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Archive for November, 2010

New Bridges in STL and LBC

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently, KPCC ran a story on the replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge which connects downtown to the Port of Long Beach and Terminal Island. According to the story, the bridge’s replacement will carry an additional lane of traffic, and will most likely be built alongside the current bridge, making traffic adjustments much cleaner.

As it stands, the current structure is worn and crumbling, carrying a great deal of national imported goods from the port up the 710 Freeway.

I use this bridge a few times every week to get to work and from simple observation it looks ready to be replaced. KPCC reported that an estimated 4,000 jobs will be created for the construction of this bridge alone over the next five years.

 

Similarly, construction on St. Louis’s new cable-stayed Mississippi River Bridge (NMRB) has already begun. Currently, the Poplar Street Bridge (PSB) carries three interstate highways, while the Martin Luther King and Eads Bridges carry urban traffic. This new bridge will reroute I-70 to Illinois North of downtown St. Louis, while the PSB will continue to carry traffic for I-55 and I-64. The new bridge will not replace any of the existing bridges that connect St. Louis to Illinois, but is being built to alleviate the growing traffic problem.

Now that I’ve been commuting in LA County, it’s easy to see why it is important to stay ahead of the anticipated traffic flow. The question must be asked however, whether the projected job creation will be worth the projected cost.

As someone who loves urban architecture, the NMRB looks like it will be a gorgeous addition to the St. Louis metro landscape. The choice to build a cable-stayed bridge sets it apart aesthetically from much of the region, and may bring national notoriety. I’m excited to see what the new bridge in Long Beach will look like. If you drive past the current GD Bridge along the 47, across Terminal Island, you will come to the iconic Vincent Thomas Bridge, my favorite part of my commute.

 

Sources: New Mississippi River Bridge Project, KPCC

LB Passport v. STL Downtown Trolley

November 14, 2010 2 comments

Metro St. Louis' Downtown Trolley. Photo: nextstopstl.org

Before I moved to Long Beach, I did a little research on the public transit in the area. Having previously heard how bike and pedestrian friendly the city was, I was eager to see the extent of the bus system. In St. Louis, I used the bus and Metrolink when I lived in South City to get to school, the Galleria, the comic shop, sporting events downtown, and the bars and shops on South Grand. I had a Metro Student Pass and used public transit whenever I could. When I moved back to South St. Louis County, taking the bus was more difficult because my neighborhood was only served by two routes. It became even more difficult when the bus routes were cut back in 2008 (thankfully, they were later restored with the help of federal funds). However, despite having good ridership numbers, public transit in St. Louis maintained somewhat of a negative reputation. I heard all the usual complaints: it’s inconvenient, doesn’t go where I want to go, seems unsafe, etc.

Earlier this year, Metro St. Louis created a somewhat gimmicky way of getting people to change their ideas about transit: The Downtown Trolley. This bus route runs in a constant loop through downtown St. Louis, taking riders to major points of interest in the area for just a $2 all-day fare.  While it isn’t an actual trolley, the bus wears a fun, painted wrapper, the idea seems to work. I took it myself once over the summer while researching for some bar reviews. At first, the idea of the trolley seemed gimmicky and wasteful to many, but much excitement was eventually generated, and the idea took off. Metro used to operate a “Downtown Circulator” route, but it generated little excitement, and it seems few actually knew about it. Does the success of the new trolley mean it’s gimmick is what made it work?

Fortunately, Long Beach Transit has something similar in downtown LBC. The Passport is a similar idea to Metro St. Louis’ Downtown Trolley- it takes riders to major points of interest and attractions in the area and provides a great way for visitors to see the city. The Passport however, consists of not one, but four bus lines, and is free at all times when ridden downtown (regular fare is required East of Alamitos Blvd.).

LB Transit's Passport. Photo: flickr.com/photos/fredcamino/

The positive impact of riding the Passport is immediately apparent. I have ridden it on several occasions to go to the Queen Mary, the Convention Center, and Shoreline Village.

The idea of a bus route focused on local attractions and tourism is not a new one, but any transit system will benefit from it. Long Beach Transit has created a successful formula in branding the Passport as a separate system integrated into the larger LBT system: Passport buses have noticeable red wrappers, routes marked with letters instead of numbers, and it’s own name (“let’s take the Passport!” sounds different from “let’s take the bus!”).

So maybe the gimmick is worth it. Both the Passport and the Downtown Trolley have a wrapper that separates them form other buses, clearly defined routes mapped at each stop, and are often marketed to tourists. What do you think? Have you ridden either bus? What can the two transit agencies learn from one another? Is their success exaggerated?

Sources: lbtransit.org, metrostlouis.org, nexstopstl.org

What I Love About LBC: Art and Growth

November 10, 2010 1 comment

During my first several weeks  living in Long Beach, I noticed something interesting and unique on several downtown streets: public art galleries in unused storefronts. After passing by the paintings and sculptures on 3rd Street multiple nights in a row, I grabbed one of the postcards tucked into the small plastic holder on the door out of curiosity. What I found was the web address and some basic information for Phantom Galleries LA, a Los Angeles County-based private organization which places work from local artists in vacant storefronts as a means of attracting businesses to the retail space, while promoting the arts and L.A. culture. Often times, this operation is run without funding and relies on community volunteers.

3rd Street Phantom Gallery temporary art installations

The four temporary art instillations from Phantom Galleries LA on East 3rd Street make the block look more attractive and alive. Much better than bare plywood.

Blogging on the important role of street-level activity in community revitalization has become a common topic in recent years, as interest has grown in urban living. A boarded first floor can make an area look like a ghost town and can be unattractive to potential residents, stagnating economic growth and development. The effect that these temporary art instillations has is multifaceted and can easily transform a dead city block into something exciting. Here we have the artist and business communities working together to create excitement and opportunities for one another, as well as do something positive and fun for the surrounding community.

The Press-Telegram’s report of Fingerprints record store and Portfolio Coffeehouse coming to 4th Street in the East Village only further demonstrates the opportunities for growth downtown. While the businesses will not occupy a current Phantom Gallery, their joint venture is another transformation of dead space, and a win for the community.

Sources: phantomgalleriesla.com, Press-Telegram

Where to start?

November 7, 2010 Leave a comment

As a recent Midwestern transplant to Southern California, I needed a way to keep myself busy doing something fun, yet still productive, and so I decided to start a blog.

I’ve been a fan of the blogs Urban Review STL and  urbanSTL for some time, and wanted to find something similar to follow for my new home of Long Beach. Unfortunately, I didn’t come across much. I realized however, that despite not carrying a degree in Urbanology, Civil Engineering, or Journalism, I had nothing to lose in starting my own version of the above-mentioned sites. I thought it might be interesting, at least for me, to write about similar topics as Urban Review STL and urbanSTL with a different perspective. I see a lot of St. Louis in Long Beach and I want to share what I see. In the next week or so, I hope to upload a photo essay (I hate that term) of “my” Long Beach.

So I guess this first posts serves as some kind of mission statement or statement of purpose. This blog will serve as a journal of sorts for exploring Long Beach as well as reflecting on St. Louis. This is not a travel blog. I’m interested to see how my feelings about St. Louis change now that I’ve moved away, and how my feelings about Long Beach will be shaped by my past in the Midwest. What lessons can the two cities learn from one another? What makes them unique from one another? And how will they both influence me personally?

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