Sacramento, Portland Offer St. Louis Insight Into Grand-Scale Redevelopment, Mass Transit Funding

{rendering of $5.3B Sacramento redevelopment plan}

Two stories recently caught my eye (especially as a resident of St. Louis). First, Sacramento is set to see the transformation of its historic railyards. The $5.3B project would include up to 12,000 residential units, 800,000 square feet of commercial space, a few parks and a railroad museum. Click here for the NY Times story. The scale offers some parallels to the proposed NorthSide in St. Louis.

But what’s interesting are the public subsidies: $150M from the city, $130M from the state, $30 from federal sources = $310M. For several reasons, converting old railroads to residential and commercial space is less complicated and less expensive than building within existing city neighborhoods and replacing existing infrastructure. So is a $410M TIF application and $50M in tax credits from the state for NorthSide too much? Maybe. However, we should recognize that if North St. Louis is going to be substantially revitalized and redeveloped then substantial public money is needed.

Second was a story out of Portland where the fareless square will begin charging for bus rides. Click here for the Oregonian story. The story cites the problem of riders boarding within the fareless square and riding outside the square without paying as one reasing to charge all bus riders. It’s estimated that an additional $800,000 will be collected towards the system’s $874M annual budget. But that’s not what really caught my eye. What’s interesting is that 55% of TriMet’s operating budget comes from a %0.63 payroll tax on the three-county area. So is St. Louis’ 1% payroll tax really holding the city back? Would a multi-county payroll tax an option for the St. Louis area or should Metro continue to dream of a %0.5 sales tax?