Thursday, January 26, 2006

Strollin' in the Inner 'Burbs

Strollin' in the Inner 'Burbs

Over the last couple days, while running some errands, I've had the opportunity to walk through some areas of mid-St. Louis County; including western and southern University City, nearby parts of Clayton and Ladue, as well as Richmond Heights and the Brentwood shopping district along Eager.

Some things I've noticed:

  • Nobody else walks. I may see one other pedestrian during mid-day hours in an entire hour of walking, except of course in the Clayton business district proper.

  • Most streets do have sidewalks. Pretty much all the major streets like Delmar, Old Bonhomme, Brentwood, Forsyth, Maryland, Eager, Dale, Clayton, etc do have sidewalks. Some of the side streets don't; but that's also true of some parts of southwest city built in the same time period as these areas located generally west of Hanley but east of I-170.

  • Buses in these areas run every 30 minutes or so, and along a number of major and secondary streets. Yet at mid-day they tend to run empty or nearly empty.

  • There's loads and loads of money in these areas. Duh.

  • Sales taxes are kind of high, which probably translates into a high level of public services provided by these municipalities. Most have a pretty substantial park system, a fancy recreation center, and curbside recycling.

    The Brentwood shopping centers along Eager Road have a total sales tax rate of 8.075%, including 0.5% for the "Strassner Road Transportation Development District." At least part of these funds are for construction an extension of Strassner Drive within Brentwood to cross over the Cross County MetroLink line. That extension has yet to be built.

  • Development patterns are pretty varied, albeit definitely suburban. You'll find stuff ranging from 1920s to brand-new in these areas; not much older than that though. There are, of course, a lot of huge freakin' strip shopping centers. But there are also business districts that are more human-scaled.

  • I'm still not a particularly huge fan of these sorts of neighborhoods as a lifestyle choice for myself, because they are still too car-oriented for my tastes. However, for people with enough money and a desire to live close to all kinds of upscale shopping opportunities and to downtown Clayton, I can see the appeal.

    After all, within a short stretch of Ladue Road / Maryland Ave in Ladue / Clayton, you'll find not only the Ladue Crossing Schnucks, but also a Wild Oats Market and a Straub's. If you lived in a tony, pricey townhouse or condo north of Maryland in that section of Clayton or University City, you could easily walk to any of those stores; not to mention the Clayton business district, the Brown Shoe campus, and the fancy-pants Center of Clayton.


    Anonymous said...

    Your streetwise observation points to why income is a better predictor of transit preference than density. For this reason, truly successful TOD must appeal to a mix of incomes in order to actually produce significant ridership. Otherwise, the TOD can end up being just transit-adjacent high-end density, not transit-supportive development.

    The only thing that can counter income as a predictor of transit preference is vehicle ownership. But while this happens in NYC or Chicago, St. Louis has too little congestion and too much parking, that it's hard to convince high-income folks, let alone anyone, to give up their cars.

    bev said...

    You think *sales* taxes are high, you should see my real estate taxes! They've doubled in the last 10 years. Heh...don't be fooled by outward appearances of "money." Most of us are livin' on macaroni and cheese.

    You are correct that the inner burbs are more car oriented than parts of St. Louis. However, my family walks to a lot of places - movie rentals, library, restaurants, schools, etc. If I didn't work (in FENTON, for the love of Pete) and if I didn't have to buy groceries for a family of FIVE (that takes a car) my minivan would be in the garage most of the time and I do like that about U-City.

    I wonder if the fact that you saw few walkers had more to do with the area of town and the time of day than the lifestyle of most U-Citians. I live around a lot of walkers in the Big Bend-Delmar-Loop area.

    Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

    Likewise to what Bev said.... A couple of non-drivers I know live in U-City (near the Loop) because they can walk to take care of most of their needs.

    When you're thinking Clayton services, don't forget their gigundor massive pool complex with the fancy diving platform. When I was a kid, my dad worked in Clayton, so we got to take advantage of it.... MAN it was great. I only wish that the city of StL's pools could be as nice--it's hardly as important as funding schools, but in a city that gets as hot as this one does in the summer, it's still pretty important (and I'm all for giving kids something to do rather than substances or violence). My swim team practiced at Marquette Pool (in Marquette Park) about a decade ago, and.... I have some less than fond memories of the facilities there, and I don't even want to know how many bugs I must have eaten swimmin' in that never-cleaned pool. least I got protein?!?