
  • 1890 - Legendary French leader Charles de Gaulle was born.
  • 1718 - Blackbeard the pirate was killed in a battle off the Virginia coast.
  • 1497 - Tying back into the Cape Town theme, Vasco da Gama became the first European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, ultimately reaching India.
  • Monday, November 21, 2005

    Winter Blogging Break

    Winter Blogging Break

    I've been keeping up this post-a-day pace for a few months now, but with the crush of grading papers and exams, and my own academic research, I'll need to cut back for the next several weeks.

    I will probably post occasionally, but not every day.

    See you in 2006!

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    FOUND: Kitten

    FOUND: Kitten

    (In the spirit of being proactive...)

    Small orange kitten found. Probably 6 months old.

    Around 10 PM Thursday, November 17, 2005.

    * this is in or around Wyoming and Nebraska, Benton Park West, 63118

    Contact me with any info.

    (Cross-posted on Craigslist)

    Benton Park West in Review

    Benton Park West in Review

    Despite my grousing, I really do love living in Benton Park West. Just some examples:

  • Diversity. BPW is incredibly diverse, with African-American, Hispanic, Asian and white families living on the same blocks. Many gay and lesbian couples have moved in recently; and there are folks with graduate degrees living on the same blocks as people who didn't finish high school.

  • Affordability. My wife and I were able to buy a comfortable two-family, in need of some work, for just over $50,000 in 2003. If you are willing to do some "sweat equity" you can probably find even better deals.

  • History. Now that we're part of an historic district, you can get Missouri tax credits for rehab work. Much of the neighborhood is intact; very little has been demolished, so most of the houses date from the 1880s to 1910s.

    Our house, built in 1898, has nice details like an art glass window in the front hall, pocket doors on both floors connecting the living room and bedroom, and a largely original kitchen cupboard on the first floor. These solid, brick-built houses with stone foundations are simply magnificent. Our house also has nice exterior details like a fleur-de-lys pattern in the cornice-level brick, and an arched brick entryway on the front of the house.

    Plus, I live only a few blocks from where my paternal great-grandparents lived in the 1940s (near Missouri and Pestalozzi).

  • Accessibility. Within just a few minutes walk from my front door, I can catch a bus that'll take me just about anywhere in the city. Buses run on Gravois, Arsenal, Jefferson and Cherokee, all within a few blocks of my house. Even South Grand is not too far away.

  • Beautification. I'm always amazed at how beautiful the flower garden at Wyoming and California is. The new trash cans on nearly every corner should help keep the litter under control.

  • Representation. Craig Schmid is great - probably the hardest-working aldermen around! And Jeanette Mott Oxford is an equally wonderful rep to have in the state legislature.

    All in all, Benton Park West has tremendous advantages!
  • Of Kittens and Minnows

    Of Kittens and Minnows

    ... That's who roams the streets of Benton Park West at night.

    Last night, a tiny little kitten followed me almost two blocks, right to my front door, in the bitter cold around 10 PM. So, I sighed, called my wife from the front porch to warn her, and we figured out a place for him to stay - for now.

    This morning, I noticed some (new?) gang graffiti indicating the corner of Utah and Pennsylvania belongs to the "3200 ... Minnow" or something like that. Maybe the word Minnow means Minnesota Ave., or perhaps its some new self-deprecating nickname "Yo, I'm Minnow - I can beat up The Shark" or something equally stupid.

    I'm a little concerned since, in the past, there's been a lot of tagging in nearby areas (such as on the barricades placed earlier this summer at Pennsylvania and Wyoming) by the "3200 Iowa" gang, so I wonder whether there's a turf war underway.

    I live in the 3200 block of Oregon, about halfway between Iowa and Minnesota.

    Talking of which, can anybody explain to me the logic of the order of "State Streets"? Going east to west, they are something like:

    Mississippi
    Wisconsin
    Illinois
    Missouri
    Indiana

    [interrupted by Jefferson]

    Texas
    Ohio
    Iowa
    California
    Oregon
    Nebraska
    Pennsylvania
    Minnesota
    Michigan

    [interrupted by Compton]

    Virginia
    Vermont
    Alabama
    Idaho
    Colorado
    Alaska
    Louisiana
    Tennessee
    Arkansas

    Several of those last few only exist in the Carondelet area; but others start as far north as Chouteau.

    I know that, originally, only states that supported Missouri joining the union were on the list. Thus, no "New York Ave." (There is a Connecticut St., but it runs east-west, and was named by the Hartford, CT insurance company that developed Tower Grove Heights.) But, that still doesn't explain the order of states.

    Ultimately, it makes navigating the area pretty confusing, until you figure out what streets go where, etc. I still get mixed up about Ohio and Iowa, since they're right next to each other in the grid.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Lead Safe....?

    Lead Safe...?

    MayorSlay.com recently ballyhooed the fledgling efforts of the mayor's Lead Safe St Louis initiative.

    Numbers reported by LSSL at their CityView meeting (or "CitiView" according to MayorSlay.com):

    In FY05, "City crews and contractors made 208 contaminated housing units lead safe."

    That's good, albeit a tiny drop in the bucket of what's needed. Is that really any more total than what was already being done between the Building Division, the Health Department, and CDA? I don't know.

    Here's the fun part:

    "Overall, nearly 5,000 housing units have been designated lead safe since we started our initiative."

    I think, but cannot prove, that the bulk of those are the (crap) built in the City since lead paint was banned by Federal law in 1978.

    You could, arguably, add the (mostly crappy) stuff built in the City since interior use of lead paint was banned in Missouri in 1952; but they're being a lot more cautious than that.

    It's true - the newer subsidized rental developments like O'Fallon Place (c. 1983), Murphy Park (c. 1996) and the newer market-rate for sale developments like Kingsbury Square (c. 1980, 1987 and 1997), Kings Heights (c. 1984), Park Hampton Estates (c. 1990) and St. Ambrose Place (c. 1994) - are all considered lead-safe.

    But, they sure ain't historic - they are, instead, vinyl-clad frame structures very similar to that found all across suburbia.

    For that matter, while most of the new-ish rental housing is affordable, most of the new-ish for sale housing is not. So, that means if you want to buy a house and don't have a whole lot of money, you'll probably be in something not deemed "lead-safe" (Habitat houses being a major exception).

    The City of St. Louis has, mostly, very old brick-built housing stock. A lot of it is still pretty affordable to buy. We should cherish it and preserve it to the extent possible. And part of that task is making it healthy to live in.

    And being accurate about the degree of progress we are making in doing so.

    Benton Park West-ifying

    Benton Park West-ifying

    Unfortunately, I'm not really active currently with my neighborhood association, so I shouldn't complain about the new Benton Park West website. But I will, just a little bit.

    The web site does look attractive, but there's some work to be done on the content. At the very least, a prominent link to the BPWNA Google Group should be included.

    Also, perhaps a little more history info would be good. I realize Edna Campos Gravenhorst wants to sell her book - indeed, my wife bought me a copy a couple weeks ago - but, still, a little more info out there wouldn't hurt. They could even add a link to Amazon to buy it.

    While it's nice to make a big splash at a fundraiser by unveiling a new web site, I hope BPWNA is able to build upon it in the coming months with useful, unique content. I hope I can help out, at least a little bit, when I have "extra" time.

    Let's at least plug the next fundraising event for BPWNA:

    Friday, November 25th, 2005
    5 PM - 8 PM
    Botanicals on the Park
    3014 S. Grand Blvd. at Arsenal
    "Winter Wonderland"
    10% of proceeds from all sales at Botanicals that evening go to BPWNA
    More Info: (314) 771-0803

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Suburb-to-Suburb by Public Transit: Sometimes Arduous

    Suburb-to-Suburb by Public Transit: Sometimes Arduous

    On Monday afternoon, I needed to go from Washington University to Crestwood Plaza by bus. It was rush hour, which has pluses and minuses in this particular case. It was also raining intermittently, which has mostly minuses in any case when you're waiting for buses.

    About 4:15, I walked over to the corner of Big Bend and Forsyth, to catch the #58 Clayton-Ballas (branch to Brentwood Garage). I used that stop because it also gives you the option of taking either the #97 Delmar or #64 Lucas Hunt to get into downtown Clayton.

    Given the heavy traffic and rain, it took a little while to get to the Clayton Transit Center, and even longer to go south on Brentwood Blvd. For some reason, I decided to transfer at the Saint Louis Galleria bus stop on Brentwood, rather than at the Transit Center. After about a 10 minute wait, I caught the #47 Cross County (branch to St. Anthony's) just before 5:00.

    Of course, the #47 also had to fight traffic, on Brentwood, Eager, Hanley, and Laclede Station. But, somehow, it still made it to Laclede Station at Watson about 5:15, where I transferred again, to the #11 Chippewa westbound. Fortunately, I didn't need to cross either street; just dashed across the edge of the Yorkshire Shopping Center parking lot as the #11 came through the intersection.

    I arrived at Crestwood about 5:25; conveniently, the #11 Chippewa stops in the mall parking lot near the Dillard's entrance.

    Anyway, this was actually a short, 1 hour commute - considering it took three buses and was practically door-to-door, that's not bad. It helps that (currently) the #58 and the #11 run every 15 minutes or so at rush hour; the #47 is every 30 minutes.

    On November 28th, the #58 Clayton-Ballas will change. Although service to Chesterfield will be improved, it will only run every 30 minutes. Currently, the #58 runs every 14 to 20 minutes or so, with alternating branches going to Brentwood Garage or to the Ballas Road MetroBus Transit Center.

    While the November 28th Service Changes are accurately touted as a service improvement in West County, it makes things a little more confusing in Mid-County. Now, to go south on Brentwood Blvd. into the City of Brentwood, you'll need to transfer to the newly renamed #66 Brentwood - Airport, currently known as the #66 Clayton - Airport. Of course, the Airport terminus suggested by the route name is not entirely accurate, since the route actually goes all the way to Village Square Shopping Center in Hazelwood, via North Lindbergh.

    Ironically, at one time this route was called the #66 Maplewood-Airport, although it actually operated from Saint Louis Marketplace shopping center in the City of St. Louis, then via Manchester (past its original terminus, the Yale Loop), Big Bend, Folk, and Hanley, into Clayton. North of Clayton, it ran mostly along the current #66 route, with some changes having been made back when the old #63 Clayton-Northwest Plaza was eliminated.

    At that time, the #66 was shifted from, I believe, its former routing within west University City via North & South, Delmar, McKnight into Woodson; over to North & South, Olive, 82nd Blvd., and through the subdivision north of Olive between 82nd and Woodson via Braddock and Kempland to Woodson near the I-170 underpass. This section was previously part of the #63 route, which also served Brown Road in Overland - hence the deviation to Brown on the #66 up to now. However, now the #66 is being streamlined to again run direct on Woodson, and the #33 Dorsett-Lackland will shift to Brown for the stretch from Lackland to St. Charles Rock Road. Currently, it runs directly on Lackland all the way to the Rock Road. And, back before the Lackland Road Bridge was reopened over the railroad tracks (owned by Bi-State) just east of I-170, that route operated, I think, via Woodson.

    Sometimes, I just wish Metro would settle on a routing plan and stick with it. While it's great to respond to customer requests, as they apparently have done with the rerouting of the #74 Florissant to occasionally serve Carter Avenue on the old #96 Walnut Park route, replacing the ridiculously inadequate #195 Carter Shuttle, it still is very confusing for all riders. Many people still refer to the #52 Forest Park or #73 Carondelet, when in fact the routes have been combined into the very, very long and winding #52 Clayton - South County.

    And I know that a whole bunch more changes are coming in October 2006 - when Cross County MetroLink is supposed to open. At least those will definitely make the trip faster. But, why do they have to cut in half bus service from Forest Park MetroLink station to Clayton CBD on the #58 - one year early? I guess it's the only way to make the extension of bus service (rather than the current Chesterfield Connector van service) to Chesterfield Valley feasible.

    This also serves as a reminder that, despite some changes, MetroBus does not provide particularly ideal nor complete suburb-to-suburb transit connectivity. While Cross County MetroLink will make my WashU-to-Crestwood trip dramatically faster, many relatively short trips in the county require three buses. And most of those buses don't run that often, either.

    For example, suppose you lived near I-255 and Telegraph Road (like I used to) and wanted to get to work at St. Anthony's Medical Center on Tesson Ferry and Kennerly - all within South County. By car, that's probably a 10 minute trip by highway; more like 20 by back roads. You could actually take the #52X Tesson Ferry Express and make it there in about 20 minutes. But that's no help if you need to get there anytime other than between 6 and 7:30 AM. If you have an afternoon shift, it would take three buses: #40 Broadway, which runs once each hour via Forder Rd to South County Mall; then the #49 Lindbergh, which runs once each hour most of the day and every 30 minutes at peak hours, to Lindbergh at Tesson Ferry; then the #47 Cross County, which runs once each hour to St. Anthony's.

    That five-mile commute could conceivably take two hours each way. At least living in the City, you know you can find a bus within reasonable walking distance of most residences, and within reasonable walking distance of most destinations within the City limits. And most buses in the City run every 30 minutes or better.

    The major exceptions are the interior parts of certain neighborhoods like Tower Grove South, Clifton Heights, Boulevard Heights, Saint Louis Hills, eastern Bevo and western Dutchtown, as well as the Riverview Drive neighborhood, which are more than a 1/4-mile walk from a bus stop.

    Also, there are a few routes in the City which don't run so often - namely, the South Broadway corridor in Dutchtown and Carondelet, where service on the #40 south of Montana Street is once hourly; the #15 Hodiamont which runs about every 40 minutes; and the #92 Lindenwood which, like many county routes, runs once each hour. And weekend travels can be a bit harder: the #15 and #92 don't run on weekends, like a number of county routes.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Blanket Statements

    Blanket Statements

    Some quotes from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine Student Handbook:

    About St. Louis
    "Within the past twenty years there has been renewed interest in the city and the downtown area is generally considered one of the most impressive of the Midwest. Laclede’s Landing is now a fashionable social spot." (hmmm... not necessarily a bad statement, although I'm not sure where the 20 years figure comes from precisely; and the Landing is more touristy than fashionable)

    Housing
    "St. Louis has bus service, but it would be difficult to depend on it to get to class." (Really?)
    "In the city, you should live south of Delmar. In the county, live south of Page." (Oh, now my blood is boiling!)

    Transportation
    "The major advantage of living in the county is the comfort of getting away from the medical school and downtown St. Louis at the end of the day." (ah, yes, getting away from it all... except, don't you still have to study at home? And since when is Grand and Vista in downtown?)

    "There is a bike route marked out from Clayton to downtown but it is really only there to keep bicyclists off the busier streets (call City Hall for a map)." (Interesting... if they're talking about Bike St. Louis, I've never heard that before. Since it includes parts of Grand and of Lindell, that sounds unlikely).

    Dining
    "Crown Candy Kitchen-1401 St. Louis Avenue, 621-9650-A little hard to get to, but definitely worth it.... Reasonably priced- Not in a good neighborhood."

    I shouldn't be too hard on this document though. It wass probably written by students as advice to incoming students; it seems a couple years out-of-date; and it is really full of a lot of good general advice and tips on living in St. Louis.

    I guess it's ok to suggest to people where they should live - but not on a web page of a public university that receives a great deal of Federal funding. While I'm not sure the Fair Housing Act necessarily applies in this instance, it probably should. Steering is bad, whether its done by your employer, your school, or your real estate agent.

    Getting suggestions about good places to live is fine. But blanket statements like "In the city, you should live south of Delmar. In the county, live south of Page." seem blatantly racially motivated.

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this kind of attitude from SLU Med School - after all, it seems like many of the "SLUCare" physicians only spend one or maybe two days a week practicing at the Midtown campus. Presumably, this is where they do their required "charity" care. They even keep separate files and records at the suburban locations like University Club Tower on Brentwood Blvd. and the Bellevue Ave. Medical Buildings where many spend most of the week.

    WashU Physicians aren't much different: when I needed to see an ear-nose-throat specialist this past summer, the Medical Campus "Center for Advanced Medicine" was booked up for over a month. Yet, mysteriously, when I need to see the same exact doctor, I was able to get in within the week at the 605 Old Ballas Road office in Creve Coeur.

    They may be great doctors, but many of them (by no means all) are biased against urban living - just like many of their patients. And, evidently, many of their students.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Why Can't All Wards Be "Open" Wards?

    Why Can't All Wards Be "Open" Wards?

    In the City of St. Louis, Democratic ward committeemen and committeewomen still have a good deal of power. Besides providing access to the occasional patronage job - for white Southsiders, mostly in the Sheriff's Department, and for African-American Northsiders, mostly in Parking Violations - they also nominate candidates in special elections and, often, make candidate endorsements.

    But in some cases there is a Democratic ward organization in which members pay dues, attend meetings, and thus get a chance to vote on ward endorsements. This is true of at least the 6th and 28th wards, and probably others as well.

    I think now would be a good time for a movement to make increasingly diverse wards like the 20th and 25th open-endorsement wards. Of course, you'd have to pay your dues to the ward organization in order to participate in the vote; but at least you would have some role in the endorsement process. Also, there'd be an army of volunteer footsoldiers to try and do some get-out-the-vote and voter registration work in these wards, where turnout is relatively low and registration is also pretty low.

    This kind of change can be accomplished with the current committeepeople, if they are willing. It would actually make them stronger, not weaker, because they could claim their endorsements are backed by more than just their personal preferences.

    Open wards would be good for the politicians, good for the activists, and good for the voters. They would increase participation, registration and voter turnout. While demographic issues like high mobility of the low-income African-American population, and non-citizenship of many immigrants, cannot be overlooked, they can perhaps be overcome at least partially by a serious, concentrated voter registration and GOTV effort.

    The time to start building up to 2006 and 2008 is now.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Really, Really Rough Draft Dissertation Prospectus

    Really, Really Rough Draft Dissertation Prospectus

    I'm sending this out to my advisors tonight, so I thought I'd also see what the rest of the world thinks about the general idea, before I dive into it. Any comments are appreciated.

    Joseph Frank
    Dissertation Prospectus Outline
    11/13/2005

    A "Tiered" Geo-Spatial Approach to Analyzing the Political and Socio-Economic Determinants of Service Delivery in Urban Areas
    Case Study: The City of Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

    Abstract:

    This empirical case study offers a dynamic four-tiered geo-spatial model of urban services and residential segregation. Based upon the public choice theory of Tiebout, Ostrom, et al., it proposes a modification of public choice theory: that individual choice is constrained by socio-economic factors. Emphasis is placed on the political and economic determinants of differential service delivery. Among the urban services considered are public sector services such as trash collection, private sector services such as pizza delivery, and “meta-services” such as property value protection codified through planning and zoning. The case study focused on the City of Saint Louis, Missouri. Service differential is correlated with race and income, and these differentials are accentuated by political factors particularly at the ward level.

    Table of Contents:

    Chapter 1:

    Introduction and Literature Review
    - Overview of Tiebout, Ostroms, and the rest of the urban public choice school
    - Critique and analysis of Tiebout
    - The Consolidationist "Good Government" Perspective
    - Neo-Consolidationists: The Social-Stratification Government Inequality (SSGI) Thesis

    Chapter 2:

    Contribution to the Literature
    - Considering Race and Class
    - Tiebout Plus Socio-Economics: A Composite Approach
    - The Dynamic Four-Tiered Geo-Spatial Model of Urban Segregation in the U.S.
    - Descriptions of Each Tier; and, How the Model is Reversed in the Developing World

    Chapter 3:

    Case Study: The City of Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
    - Economic and Social Profile of the City of Saint Louis
    - Political and Government Structure of the City of Saint Louis
    - The Citizens Service Bureau and Neighborhood Stabilization Team: Public Requests with Political Impacts

    Chapter 4:

    Categories of Service Delivery
    - Public-Sector Local Government Services
    -- Services Specific to Upper-Income Areas: Leaf Pick-up, etc.
    -- Services Specific to Distressed Areas: Vacant Building Board-up, etc.
    -- General Services: Trash Pick-up, etc.
    -- The Special Role of Aldermanic Service Requests
    -- Amorphous but Crucial Services: Police, Fire, Health Care and Schools
    -- Infrastructure: Why Reconstruction is (Politically) Easier than Maintenance
    -- State Intervention: When Does the State of Missouri Pick up the Tab?

    - Private-Sector Services
    -- The Politics of Urban Retail and Restaurant Location Decision-Making
    -- Street-Level Private-Sector Delivery in the City; or, Why Doesn't Pizza Hut Deliver Here?
    -- Service Industry Location Decision-Making; or, Why H&R Block Has Two Kinds of Locations

    Chapter 5:

    Detailed Empirical Analysis
    - Public Sector Services GIS Maps
    - Quantitative Data: Citizens Service Bureau
    - Quantitative/Qualitative Data: Board of Aldermen Redevelopment Projects, TIF, etc.
    - Private Sector Services GIS Maps

    Conclusions and Further Research

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Ya' Gotta Eat

    Ya' Gotta Eat

    Oh, wait, I listed the Rally's locations already.

    Now for some more fast food chain locations in the City of St. Louis - closed and open.

    Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers
    3 locations operating

    1) 601 Chestnut at 6th, across from Kiener Plaza. Very busy at the lunch hour.
    2) 4115 Lindell near Sarah, on an outlot at the Lindell Marketplace strip center
    3) 3554 S Kingshighway at Tholozan

    I know of at least two former Wendy's locations in the city:

    1) S. Broadway at Montana - recently demolished to build a new Mary Margaret Day Care
    2) Gravois near Grace - recently renovated into a dental office

    Hardee's
    4 locations operating - and their parent company is based in downtown at One USBank Center. In spite of their listing on Yahoo under "Fast Food," I'm pretty sure they don't actually sell food there. They also had several stands inside Busch Stadium, but since it's being demolished right now, I wouldn't count that as a currently operating location!

    1) 4202 S Broadway at Meramec
    2) 5854 Oakland at Clayton Ave., just east of Hampton
    3) 2110 Hampton at Wilson, near I-44
    4) 8360 N Broadway near Halls Ferry in Baden

    I know for certain that there was once a Hardee's in the 3100 block of South Jefferson, facing Benton Park. It has been demolished to make way for a new condominium development. The building closed as a Hardee's in the 1990s, then was a Chinese take-out place for a number of years. The owner was killed in a hold-up, and it was shuttered ever since. There may have been some others in the City, too; I know of three or four in South County that closed, too - on Watson in Webster Groves, two on Telegraph, and maybe another.

    Jack in the Box
    6 locations operating - that's a lot!

    1) 1807 Gravois at Russell
    2) 2163 S Grand at Flad
    3) 3909 Gravois at Gustine
    4) 1242 Hampton at West Park
    5) 4201 S Kingshighway at Chippewa
    6) 5600 S Grand at Bates

    Former Jack in the Box locations:
    1) Halls Ferry Circle - not sure of the address. Closed probably 5 years ago.
    2) Dairy Queen at Hampton and Eichelberger - quite obviously was built as a Jack.

    Dairy Queen
    3 locations operating

    1) 609 Lafayette at 7th, across from Soulard Market
    2) 5409 Hampton at Eichelberger
    3) 5341 Riverview at Thekla - apparently a new location, in an existing renovated building in Walnut Park of all places!

    There used to be an old-time walk-up Dairy Queen at Hampton and Nottingham, but it was torn down in the early 1990s to build an oil change place. Now, the DQ at Mackenzie and Gravois in Affton is the only remaining walk-up location.

    DQ seems to be very big in Illinois, though. There are two locations just in the Village of Cahokia. There's also a stand of some kind inside St. Louis Children's Hospital, but I wouldn't really count that as a location. For that matter, they've actually opened a new DQ/Orange Julius stand in Crestwood Plaza - while everybody else seems to be moving out!

    Arby's
    3 locations operating

    1) 4021 Lindell between Vandeventer and Sarah (still has a funny old cowboy-hat sign)
    2) 3924 S Grand at Alberta
    3) 6666 Chippewa near Ivanhoe

    White Castle
    7 locations operating. White Castle, of course, has been in St. Louis from the beginning. Unfortunately, rather than investing in the original buildings, they demolish them and replace with new construction every 20-30 years, it seems.

    1) 806 S Broadway at Gratiot
    2) 2009 Hebert at North Florissant
    3) 1002 S Vandeventer at Chouteau. This was the last of the old-time White Castle buildings, replaced in about 1990 or so.
    4) 3601 Gravois at Grand
    5) 1441 N Kingshighway at Martin Luther King Dr.
    6) 3524 N Kingshighway at Natural Bridge
    7) 4524 S Kingshighway at Lansdowne - this location is closed, being replaced with a new store on the same location

    Former White Castle locations:

    Hampton and Chippewa - You can't mention former fast food places in St. Louis without mentioning this one. After all, Jim Shrewsbury and others campaigned to save it, but to no avail. They even had t-shirts printed up.

    So, that should be a pretty complete run-down of the fast food burger joints in the City. (Steak N Shake isn't counted here because it's a little different set-up.)

    One thing that's evident is how few of these are located in Downtown or North City. The Northside does have more than its fair share of fried chicken chain outlets: Lee's, KFC, and Popeye's. However, for burger places, it's the Southside that's in the lead.

    Downtown has:
    0 McDonald's
    0 Burger King
    0 Hardee's
    0 Jack in the Box
    0 Dairy Queen
    0 Arby's
    0 Rally's
    1 Wendy's - across from Kiener Plaza
    1 White Castle - but south of Hwy 40, not in the downtown core

    TOTAL = 2

    There is also a Lion's Choice downtown, 600 Pine at 6th. It's their only City location.

    And there are a McDonald's and a Rally's within walking distance of downtown, but neither is particularly convenient. To get to Mickey D's, you gotta cross both Tucker and Cole, pretty wide high-traffic streets; and to get to Rally's you must cross Chouteau at Broadway. Plus it's a walk-up, anyway.

    Granted, there are many, many better eating options within downtown. However, if you're looking to spend $5 or less on lunch in the downtown core, that Wendy's is about your only option. You could maybe go to one of several Subway sandwich shops; but even Quizno's is gonna run in the $7-8 range per person.

    On the Northside, White Castle and Rally's seem to be the most ubiquitous burger places. In the portion of the city north of Delmar, there are:

    2 McDonald's - one just north of downtown, the other on Natural Bridge
    1 Burger King - located on Delmar
    4 Rally's - one just north of Delmar, three along Natural Bridge
    1 Dairy Queen - up in Walnut Park
    0 Wendy's
    1 Hardee's - way up in Baden
    0 Arby's
    0 Jack in the Box
    3 White Castle - two on Kingshighway, one in Old North StL

    TOTAL = 12

    Meanwhile, in the Southwest part of the city, roughly bounded by I-64/US 40, Kingshighway (including those located immediately on the east side of the street), Gravois, and the city limits, there are:

    4 McDonald's - One on Kingshighway, two on Hampton, one on Gravois
    1 Burger King - on Hampton
    2 Rally's - One on Kingshighway, the other on Chippewa
    1 Wendy's - On Kingshighway
    2 Hardee's - Both on or near Hampton
    1 Dairy Queen - On Hampton
    2 Jack in the Box - One on Hampton, the other on Kingshighway
    1 Arby's - On Chippewa
    1 White Castle - on Kingshighway, currently under construction

    TOTAL = 15

    So, Southwest city has at least one of everything. Many are located on Kingshighway (particularly in the blocks closest to Chippewa), but just as many are on Hampton, with several along Chippewa.

    In the Central West End and Midtown, there aren't nearly as many burger places.

    1 McDonald's - on Lindell
    0 Burger King - but there is one on Delmar just north of the CWE
    2 Rally's - on Vandeventer and on Chouteau/Grand
    1 Wendy's - on Lindell
    0 Hardee's
    0 Dairy Queen
    0 Jack in the Box
    1 Arby's - on Lindell
    1 White Castle - if you call Vandeventer and Chouteau "Midtown" (officially, the WC is located in McRee Town)

    TOTAL = 6

    As it happens, the McDonald's, Wendy's, Rally's and Arby's in the central part of the city are all clustered within a two-block section of Lindell near Sarah. I guess some SLU students might go over there, despite what their Public Safety people tell them.

    The "near" Southside areas, which I'll consider anything south of the Chouteau corridor, east of the Kingshighway corridor, and north of Meramec St., have a strange mix.

    2 McDonald's - On Grand and on Jefferson
    3 Burger King - how did that happen? They're on 7th, on Jefferson/Gravois, and on Grand.
    2 Rally's - On Jefferson and on Chouteau/4th
    0 Wendy's
    0 Hardee's
    3 Jack in the Box - again, very strange. Two on Gravois, one on Grand.
    1 Dairy Queen - on S. 7th.
    1 Arby's - On Grand
    1 White Castle - At Grand and Gravois

    TOTAL = 13

    Most of these are either on Gravois or Grand; although Jefferson has a bit of a line-up (McDonald's, Burger King and Rally's within a five-block stretch). Also, one Burger King and the Dairy Queen are along S. 7th St. within a short drive, but a long walk, of downtown. Grand at Chippewa is a significant cluster, with a Burger King, the Arby's, and a McDonald's all within three blocks on Grand.

    Finally, the "far" Southeastern part of the city, that is south of Meramec and east of an imaginary line just east of Kingshighway, has relatively few fast food burger places considering how large its population is.

    1 McDonald's - On Broadway at I-55
    0 Burger King
    0 Rally's
    0 Wendy's
    1 Hardee's - On Broadway at Meramec
    1 Jack in the Box - On Grand
    0 Dairy Queen
    0 Arby's
    0 White Castle

    TOTAL = 3

    The McDonald's and the Hardee's are only a few blocks apart on S Broadway.

    I'm not surprised there are so many fast food places in Southwest city - there's a lot of people there, and a lot of money. The crappier fast food places gravitate to North city and Near South city, not surprisingly, since there are also lots of people but they have less money.

    There are very few people living in downtown and midtown; and most of the workers can afford to eat at nicer places. Likewise the BJC hospitals complex. So, there aren't many fast food places there; indeed, there are a lot fewer than there used to be downtown.

    Why the farther south areas, though, have so few fast food places is a mystery to me Given the working-class, racially-mixed nature of these areas, it seems a natural market for such franchises.

    Maybe it just has to do with traffic counts and travel patterns. Since most folks who live that far south probably go through the intersections like Grand/Chippewa and Grand/Gravois to get places, or do their shopping in areas like Kingshighway/Chippewa or Hampton/Chippewa, they just don't demand anything closer to their homes.

    The only fast food place within the Carondelet area is the Jack in the Box at Grand and Bates. I wonder why there aren't any located at I-55 and Bates, or I-55 and Loughborough?

    It is probably good, for the revival of historic areas like Carondelet, that they don't have a lot of fast food places. But it's just surprising to me it happened that way.

    To summarize, Citywide there are:

    10 McDonald's
    10 Rally's
    7 White Castle
    6 Jack in the Box
    5 Burger King
    4 Hardee's
    3 Wendy's
    3 Arby's
    3 Dairy Queen

    TOTAL = 51

    Of those, the following have NO locations north of Delmar:
    Jack in the Box, Wendy's, and Arby's.

    And the following have NO locations inside or within one mile of downtown:
    Jack in the Box, Hardee's, and Arby's.

    Meanwhile, the following have two or more locations north of Delmar:
    McDonald's, White Castle, and Rally's.

    I realize that fast food restaurants are primarily franchises, so they're not really *big business* - they're usually medium-sized businesses. Still, I would like to see the franchising planners and owners give a little more consideration to urban locations.

    To say nothing of their atrocious architecture.

    I'm Lovin' It

    I'm Lovin' It

    Although hard numbers are hard to come by, it does seem like there are probably fewer fast food restaurants in the City of St. Louis than there were 10 years ago.

    The Health Department's Restaurant Ratings database is a pretty comprehensive searchable database of all existing eating places in the city. StLEats.com is an idiosyncratic resource that tries to compile all restaurant listings, including closed places.

    Ok, so here's what I can say pretty certainly:

    McDonald's
    10 locations operating
    1) 1119 N. Tucker at Carr
    2) 1919 S. Jefferson at I-44
    3) 4006 Lindell (halfway between Vandeventer and Sarah)
    4) 4979 Natural Bridge near Kingshighway
    5) 3737 S. Grand at Chippewa (there's been talk of moving this one)
    6) 4420 S. Broadway at I-55
    7) 1420 Hampton just north of Manchester (one of the busiest locations around given its location near the St. Louis Zoo; has a PlayPlace)
    8) 4620 S. Kingshighway at Devonshire (also has a PlayPlace, but it's not as nice)
    9) 4200 Hampton at Chippewa (in front of Hampton Village)
    10) 7241 Gravois near Hampton (this one is being replaced with a new structure)

    Ten is probably enough, but a bunch more have closed down over the years:

    1) 5863 Delmar near Laurel - now occupied by Big Jake's Barbecue
    2) 515 N. 6th St., 4th floor inside Saint Louis Centre (but not the food court; it was across from Walgreens)
    3) McDonald's Riverboat - what was its address, anyway? It's gone now.
    4) Olive at 7th, SW corner - building demolished to make way for the 7th St. Garage.
    5) 1530 S. 7th (aka 1531 S. Broadway) at Marion - now a Quiznos Sub shop.
    6) Union Station - this was a "McDonald's Express." It's still a burger place, whose name escapes me at the moment.
    7) St. Louis Marketplace, about 6800 Manchester - this one had a jukebox, but it never really worked right. Just closed about a year ago, I think.

    Burger King
    5 locations operating
    1) 1340 S 7th at Park
    2) 2500 S Jefferson at Victor, with a back entrance from Gravois
    3) 3861 S Grand at Keokuk
    4) 5025 Delmar near Kingshighway
    5) 3259 Hampton just north of Fyler

    Closed BK locations:

    Riverboat Burger King - sunk in the flood of 1993.
    Was there another BK inside downtown proper, perhaps on Chestnut or Pine, that closed during the 1990s? I'm not entirely sure.

    Rally's Hamburgers
    10 locations operating
    (a little lower overhead, I guess, since there's no dining room - it's drive-thru or walk-up only. Very much an "urban" fast food joint; that is, mostly concentrated in low-income, African-American communities. But I still go there occasionally; and they seem to be expanding rather than contracting like Mickey D's.)
    1) 1015 S Broadway at Chouteau
    2) 2807 S Jefferson at Lynch
    3) 3553 Chouteau near S Grand
    4) 305 N Vandeventer at Lindell
    5) 930 N Kingshighway at the Hodiamont right-of-way
    6) 4949 Natural Bridge near N Kingshighway
    7) 3730 Goodfellow at Natural Bridge
    8) 3605 N Grand near Natural Bridge
    9) 4400 S Kingshighway at Sutherland (this is a pretty new location I think)
    10) 6994 Chippewa next to the River des Peres (this one just opened this summer, so it's not even listed yet)

    More to come.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Bridge to Nowhere?

    Bridge to Nowhere?

    The new, somewhat-less-expensive plan for the New Mississippi River Bridge was unveiled last night to St. Louisans.

    I didn't make it to the meeting, but according to the article, highlights include:

  • Dropping the IL Route 3 relocation plan
  • Dropping the I-64 connector
  • Simplifying greatly the I-70 interchange by dropping the connectors to North Tucker and North 14th, with the connection into downtown St. Louis made via a ramp onto Cass Avenue near 11th.
  • Dropping the reconstruction of the I-64/55/70/St Clair Ave interchange in East St. Louis

    I suspect, although the article neglected it, that the initially related rebuild of the Missouri approaches to the Poplar Street Bridge and adjacent streets has been quietly eliminated as well.

    But these other projects being dropped is significant. The IL Route 3 relocation is something that has been talked about since the 1950s! It was envisioned as part of the Great River Road which today still avoids the IL Route 3 corridor entirely in East St. Louis and the towns to the north. I guess it's just too embarassing to show tourists.

    Instead, the official route of the Great River Road through Madison and St. Clair counties is:

    From Alton to Cahokia:
    south on IL Route 3 to I-270
    east on I-270 to IL Route 111
    south on IL Route 111 to I-55/70
    southwest on I-55/70 to IL Route 3
    south on IL Route 3

    While there is a "Madison County Exploration Route" through Granite City, etc., I don't think it is posted or well-known. Thus, the official route is via IL Rt 111, through Pontoon Beach and alongside Horseshoe Lake. Why they don't just make it I-255, I don't know.

    Anyway, it's not surprising this Route 3 relocation is dead. It will probably never happen.

    Dropping the I-64 connector, though, is much more problematic. Is the idea that this new bridge will mainly be used by trucks and Madison County commuters?

    Seems like St. Clair County residents will not be able to use it, unless they exit I-64 at 18th and Baugh, crossover at 9th, and use St Clair Ave/Route 3 to connect to an on-ramp somewhere in Brooklyn. Alternatively, I suppose those coming from above the bluffs could take I-255 north from I-64, then pick up I-55/70 and continue onto the new I-70 route. But East St. Louisans would not really be able to use this new bridge. Again, East St. Louis gets screwed by highway construction.

    Also, I'm really not clear on how that new I-70 route would impact the friggin' huge Milam Landfill located in St. Clair County at the NE quadrant of I-55/70 and IL Route 203, the main route into Granite City from I-55/70, and across 203 from Gateway International Raceway.

    It looks like the new I-70 would pass just north of the racetrack; but almost through the landfill. That damn landfill already is taller than the Cahokia Mounds just to the east; and even blocks the view of the Gateway Arch for a while when you're traveling west on I-55/70. I know St. Louis trash has to go somewhere; but it's really, really, really unpleasant to see.

    Many urbanists are happy the ramps on the St. Louis side of the new bridge will be much less extensive. However, they'll still be a significant physical and psychological barrier between the downtown riverfront and the North Broadway area around Produce Row.

    Just as I-70 forever separated the residential area of Old North St. Louis from the industrial employers along North Broadway, so will this bridge separate North Broadway and Produce Row from the new developments of the Pinnacle Casino, Bottle District, Trailnet Laclede Power Building, and whatever else happens in between there.

    I also suspect the demolition of the elevated interurban railway tracks, proposed in one part of the new bridge plan, has also been quietly dropped. Thus an opportunity to slightly mitigate this project's impact, by removing another barrier, may be gone as well. After all, the new ramps will not intersect with the tracks, as best I can tell.

    The biggest problem with this bridge, aside from neighborhood impacts, is that I don't think it will really reduce commuter traffic on the Poplar Street Bridge all that much.

    Think about where much of the traffic originates: St. Clair County. Where do the commuters go? Downtown St. Louis, BJC hospital complex in the Central West End, Clayton, and points beyond. Thus, they heavily rely on I-64/US 40 to get around on the Missouri side. Not so many jobs are located along the I-70 corridor in North City and County. Evening rush-hour traffic on 40 approaching the PSB routinely backs up to Union Station, Jefferson, sometimes even Grand if there's an accident.

    Will this bridge be useful to those commuters? No, not really. It's too far north, and not connected to I-64 in IL or MO.

    While it will help Madison County commuters somewhat, they also have the I-270 Chain of Rocks Bridge. The main beneficiary will be the trucking industry, since the PSB approach ramps are, admittedly, way too tight. While most over-the-road truckers use I-270 or I-255 Jefferson Barracks Bridge to bypass downtown, the Hall Street terminals are an important part of the city's employment base. Keeping them happy isn't necessarily bad; I'm just not sure it's worth $910 million. Perhaps upgrading the McKinley Bridge would be adequate? It hooks into the expressway portion of IL Route 3 through the west edge of Granite City, which then connects to I-270.
  • Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    TODAY: Vote YES on Proposition 1 in the City of St. Louis

    TODAY: Vote YES on Proposition 1 in the City of St. Louis

    My message today is simple:

    Vote YES on Proposition 1 on the November 8th ballot in the City of St. Louis.

    This $13 million bond issue will provide funds for major public safety capital improvement projects, including an upgrade for the police, fire and EMS radio system, and for the local match on major Federally-funded infrastructure projects, particularly upgrading the city flood wall.

    See my previous post on this topic and a recent post on MayorSlay.com for more.

    Alert readers will notice that, yes, between the Introduced version of the bill that proposed this bond issue, and the Truly Agreed To And Finally Passed version, the bit about the streets, bridges, and flood wall was added. Actually, it was the Committee Substitute version where this change was made.

    It's a prudent change, because while the radio system would certainly seem like a good investment to most voters, $13 million sounds like a lot for that - especially given that the Feds may be helping out some, at least indirectly.

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), of course, is really pushing for changes to the spectrum licensing process that will ensure more radio bandwidth for public safety agencies. His bill is called the "Save Lives Act."

    Admittedly, it does have a downside: McCain is pushing the broadcast industry to give up that same piece of the spectrum. For the average consumer, this means that our good old analog TV sets with rabbit-ears will no longer work. We'll have to buy new TVs, or at least converter boxes. While McCain's bill does include some subsidies for low-income households to buy the converter boxes, it's unclear who would administer such a subsidy program.

    Meanwhile, in a recent development, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) proposed cutting the subsidy for these boxes by 2/3rds.

    About the same time, McCain pushed for a new drop-dead date for the changeover: April 7, 2008, one year earlier than previously proposed. Earlier, he had proposed April 7, 2007; so this is a compromise for him.

    Anyway, whatever happens on the Fed side, the local operations will need money to upgrade the radio system to the new standards anyway. Likewise, the flood wall improvements are badly needed, as a July report by the Army Corps of Engineers suggested; it got a fair bit of play on TV in September. While the bond issue was proposed well in advance of Hurricane Katrina, the timing probably turns out to have been good for the proposition.

    Now, if we could just figure out what to do about better earthquake preparation...

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Wal-Movie

    Wal-Movie

    Whatever you think about Wal-Mart, you have to acknowledge its incredible power in the U.S. and global economic structure. The world's largest retailer and one of the world's largest employers - directly and indirectly via contractors - has a huge influence even on the lives of people who don't shop there.

    Thus the new documentary "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" is worth a viewing.

    During "Premiere Week," Nov. 13-19, you can sign up to host a screening. Or if you don't feel comfortable with that, there are already a number of sites in the St. Louis area planning to host a viewing. The DVD is for sale, too.

    Among the local churches, schools and community groups hosting public screenings, several are close to a Wal-Mart store!

    (Per the Wal-Mart Movie Screening Locator + Walmart.com):

    November 13, 2005
    10:00 AM
    Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation
    1107 E. Linden Ave.
    Richmond Heights, MO
    Located about 1.5 miles northwest of Store #5150 - Maplewood Commons Wal-Mart (yes, this link is to the pro-Wal-Mart propaganda web site).

    November 13, 2005
    5:30 PM
    Christ Church UCC (United Church of Christ)
    7126 Bruno Ave.
    (at Bellevue Ave. - on #16 City Limits MetroBus)
    Maplewood, MO
    Located one mile east of the Maplewood Commons store.

    November 14, 2005
    6:00 PM
    Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Motherhouse
    6400 Minnesota Ave.
    (the only public screening listed in the City of St. Louis. One block from #52 Clayton-South County MetroBus; two blocks from #40 Broadway)
    Located about 5 miles north of the "St. Louis" Wal-Mart (Telegraph at I-255 in South County). Seriously, this is the only Wal-Mart with a St. Louis address - all others identify themselves by the name of the suburb or town where they are located. This one, since it's in unincorporated South County, calls itself "your St. Louis Wal-Mart." Uh, sure, that's St. Louis. Even though the stores in Granite City, Cahokia and of course Maplewood are much closer to the actual city limits.

    November 18, 2005
    7:00 PM
    St. Charles Justice Center
    1781 Zumbehl Rd.
    (sponsored by Mid-Rivers Ethical Society)
    Located about one mile south of the St. Charles Wal-Mart store at 2897 Veterans Memorial Parkway.

    There are also a couple showings planned by student groups at WashU - whose Red Line shuttle bus now serves the Maplewood Commons Wal-Mart directly - and one at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and probably a couple other locations too.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Preservation Review

    Preservation Review

    When you apply for a demolition permit in much of the City of St. Louis, the Cultural Resources Office must review it.

    According to the CRO enabling ordinance passed in 1999 when the agency was created, replacing the arguably more powerful Heritage and Urban Design Commission:

    "PART IX - PRESERVATION REVIEW DISTRICTS SECTION FIFTY-FIVE.

    Preservation Review Districts may be established by ordinance for areas of the City in which the Board of Aldermen finds, by ordinance, reviews of the effects of demolitions on the area are in the public interest. Prior to adoption of a Preservation Review District ordinance,

    i) the alderman for the ward in which the proposed district is located shall have requested the Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board to assess the architectural and/or cultural quality of the proposed district, and

    ii) within forty-five (45) days thereafter the Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board shall have reported its findings to the Planning Commission and the Board of Aldermen.

    The Cultural Resources Office and the Preservation Board shall assess the proposed district as having
    i) high historic district potential;
    ii) possible historic district potential;
    iii) low historic district potential;
    iv) demolitions within the last two years in excess of the average for similar areas in the City.

    Districts which are reported as being in categories i), ii) or iv) may be designated Preservation Review Districts.

    Preservation Review District ordinances may be repealed by ordinance at any time without Cultural Resources Office or Preservation Board action [emphasis added]."

    A companion ordinance listed all the Preservation Review districts designated in 1999.

    As many know, former Ward 24 alderman Tom Bauer had his ward removed from that list when the boundaries were updated in 2004 to reflect new ward boundaries.

    Much of North City - but certainly not all of it - is also NOT included in Demolition Review. Likewise, a couple other Southwest City wards are excluded, and have been since 1999, as best I can tell.

    The following ten (10) wards are NOT in Preservation Review/Demolition Review Areas:

    Ward 1, Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 14, Ward 16, Ward 18, Ward 19, Ward 21, Ward 22, and Ward 24.

    The area excluded from Demolition Review covers the bulk of the Northside, south of I-70 and north of Delmar.

    Also excluded are large parts of Southwest City: the Dogtown neighborhoods and Clifton Heights of course, but also excluded are most of St. Louis Hills, Southampton, and about half of Bevo Mill.

    What this means is that, in general, properties in these wards can be demolished without any review for historic value.

    The remaining 18 wards all have Demolition Review. The far Northside - Ward 2 and Ward 27 - have Demolition Review in place. Likewise, Ward 26 and Ward 3 (yes, that's right), while adjacent to the areas without Demolition Review, do have it.

    Fortunately, some parts of the wards without Demolition Review Areas are still subject to review. According to Section 58 of the aforementioned enabling ordinance for CRO:

    "Whenever an application is made for a permit to demolish a Structure which is
    i) individually listed on the National Register,
    ii) within a National Register District,
    iii) for which National Register Designation is pending or
    iv) which is within a Preservation Review District established pursuant to Sections Fifty-Five to Fifty-Six of this ordinance,
    the building commissioner shall submit a copy of such application to the Cultural Resources Office within three days after said application is received by his Office."

    This means, for example, even though Old North St. Louis is not in a Demolition Review area, it is still (mostly) in a National Register Historic District (Murphy-Blair; or in the southern part, Mullanphy or SS Cyril & Methodius). So CRO would still have to review demolition permit apps there.

    Similarly protected, despite being outside Demolition Review areas, should be the Academy neighborhood; the houses facing Fountain Park, and Lewis Place itself (but not the surrounding neighborhoods in either case); the Oakherst Place Concrete Block District; the 4100 block of Enright (known as the Block Unit #1 Historic District); the Midtown Historic District (really just the big major buildings on Grand from Delmar to Lindell and on Lindell from Grand to Vandeventer); and the Clemens House - Columbia Brewery district.

    Buildings in these areas individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places should also be subject to review. These include, for example, the Shrine of St. Joseph.

    Also, buildings located in Local Historic Districts should be subject to review. For example, The Ville is not in a Demolition Review area, but is a local historic district. The Ville Historic District ordinance states "All construction, demolition, or alteration of exterior architectural features with respect to any improvement within the Ville Historic District is subject to 'the review of the Heritage and Urban Design Commission and staff and other appropriate City agencies.' "

    I sure hope that still applies to CRO, the successor agency to HUDC.

    Nevertheless, this still leaves HUGE areas that seem to be worth preserving - both North and South - with no protection from demolition of potentially historic properties.

    On the other hand, some areas of the city, have multiple layers of protection: a local historic district, a national historic district, and the demolition review designation. This is true in the Central West End, Soulard, Antique Row, and Union Station itself.

    Still, it would be quite easy - and not unfathomable - for great buildings in large areas of North City AND Southwest City to be demolished with no consideration for their historic value.

    At the very least, Demolition Review - as well as the Housing Conservation District program - should be expanded to be citywide. Then, consideration can be given to designating more of these neighborhoods as historic districts.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Be-sprawl-to, Illinois

    Be-sprawl-to, Illinois

    According to today's Post-Dispatch, the Village of Bethalto, IL is the latest beneficiary of suburban sprawl in metropolitan St. Louis.

    Historically, Bethalto, located in Madison County, was a mining town; more recently, it's been pretty much a suburb of Alton.

    Looking at the village zoning map, it's clear that the original part of town was oriented on a slightly tilted axis, parallel to the railroad line near its intersection with Prairie Street. That railroad line was converted to a road in the 1960s, now known as Erwin Plegge Blvd.

    The southern 1/3 of the village is taken up by St. Louis Regional Airport, originally opened in 1946 as Civic Memorial Airport. Part of their grounds were developed as a business park in the 1980s.

    The rest of the village is mostly taken up by subdivisions built in the 1960s and later. There is a pretty significant amount of green space, as well.

    Credit for the growth is being given to the northward extension of Interstate Highway 255, known as Illinois 255. The portion of IL 255 from I-270 to IL 143 (AKA Alton-Edwardsville Road) opened in 1998.

    Now, in June 2006, the section leading even further north, into Bethalto, is expected to open. The route runs roughly along the western boundary of the village, intersecting with and then just west of IL 111. The final part, from Fosterburg Road just north of Bethalto, clear out to US 67 in Godfrey, will take a few years longer to build.

    Much of the route has been laid out for highway construction for years, so very few houses were taken. Major interchanges are planned at IL 111 (just south of Bethalto in Wood River), at IL 140 in Bethalto, and at Fosterburg Road.

    However, while some development is expected along IL 255, especially at the IL 111 and IL 140 interchanges, the major new housing developments are happening on cornfields on the EAST edge of Bethalto, along Moreland Road, several miles east of the new pseudo-Interstate corridor.

    Bethalto has limited transit service provided by Madison County Transit:

    #12 Bethalto Shuttle that runs once-an-hour from 7 AM to 7 PM (Monday-Friday only) and mainly seems to connect the older part of the town and a couple apartment complexes with the Wood River Wal-Mart and Illinois Driver Services; and

    #12X Bethalto Express that heads to downtown St. Louis, via East Alton, Wood River and IL 111. It also runs weekdays, only at peak hour - three AM inbounds, three PM outbounds.

    There is no bus service connecting directly to Alton; that would require a transfer on Fosterburg Road to the #11 Brown Shuttle. Getting to Edwardsville would require a transfer in Wood River to the #12 Alton-Edwardsville. Getting to St. Louis (except at rush hour) would require three transfers: one in Wood River to the #1 Riverbend, another in Granite City to the #5 Tri-City Metrobus, and a third onto MetroLink at 5th & Missouri East St. Louis.

    Bethalto is not connected to the amazing MCT Trails network. Nor is it anywhere near the conceptual MetroLink routes being studied for MadCo.

    All in all, Bethalto - particularly the eastern edge where new houses are going up like mad - is pretty far removed from the core of the St. Louis region, and is not very accessible by public transit. In ten years, this little town may look like St. Peters or O'Fallon (MO or IL, take your pick).

    Crazy, isn't it?

    And at what cost?