Friday, March 28, 2014


EDIT: Please read this post on the recent government "Urban Circulator" grant.

There is a lot to learned about how Public Transit really works (that is, not for the people that need it) by examining the proposed Loop Trolley.

The Loop Trolley is ridiculous.  Its real purpose is not to provide transit service. The Federal Government gave it $12 million in funds from a grant that was designed to revitalize urban areas.  The Loop does not need to be revitalized, and it is barely urban.

The Loop Trolley is about getting more "local tourists" (white suburbanites and rural dwellers that park and ride the Metrolink to Cardinals games and other big events downtown) to come drink beer and eat cheeseburgers at Blueberry Hill.

The Loop Trolley is the creation of just one man, Joe Edwards, and without him it would have been dismissed years ago.

Since learning that Metro is really about developing the Bi-State area (see this post about the people in charge of Metro) to "attract talented professionals and entrepreneurs" I have come to understand how the Loop Trolley ever got off the ground.

And what a mess it will create if it succeeds.

Joe Edwards is notorious for his hatred of panhandlers.  He is behind those signs you see in the Loop that say "Don't give money to panhandlers, it encourages them to drink alcohol and take drugs." (I'll get the exact wording next time I am in the Loop.  I really find those sign hilarious.  As the owner of a bar, Joe Edwards encourages people to drink alcohol!)

The real problem for people like Edwards is that panhandlers are generally poor people, usually black, that come to the Loop from low-income, urban neighborhoods, and ask the college students and suburban tourists for money.

That is why the Loop got rid of all the bus benches and covered bus stops.  That is why there is only one bus that runs down Delmar, the #97, and why there are only three bus stops per each side of the street, between Skinker and the "Lion Gates" by U. City Hall.  (The stops are not well placed either- the worst is the eastbound stop located at the crosswalk at Westgate and Delmar.  Metro doesn't decide where bus stops go, the city or town does.  More on that in another post.)

I don't think Edwards is a racist in terms of hating people based on their skin color.  He and Nelly are well known bowling partners, and I've heard from reliable sources that it is Edwards that drives Chuck Berry to Berry's monthly Blueberry Hill gig.

But like most people, white and black and all other colors, he suffers from what I call "cultural racism."  Basically, the lifestyle that a person was born into is the best, other cultures are judged by how compatible or incompatible they are to that culture. And he was born to the predominant culture in our society. And like most people that live in that world, he has no need to examine the privileges that were handed to him at birth. 

He may be more of hippie than those other white, privileged, suburban businessmen and developers that head the East West Gateway Council of Governments, but they are all on the same page and getting money from the same banks and Federal funding.  They are members of the "Ole Boy Network", the legal gang of thugs that runs the city.  A local version of Gang 1% that run the world.

Metro/ Bi-State is all about attracting more people like Edwards to Saint Louis.

And that is not necessarily a good thing for transit riders.

Edwards has formed the Loop Trolley Transportation District.  Why didn't they go through Metro?  Because this way Edwards can be in charge of it.  In the same way that the East West Council of Governments tells Metro where it can go (or try to go-- the cities and towns have some say in it, which is how the train to St. Charles was killed), Edwards can direct the Loop Trolley development.

It seems pretty certain that the first thing that will happen is the #97 will be re-routed out of the Loop.  The trolley is for the Metrolink.  In fact, it will pass by three Metrolink stations- Forest Park, Skinker/Wash. U. and Delmar.  Why?

So that those "suburban local tourists" don't have to set foot on a public bus to go to the Loop from the Metrolink.

I recall very clearly when the Loop started to have its annual summer problem with flash-mobs of inner-city, black, high-school kids back in 2009.

When it was suggested that what those kids need is somewhere to go to have fun, that maybe the problem was that Saint Louis continues to ignore the $32,000 a year income gap between the north and south side of the "Delmar Divide" .  That as businessmen, maybe they could work to create more job opportunities, provide outreach to low income areas, and just generally focus on coming up with solutions, the response was pretty much this:

"Get 'em out of here! We don't need them!" (Said one local business man, who, ironically, hires the most black people and also attracts the largest portion of black patrons compared to other Loop restaurants.)  The sentiment was echoed widely by the other businessmen.

I also found it confusing that so many of the businessmen were focusing on Metro's responsibility and complaining to them, simply because the kids ride the train to get to the Loop.  Why would public transportation be held accountable for where people ride it?

But now that I know who Public Transportation agencies work, it makes sense.  Basically, local businessmen are Metro's bosses.  Metro's primary function is business development.  Running the bus and Metrolink are actually secondary functions, even if it is their most time-consuming function.

Mr. Edwards has figured out a way to be his Trolley's boss. 

It is ironic that around the time the Trolley was getting its' $12 million, Metro had to be bailed out with another grant for the same amount. Not that Trolley money could have been used to improve existing service. Metro was not eligible for that Trolley grant.

(Unless it was going to develop the Trolley, and as many bad things as I have to say about Metro, I do believe that if they had developed a Trolley plan it would have been in an area more suited to it-- probably downtown, but possibly South Grand and Cherokee, or thereabouts, which, in many opinions is where a street-car would really make a difference.)

The way government public transportation money is allocated, you can't use "development" funds for existing services.  That is because, just as businessmen are in charge of Metro at a local level, big business and big oil are in charge of government at the federal level.  (If only Occupy Wall Street had succeeded!)

It is in the best interests of St. Louis public transportation to oppose the Loop Trolley.

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