Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Centre Desolation

Centre Desolation

Today I walked through St. Louis Centre, possibly for the last time.

It's not a pretty picture. Several escalators claim to be under repair, but obviously no work is happening.

Miraculously, a few stores are still open! Among them, that sad little St. Louis souvenir shop on the Washington end ground floor, the Footaction USA and several gold jewelry dealers on the 2nd floor. I guess there's also Gold's Gym in the former Office Depot space on the ground floor at 7th and Locust.

Most notably, way up on the 4th floor, there seems to be one open stall in the food court - Teriyaki something - and of course, Walgreens.

That particular Walgreens, despite the out-of-the-way location, is certainly quite busy. I see no evidence of a closing sign there, although perhaps one will appear in a couple weeks.

In fact, yesterday about 5:40 PM, when an out-of-towner asked me where there was "a CVS or something", I pointed him in the direction of the Centre. Of course, I told him they close at 6, so you'd better hustle!

After all, their nearest 24 HR store is way out at Lindell and Whittier.

Off-hand, I couldn't think of anyplace else with a pharmacy downtown. I haven't been in the downtown Globe Drug in years, but I think it's just a (rather trashy) warehouse store.

There was a Medicine Shoppe located in the Jefferson Arms a few years ago, at the corner of Locust and Tucker, but even it closed at 5. Now it's out on Hampton somewhere.

City Grocers has a very limited selection of personal care products and drugs. So it's not the first place I'd suggest.

When the 4th floor Walgreens closes, I hope somebody fills the gap quickly. I've heard they'll be reopening in a ground floor space at the Centre location. I hope that happens with a minimal gap in service.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Automobile Row St. Louis

Automobile Row St. Louis

In the early 20th Century, St. Louis competed with Detroit for leadership of the automotive industry. It's hard to comprehend now, but many of the early manufacturers of horseless carriages were based in midtown St. Louis.

Most of the car dealerships, and all the high-end ones such as Packard and Cadillac, were located on Locust Street, the city's first Automobile Row, until the mid-1930s.

Today, a few modern upscale classic car dealerships are located there, amidst a district that remained an automotive warehousing and service district for decades, but now is experiencing a revival for loft-style housing.

  • The Charles Motor Company in a 1913 building at 3030 Locust; and
  • Luxury Sports and Imports in a 1905 building at 3027 Locust.

    Beginning in the 1930s, many car dealerships relocated to the west and southwest. For example, Weber Chevrolet moved to Lindell and Sarah around 1935; and in 1969, to Olive and I-270. Numerous other dealers were also located in Midtown along Forest Park, Laclede, etc., on larger plots of land than available on built-out Locust.

    The last remaining Midtown area new car dealer was John E. Hanna Oldsmobile, 3401 Washington Blvd. (who also had a GMC store from 1995 to 1997 at a former Commerce Bank branch at 2331 Hampton Avenue south of I-44 which he then sold to the Danforth family's American Youth Foundation, itself since moved west to Manchester Road).

    Both Hanna dealerships closed in 1997 as part of the massive consolidations of GM dealerships, several years before the phase-out of the Olds nameplate was announced; now he's apparently building a new Subaru outlet in O'Fallon IL. The Washington at Channing (now Josephine Baker Blvd.) property was then sold to St. Louis University which still uses it for warehousing and support functions.

    But the larger dealerships largely relocated during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s to very large chunks of former brickworks property along South Kingshighway between Fyler and Chippewa, mostly on the east side of the street.

    This automobile row is still active, albeit with plenty of changes of ownership and consolidations of dealerships over the years. It also generally extends a little further north, to include a couple dealers near Kingshighway and Southwest, and perhaps a little east, to include Gravois and Chippewa.

    The South Kingshighway and vicinity "Automobile Row" today includes:

  • Don Brown Chevrolet - "at the entrance to The Hill" in a 1979 building formerly home to Forte Buick at 2244 S. Kingshighway inside the wedge at Vandeventer;
  • Don Brown Chrysler-Jeep (formerly King Chrysler-Jeep) - in a 1971 building renovated in 1998 at 2245 S. Kingshighway, at the corner of Bischoff just north of Southwest;
  • Don Brown Dodge (formerly King Dodge) - in a complex dating to 1951 but extensively expanded and renovated in 2002 at 3300 S. Kingshighway, SE corner of Fyler;
  • McMahon Pontiac-GMC (formerly Ernie Patti Pontiac GMC and before that Gary Vincel Pontiac Mazda) - in a 1948 complex at 3295 S. Kingshighway, NW corner of Fyler;
  • McMahon Lincoln-Mercury - in a 1949 building with 1963 addition at 3345 S. Kingshighway (west side of street between Parker and Fairview;
  • Jerry Ackerman Toyota / Scion - pretty much the only place in the city limits selling 'foreign' cars, in newly renovated digs built perhaps as early as 1929, at 3600 S. Kingshighway, between Tholozan and Beck; and
  • McMahon Ford - in a 1948 building remodeled in 1998 facing Chippewa but with the address at 4100 Gravois.

    Of course, starting sometime in the 1960s, former Kingshighway dealers and new dealers starting sprouting along South Lindbergh from east of Lemay Ferry to about Tesson Ferry (recall "Come down south, to Art Haack Buick... Come down south and get the Art Haack price!"), forming yet another Automobile Row district, very long and spread-out.

    West County and North County have significant concentrations of car dealers too, but the S. Lindbergh row has more ties to Kingshighway historically, I think.

    Given the relatively high popularity of foreign cars today, it does seem strange that Ackerman Toyota-Scion is the only place to buy one new within the city limits. And as of January '06, all the new car dealers selling American cars in the city are owned either by Don Brown (for Chevy and all Chrysler lines) or by Schicker Automotive Group (for all Ford lines, plus Pontiac and GMC).

    Nobody sells Buicks in the city anymore. About a year ago, there was rampant speculation that Buick would be next on the chopping block. Since Lindburg Cadillac, 2350 Market Street downtown, closed in 1986 as a result of a deal between GM and Plaza Motors - later Clinton Cadillac of Crestwood was renamed Clinton Lindburg Cadillac though - there's been no place in the city limits selling new Caddys either.

    Interesting, this from an April 20, 1988 Post-Dispatch column by Jerry Berger:

    Subject to approval by General Motors, Plaza Motors in Creve Coeur will temporarily house the Cadillac dealership it is planning to relocate from Lindburg, west of downtown. A separate building may be on the rise in Creve Coeur. Meanwhile, the Forsythe Group has a purchase contract for the site of Lindburg Cadillac, at Jefferson Avenue at Market Street, where it plans to construct an office complex and a Marriott Courtyard Inn.

    And this from a November 30, 1992 Post-Dispatch article by Fred Faust:
    [W]hen Lindburg Cadillac at Market Street and Jefferson Avenue was for sale, GM allegedly spurned buyers who would have kept the dealership downtown and "actively encouraged" the purchase and relocation of the Lindburg dealership to Creve Coeur by Plaza Motors.

    Of course, today the site at 2350 Market Street is... the headquarters of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District! The office building, completed in 1989, previously housed the Daniel & Henry insurance firm, since relocated to the Highlands @ Forest Park office park on the former St. Louis Arena site. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel was completed next door in 1990.


    All water under the bridge, I suppose. In 2005, Enterprise Leasing founder Jack Taylor - who got his start at Lindburg Cadillac - donated $1 million-plus for the renovation of the automobile exhibit at the Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood into the Earl C. Lindburg Automotive Center.
  • Friday, May 26, 2006

    Highway 40 at Market/Compton Closures Coming Soon!

    Highway 40 at Market/Compton Closures Coming Soon!

    Amidst all the hubbub about "The New I-64" long-term detours, somehow there's been much less publicity about the upcoming separate closure of Market and Compton at Highway 40 to replace both overpasses.

    Highway 40 itself will be closed beginning 7 p.m. Friday, June 2 and until 5 a.m. Monday, June 5. This will extend until 5 a.m. Monday, June 5. This is to allow for demolition (for now) of just the Compton Ave. bridge.

    Alternate route:

    * MODOT recommends I-70 or I-44.

    Detour routes:

    * Eastbound I-64 traffic will be detoured onto eastbound Bernard St. to eastbound Market Street to south Ewing Ave. to eastbound I-64.

    * Westbound I-64 will be detoured at Forest Park Ave. to southbound Grand Blvd. to westbound I-64.

    Compton Avenue crosstown traffic will need to detour via Grand or Jefferson for the next six months!

    Likewise, according to the detailed Detour Map (PDF), Market Street at Compton, all its access ramps to Highway 40, as well as the ramps for accessing Forest Park Parkway and Grand Blvd. from westbound 40, will be closed at various times over the summer. Forest Park eastbound traffic will need to exit at Grand.

    The eastbound 40 exit at Market St./Bernard St. may still be open, but only to access the area under the Grand Ave. viaduct via Bernard St. Spruce Street will be closed from the Metro bus maintenance facility east to Sigma-Aldrich, at least for a while. No access to/from Compton will be possible during that time. Presumably, then, Compton will be barricaded at Chouteau on the south, and (once Market is closed) Laclede on the north.

    Recommended detour routes are via Grand to Lindell/Olive and then Jefferson or the 20th Street onramp to 40 (accessed via Pine Street just west of 20th); or via Chouteau from Grand to Jefferson.

    Also, as a result of this detour the #52 Clayton-South County (PDF new route map), effective Monday, May 29th 2006 (Memorial Day) will be routed via Ewing instead of Compton through Midtown between Market and Olive. Similarly, the #92 Lindenwood (PDF new route map) will be terminated at the Metro bus maintenance facility off Spruce, operating bidirectionally instead of in a loop on the route already used by the #57 Manchester and #42 Sarah below the Grand viaduct on Scott Avenue. It will not serve SLU or Harris-Stowe at all during this construction period.

    Laclede Ave. at one time would have been a natural limited detour route, and was once the route of the #52 Forest Park bus. ; but of course, east of Grand it pretty much no longer exists except as a parking lot access route for SLU and Harris-Stowe. For goodness sakes, the part next to the old Grand Forest Apartments just west of Compton is now covered in Astroturf!

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    St. Louis CIN: Now With RSS

    St. Louis CIN: Now With RSS

    The City of St. Louis Community Information Network web site now has four different RSS feeds to which you may subscribe:

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Calendar

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Job Openings

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Press Releases

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Public Meetings

    Go here to learn more.

    Don't forget about two other great feeds, too!

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Ramblings by Joe Frank, urbanist

    Feed Icon Add to My Yahoo! Jeanette Mott Oxford for State Representative


    Gettin' Hooked Up on South Broadway, Cherokee

    Gettin' Hooked Up on South Broadway, Cherokee

    Yes, this headline was intentionally provocative.

    We have many great neighborhood business districts in the City of St. Louis.

    On the Southside, a number of them have new or updated websites.

  • South Broadway Merchants Association

  • Chippewa-Broadway Business Association
    (they're sponsoring a Business Expo today from 5 to 7 at the historic Chippewa Trust Company (1924-1976) -- a branch of Regions Bank these days -- 3803 S. Broadway at the Chippewa /Broadway / Jefferson wedge.)

  • Cherokee Station Merchants Association (OK, they still need help)

  • Cherokee-Lemp Historic District and Cherokee Antique Row Merchants Association (yes, those are pretty much the same area...)

  • For more flavor of Cherokee, check out the latest podcast, featuring The Tin Ceiling, a young innovative black-box theatre group based these days at the corner of Cherokee and Compton (3159 Cherokee) in the midst of the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts next to a space called typo café. Although for some reason, one of the group's main founders, Robin Garrels, is not part of the interview. Ah, well.

    It's definitely an evolving part of the city. Credit Moore Design Group, longtime maintainers of the St. Louis Front Page and based at 3832 S. Broadway, with developing both the CBBA and SBMA web sites. The great Southside historian and tour guide NiNi Harris, of course, wrote the copy for the Cherokee-Lemp web site.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    FY07 Budget Announcement

    FY07 Budget Announcement

    For awhile now, city hall denizens have been hearing rumors about the city's revenues being higher than anticipated this and next fiscal year.

    It appears the rumors were correct.

    After a big stink about raises for three top managers, and critical response from the AFSCME union (Local 410 represents some craft/clerical city employees), the mayor has proposed all city workers will get a 3% raise on January 1, 2007. has more.

    And here's even more, from a message sent to city employees with email about a half-hour ago:

    Message from the Mayor

    As an employee of the City of St. Louis, you have played a major role in the renaissance of our City, a comeback that has been chronicled by USA Today, National Public Radio, Dow Jones Newswire and others. Because of your effort, our City looks better, is cleaner, safer, more beautiful, with more residents, better municipal services-and a growing tax base. Most importantly, there is a strong faith in the City’s future.

    Last week, I told you that my staff has been working on pay raises to become effective no later than July 1, 2007. I am pleased to tell you that Alderman Steve Conway and I have developed a plan to move the timetable up by six months.

    At the Ways and Means Committee meeting this morning, my staff and Alderman Conway will propose a 3% pay raise for all City employees effective January 1, 2007.

    The resources for the pay raise will come from a higher estimate of our year-end surplus, increased state prisoner reimbursement, and savings from cuts in management through attrition.

    This proposal still must be approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Board of Aldermen.

    I want to thank Alderman Conway, and Barb Geisman and Ron Smith of my staff for their hard work.

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    On the Passing of K. Dunham

    On the Passing of K. Dunham

    Dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist Katherine Dunham died Sunday at the age of 96.

    While she was from Chicago and lived most of the last few years in New York City where she passed away, her heart and soul were in East St Louis, at the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities.

    Although the organization and its programs - like Ms. Dunham herself - long struggled with their overall physical and financial well-being, they undoubtedly contributed immensely to the community on the east side over the past 35 years or so.

    During a time when it seems like so many of the leaders in ESL focus on lining their own pockets, Ms. Dunham seemed to be the opposite.

    Hopefully, somehow the centers will be preserved as programmatic anchors for the children and families of the Metro East.

    Wouldn't it be nice if just a little bit of that money spent on buying votes for Mark Kern could have been used to support the Dunham center?

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Thoughts on the BJC Lease Deal, and Forest Park More Generally

    Thoughts on the BJC Lease Deal, and Forest Park More Generally

    I posted the following on Wednesday in the comments on a post on

    Also, Urban Review and Pub Def have follow-ups on the Wednesday meeting of the aldermanic committee charged with reviewing the finances of the lease proposal.

    The committee meets again this morning after the full Board of Aldermen meeting adjourns.

    I don't care what anybody else says: I know this land is part of Forest Park!

    Given just how many people in this city are on the BJC and/or WashU payroll (including me), it would be hard to find somebody WITHOUT a conflict-of-interest in this situation.

    I still have misgivings though.
    The lease really should include:

    1) Annual lease payment increases tied to inflation. In 90 years, $1.5 million will be a pittance. It'll probably cost $10 to buy a can of soda by then!

    2) Specific locations in Forest Park or nearby where all recreational facilities - tennis courts, racquetball courts, playground - will be replaced.

    3) Some idea of the plans for both pieces of ground. We keep forgetting that the open green space SOUTH of Clayton Avenue is included in this deal, and that space will probably get a little bigger after the I-64 interchange is rebuilt. NO surface parking should be permitted!

    I still wonder about the timing of this announcement relatively in tandem with the Art Museum's expansion plans.

    Could it be this was announced around the same time to deflect attention from yet another intrusion into relatively pristine Forest Park greenspace (compared to the BJC site) by a taxpayer-funded institution of dubious economic significance like SLAM?

    Don't get me wrong - I'd much rather spend a day at the Art Museum than at Barnes-Jewish. By a long shot. But SLAM is a semi-public institution that deserves just as much public oversight into its actions as BJC!

    Additional points I should add:

    1) the SLAM expansion is totally within the footprint of their existing lease. That's a big difference; the new addition will be pretty much where the surface parking lot is now behind the Art Museum.

    2) Meanwhile, the Zoo is nearing completion on a $2-million monumental sculpture called Animals Always that, as best I can tell, is very much drive-by oriented and dramatically changes the face of that high-traffic entrance to Forest Park itself. Hopefully, the pedestrian exit nearby for the #90 Hampton bus stop will remain; but this corner is not going to be an entrance to the Zoo at all.

    And for that matter, just how long has the entrance (at one time the main entrance) at Washington and Government Drives been closed off? I know most people coming in from the north nowadays go through The Living World; but that closed entrance is very close to the #90 Hampton and (starting May 27nd) #03 Forest Park Shuttle bus stops.

    Why make people walk all the way to The Living World when there's a perfectly serviceable entryway gate right there by the MetroBus stops? Is this an accessibility problem, a homeland security concern, or just about making more money off concessions and parking?

    3) Ald. Bosley noted in Wednesday's meeting that it seems quite likely BJC would also want the parking area to the east of the tennis courts/playground site along Euclid, rebuilt only a few years ago. They already pretty much own the parking area along the north side of Barnes-Jewish plaza; and CID has that parking lot south of Clayton Avenue. All these paved areas, of course, were part of old Kingshighway.

    While that's not significant in terms of park space, it does represent a gradual privatization of the former city revenue stream from metered parking in those areas where demand for parking is quite high indeed.

    4) I would really hate to see those tennis courts and playground disappear. I hope they can be replaced somewhere nearby, within Forest Park or another park within the vicinity. And that should be at BJC's expense - comparable to the deal almost 10 years ago when BJC bought and demolished Stix and Michael schools from St Louis Public Schools to build that massive parking garage (with entrances way too big for safe pedestrian crossing) and now The Parkway Hotel on the block bounded by Forest Park, Taylor, Parkview, and Euclid.

    Back then, the deal was that BJC would get the property in return for building a replacement building for Stix Early Childhood Center Elementary School (previously, the old building was Stix ILC Elementary; that program has since moved to Mullanphy).

    The replacement building, of course, is a rather out-of-the-way location on property BJC owned or purchased, part of the old PepsiCo bottling plant site (remember that Pepsi moved to the Union Seventy Center complex, the old Chevy plant, off Union and Natural Bridge) bounded by Clayton, Tower Grove, Boyle, and I-64. It's not really an ideal location for a little kids' school, especially since additional exit ramps are planned in that vicinity. But it is a nice sized site for a school; I believe it was completed and opened in 1997 or so.

    This could be a good deal for all parties involved. But more discussion and debate is necessary. I don't perceive this as something that needs to be decided and initiated immediately, as some might suggest. Deliberation is important.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Friendliest Drivers?

    Friendliest Drivers?

    In a ranking of 20 major cities, AutoVantage says St. Louis has the 3rd-friendliest drivers.

    Tell that to the person who zoomed around us without signaling yesterday afternoon on SB Grand near Shenandoah. We were patiently waiting for somebody else who was trying to park in front of the Pet Clinic and blocking the right lane of traffic and the bike lane.

    I guess not everybody is that patient.

    Maybe it's just that, given our stagnant metro population, low-density development patterns and de-urbanization of the city, traffic is not as congested here as in most other big cities. But it seems to me a lot of drivers around here are still pretty rude to other drivers and to pedestrians and cyclists.

    I've never really understood "road rage"; nor why some folks seem to think it's a more serious issue than, say, murder or robbery. This was particularly true in the late 1990s; of course, now many people are mostly worried about terrorism - also something that's much less likely to strike any given person than is the more common street crime.

    Sure, I don't like it when somebody runs a four-way stop - especially when it's a police officer!

    But right now I'm a little more concerned with the continuing random gunfire day and night within blocks of my house. We heard 4-5 shots on Saturday night/Sunday morning about midnight; and again on Tuesday afternoon about 5:30.

    Then we get the police choppers hovering over - again. Makes it kinda hard to sleep.

    Ideally, I want both the crime and the police to just go away!

    Having more "cops on the beat" in cars and in helicopters does not make me feel safe!

    Maybe if they were actually walking around, that would help. But as it is, I guess they don't have the resources to do that in BPW. But somehow over in TGEast, they've now got scooters (grant-funded via Alderman Reed). I have yet to see a scooter cop east of Gravois, however. I guess they stay in the 6th ward only? Come to think of it, I've never seen a bike patrol outside South Grand or Downtown; nor an equestrian patrol outside Forest Park and CWE.

    I realize it makes it harder to deploy officers in an emergency, but cops walking the beat would actually be beneficial in certain parts of the city. If they were actually walking around that park at Nebraska and Utah, rather than just driving by, it could discourage the teenage rowdiness that often rapidly escalates into random gunfire.

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Metro Redefined --> Fewer Direct Buses to Downtown

    Metro Redefined --> Fewer Direct Buses to Downtown

    A recent press release from Metro transit (PDF) trumpets "4th Consecutive Fiscal Year of a Balanced Budget with No Service Cuts" but also notes that after FY 2007, either service cuts or a tax increase will be necessary.

    We've been hearing this message for a while.

    It's not like service cuts are anything new to the St. Louis transit system.

    Meanwhile, there's Metro Redefined, the now more-or-less completed bus system restructuring plan effective in fall 2006, when Cross County MetroLink finally begins operation.

    It seems a number of neighborhoods city and county that currently have direct bus service into downtown St. Louis will be required to transfer to MetroLink instead. This isn't necessarily bad, but this combined with the removal of all express buses from EB Olive Street (morning rush) and WB Locust Street (evening rush) may require longer walk times/distances within downtown for some passengers.

    For example, the Shaw neighborhood is currently served by both branches of the #80 Shaw - Southampton. Admittedly, it is a circuitous route that serves the interior of numerous neighborhoods but very few major activity centers, and runs bidirectionally through downtown. It was a merger of the old #99 Shaw-Russell (itself an amalgam of parts of the old #99 Lafayette and #21 Tower Grove) with the old #80 Southampton.

    The #80 will be split into parts of five different routes. It seems mostly sensible. The route number will be retained by the new #80 Lafayette Square, a short neighborhood circulator route starting at Civic Center MetroBus Center, then via 14th, Chouteau, and Truman Parkway, to Park and Mississippi. From there it will make a big loop via Park, Grand, Russell, and Mississippi (a street heretofore without bus service in that segment, but also with diagonal parking adjacent to Lafayette Park that would make locating a bus stop difficult).

    But in Shaw, the #80 route will be split into parts of two other routes.

    The #13 Union-Garden already serves the neighborhood on Tower Grove Avenue. It will be shifted to the east, so that the new #13 Union will, after departing the new CWE MetroBus Center on Taylor, head east on Forest Park, Sarah, Laclede, Vandeventer, Lindell (absorbing part of the current #52 Clayton-South County route), to Grand, south on Grand to connect with MetroLink, then via New Park, Spring, Park, 39th, Shaw, and back onto its current route of Tower Grove, Magnolia, and Thurman to end at Thurman Loop.

    The sections of Taylor, Chouteau, and Tower Grove north of Shaw and south of CWE MetroLink through McRee Town and Forest Park Southeast currently served by the #13 will be picked up by the ridiculously long #93 Midtown-South County, which will also feature direct service into the Botanical Garden parking lot eliminated on the #13. It will then continue west on Shaw into The Hill neighborhood.

    Also serving Tower Grove through McRee Town and FPSE will be the brand new #59 Shaw-Kirkwood. It will also serve MOBOT directly, then head east on Shaw, to 39th, to Shenandoah, to Thurman, ending at Thurman Loop. Its outer leg will mostly cover parts of other routes that will be eliminated like the #52 along Oakland and Clayton Avenues.

    Strangely, Shaw Blvd. between Tower Grove and 39th will be served by both the #13 and the #59 - but in opposite directions. To connect with Grand MetroLink, you'll get the #13 on the south side of Shaw. To connect with CWE MetroLink, you'll get the #59 on the north side of Shaw. The two-block segment of Shaw Blvd. between 39th and Grand will have no bus service at all.

    Both routes will end at Thurman Loop; but only the #59 will operate on Shenandoah and 39th through the center of the neighborhood.

    No bus service will operate on Magnolia between Tower Grove and Kingshighway, currently served by the #80. Yeah, there aren't many houses there, and most of them are within a short walk of Kingshighway, so I guess that's no big deal.

    This restructuring will mean most routes connect with at least one MetroLink station. Many routes will connect with two stations, either on the existing alignment or the Cross County route, or both.

    Hopefully, this doesn't confuse too many current riders. The online TripFinder might help with the changes, at least for those who have Internet access.

    Otherwise, expect really long waits on the Metro Customer Service phone lines this fall.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Weekend Events: May 12-14 2006

    Weekend Events: May 12-14 2006

    UPDATE: Ugh! I messed up. The Locust Avenue Film Festival is NEXT Friday evening - May 19th. No wonder the streets weren't closed yet.

    Coming up on Friday, May 19th is the "Locust Avenue Film Festival" planned for Locust STREET (it ain't no avenue!) from 11th to Tucker downtown, starting at 4:30 PM.

    Only thing that bugs me about that is it's sponsored by (among others) Lohr Distributing.

    May 22nd (Monday after next) will mark one year since Teamsters Local 600 have been on strike against Lohr.

    Also, I don't understand why it's not indicated as a detour on the MetroBus Rider Alerts page (which even has an RSS feed now).

    While no local routes operate on that part of Locust anymore, the various South Corridor and West Corridor express routes all do, westbound during evening rush hour - precisely the time this event will start!

    Those picky comments aside - it could be a pretty fun event. It certainly is a corner of downtown that needs more activity like this.

    Saturday is the Old North St. Louis House Tour, starting across from Crown Candy at 2800 N. 14th St. @ St. Louis Avenue.

    Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 day of. Includes a free Crown Candy ice cream cone.

    I remember back about 6-7 years ago going on the ONSL house tour - when it was FREE! Even so, the attendance was not huge back then. It was fun, though, to see a number of houses in various states of rehab - beginning, middle, and "end" (although we all know a 100+ year old house is never ever really done - there's always something new to be fixed!)

    It's a good sign for that neighborhood they can now actually charge people to come on a house tour. Very exciting.

    And, really, these days I think ONSL has less crime than many Southside neighborhoods that are also trying to attract new residents.

    Of course, Sunday is Mother's Day.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006 Random Attack on Post-Dispatch; and The Trouble with Interco Plaza Random Attack on Post-Dispatch; and The Trouble with Interco Plaza

    In a post on Tuesday, May 11th on The Mayor's Desk, is this tidbit:

    "[Alderman Joe Roddy] He plans to work with BJC and his neighborhood groups to find good places to put these amenities. He also regards the $29 million BJC has already invested in his neighborhoods as a measure of their good faith. (It is certainly more than the daily newspaper has invested in the neighborhoods that surround its downtown headquarters.)" (emphasis mine)

    What's that about?

    Barnes-Jewish, WashU Medical Center, and related affiliates are the owners of record for hundreds of pieces of property in the Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, and other areas.

    Pulitzer Publishing Co. - a firm that no longer exists except perhaps on city records - and St Louis Post-Dispatch LLC collectively own about twelve parcels.

    Mostly, those are the P-D headquarters on the block bounded by Tucker, Cole, Hadley, and Martin Luther King; as well as a number of surrounding surface parking lots. That includes most of the city block just to the west of their building, bounded by Tucker, Cole, 13th and Martin Luther King; the large lot on the northwest corner of Tucker and Cole next door to the KDNL Channel 30 studios; and several more surface parking lots between 13th and 14th along Martin Luther King.

    I agree they could certainly do more with those properties; but on the other hand, I think BJC has far more acreage devoted to parking. The P-D headquarters does not have parking in the building; although it does have a handful of spots along the Hadley dock side.

    P-D management certainly ain't perfect, but that's just a silly comparison.

    It's not like the city is looking to lease Interco Plaza to Lee Enterprises.

    But, shoot, maybe they should. Somebody should do something with that ridiculously ugly monstrosity of an 'urban plaza' never properly completed in the early 1980s that sits between the P-D, the St. Louis Public Schools headquarters, and St. Patrick Center.

    Some emergency demolition work was undertaken there in 2002 on the 'fountain'; and since then the ugly concrete plaza built on air rights over a railway corridor donated by the former shoemaking firm now called Furniture Brands International sits as one of the ugliest monstrosities of park 'land' in the city.

    According to its official history, this firm long associated with St. Louis's history as "first in booze, first in shoes, last in the American League" (the City Museum is located in the former International Shoe Company building) has been a Delaware corporation since 1921.

    That certainly has tax benefits for the firm and its shareholders. But what about the rest of us?

    The name changed to Interco in 1966. They became a conglomerate, buying up even Central Hardware (which they sold about 1990). They stopped making shoes entirely by 1994, after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    The new name Furniture Brands International came in 1996. They own mid-price to expensive brands like Henredon, Broyhill, Lane, and Thomasville. None of that furniture is made in St. Louis though.

    Interco Plaza seems an appropriate analogy for the company that donated it: something nobody seems to want or care about, and which is totally disconnected from the urban or local fabric.

    That may be what the section of Forest Park east of Kingshighway ultimately becomes: just another parking area and office space for a massive medical center complex.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006



    I just got an email about an interesting seemingly UK-based travel blog site called My Life of Tr@vel.

    All kinds of folks post pictures and journal entries about their current and past trips. Very cool, some with interesting insights and many with stunning photos.

    While the ol' STL will always be home, I always want to travel more. So far, I've been to three continents, and twelve countries. I do have a little page I rarely update on that lists most of the places I've ever visited with a handy little map highlighting the countries where I've been. You can create one of those pages, too!

    In other news, I was excited to read that Amtrak will be expanding service in the State of Illinois.

    The Illinois state legislature approved DOUBLING the funding to Amtrak (via IDOT), from $12 million to $24 million.

    Amtrak already has routes radiating out from Chicago Union Station to St. Louis, Carbondale, Quincy, and Milwaukee. The additional funding will allow for more service on those routes.

    It sure would be nice if the Missouri state legislature would consider such a move.

    Meanwhile, we in the STL will get two more round-trip options for getting to Chi-town on the train ... and MO will not have to pay a dime.

    Sometimes I think some of the outstate legislators would be quite happy if we'd just secede and join Illinois, anyway.

    I would love to someday see Amtrak service funded by MODOT expanded with one additional trip each direction from STL to Kansas City.

    An earlier westbound departure - say, 4:00 AM - would reach Jefferson City about 7:30 AM, providing another option for folks who need to spend a full workday in the Capital. As it is, the only morning train arrives in Jeff about 11:00 AM, almost lunchtime. Similarly, a later evening eastbound train would help many folks as well with more scheduling options.

    Even better would be adding State-funded service along the routes currently served by the national Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief routes once daily. Between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff along that route are a number of towns that could benefit from Amtrak service: Festus; DeSoto; Potosi (via Mineral Point); maybe even Ironton. How about a stop at Jefferson Barracks, to provide better access to that historic military post as well as a convenient access point for South Countians?

    None of those towns are served by Greyhound. Its only stop in the vicinity is off US 67 at Farmington.

    And how about an Amtrak Thruway bus service connecting train stops at La Plata, MO or Quincy, IL to Hannibal, MO? That would enhance access to that historic river town.

    Similarly, MODOT could finance restoration of service to Marceline, eliminated in 1997; and maybe add a stop somewhere like Carrollton, both on the Southwest Chief route.

    Better yet: how about a new service corridor along the Mississippi River? That could become a tourist attraction in and of itself. The ride along the Missouri on the current route sure is stunning. A route next to the Mississippi could be very cool, like taking MO Route 79 up to Hannibal but without the driving!

    It could run south-to-north from Fort Madison, IA, connecting with the Southwest Chief, then stop at Keokuk, IA (right across the border from Missouri), and Canton, MO (home of Culver-Stockton College), maybe somehow Quincy, IL (or perhaps that would be a more sensible northern starting point instead), Hannibal of course, charming Louisiana, even more charming Clarksville, maybe Winfield for eagle-watching and ferry-boat-riding, perhaps the Golden Eagle Ferry landing for St. Charles County resident access, somewhere in the Spanish Lake area for North County resident access, ending up in downtown St. Louis.

    A southern route along the Mississippi could serve Kimmswick (come to think of it, doesn't the Texas Eagle go through there, too?), Ste. Genevieve, somewhere on MO 51 to serve Chester, IL and Perryville, MO, and end in Cape Girardeau. Down in the Boot Heel, trains don't run adjacent to the Mississippi. But perhaps some way could be figured out to connect that end with Poplar Bluff via Sikeston. It's hard to tell from a map whether any of the tracks in that part of the state connect that way; some may just cross-over one another because they're owned by different freight railroads.

    I know, I know: we don't have the money for that kind of thing currently. And coordinating with the freights to allow passenger service to have better on-time performance is a serious concern. But I can dream, can't I?

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Reviving and Reconnecting Cherokee Street

    Reviving and Reconnecting Cherokee Street

    After church yesterday, I stopped by Cinco de Mayo briefly. The place was really hopping! I ran into Craig Schmid, and talked to him and other folks who came along, for a little while.

    It seemed like the majority of the crowd was Hispanic. And that's great... was that true of the Kiener Plaza version on Friday? Also, there was much more pedestrian traffic by my house two blocks away (later in the afternoon I was pulling weeds out front; ugh!) than on a typical Sunday. Nice weather probably helped.

    Special events downtown are great, but do they really contribute that much life to the core of downtown - the so-called Old Post Office district - when they're held in Memorial Plaza or Kiener Plaza along the Gateway Mall / Market Street corridor? I'm skeptical.

    Special events held in neighborhood commercial districts like Bevo Day, Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Station, the Cookie Spree and the History Fair on Cherokee Antique Row, etc., really make the place lively for a full day of festivities. They contribute to a sense of safety and community, and introduce suburbanites and other outsiders to a place they may not know very well.

    The free parking lots off California and Oregon behind the Salvation Army store actually were full - something almost unheard of except perhaps on Saturday mornings when the Hispanic shops are busiest. Cherokee was closed to traffic all the way from Jefferson to Nebraska, and full of pedestrians and a fair number of booths, mostly selling food. There were carnival rides at Cherokee and California, and two music stages, one on Cherokee at Texas or so, the other on the parking lot across Iowa from the Casa Loma Ballroom.

    We need to have more connections between Cherokee Station and Antique Row. It's well past time to get over the historical barriers to that. A coordinated effort to spruce-up the corner of Jefferson and Cherokee, including getting a few better tenants at that key location, would help.

    At the same time, the proximity to the burgeoning Grand South Grand business district needs to be exploited better. Even if streetcars or MetroLink are infeasible, perhaps the three business districts could explore getting corporate support for a summertime and/or Christmastime shuttle service linking the three together, and with the Botanical Gardens, Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and downtown. That's just an idea.

    Essential to any improved connection between Grand and Cherokee is making the intersection of the two streets more pleasing and interesting.

    As it is, Grand South Grand really ends a bit north of Utah, with two major institutional anchors - Carpenter Branch Library and St Pius Catholic Church - marking the southern end of the 'safe' zone.

    I believe the current Schnucks store at 3430 S. Grand is much more a detriment to the community than it is an asset. It was built in 1989, when I dare say the neighborhood was quite different than it is now. It takes up a HUGE piece of property, which must have required demolition of numerous buildings, and their latest investment in the property is a rather disappointing less than $100,000 replacement of the video department with a US Bank mini-branch.

    This location is really, really close to quarter-million-dollar and up homes on and near Utah Place, but most residents of that area prefer the Arsenal Schnucks "On the Hill" which currently is undergoing significant renovations.

    I suspect eventually Schnucks would eventually like to close that South Grand store, although maybe it is more profitable than I think, given just how much alcohol moves through it.

    Instead, I would love to see Schnucks -- or some other grocery chain if it does close at some point -- consider replacing this store with a prototypical urban grocery store. I wish I had pictures, but in cities across the country you can find reasonably large grocery stores with corner on-street entryways crammed into bustling urban centers. Dominick's has some nice ones in Chicago; although they seem to cater to a pretty high-end clientele.

    Anyway, I think this site would be just ideal for an urban grocery store. You build it right up to the SE corner of Cherokee and Grand. Make Cherokee two-way again, and put in a traffic signal with crosswalks (something that's needed there anyway given how many people get off the bus in front of the laundromat on Grand to go to Schnucks).

    The current store is situated somewhat lower than Grand, which compromises its visibility to casual potential customers. The dock is right there, right off Grand, creating a visual barrier and safety hazard for walking customers.

    A new store could have a corner entrance for pedestrians, but also a lower-level rear entrance. Perhaps the lower-level could include covered parking - see the new Target on Hampton for a (rather poorly-executed) example. Or the lower-level could shelter the dock area, cart storage, etc.

    You could still use much of the rest of the site for surface parking. Or you could build a parking garage, probably closer to Gravois (already a very car-oriented street), and then use the rest of the property to build additional shops, or perhaps even mixed-use buildings, along Grand or perhaps even along Cherokee. Yeah, the other side of the street is mostly residential, but I don't think that's necessarily a problem for this plan.

    It still would be quite a long walk from this corner to Cherokee and Nebraska, the western edge of the historic "downtown South St. Louis" Cherokee Station district. But maybe that can be made more pleasant, by narrowing the intersection with Gravois via curb bump-outs, improving the crosswalks there, etc.

    Once the South Side Tower / Grand View Pointe development in the South Side National Bank tower gets underway, I suspect the pressure will increase to do something better with this site that provides a substantial barrier between Grand South Grand and the high-profile Grand and Gravois intersection. (An aside: I find it very confusing that up in Midtown, the former Council Tower is now known as Grand View Tower. Name changes are bad enough - what, they didn't want people to think the Teamsters still own the place? But can we please avoid new names that sound so similar?)

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Siete de Mayo?

    Siete de Mayo?

    Tomorrow, Sunday May 7th, 2006, there are two pretty big events:

  • Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street (10 AM - 8 PM). This is the one that's not corporate-sponsored, but is sponsored by many of the local Hispanic-owned businesses. It's not downtown; it's in a neighborhood business district full of Mexican and Central American taqueria and carniceria.

    So maybe, it's two days late, but don't let that stop you from visiting Cherokee Station (that's what we call Cherokee from Jefferson to Nebraska, ya know). Go to Hispanic St. and scroll about halfway down the page for the Spanish-language version of the flyer entitled "Festival 5 de Mayo en la calle Cherokee."

  • The 7th annual Big BIG Tour (12 PM - 4 PM). It's sponsored these days by ReVitalize St. Louis, the current parent organization to the Rehabbers' Club (originally sponsored nominally by Metropolis and later by The Commonspace).

    The Big BIG Tour hub is the beautiful modern Central Reform Congregation synagogue at Waterman and Kingshighway in the Central West End, where mortgage lenders, realtors, and neighborhood organizations typically have info tables, but the 300 or so houses listed in a thick booklet you pick up at the front door, are spread out citywide. It's a rare opportunity to see many, many different for-sale houses all on one day, if you are so inclined. Normally, coordinating and figuring out when open houses are scheduled on a Sunday can be a real chore. This simplifies things greatly.

    Have fun!
  • It's All Happening at the Zoo...

    It's All Happening at the Zoo...

    I'm always impressed at just how popular the Saint Louis Zoo is. After all, getting there when it's busy is not always easy.

    A few weeks ago I was with some out-of-town relatives headed to the Zoo. We drove past the South parking lot, and ended up driving all the way around to the North parking lot, shelling out $9 for parking. I had no idea it cost that much now!

    So it's not surprising that many people on a beautiful day like today choose MetroLink to get to the Zoo. I noticed some families actually walking all the way from the Forest Park MetroLink station into Forest Park. That's not exactly a short hike to the Zoo.

    And they say people don't walk anymore!

    More likely, though, zoo visitors try to catch the #90 Hampton bus to get to the Zoo.

    Another option - returning for the summer on May 27th - is the #3 Forest Park Shuttle! Although the route is nowhere near as long as the old Forest Park Shuttle Bug which also served Euclid Avenue and the New Cathedral, at least it's pretty frequent. I hope it gets good use.

    Too bad I have to work today... I wouldn't mine being at the Zoo, too! ;-)

    Deja Vu in Walnut Park

    Deja Vu in Walnut Park

    As most folks have heard, about 2:40 PM on Friday, May 5th, three teenagers were shot while getting off a MetroBus at the corner of Lillian and Emerson in Walnut Park.

    One 17-year-old male was killed. And the bus driver was injured by flying glass.

    Flashback to October 13 1992, and you'll find this article from the Post-Dispatch by Bill Bryan:

    A young man who was shot to death on a Bi-State bus Sunday probably was an intended target, rather than a bystander in a random shooting, a top police official said Monday.
    ''The killer knew exactly who he wanted to shoot,'' said Lt. Sam Lackland, deputy commander of the crimes against persons division.

    Lackland sought to reassure the bus-riding public. ''This shooting was an isolated incident,'' he said. ''It is not unsafe to ride a bus.''

    Tharris Lomax, 21, was shot twice in the back shortly after 9:30 p.m. as he was seated on a Lee Avenue bus. Lomax, of the 1900 block of O'Fallon Street, was pronounced dead at Barnes Hospital.

    Lomax was shot by another passenger, about 15 years old. After the shooting, the gunman got off the bus at Emerson and Lillian avenues, in the Walnut Park neighborhood, and ran north on Arlington Avenue.

    That's the same corner - Emerson and Lillian. Most likely, it's the same bus route, the #41 Lee.

    Right now, I'm hearing police 'choppers hoving over my Southside neighborhood, for the umpteenth time. It's probably completely unrelated, but it doesn't exactly make me feel any better.

    Good night and be safe.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Ridin' the Rails

    Ridin' the Rails

    Did you know the first Railway Post Office in the U.S. operated from Hannibal to St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1862?

    Neither town is served by Amtrak today. RPO service was phased out nationwide by 1977.

    I've long been a fan of the railroads. Living in St. Louis, I guess it's not surprising. For a few years in the 1960s, my dad even worked as a clerk for the Mo Pac at 13th and Olive downtown - a building now slated for conversion to pricey condos under the moniker "Park Pacific".

    Still, our fair city is not really the best place to catch a train these days.

    Passenger rail service at Saint Louis Union Station ceased in 1978 -- the year I was born.

    About ten years later, in 1988, I set foot in Union Station for the first time - when it was a relatively new shopping mall. I attended the "Magnet School Fair," an event the St. Louis Public Schools arranged to promote the various magnet school programs. I was already a student at Mallinckrodt ABI.

    That was also the first time I rode a Bi-State bus: the #11 Chippewa, I believe. I still remember seeing the janitorial supplies in the window of Chippewa Products and thinking: wow, there's actually a store where you can buy that stuff?

    The current St. Louis Amtrak station is small and hard-to-find, but a definite step up from the "Amshack" operated from 1978 until 2004. Hopefully, the intermodal transportation center now (finally!) under construction will replace it very soon, providing a direct connection to MetroLink, MetroBuses, and Greyhound. It can't come soon enough!

    Of course, Amtrak is not exactly in the best financial condition. While MODOT does subsidize the route from StL to Kansas City, that's pretty much the only route serving Missouri in a significant way.

    You can ride the Texas Eagle to Poplar Bluff. It arrives there about 1 AM daily; and departs to come back to STL about 3 AM daily. Not especially convenient hours.

    You can get to La Plata, MO - about 15 miles south of Kirksville where Truman State is located - via the Southwest Chief.

    But to get there from STL, you need to ride one of the Chicago-bound trains to Springfield, IL or Bloomington-Normal, IL; then catch an Amtrak-contracted bus to Galesburg, IL; and then catch the Chief west to La Plata. A full-day affair, including wait times.

    Until 1997, the Chief still stopped at Marceline, MO -- hometown of Walt Disney.

    I've never tried either of those trips, but I have gone to Jefferson City (for a lobbying day) and Sedalia (for the state fair) by Amtrak. Both were from the prettier - but now unstaffed! - Kirkwood depot.

    My recent trip to Chicago was my first from the 'interim' Amtrak stop in downtown St. Louis.

    Hopefully it'll be the last. I don't know the timetable for the completion of the Intermodal Center, but it's been in planning for a solid 15 years. At one point, a location near Jefferson Avenue was considered.

    Anyway, I'm not holding my breath; but I'm hoping someday St. Louis can at least have a train depot worthy of, say, Springfield, Illinois!

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    WashU Transit Pass: Sign Up!

    WashU Transit Pass: Sign Up!

    So, I finally listened to the Podcast featuring me. It actually turned out OK, although I do think it's funny that they say Janie Papaccio sent out the " reporter" when, obviously, it's Callow who does it. I guess a youthful voice sounds better.

    I also caught the podcast featuring Rollin Stanley and Kate Shea, where the tension seems just under the surface; and the one with Vince Schoemehl, who notes the 'technology' improvements made during the early days of his administration: replacing 3-person garbage trucks with today's "one-armed bandit" dumpster system; and buying backhoes for fixing water mains instead of using a crew of workers with shovels.

    He also noted that when he was inaugurated in April 1981, the city had about 11,300 employees. Within 9 days, they had proposed a new budget to the Board of Aldermen to lay off 1,600+ workers, and eliminate 2,000 vacant positions. After 3 years, the city had only 4,500 employees remaining. (Of course, much of those cutbacks are attributable to the closure of Homer G. Phillips and later City Hospital; but even at CDA, most of the city planning staff was laid off in 1981.)

    Anyway, back to my original subject: mass transit! Washington University is famously offering a free transit pass to full-time students, faculty, staff, and employees of contractors with daily tasks. If you are one of the several thousand people who, like me, fall into these categories, sign up today!

    You must sign up online, and the login is either your WebSTAC account if a student, or your HRMS account if faculty/staff. I'm not sure how it works for people who work for Aramark, Top Care, Bon Appetit, etc. That might be a separate process, unfortunately.

    In any event, it will be really interesting to see how this works, especially the changeover of WashU shuttles to integrate into the Metro transit system. As of July 1st, these passes will be valid. But you can sign up now, and either pick up the U Pass as early as June 19th, or have it mailed to your home or campus address.

    Sign up today!

    Wal-Mart in High Ridge

    Wal-Mart in High Ridge

    UFCW Local 655 has been fighting Wal-Mart expansions for a while now. As reported in the media, the latest battle is over a proposed SuperCenter in Jefferson County at Highway 30 and High Ridge Blvd.

    This location is only five miles away from two other existing regular Wal-Mart stores, at Gravois Bluffs in Fenton, and in House Springs. More to the point, there are several union-staffed grocery stores also within a five mile radius of the proposed Supercenter, which would include groceries.

    I'm glad to see some serious opposition to Wal-Mart in Jefferson County. However, I'm less heartened by the reasoning given by the Planning Commission for denying the permit:

    not enough parking!

    Apparently they've only planned for 915 parking spaces. Zoning requires 950.


    Somehow, I think THF Realty will find a way to shoehorn an additional 35 spaces onto the site, whatever it takes.

    Clearly, this battle ain't over.

    But at the same time, it's not exactly the way an urbanist would want to stop Wal-Mart.

    Would the city's living wage ordinance apply, I wonder, if Wal-Mart planned to come here?

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    MetroLink Stops

    MetroLink Stops

    By now, most readers are aware I am a frequent transit rider.

    I do enjoy MetroLink, although sometimes I wonder whether there might be more optimal locations for its various stops.

    Sure, inside downtown it stops every few blocks. Still, I wonder why they couldn't have placed a stop under Tucker Boulevard, which would have made direct connections to numerous bus routes a snap. Instead, they're rerouted all those buses (and then some) to serve the Civic Center station two blocks west, on 14th Street.

    To a great extent, it has always seemed to me that MetroLink was built with suburban park-ride commuters as a paramount consideration. Connnections to the bus system were secondary, but also mandatory, because they truncated some bus lines to feed into MetroLink.

    Then there's the events - Cardinals, Blues, and Rams games, Fair St. Louis, Mardi Gras - which do bring much needed revenue to Metro transit, but at the same time, they overwhelm the capacity of MetroLink itself.

    One thing that always annoys me is when MetroLink security blocks off the stairs leading to Spruce from both platforms of the Stadium stadium. That is presumably a crowd control measure, to force everybody into using the very long, convoluted ramps that lead eventually up to the little plaza at 7th and Clark.

    But that makes it nearly impossible to connect with a #30 Soulard bus on game nights!

    I've never felt quite as overwhelmed at the Civic Center station when there's a Blues game, partly because it is a HUGE center platform station. The two separate platforms at Busch Stadium stop are, it turns out, way more capacity than necessary 75% of the time. But when there's a ballgame, it's not nearly enough space.

    I thought part of the deal with the new stadium included redesigning and possibly relocating that stop slightly; but it certainly hasn't happened yet.

    It's great that MetroLink stops at the front door of so many downtown event venues, but I wish those stops would get more use at other times of the day/week/year.

    I would also love to see an additional MetroLink stop somewhere closer to Harris-Stowe State University. Sure, I guess they have a shuttle service connecting with Grand station, but if there was a stop somewhere west of Jefferson and east of Compton, that could serve not only HSSU, but also Sigma-Aldrich, A.G. Edwards, and the rest of the Mill Creek Valley business park.

    Ideally, there could also be some kind of pedestrian connection southward, to serve the Gate District, including Flower Row.

    I believe the CORTEX plan also may call for eventually building a stop in the vicinity of Sarah Street. If that could revitalize that little depot building next to the grain elevator, and connect with all the new development along Sarah between Forest Park Parkway and Lindell, I would support that as well.

    Even the new Cross County MetroLink line seems replete with missed opportunities. Given that both the Skinker and the Big Bend stops will be a pretty substantial walk from the core of the WashU campus and from the Delmar Loop, it would have been sensible perhaps to instead just have one stop, near Melville Avenue/Ackert Walkway, simply known as "the Overpass" by WashU students. Such a location would be convenient to the heart of the campus, just steps from Olin Library, and about a four-block walk south of Blueberry Hill.

    Likewise, the Clayton Corporate Park, where Enterprise Leasing is headquartered and the County Juvenile Center is located, will be adjacent to Cross County but not directly served.

    Meanwhile, I can't see the big demand for the Sunnen station, unless somebody comes up with a way to redevelop Deer Creek Center in a transit-oriented way. But since it's located in a flood plain, that might be difficult. And there will not be a stop on the Big Bend end of that center, which is closer to more residences than the Laclede Station side.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006 Podcast, and Thoughts on Downtown Shuttles Podcast, and Thoughts on Downtown Shuttles

    So, yes, I am the featured commentator on the latest Podcast on, posted late yesterday.

    I haven't listened to it yet, but it was sort of a fun interview I did last Thursday, on the subject of.... riding the bus!

    During the interview, I mentioned how annoying it is that Metro charges $3.25 for a one-way MetroLink ticket purchased at either of the Lambert Airport stations.

    Indeed, I suggested economy-minded visitors should consider walking through the short-term parking garage (or you can catch the "Terminal Shuttle" at main terminal lower-level exit MT-12) to the Bus Port located at the entrance to the intermediate parking lot, which is served by the #49 Lindbergh connecting with MetroLink at North Hanley, so even with the transfer it's still only $2.00 one-way; and by the #66 Brentwood-Airport which goes directly to downtown Clayton if they happen to be staying in that vicinity.

    Another pet peeve of mine - this one I forgot to mention during the interview - is all the gigantic Vandalia Bus Lines motorcoaches that are used as shuttles mostly within downtown for major conventions and shows at America's Center.

    I think it is ridiculous to use such large, over-the-road style vehicles, for making loops to shuttle visitors from hotel to convention center.

    If you recall, about four years ago, national bike/ped activist Susie Stephens was killed by one of these massive motorcoaches while crossing 4th Street in front of the Adam's Mark Hotel. The driver was charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian, a misdemeanor.

    Vandalia and many other firms around town own and operate much smaller, 24-passenger shuttle buses that are much more manuverable in the urban environment.

    The CVC and its America's Center management should prohibit tour buses from being used to shuttle people around within the downtown area for their events, and prohibit them from entering the America's Center pseudo-driveway off Washington, whose configuration is confusing and dangerous enough for pedestrians as it is, without adding those massive tour buses to the mix.

    I acknowledge that shuttles need to be provided; after all, I can't imagine walking all the way from, say, the Sheraton on 14th Street or the Millennium on 4th Street during the rain, snow, or in heels! Since at a convention you're expected to dress professionally in many cases, the shuttles are valuable; not to mention for persons with disabilities, many of whom cannot be accommodated on the motor coaches anyway.

    But the shuttles should be just that - low-floor shuttles, like those used routinely in and around local college campuses, medical centers, and the airport.

    Anyway, I think this change would do a lot to make conventions in downtown St. Louis more hospitable to pedestrians, both visitors and locals.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Longevity in Employment: A Thing of the Past?

    Longevity in Employment: A Thing of the Past?

    On Friday, I happened to have the pleasure of attending a retirement party for a civil servant who had put in 28 years with the city; and a few hours later, an event honoring (among others) a college professor who had put in 40 years with his university and was still going strong.

    It got me to thinking - could I ever do that?

    I'm not sure that I could. Such staying power used to be really common across the board. You still hear occasionally of people who have civil service protection lasting 20, 30, even 40 years of service. On occasion, you'll even hear of a tenured professor who has been in the same institution for 50 years!

    But outside such relatively protected job classifications, and even to some extent within those groups, long-term employment (that is, 20+ years at the same place) is definitely getting more and more rare.

    In some ways, that's a good thing. If people feel like they have more and different workplace options, and they feel secure moving around every 5 or 10 years under their own volition, that's fine. Nobody said you had to be loyal to a given institution forever.

    Unfortunately, it's more likely that more experienced, higher-paid, slightly older workers are being forced out, quietly or not, in the name of cutting costs and increasing net revenues. And then, when you do retire, lo and behold... the pension is gone!

    I'm not saying this is the case in academia nor in government work; in fact, those institutions still tend to have relatively stable defined-benefit pension plans. And since they don't have to worry about profits and pleasing stockholders, it makes the pressures somewhat less severe.

    But especially with the fiscal strains on public institutions in the past five to seven years, they are starting to feel the pinch just as workers in the rest of the world have for at least that long, in the form of higher employee and retiree health insurance premiums, combined with the beginnings of a shift away from traditional pensions to "defined-contribution" plans highly favorable to employers such as 401k and 403b plans.

    Anyway, I just hope that, in a couple years when I'm on the academic job market, I can find a reasonably well-paid tenure-track faculty position somewhere! Of course, I'll ask about health plans, pensions, and other benefits, but who knows what will happen 20, 30, 40 years down the line.

    Obviously, once you get tenured, you have a lot more flexibility... assuming tenure in its traditional form persists, which may not necessarily be the case even twenty years from now. More and more academic appointments are proportionally into non-tenure track full-time positions like "Visiting Assistant Professor" or "Affiliate Assistant Professor." Naturally, if that's the job you can get, you'll take it. But for the institution as a whole, it can mean that long-term stability is far from assured.