The next time you buy something in the City of St. Louis, take note of the sales tax at the bottom of the receipt. A portion of that tax has been the city’s primary means of funding infrastructure improvements since 1993. Thirty years later, the process for allocating that tax funding, called “Ward Capital,” is being reconsidered. Here’s why that number on your receipt matters, how the funding is currently being used and why the funding process needs to change.
The City of St. Louis currently has a ½-cent sales tax in place. This tax collects, on average, $8 million per year for capital improvements in the city. That sum is currently the City’s primary means of funding infrastructure improvements in all 28 wards.
At the beginning of each fiscal year, the $8 million total is split into 28 equal parts and distributed evenly to each ward. That’s about $300,000 per year, per ward, to be spent on capital improvement projects—filling potholes, replacing streetlights, street trees, improving sidewalks, etc.
If an alderperson chooses to spend their Ward Capital, they must first submit a project proposal. Once the project is approved, the alderperson takes the necessary funding from their pot of accrued Ward Capital and gives it right back to a city department. Ninety-eight percent of the Ward Capital from all 28 wards ends up in the hands of the Streets Department.
The current system is convoluted. It also further divides our city.
Our streets do not stop and start at ward boundaries, nor do each of these wards have the same needs. This system allocates funding equally, not equitably, and results in fractured, short-term solutions applied at the whims of 28 politicians.
A convoluted system
Let’s revisit the $300,000 per ward. That sounds like a lot of money, but according to St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Megan Green, recent traffic calming projects around Tower Grove Park cost over $1 million. Her ward received a grant for that work, but had Green relied solely on ward capital, she would have had to sit on her yearly allocation for at least four years to save enough money for those few improvements, and no other projects in her ward, such as street lighting or dumpster replacement, would have been funded in that timeframe.
Meanwhile, Tyus, who chairs the City’s Streets, Traffic, and Refuse Committee, has saved up nearly $2 million in Ward Capital over the years. Tyus has previously claimed obstacles to spending the money on her desired projects.
“‘They won’t spend it,’ she said at a board meeting in December. ‘They haven’t. I’ve been requesting. I can show you the letter.’”
Currently, alderpersons have $8 million in accumulated ward capital money that could be in use to repair our infrastructure.
Divisive and fractured
Whether they’re saving money for one big project or spending it on immediate needs, it’s clear that the current system leaves alders with no choice but to apply a patchwork of fixes to a city-wide network.
In her Riverfront Times Op-Ed, Mayor Jones hinted at a bigger-picture need, for which Trailnet has been desperately advocating—the need for a comprehensive plan in the City of St. Louis.
Ward-by-ward “piecemeal solutions” prevent the city from effectively planning for a safer, more accessible transportation network. If the Streets Department doesn’t know what projects lie ahead—if city departments are paralyzed by the inaction of individual leaders—they are not afforded the time or resources to plan for long-term fixes, staffing needs, or equipment purchases.
If the city continues to react only to the small-scale symptoms (potholes, crumbling curbs, etc.) of a large-scale, decades-old problem, our streets will never be safe for people outside of cars.
Whatever the new comprehensive system is, it needs to take into account the areas of greatest need.
Trailnet recently completed a full sidewalk assessment of The Ville and Greater Ville neighborhoods—the first complete study of its kind in the St. Louis area. Trailnet’s Community Planner walked over 30 miles of sidewalk, marking sections that were ADA-non-compliant, inaccessible or nonexistent. Forty-seven percent of the 61 miles of sidewalk assessed in The Ville and Greater Ville were in need of significant repair.
This study is emblematic of the largest issue with the current system—different wards have different needs. Trailnet’s annual Crash Reports identify the highest crash corridors across the city. Our analysis of crash data consistently reveals a glaring truth: Black and minority communities suffer from a disproportionate amount of traffic violence. The state of the streets, sidewalks and intersections on the Northside is one of the reasons why that disparity exists.
As a result of decades of disinvestment, Northside streets and sidewalks need far more attention and funding. It is unacceptable that all of these areas currently receive proportionate funding to address disproportionate realities.
The northside wards are the areas of highest need—the areas where it’s unsafe to walk, bike or catch a bus. These are the areas that must be identified as the highest priorities in the city’s comprehensive plan. These are the areas that must receive the largest investment from the ½-cent sales tax.
A number of systems might work more effectively than the current one. What matters most is that the current system be replaced by something better, something equitable, something that makes sense.
Trailnet’s recommendation is that the city do away with the ward-based capital improvement system. Instead, centralize the funding structure under one city department, and ensure that the money is being invested based on the infrastructure needs identified by a future comprehensive street study, as well as demographics such as poverty levels and car ownership. Treat the whole body, not its disparate parts, in pursuit of a safe system for everyone.
If you agree, contact the President of the Board’s office and your alderperson to voice your opinion. As the city moves from 28 to 14 wards this year, there will be many changes. A new and improved system for funding infrastructure improvements must be one of those changes, so that when you pay that sales tax, you know your money is being used to make our whole city better.
Trailnet will continue to advocate for a new system that better serves the people moving around our city. To stay informed on our advocacy work in the City, subscribe to our newsletters here.
Trailnet Board Recommends Strategic Use of Funding
St. Louis, MO – The Board of Directors of Trailnet support the following statement:
The Trailnet Board commends Mayor Tishaura Jones for proposing that the City commit $40 million to a comprehensive, city-wide street plan. We recommend the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Board of Aldermen pass this much-needed legislation with the provision that a portion of those funds be spent on a Vision Zero Action Plan and a media campaign to encourage responsible driving.
We also call on other organizations and individuals to get behind both initiatives and send letters and emails to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Board of Aldermen. Together, we may make our streets safer for all.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) lays out several steps for states, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and cities to take to better support the needs of people who walk, roll, bike, and use public transit.
In this joint letter, MRT, its leadership, and leaders from the health and accessibility sectors across the Show-Me State asked for details on how MoDOT plans to support these vulnerable road users through their implementation of the BIL. You can read the full letter below:
The following is Trailnet’s Weekly Roundup of local and national news, highlighting multi modal transportation. Interested in working with us, wanting tips on how to stay motivated during the winter, or looking to learn more about traffic calming measures? Then we have you covered!
Trailnet released two job openings this week; we are looking for folks that want to see St. Louis seamlessly connected for people to comfortably walk, bike and use transit every day. Click here, to view our current job openings.
Bicycling Magazine highlights how to stay motivated this winter. Click here to read more.
Saris, a bike rack company, is coming out with bike lane delineators. These are marketed more towards single day or two pop-ups’. Click here to learn more.
Will old Rock Island rail line get new life as a trail? Missouri waits and you can read more here, via STL Today.
Bicycling Magazine outlined the best strength exercises for cyclists. Click here to view.
Singletracks gives us more proof that biking improves quality of life! Click here to read about how mountain biking fulfills humanity’s most basic needs.
In collaboration with the City of St. Louis & many community partners, Trailnet is working to create a network of safer residential streets. Click here to read 5 ways to make the case for traffic calming measures, via Strong Towns.
This city built a five-street downtown protected bike lane network in 2015. Click here to read more, via Peopleforbikes.com.
Trailnet’s Weekly Roundup
It was another big week for multimodal transportation news, locally and nationally. View Trailnet’s Weekly Round-up!
Treehugger posted a story, praising slow urban biking riding. “I know, but one of the keys to happy urban cycling is learning how to slow down. Riding more slowly in a city is safer, calmer, more relaxing and is conducive to being in the moment and enjoying the surroundings.” Click here to read more.
St. Louis Magazine gives an overview of why those controversial balls on Compton Avenue are a good and necessary thing. Click here to read more.
Trailnet combines public health and planning because we know walkable cities are a prescription for better health. Here’s more proof, via Treehugger. Click here to read the full article.
MoDOT – St. Louis is looking for input on potential bike lanes on St. Charles Rock Road. Trailnet strongly supports bike lanes on St. Charles Rock Road, as they play a critical role in connecting people biking in North St. Louis County. The segment would connect the Rock Road MetroLink station to St. Vincent Park and the St. Vincent Greenway. Click here, to submit your feedback by Sunday, February 11th.
Singletracks outlines how mountain biking fulfills humanity’s most basic needs. Click here to read more.
A billion children are now growing up in urban areas. But not all cities are planned with their needs in mind. Click here to learn what a child-friendly city looks like, via CityLab.
Trailnet has partnered with Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, to create an exclusive beer for our 30th Anniversary! We know it will be a pilsner style and we will have it on tap at our Chili Party on March 10th – but we still need a name. What should we call it? Click here, to submit your choice!
Super Bowl was Sunday, but biking is the real winner! Click here, to see 4 Super Bowl players who moonlight as cyclists, via Bicycling Magazine.
As Puerto Ricans recover, some of them are fighting for better combinations of bikes and transit. Click here to read more, via Peopleforbikes.com.
Trailnet salutes Zee Bee Market LLC, an amazing source for socially and environmentally conscious gifts from around the world. Click here to read “New Year, New Feels”, a beautifully written blog by Julio Zegarra-Ballon, with Zee Bee market.
Thanks for supporting Trailnet in our work to make St. Louis a more equitable and multimodal transportation-friendly city!
Trailnet’s Weekly Roundup
January is often a time of reflection; at Trailnet, we are proud to look back at the last 3 decades, in celebration of our 30th anniversary. This week we launched our winter newsletter, click hereto read about our anniversary activities, how we’re moving the Vision forward in 2018 & more.
On Thursday, we launchedTrailnet TV. Each week, we will produce a Facebook Livestream interview with the staff members of Trailnet, featuring St. Louis insights, transportation updates & more. Tune into www.facebook.com/trailnetevery Thursday at 9 AM, for Trailnet TV.
Peopleforbikes posed the question, as bike-share programs grow, how can they better reach underserved communities?Click here to hear their insights.
Read about The Bike That Saved My Life, via The New York Times.Click here for the article.
Filling the vacant STL Bike/Pedestrian Coordination position is a top priority for the City of St. Louis Government, Trailnet & important civic partners. View the qualifications,here.
Need some motivation? View the 5 Cities With the Most Badass Winter Bike Commuters, viaBicycling.com.
Starting this week, Portland’s default speed on non-arterial residential streets will slow to 20 mph, which is part of the city’s ongoing Vision Zero efforts.Click here to read more, via Next City.
Officials unveil plans for light rail connecting north St. Louis to South County.Click here to view KMOV’s story.
From seasoned athletes to Detroit’s youth, this indoor bike track is creating more opportunities to ride, via Peopleforbikes. Learn about the Indoor Velodrome here.
What went wrong with St. Louis’ Amazon bid? Depends who you ask, via the St. Louis Business Journal. Click hereto read more.
Epic Rides added shorter, beginner rides to its slate of events and has never looked back, via Peopleforbikes. Read more here.
It was another busy week for transportation, both nationally and locally. We hope you will continue to connect with us, to help us create a more multi-modal friendly St. Louis.
Every Friday, Trailnet is now going to provide a round-up of relevant news in multimodal transportation. For our kick-off recap, the following are our top picks, since January 1st.
CityLab posed the question: Can dockless bikeshare pump up cycling diversity? “One common explanation is that dockless bikes reach more people because they are dispersed more widely instead of being tethered to docking stations that tend to be concentrated in whiter, higher-density, better-off neighborhoods.” Click here for the full article.
As temperatures cool down, CityLab provided information for biking in the winter. Click here to read their tips!
Business Insider named St. Louis one of the top cities for millennials earlier this year, and Mayor Krewson announced that public safety (inclusive of transportation) is a top priority for 2018. Click here to read more, via St. Louis Business Journal.
Great Rivers Greenway invited the community to meet the top designers for the Chouteau Greenway. The region needs better connectivity and in our opinion, this Greenway from the Gateway Arch to Forest Park shows great possibilities! Click here to learn more about the project.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that bikeshare companies, eye St. Louis as an expansion site. Deanna Venker, the city’s traffic commissioner, says five or so companies that operate systems in other parts of the country have approached city officials about expanding here. “It’s something people want,” said Alderman Scott Ogilvie, a longtime bicycling enthusiast. “It’s something people expect.” Click here for the full story.
Mass Transit released, “Infrastructure funding critical to the success of the St. Louis economy and manufacturing industry.” Click here for the full article.
Trailnet believes that a more equitable St. Louis can be accomplished through regional unity, collaboration, public safety and enhanced multimodal transportation. Stay tuned each week, for our round-up of top news and exciting St. Louis insights!
Cliff Cave Trail Expansion Under Attack
An important expansion to Cliff Cave Park in south St. Louis County, years under development and with broad public support, is being stopped by one new St. Louis County Council member.
Trakas claims that emails on the subject are running 50-50 for and against the trail–and we need to change that in a BIG way if we want to save this important trail. We need 10-to-1 in support–or better. Your help is vital.
Please take 2 minutes today to call & email Councilman Ernie Trakas “I support the Cliff Cave Park Trail – Please don’t slow or stop it.”
For several years, Great Rivers Greenway and St. Louis County Parks have been working on the Cliff Cave Park Trail, a key connector in the Mississippi Greenway.
The planned trail is beautiful and will connect people who walk and bicycle over several difficult obstacles to an amazing overlook and miles of riverfront trail.
Construction is set to start in March. But a new St. Louis County Council member is threatened to stop the trail altogether. He claims that messages are running 50/50 for/against the trail and we need to change that in a BIG way today.
Be polite and persuasive when you contact your elected officials–this is by far the most effective approach.
Use a brief, clear subject line such as “I strongly support the Cliff Cave Park Trail”
Clearly state that you strongly support the trail and strongly oppose his effort to slow or stop it. You support it and support moving forward with it quickly. Unfortunately in this case, delay is equivalent to opposition. Trakas is trying spin his opposition as “just slowing down to take time to consider the options” but the problem is, the trail is been under study and consideration for many years with all sorts of public meetings involving thousands of people and public comments. With money already spent and preliminary construction underway, Trakas knows that delay will kill the project–which is what a very few, very persistent neighbors want.
A short message is as effective or more effective than a long one.
Include your connection to the County (live, work, visit, vacation, etc) , especially if you live work, or visit St. Louis County District 6, Ernie Trakas’s district in SE St. Louis County.
Include a sentence or two, or a quick story, showing why trails, bicycling, and walking are important to you personally, to your community, and/or to St. Louis County.
Your message is about Cliff Cave Park specifically, but is also a valuable opportunity to raise the profile and importance of trails, bicycling, and walking with the St. Louis County Council.
County Council members need to know that the County has many strong supporters of the bicycle, pedestrian, and trail system in the County.
We are working closely with our local partners, members, and affected agencies on this effort, including Trailnet, the regional St. Louis area advocacy group that works the create positive change in the St. Louis bi-state region by encouraging healthy, active living and that founded the region’s trail system in the 1990s. Look for more information coming soon from both us and our local and regional partners on this important issue.
Contact Information for St. Louis County Council
If you live in the County, contact your own County Council representative and also cc: Mr. Trakas, who is the key decision-maker on this issue.
If you don’t live in the County or have a connection to a particular Council District, you might email Mr. Trakas and cc: Steven Stenger, St. Louis County Executive.
Phone calls are very helpful. And email message is also helpful, and both phone and email followup is best of all. A posted letter or fax is also very effective, simply because constuents more rarely take the time to send a ‘real’ letter and that makes each one more impactful.
You might cc: Carmen Wilkerson on any email message you send to Councilman Trakas. We understand that Councilman Trakas’s voice mail has been full; again you might call and speak with (or leave a message with) his assistant instead.
How does St. Louis rank in comparison to other metropolitan areas in terms of pedestrian safety? Where is the most dangerous place for pedestrians in the country? Answers to these questions can be found in the most recent Dangerous by Design report, released in January by Smart Growth America.
The report has been produced for several years and identifies metropolitan areas and states that are most dangerous for people walking. The January report uses pedestrian fatality data from 2005-2014 to rank cities and states by
pedestrian deaths per 100,000 in population
a “pedestrian danger index,” calculated as the share of commuters who walk to work and the most recent data on pedestrian deaths.
Of the 104 metro areas ranked in the report, the two largest cities in Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis, rank 45th and 52nd respectively. Florida has been the most dangerous state for pedestrians for the past four years, and it now has 8 of the top 10 most dangerous cities for pedestrians. In the past decade, over 46,000 people have been killed by motor vehicles while walking. The poor, the elderly, and people of color – those who are less likely to own cars or drive – make up a disproportionate share of the victims.
The report emphasizes that better street design will play a critical role in improving safety for people walking. Arterial roads, such as Manchester or Kingshighway in St. Louis, are particularly dangerous for pedestrians. These roads were designed for fast moving vehicles, often have sections that lack sidewalks, and have limited safe crossing opportunities for people who are walking. Arterial roads consign people traveling on foot to second-class status.
Trailnet has worked tirelessly for passage and implementation of Complete Streets policies in our region. A Complete Street is one that is designed with all users in mind: motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, the elderly, and the disabled. Making streets welcoming and safe for all users promotes active lifestyles, and helps to build communities that are vibrant, economically strong, and appealing to residents and employers.
Louisiana Avenue is a busy residential street that runs along several south city parks and connects to a variety of local businesses and neighborhood schools. It is also a pilot site for the City of St. Louis’ Calm Streets Concept, an initiative funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to create a network of Calm Streets in the city. Calm Streets are residential streets where the use of traffic calming features, such as curb extensions and speed humps, are used to reduce vehicle speeds and make the street safer for people walking, biking and driving.
The block of Louisiana between Osage and Gasconade Streets was the site of a Calm Streets pop-up demonstration on Thursday, November 17. Staff members from the St. Louis City Street Department and Trailnet staff and volunteers installed temporary crosswalks, a roundabout, and other items designed to slow traffic speeds. The traffic calming features remained in place throughout the day while driving behaviors were observed and feedback was collected from community members.
Many respondents were enthusiastic about the traffic calming measures and how they would contribute to safety for everyone using the street. One resident acknowledged that we “definitely need something to slow traffic.” Two community members were supportive because “there are lots of kids on this street.” One resident stated that “if you have to put a speed hump every six feet, I’m all for it!”
We look forward to continuing our work with the community, with elected officials and with other project partners to realize the vision of a network of calmer safer residential streets. To read more about Trailnet’s Calm Streets Project, click here.