Thursday, July 29, 2010

Go Dog, Go!

The growing numbers of scooters on the streets of downtown is a telling sign of downtown's continuing rebirth. Scooters are cool, and their riders make downtown feel more alive.

Just the other day, though, I saw a strange sight. A businessman riding a high powered, fast scooter, was racing down Olive. That was cool, but he was also running red light after red light. Hey, keep up that pace, and you'll run head long into the river! Well, okay, he'd be blocked by the depressed lanes of I-70...

Now sure, it's common to see bicyclists run red lights, and pedestrians walking against a light or jaywalking, but motorized scooters? Dude! You're taking things too far!

Okay, so I suppose there's a sense of anarchy and coolness associated with scooters. They're a rebel ride. But blowing red lights around the Old Post Office? Is that cool?

Granted, there are some blocks in the city and even one way streets, where there are so few cars - or people - or even houses - that the writer of this blog has been known to take some "liberties". It's sort of one of those tree falling in the forest things - would anyone even know?

But in the heart of downtown, dressed in a suit and tie, in the middle of the morning-arrive-to-work-hour? We are a real city after all, and there have to be some rules, right?

Maybe we need cops on scooters!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"This block under 24 hour video surveillance"

At STL Rising, we trail far behind the trends in new technology. The rest of the world is far ahead of us. In fact, most people reading this site probably own smart phones and flat screen TVs. So, in these times of expanding technology in our daily lives, today we raise the subject of neighborhood watch using low cost digital video surveillance.

Common complaints heard on the neighborhood watch scene are car cloutings and garage break-ins. Technology exists to easily and at minimal cost set up hidden digital video cameras around your neighborhood.

Software triggers the camera to operate based on motion. If there is movement in the pixels, the camera starts shooting. Sensitivity is adjustable so that a falling leaf or chasing squirrel doesn't trigger the camera, but something larger, like a person on foot does.

These systems are becoming more common on private property. Owners can install these systems in the fronts of their homes, back yards, or in alleys. Multiple owners can create networks to cover entire blocks. Big brother watching you? Maybe.

Yet, if you're a would be car clouter, drug dealer, garage thief or grafitti tagger, and you see a sign at the entrance to a neighborhood street announcing the presence of 24 hour digital surveillance, are you less likely to attempt a crime on the block? And if a crime occurs, and the act is caught via digital recorder, does law enforcement have a way to apprehend criminals?

Would you want to expand systems like these in your neighborhood? Should we push for these in areas of increased criminal activity? Is a future with expanded video surveillance likely for St. Louis? Is there a downside?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freeway Jam

"Freeway" is a word I grew up with. Living in California, people say "freeway". Freeways are supposed to zip you from point A to point B, with little thought of what happens in between.

It's not about the journey; it's about the destination. Unfortunately, you don't always zip. You often sit. And in California, most of the time, there are no alternatives for the freeway. So you can sit a looong time.

This week, drivers in St. Louis got a taste of what it's like to get stuck on a freeway. Bad weather caused accidents and flooding, stranding drivers on local "freeways" for hours.

Downtown is no different. There are times when cars are stacked up on the freeways around downtown. For these drivers, just like in California, it's not about the journey, it's about the destination. And sitting in a traffic jam is no fun when you're trying to get somewhere.

All of this talk of freeway jams brings us to the final stage of the Arch design competition. If one of the main goals of the competition is to weave connections, then what should we expect from the design teams?

Is it possible that some of the teams are thinking that those connections mean improved highway access to the Arch? More freeway connections? More on and off ramps to serve the Arch grounds?

Are designers envisioning access to the Arch for drivers more interested in the destination than the journey? Do those visitors want an unimpeded freeway connection straight from the freeway into the Arch garage? Are we encouraging an experience for them that begins and ends at the Arch?

Or do we want to create an experience where people enter our city and then arrive at the Arch and the riverfront at the heart of it all? What do connections like that look like? We will soon see. Or will we?

Is it possible that the teams will punt on the connectivity issue, and focus instead on proposing more attractions for the Arch grounds?

In a competition that promotes the goal of reweaving connections, this is our one big chance to make bold plans. Plans that restore the natural connections between downtown, the Arch, and the riverfront. After all, that's what this process is supposed to be all about.

Support the Old North food coop

The store is well stocked with fresh foods at good prices:

The coop supports local farmers from around St. Louis:

The store is open to the public with no membership required. They are located on St. Louis Avenue, just a block east of the new Crown Square development and Crown Candy Kitchen. Hours are convenient for a stop on your way home before dinner.

It's a neighborhood and community-based project and part of the continuing work to improve St. Louis one step at a time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The case for lowering neighborhood speed limits

For years, this website has promoted the organizaton, "Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25". In fact, the creator of this website served as one of the St. Louis area contacts for the program. Keep Kids Alive is a fine program, and STL Rising will continue to serve as a local representative. However, for the city of St. Louis, we believe an even further reduction in speed limits on neighborhood streets is worth a look.

STL Rising proposes reducing the maximum legal speed on neighborhood streets to 18 miles per hour. We propose 18 mph as a universal, city-wide standard for neighborhood streets. If this seems extreme, let's examine some of the thinking behind the idea.

The city of St. Louis is endowed with thousands of miles of streets layed out on a fine urban street grid. When it snows, most neighborhood streets are not plowed. Besides the cost, the reason neighborhood streets are not plowed is that they are too narrow. Snow would be piled over the cars. So instead, drivers must navigate the ruts of snow and ice out of their neighborhood. The consolation of this situation is that no driver is never more than two blocks from a plowed street. This same situation would apply to a program of reduced speed limits.

If speed limits on neighborhood streets were reduced to 18 miles per hour, no driver would be more than two blocks away from a wider, busier, street with speed limits of 25-35 miles per hour. The net result of the change awould be a negligible delay in people's drive times, but a huge increase in neighborhood quality of life.

Slower travelling cars on neighborhood streets means quieter streets. It means safer streets, and it means more peaceful neighborhoods. A universal speed limit would be easy to understand - it applies to all neighborhood streets.

An ordinance could be passed that unless otherwise posted, all streets in the city limits of St. Louis have a maximum allowable speed of 18 miles per hour. This approach makes it possible to avoid the cost of changing posted speed limit signs. If a block wanted to install their own 18 mph speed limit sign, they would have the option of paying for the cost on their block.

St. Louis has a fantastic street grid, great for walking, lined with beautiful matures tree lined streets, and which presents our wonderful historic neighborhoods. Why not take advantage of this natural asset by making our streets even more friendly and safe by lowering speed limits on neighborhood streets to a max of 18 miles per hour?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Power Play tonight

My new favorite R and B show band, "Power Play", is performing at CJ Muggs in Webster from 9-1 tonight. If you go, I'll be there wearing the #4, Molina jersey. Stop by to say "hi" and hear some great live music. You will be glad you did!

"St. Louis' downtown 'light years' ahead of other major cities"

Last night we attended a ballgame at Busch Stadium. Over 41,000 fans were there. After the game, around 10:15 pm, fans exiting the stadium flooded the surrounding streets. I wondered how successful new restaurants and bars would be in the area, facing the Metro Station, or lining 7th street on the vacant Ballpark Village site? Sidewalk cafes would be packed on a beautiful night like this. A 7-1 Cards win doesn't hurt either.

Back at the game, next to us at sat two lawyers. One was a recent transplant to St. Louis, having moved here from New York City just eight months ago. Previous to New York, he lived in LA for about eight years. Now, through a job opportunity, he's a downtown STL resident and he couldn't say enough positive things about living downtown.

He bought a loft, which he loves, is twice as big as his New York place, and cost half the price. He describes a lifestyle where he walks to Blues games, walks to his downtown law office, walks to Cardinal games, walks to the grocery store, and even walks to a casino. He walks to City Garden, the library, and soon, he'll be able to walk to a much improved Arch grounds.

Earlier this week, on WGNU radio, two ladies visiting St. Louis for a convention of a womens' sororiety group were being interviewed about their visit here. One was from Chicago, the other Philadelphia. They were both thoroughly enjoying their stay and the one thing they kept repeating was how clean our downtown is. The lady from Philly was really impressed, and was describing how filled with trash Philadelphia's streets are.

So after listening to the show, I took a walk outside to look around. They were right. It's hard to find a single piece of trash lying anywhere around in downtown STL. Someone is paying attention to the little stuff. Part of that effort happens thanks to the work of the Downtown Partnership.

By now, hopefully you've had a chance to listen to Steve Patterson's interview of Downtown Partnership president, Maggie Campbell. Maggie is one of those few people who are a real joy to listen to. She gets into the finer grain of things while keeping things interesting. Anyone who can make overflowing trash cans and dog poop mines on the sidewalk sound like a measure of downtown's growing success is worth an investment of your time.

Halfway through the Campbell interview, Patterson's call drops and Maggie is left wondering if the interview's over. "Hello? Hello?" She waits on the line. After a minute or two, Patterson overcomes the technical problem, and the call continues for the remainder of the hour.

Being techno-challenged, I'm still trying to figure out how that's possible? They're each in separate locations, presumably talking over smart phones. Patterson's call drops; Maggie stays on the line, continuing to be heard over the internet; and then, Patterson gets back on the air, all without missing a beat. Ahh, more technology I will never understand.

Be sure to give the interview a listen. It's hard to think of another venue where you get to hear a full hour of uninterrupted, intelligent discussion with one of our region's top leaders.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sign up for City to River email updates

City to River, the organization promoting the reconnection of the City to the Arch grounds and riverfront by the removal of the downtown lanes of Interstate 70, has created an easy way for members of the general public to support this growing movement.

Through its website, City to River is offering automatic email updates on the highway removal effort. If you are interested in supporting the efforts of City to River, please sign up for email updates at the lower right hand corner of this page.

Excellent interview with President of Partnership for Downtown St. Louis

Maggie Campbell interviewed by Urban Review's Steve Patterson.

Click to hear a great discussion (without commercial interruptions) covering a wide range of topics.

Campbell is impressive with her insights, experience, energy, and vision for improving downtown St. Louis. Patterson shows his interviewing skills.

Friday, July 09, 2010

STL Rising is not on twitter... we repost good posts!

Like this (from the website "Gateway Streets"):

Much ado about Interstate 70 traffic

Cool post from Seoul

The internet brings people together from all around the world. Daron Dierkes, a writer stationed in Seoul, blogs at stlelsewhere with his attention focused on St. Louis.

Mr. Dierkes has some good ideas for how the intersection of Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive might be redesigned. Visit the site and view the concept here:

stlelsewhere on a new plan for the intersection of Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Blowing up things

MODOT is demolishing old bridges over I-70 to make way for the new Mississippi River Bridge.

It's quick work, starting around 7:00 pm on a Friday, and being all wrapped up by 5:00 am Monday morning.

Any idea how much these drop and haul off operations typically cost? What happens to all the rubble and old steel?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Vote for Gateway Greening Today

Gateway Greening is a finalist in a national contest to win a $100,000 grant.

Voting closes tonight at 9:00 PM EST.

Click here for more info and be sure to vote for Gateway Greening:

link to MSNBC contest page


Everybody wins! Gateway Greening and the two other non-top-prize-winning-finalists each received $50,000 grants for their efforts.

The Bay Area Food Bank won the $100,000 top prize.

Congratulations all around!

Is that something?

With the main stage behind them, citizens sit on concrete steps at the riverfront to see something:

In a scene reminiscent of old St. Louis, these citizens are gathered under trees and view something:

With the main stage off in the distance, possibly 300,000 gather to watch something under the Arch:

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, the streets and alleys of Laclede's Landing are mostly empty:

Yet the people at Laclede's Landing gather to watch something:

Performing in the shadow of the Eads Bridge, in front of a couple hundred people, local R and B group, Power Play, knocks out hit after hit of Motown and soul classics.

Power Play has performed around St. Louis for almost 20 years.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Long Lines at Culinaria

Culinaria's lines get longer every time you visit the store.

Here is a view of a mid-day line. All the cashiers are helping customers, and the line is backed up beyond the regular waiting area.

The success of the store appears to be increasing. I wonder how many other Schnuck's in the St. Louis market have mid-day lines like this?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Seattle officially begins waterfront highway removal project

Goal is to create a great central waterfront.

Track the project here, and at the permanent link on the right side of this page.