Mass Transit Transportation


by Michael R. Allen

I dig Citizens for Modern Transit‘s new ad.

Mass Transit Missouri Legislature Transportation

Legislature Gives Metro $12 Million

by Michael R. Allen

The St. Louis Beacon reports that the legislature passed a stimulus bill that contains $12 million for Metro (actually still named the Bi-State Development Agency but doing business as Metro). This is a one-time payment, of course, and short of the $20 million that Metro estimates it needs to restore all service cuts made in March.

Governor Jay Nixon, often silent on state-funded programs that support St. Louis, actually has expressed support for Metro. However, the $12 million request came from Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, not Nixon. If the governor signs the bill, Metro will be able to restore Call-a-Ride and some bus routes — for one year.

Realistically, the stimulus money is a small stop-gap. What is needed is a regional taxing district. Senator Robin Wright-Jones introduced a bill in this legislative session to allow such a district to be created, but the bill remains on the Senate’s informal calender.

No matter what the fate of the stimulus funding or Wright-Jones’ bill, Metro has a lot of work to do right now to build a strong case for its support. The longer the agency waits to start building public support, the longer people are stuck without transportation — and the longer cities that have regional investment in transportation will surpass our ability to attract new residents and jobs. We can’t have a hand-to-mouth transit system if St. Louis is going to be a competitive American city.

Granite City, Illinois Illinois Metro East Transportation

Relic of Early Anheuser-Busch Empire in Granite City

by Michael R. Allen

Under the 20th Street viaduct bridge in Granite City, Illinois stands a reminder of previous changes within the Anheuser-Busch empire. On Adams Street is a transfer terminal for the brewer built in the 1911 before the onset of prohibition. The brewer sent train loads of beer to Granite City by rail across the Merchant’s Bridge, and the trains delivered the beer to this building. From here, teams of Clydesdales and later trucks carried smaller deliveries to local restaurants, taverns and lodge halls.

Anheuser-Busch closed the transfer terminal after World War II, when it became more feasible to simply truck the beer from St. Louis over roads. The transfer terminal remains, and is still in use as a transfer facility. Nowadays, truckloads are switched out here. At each of the four gable ends is a terra cotta medallion bearing a relief of the Anheuser-Busch eagle. The adjacent rail line does not have a spur to the old Anheuser-Busch transfer terminal. The terminal’s use passed with time, then the railroad spur and finally the brewer itself.

Downtown Infrastructure North St. Louis Streets Transportation

Time is Right for Making Changes to New Mississippi River Bridge

by Michael R. Allen

On February 28, outgoing Missouri Governor Matt Blunt announced that Illinois and Missouri had reached a final agreement for construction of the new Mississippi River Bridge. While actual construction remains a few years away, the agreement brings back to the forefront concerns about the bridge’s impact on the urban fabric of north St. Louis.

While officials long ago shelved a highly destructive initial bridge concept that included a local traffic connector from the bridge to 14th street, the current plan leaves much to be desired. There are many problems

Clearance. The bridge plan still entails clearance of historic buildings and existing business. While the path of the bridge itself is actually one of the least invasive paths possible, the affiliated roadway projects will entail demolition of dozens of buildings. Particularly troubling is the plan to wipe out all of the buildings remaining on the east side of 10th Street north of Hempstead Street. There are many occupied buildings and houses in that stretch. Most important, the part of Old North St. Louis east of I-70 is integral to connecting Old North to the emerging North Broadway corridor.

Bridge planners are more concerned with traffic efficiency than creating infrastructure that respects settlement patterns. While I-70 has some maddening issues related to placing exit ramps in odd spots due to existing buildings, those issues are small concessions to reality. Reality is that cities are what bind people together, and highways are but a means to that bind. Reconfiguring the St. Louis Avenue interchange is economically profligate; the plan entails spending millions on a road project with no economic return. Reconnecting Old North and North Broadway will cost less and maintain an existing building stock with the potential for high real estate values.

A corollary is that the presence of highway noise and pollution lowers real estate values. Why on earth political leaders would want to champion anything that lowers real estate values amid a recession is beyond my comprehension.

Connectivity. The plan still entails closure of north-south streets like 10th Street. Northside residents use these streets to get downtown. Closing the connections will stall pedestrians and add time to drivers’ commutes. Closing the connections could isolate Old North from downtown. There is natural synergy between Old North and downtown, but there are physical impediments caused by a belt of vacant land, industrial uses and monolithic public housing complexes. The bridge exploits that belt, and tightens it.

Short-Sightedness. The new bridge does not address the terrible congestion caused by the poor configuration of ramps on the Poplar Street Bridge. Would the bridge even be needed if the Poplar Street’s problems were fixed? No.

The bridge plan does not include any allowance for public transit. There is no space on the bridge for a street car line. That’s going to seem silly in 25 years when our automobile lifestyle will be in crisis. Oh, well — at least we can still walk across the bridge then.

Avoidance. The bridge path funnels I-70 traffic out of East St. Louis and away from downtown St. Louis. This path is a boon to people wanting to live in far-off Illinois suburbs like Highland but work in St. Louis or St. Charles counties. Sure, long-distance traffic will be well-served by a new bridge, but so will exurb-to-exurb commuters.

The bridge itself seems every bit a done deal. But are the details cast in concrete? No. There is still space to mitigate the bridge’s impact on the urban fabric of the near north side. Since almost every change for the better involves reducing the project cost, changes are not only logical but prudent. In the wake of the agreement, it’s time to make the best of the bridge.

Infrastructure North St. Louis South St. Louis Streets Transportation

Hemmed In

by Michael R. Allen

A resident of north St. Louis is heading south to see a friend. He drives south on Florissant Avenue but then remembers that the section of Florissant/13th/Tucker over the old Illinois Termianl Railroad tunnel is closed indefinitely. So he makes a left turn on Cass Avenue, figuring that he can useBroadway to head south and bypass downtown. oops! The bridge over I-70 is closed indefinitely. So he turns around, heads west on Cass and then south on Jefferson. That is fine until he passes I-64. Jefferson is closed.

In the kind of city where north-south connectivity is easy, this driver would not be having so much trouble. But in a city with fewer than a half-dozen north-south streets that actually connect downtown to the city south of it, he’s in a bind due to some coincidental road repairs.

There is definitely a spatial dimension to our city’s polarization between north and south. I sure hope that Richard Baron is thinking about this fact as he contemplates Chouteau Lake.

Infrastructure Metro East Transportation

East Side Sprawl Connector Stalled

by Michael R. Allen

Gateway Connector Lacks Funding – Nicholas J.C. Pistor (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8)

Apparently, the State of Illinois lacks funding for a $500 million east side highway that would connect Troy and Columbia. Plans aren’t dead, though — and that’s a bad thing for the character of the small towns in Illinois that it would “connect.”

Proponents of the connector call it a boon to the growing cities of the metro east. Careful scrutiny might show that the cities are losing investment and residents in their core areas while using annexation of placeless sprawl to offset the losses. The road would reward and subsidize an a trend that is slowly killing the small urban areas of the metro east.

Art Mississippi River Transportation

The Facts Behind the Rumors of Miss Rockaway Armada

KWMU’s Maria Hickey interviewed Coast Guard Commander Mark Cunningham about the incident involving Miss Rockaway Armada; listen here.

Art Mississippi River Transportation


by Michael R. Allen

If your hand-made river vessel, powered by wind, bio-diesel and sun and made of junk, sadly happened to fall apart in the river, you probably couldn’t have better fortune than to have that happen near the city of St. Louis. St. Louis teems with scrappy mobs of ingenious anarchist inventors, bands of starstruck architects, teams of poetic moonshiners and do-it-yourselfers who know how to rebuild even whole neighborhoods.

I think that Miss Rockaway Armada has found the perfect port to recover from strange misfortune. No doubt that the good crew will be afloat one way or another within a few days.