St. Louis Blogger Tells Kunstler He Got It Wrong

Steve Patterson, the writer of Streetsblog Network member blog UrbanReviewSTL, has long been a fan of anti-sprawl guru James Howard Kunstler. But Patterson takes issue with Kunstler in a post today about the new St. Louis Amtrak station, a multimodal facility that also serves as a bus depot and light rail link. Kunstler just named it as his "eyesore of the month."

Patterson concedes that the station has its issues, and no one would argue that it can hold an aesthetic candle to the city’s magnificent Union Station, which is now a shopping mall with a hotel and restaurants. But he says Kunstler rushed to judgment without all the facts:

kunstlereotm.jpgSo because Union Station is no longer used for rail transit our new
station is a "piece-of-shit." The problem I have is not the criticism
of the new station — a few [points] are correct. The problem is relying on an
account/pictures from a visitor from Chicago. I’m often critical of
projects and places but I always visit in person to see for myself
rather than be potentially misled by a reader.

Had Kunstler done his homework he would have known it has been more
than 30 years since the last train backed out of Union Station. From 1978–2008, St. Louis’ Amtrak station was in two different portable
buildings (#1 1978–2004, #2 2004–2008). It is not like we stopped
using Union Station one day and [opened] the new station the next.

Our Gateway Station combines Amtrak and Greyhound with our
MetroLink light rail and MetroBus. I’d say that is a good
combination. Utilizing the space under the highway makes sense and
bringing these services together in one spot can help visitors.

One of the best things about the Streetsblog Network is that it brings together on-the-ground observers in more than 40 states and several nations. If you want to know what’s going on in St. Louis, you can find someone in St. Louis. Or Reno. Or Savannah. Or Indianapolis. Or any of dozens of communities.

Just click on the map you’ll find here and start exploring for yourself.

  • Gary Kreie

    I agree with Steve. Washington people like to point out that their Union Station is still used as a train station, unlike St. Louis’ Union Station. 30 years ago when the St. Louis Union Station became a hotel and shopping center, the developers (Rouse) also wanted it to remain a train station. Just like the DC station, trains would have to pull in (or back in) and pull out. But AMTRAK officials from Washington, would not approve that. They insisted that the trains stop, on thru tracks, and then continue without backing in. St. Louis and Rouse fought this, and eventually lost to DC, so we were stuck with something locals called AMSHACK for 30 years. Mobile homes ganged to from a station. But then when the DC station upgraded with shopping and restaurants, it was a different story AMTRAK allowed the trains to enter and leave as was origionally designed.

    So we would all prefer that AMTRAK allow the use of St. Louis Union station as it was designed to be used, just as they did in Washington. But since they won’t, the new multi-modal center is a vast improvement over the AMSHAK the Federal experts shackled us with for all these years. It nicely combines Metro-link light rail, Intercity buses, city busses, and AMTRAK into one building in the center of the city. The design fits the functional requirements, and is still within walking distance of the old St. Louis Union Station — one of the most attractive of the 19th century stations.

  • jim

    Trains run through Washington Union Station. There are, I think, about 12 stub racks and eight through tracks. Trains terminating at Washington run into the stub tracks; trains continuing on from Washington stop on the through tracks and then continue on.

  • Steve

    Not sure it was Amtrak that wanted out of Union Station in St Louis, I always thought the development folks wanted Amtrak gone. In fact up to a year or two ago, there were a couple of tracks still left in Union Station for display of historic equipment and parking of private rail cars but that equipment has been banished too.

  • Peter Smith

    shorter UrbanReviewSTL:

    Kunstler is exactly right.

    and now for my opinion:

    Kunstler is exactly right.

    if anything, he doesn’t go far enough in criticizing that station. pretty unbelievable that such a thing could get built today.

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