I did it. I made the move from the global cool of Brooklyn for the once great and yet to rise again St. Louis. Some friends said that I “made it out,” while others questioned my sanity. There are pros and cons to each city, which I will share in future blogs, so I’ll spare you those details now and focus on the juicier story of moving to a car-centric city.
Where is the nearest subway stop? How often does the bus come? These questions, among others, race through my mind as I begin to integrate into the St. Louis fabric. “There are no subways; it’s called the metrolink!” and “Bus? No one takes the bus here!” are common answers to my questions. Public transit is still stigmatized by those with the means to avoid it. Welcome to a car-centric city, I think to myself.
After only two weeks of living this new chapter of my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that car-centricity exists because of pre-conceived notions. Along with its Midwestern, post-industrialist peers, St. Louis currently relies on its expansive highway system to transport the majority of its residents by car. Historically, however, like many American cities in the early 20th century, St. Louis was a bastion of pedestrianism, replete with streetcars and bicyclists.
Almost everyone I have met so far has a car. I recently applied for Enterprise’s car share, which is like Zipcar, because Zipcar only exists at the airport. There is no Uber or Lyft here, so I downloaded the STL Taxi app, which Laclede Cab Company operates exclusively. I bought a monthly metro pass for $78 and was using it every day until last weekend when I bought a new bicycle. After riding around Brooklyn for the past two years, St. Louis is comparatively flatter and safer. Most folks I have talked to lament that they use their car for most of their trips. There is definitely a desire for more and better public transit, bike lanes, and walkable infrastructure.
That being said, one thing I love about living here is the relative ease around connecting with other people. People are excited to collaborate and want to improve their city. The downtown is in its nascent moments of revitalization. Organizations such as Trailnet and Great Rivers Greenway are leading the charge in creating a more pedestrian friendly city. I believe that I can have a very positive and sustained impact on this city and am thrilled about the opportunity.