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May 25

Mid-America Airport Finally Seeing Passengers, Cargo

New Flights and More Cargo, Business is Booming at Mid-America Airport

Mid-America Airport sits thirty or so minutes east of Downtown St. Louis.  Built in 1997, Mid-America Airport was set to become a reliever airport for then overcrowded Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.  At the time, a new airport made some sense.  In 1997, Lambert Airport had just three runways, two of which could consistently be used by commercial aircraft.  Two runways and just three main concourses were proving to be an issue for Trans World Airlines’ sprawling operations.  Also during the late 1990s, airlines including Southwest Airlines were exploring St. Louis for increased or future service.  Without firm plans for a new runway and indications of growth, Illinois decided to take advantage of cheap land adjacent to a massive runway and build a reliever airport.

Mid-America opened its doors in 1997 without any flights.  However, there was little worry that within the next few years, the airport would see commercial flights.  Unfortunately, Lambert-St. Louis Airport announced the construction of Terminal 2 and a fourth state of the art runway.  Though Mid-America Airport wasn’t as attractive of an option with additions at Lambert Airport, there was still hope that the airport would see commercial service in the coming years.

That didn’t turn out to be the case.  Instead, TWA was bought out by American Airlines and over the next five years, St. Louis went from being one of the largest airports in North America to non-hub status.  During the decade that followed the TWA-American merger, Mid-America did see some passenger service.  Allegiant Air briefly had non-stops to Orlando and Las Vegas and a Pan Am reboot served the airport for a year.  After Allegiant Air left, the Mid-America airport occasionally saw cargo service.


Today; Expanded Passenger, Cargo Operations

For years, Mid-America Airport was hemorrhaging money and had zero perspective airline tenants.  Finally, in 2012, Allegiant Air announced re-entry into the St. Louis region.  Mid-America Airport, once again, saw passenger flights.  As the US recovered from the 2008 recession, more and more American were taking vacations.  This lead to significant growth at Mid-America Airport.

According to Mid-America Airport, the airport is close to breaking even.  Additionally, the airport is up to eight destinations: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Walton Beach, Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda (FL), St. Petersburg/Clearwater with seasonal service to Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach.

Two Allegiant Air Passenger Planes sit on the Apron (Image: Mid-America Airport)

Two Allegiant Air Passenger Planes sit on the Apron (Image: Mid-America Airport)

In 2016, 200,000 passengers passed through the airport.  So far in 2017, the airport sees 6,000 weekly passengers from 25 flights operated by Allegiant Air.  Growth has been so significant over the past four or so years that the airport recently expanded its parking lot.

In addition to passenger services on the rise, the airport has seen an increase in cargo operations.  One of the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonov An-124, has been making routine stops at the airport transporting helicopters overseas.  The airport has also seen an increase in the utilization of its distribution center located adjacent to the passenger terminal.

The World's Largest Cargo Jet at Mid-America Airport (Image: Mid-America Airport)

One of the World’s Largest Cargo Jet at Mid-America Airport (Image: Mid-America Airport)

Overall, the airport is expected to continue to grow in 2017.  It will likely surpass 200,000 passengers outpacing other airports of its size.  If cargo service continues to grow, the airport could break even within the next few years.


Special thanks to St. Louis-based sponsor, PracticeMatch

Feb 20

New Arch To Riverfront Ramps Are A Great Improvement

When I first moved to St. Louis in August 1990 the grand staircase down to our riverfront wasn’t complete — it was grass with steps only on the North & South edges. At some point the center steps were completed.But even as a young (20s) able-bodied person the steps were a pain. I recall one time, in the early 90s visiting the Arch grounds with my parents & grandfather — in their early 60s & mid-90s, respectively, The steps were a huge problem.

Visitors to the Arch grounds yesterday enjoy the sun on the grand stairs

This weekend I visited the Arch grounds twice — along on Saturday and with my husband on Sunday. Both days I did all four of the new ramps connecting the upper Arch grounds to Lenore K Sullivan Blvd on the riverfront.

Looking South from the North outlook area,a new ramp on the right and the North steps on the left. The steps are closed currently because they’re in poor condition.

At the bottom of that ramp

Moving toward the river you can begin to see how much longer the ramp is vs the steps

The North steps, mirrored to the South

The two South ramps each feature a longer flat section with s bench. — excellent for those who may need to sit and rest

Looking North from the South lookout area

I saw many people using the new ramps both days, but nobody else in a wheelchair. Users were all ages, some were biking, others walking their dogs, some pushing baby strollers, most just out with family and/or friends.

The Arch & grounds were designed at a time when the disabled were institutionalized — not independent members of the community. Ramps just weren’t done back then.  Today, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those of us who are disabled are better able to live independent lives.

These four ramps, plus the connection next to the Eads Bridge, make getting to/from the riverfront a pleasure.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 19

Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Consider Ranked-Choice Voting?

Please vote below

When you have two candidates running for office it is easy to understand the winner — the person who receives more than 50% of the vote — even if by just one vote.

I’m looking at the March 7th Democratic primary ballot with 7 choices for mayor and 6 choices for alderman in my ward — it’s highly unlikely the winner of either race will get more than 35% of the vote. In other cities, this would require a runoff vote among the top candidates until one receives a majority of the votes.

In lieu of holding runoff  elections some cities use instant runoff voting — candidates are ranked by voters to pick a winner with a majority of votes. This voting method has pros & cons:

Pros

  1. No need for expensive runoff elections.
  2. Politicians tend to adopt a more civil tone in campaigns.
  3. Enough with the strategy games.
  4. Majority wins.

Cons

  1. Many cities do not have the proper equipment to count the ballots.
  2. It’s confusing.
  3. Elections for multiple positions become complex.
  4. Voters need to know their stuff.

What do you think, should we try it? Vote in the poll below.

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 17

St. Louis’ Easton & Franklin Avenues Became Dr. Martin Luther King Drive 45 Years Ago Today

Last month, on the Martin Luther King holiday, I posted my 13th look at the street named after the slain civil rights leader — see Annual Look At Changes Along St. Louis’ Dr Martin Luther King Drive. From a STL250 Facebook post that has since been deleted:

This Day in St. Louis History, February 17, 1972:
Martin Luther King Boulevard is dedicated

A Board of Aldermen bill was passed that changed the name of Easton Avenue and portions of Franklin Avenue to Martin Luther King Boulevard. Alderman C.B. Broussard was a primary sponsor, and he announced that the change was part of a nationwide organized drive to rename street[s[ in honor of the murdered civil rights figure. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Just days after his murder, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

By 1972 St. Louis was aware the 1960s was its second decade in a row with major losses in population. In the two decades since the St. Louis population peaked in the 1950 census, the city lost more than a quarter of its residents. The biggest reduction, however, happened during the 1970s. By the 1980 census St. Louis had again lost more than a quarter of the population — in a single decade.

As the white middle class fled North St. Louis for North St. Louis County, commercial streets like Easton & Franklin Avenues were already in decline before 1972.

One building symbolizes this change better than any other. Demolition of existing 2-story buildings began on February  29, 1948 — the new JC Penny store opened the following year. By 1967 the store was so crowded a warehouse was added to the West (since demolished). Less than a decade later, the store closed on September 11, 1976.

 

The former JC Penny store (1949-1976) on MLK in the Wellston Loop in the modern style with an urban form, rather than style of its red brick neighbors that are 20-40 years older.

Click image to view the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

As residents fled to North County retailers followed them. New shopping areas like Northland (1955), River Roads (1962), Northwest Plaza (1965),  and Jamestown Mall (1973) opened to serve the new suburban middle class. Franklin & Easton Avenues would have declined even it not renamed.

Can this corridor be revived? To the point of being the honor it was intended? I have my doubts. Perhaps we should do something different to causally honor Dr. King’s legacy and return the street name to Easton & Franklin Avenues?

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 15

Opinion: Sales Taxes Outdated In 21st Century

We order stuff online frequently because it’s convenient to do so, not because we want to save on taxes. Often we’ll order from target.com so we pay the same tax rate we do when we shop at Hampton Village location once per month.  Amazon is the bulk of our online shopping so now we’ll pay 4.225% for Missouri sales tax. Fine.

There are lots of online retailers out there, from 2013:

Using figures from a variety of sources, including Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide for 2013 and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, ReferralCandy determined that there are 102,728 e-commerce retailers in the United States that are generating at least $12,000 per year in revenue. That’s a 13.5 percent increase over last year’s findings, which revealed 90,501 online retailers generating the same amount.

Other findings from the study include:

  • 61,728 online retailers generate at least $25k in revenue (up 12.8 percent from the year before)
  • 38,157 e-commerce merchants generate at least $50k in revenue (up 12.3 percent from the year before)
  • 23,587 online merchants generate at least $100k in revenue (up 13.6% from the previous year) (Forbes)

So over 100k retailers should register with every state to be able to collect and report sales taxes?  I looked at three retailers located on Cherokee Street to see how they handle sales taxes on their online shops — they ship to every state:

Firecracker Press

  • Collects 8.7% Missouri & St. Louis sales tax on orders shipped to Missouri customers.
  • Doesn’t collect sales taxes shipped outside Missouri.

Spoked Bikes & Stuff

  • Doesn’t appear to collect sales taxes on any online order, though a tax line appears in the cart.

STL-Style

  • Doesn’t appear to collect sales taxes on any online order, no sales tax line appeared .

More than half of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll support online retailers collecting state sales taxes:

Q:  Agree or disagree: Online retailers, without brick & mortar stores in a state, shouldn’t collect sales taxes in that state.

  • Strongly agree 6 [14.63%]
  • Agree 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.44%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.44%]
  • Somewhat disagree 3 [7.32%]
  • Disagree 9 [21.95%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [36.59%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.44%]

Oh, I bet many thought I was talking only about Amazon. Where is the line drawn in the sand? Is it based on sales shipped to each state? If so, the three small retailers on Cherokee would need to keep track of sales to each state and then begin collecting state sales taxes only when their sales to that state have crossed the threshold?

We pay taxes to receive services from the government(s). How governments collect revenue varies widely, not all collect sales tax:

In 2013, sales and gross receipt taxes nationwide totaled $254.7 billion — a 3.9% increase from the year before — which means Americans spent an average of $806 on sales taxes last year. That’s less than the $309.6 billion, or $979 per American, spent on state income taxes. However, including selective sales taxes, which are levied on goods like gas and cigarettes, Americans actually pay more in sales taxes than they do in state income taxes.

Sales taxes vary widely from state to state. Some states charge no sales tax, while some localities charges as much as 10% when state and local sales taxes are combined. Tennessee, on average, has the highest sales tax at 9.44%.

There are four states with no sales tax: Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire. A fifth, Alaska, has no state-level sales tax but allows municipalities to impose the retail-level tax. As a result, the average sales tax rate in Alaska is 1.69%. 

While 10% of U.S. states impose no sales tax, a much smaller percentage of the population lives in one of these states — only about 2.5%. (Motley Fool)

Let’s not forget the complex sales tax pool in St. Louis County.

I think it may be time to admit sales taxes as a revenue source is outdated by current technology & shopping trends. I’m not suggesting we need lower taxes — but that we need to find a better way to fund local & state government services.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 13

Finally Visited The National Blues Museum

Last month my husband and I finally visited the National Blues Museum, just a 15 minute walk from our loft. The museum opened in April 2016, but we never got around to visiting until recently. First, we had lunch a Sugarfire Smoke House located in the same building at 6th & Washington.

I’ve been a vegetarian for a quarter century now, but I have no problem eating at BBQ places — as long as they offer something like a portobello sandwich. Smart BBQ places do.

My portobello sandwich at Sugarfire

The museum isn’t large, but it’s well-organized. The displays  and signage is fresh looking.

Entry to the National Blues Museum

Photography isn't allowed inside. but I got one photo

Photography isn’t allowed inside. but I got one photo

There was a concert later in the evening, our tickets would’ve gotten into that as well. I’ll keep that in mind — will plan our next visit, followed by dinner and a blues concert.

Very glad to see the museum completed, I was a sceptic when I first heard the concept.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 12

Sunday Poll: Should Online Retailers Collect State Sales Taxes?

Please vote below

As I’ve previously noted, the retail landscape is always changing — big downtown department stores rarely exist anymore — more & more suburban malls struggle. Last month another change was announced:

The collection of state sales tax in Missouri will begin Feb. 1, Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr said in an email to the Post-Dispatch. The state sales tax rate in Missouri is 4.225 percent.

Items sold by Seattle-based Amazon.com and its subsidiaries already are subject to sales tax for merchandise shipped to more than 30 states. Amazon will also begin collecting sales tax on Feb. 1 in Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont, and in Wyoming in March.

Amazon does not yet have facilities in the state of Missouri, and online retailers aren’t required to collect sales tax where they don’t have a physical presence. Amazon charges sales tax in Illinois, where it has multiple distribution facilities, including in Edwardsville. (Post-Dispatch)

Posts on social media showed disagreement on this issue so I thought it would make a great poll question:

The poll will close at 8pm, results & my thoughts on Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 10

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Last Full Meeting Before March 7th Primary

St. Louis City Hall

St. Louis City Hall

Today is the last meeting of the Board of Aldermen before the primary election on March 7th. Bills that don’t get approved by today are dead. The meeting begins at 10am, it can be watched online here.

From a recent agenda:

  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2017 – LAST FULL BOARD BEFORE SPRING RECESS
  • MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2017 – SINE DIE (LAST MEETING OF THE 2016-2017 SESSION)
  • TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2017 – FIRST MEETING OF THE 2017-2018 SESSION
  • FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017 – NO FULL BOARD MEETING

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Feb 08

Readers Buy New/Nearly New Vehicles

The Chicago Auto Show is held at McCormick Place

Rarely am I surprised by by poll results, but it happened Sunday. Nearly three-fourths of readers that resounded to the non-scientific Sunday Poll indicated their new vehicle will be new or nearly new.

Q: Your next vehicle purchase will be how old:

  • Brand new 16 [47.06%]
  • Nearly new, possibly certified pre-owned 9 [26.47%]
  • Used 4 [11.76%]
  • Well used 1 [2.94%]
  • N/A — won’t be buying a car 3 [8.82%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 2.94% [2.94%]

I’ve had many cars in the last 34 years — most used or well used. I have had two new cars — both costly mistakes. The best financial times were when I was car-free, but that’s not an option with my husband’s job.

Our last payment on our 2007 Honda Civic will be in early October, we’ll be actively shopping for a replacement then.   The Civic was 7 years old and had 90k on the odometer — just under the 100k our credit union would finance.

Because we want a fairly loaded midsize sedan new is beyond our budget — plus I don’t like owing more on a car that its resale value. Depreciation on a new car is steep. Many people now finance them for 6 years!

Now, if you buy a new car and keep it 10 years depreciation isn’t really an issue. What you can’t control is the other driver that totals your car and their insurance paying you thousands less than what you still owe on it, Sure, their are insurance plans that will replace your car but you pay more for that coverage — increasing your cost of ownership.

Later this year we will be looking at late model cars:

  1. Hyundai Sonata Limited w/Tech Package (2015)
  2. Honda Accord EX-L or Touring — 4 cylinder (2013-2015)

Why these two? As I explained last year, these are the two most affordable cars with memory seat — the Sonata also has memory mirrors.

We’ll potentially spend twice as much as we spent on our current car, but will be much newer with significantly fewer miles. Because we’ll be financing it for longer we’ll keep it longer.

Still, the appeal of a new car is strong. We’re heading to Chicago today for two days of auto show media events — the Chicago Auto Show opens to the public on Saturday February 11th, closing on Monday February 20th. Will be posting to Twitter & Facebook starting tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Feb 06

Reading: Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design by Timothy Beatley

Several book publishers contact me regularly to see if I’m interested in a review copy of new books, some know my interests and just send the book — like today’s.

I usually understand at least the title of the books, but today’s required a quick search to understand one word: Biophilic.

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defines biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. (Wikipedia)

Ah…makes sense. People have since applied this hypothesis to the built environment. Here’s a trailer for a documentary on the subject:

Twice before I’ve posted about books by Timothy Beatley, in March 2005 I included his book  Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities in a post on my favorite urban books, in November 2013 I included a book he edited called Green Cities of Europe: Global Lessons on Green Urbanism in a post on new books on urban planning.

In his latest book Beatley continues the green theme by applying Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis to cities.

What if, even in the heart of a densely developed city, people could have meaningful encounters with nature? While parks, street trees, and green roofs are increasingly appreciated for their technical services like stormwater reduction, from a biophilic viewpoint, they also facilitate experiences that contribute to better physical and mental health: natural elements in play areas can lessen children’s symptoms of ADHD, and adults who exercise in natural spaces can experience greater reductions in anxiety and blood pressure.

The Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design offers practical advice and inspiration for ensuring that nature in the city is more than infrastructure—that it also promotes well-being and creates an emotional connection to the earth among urban residents. Divided into six parts, the Handbook begins by introducing key ideas, literature, and theory about biophilic urbanism. Chapters highlight urban biophilic innovations in more than a dozen global cities. The final part concludes with lessons on how to advance an agenda for urban biophilia and an extensive list of resources.

As the most comprehensive reference on the emerging field of biophilic urbanism, the Handbook is essential reading for students and practitioners looking to place nature at the core of their planning and design ideas and encourage what preeminent biologist E.O. Wilson described as “the innate emotional connection of humans to all living things.” (Island Press)

One of the best ways to initially size up a new book is to review the table of contents:

Part I. The Power and Promise of Biophilic Cities

Chapter 1. The Power of Urban Nature: The Essential Benefits of a Biophilic Urbanism
Chapter 2. Placing Biophilic Cities: Planning History, Theory and the New Sustainability
Chapter 3. Urban Trends and Nature Trends: Can the Two Intersect?
Chapter 4. Biophilic Cities: Examining the Metrics and Theory

Part II. The Practice of Biophilic Urbanism: Cities Leading the Way
Chapter 5. Singapore: City in a Garden
Chapter 6. Wellington, NZ: Nature on the Edge
Chapter 7. Milwaukee: Greening the Rust Belt
Chapter 8. Birmingham: Health, Nature and Urban Regeneration
Chapter 9. Phoenix: The Promise of Biophilia in the Desert
Chapter 10. Portland: Nature in the Compact City
Chapter 11. San Francisco: From Park City to Wild City
Chapter 12. Oslo: The City of Forest and Fjord
Chapter 13. Vitoria-Gasteiz
Chapter 14. Global Survey of Cities: Shorter City Cases and Exemplars

Part III. Exemplary Tools, Policy Practices
Chapter 15. Detailed Profiles of Biophilic Design Tools Techniques, Design Ideas

Part IV. Successes and Future Directions
Chapter 16. Biophilic Cities in the Age of Climate Change: Mitigation, Resilience Through Nature
Chapter 17. What Can Be Learned From the Best Biophilic Cities?
Chapter 18. Key Obstacles to Biophilic Cities (And Ways To Overcome Them)
Chapter 19. Conclusions and Future Directions

The publisher also provides a link to a Google Books preview.  It’s available in hardcover, softcover, and E-book formats.

— Steve Patterson