An Entrepreneurial Asterisk: Affordable Living and the St. Louis Car Culture

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bike lanes by Matt Wyczalkowski

I am a native St. Louisan, raised in South St. Louis County and an outspoken city resident for the past 8 years. I have lived in Oakville, in Columbia [MO], and in the city-neighborhoods of Clayton-Tamm and Forest Park Southeast. I have lived without a vehicle in two of those places. While it may not surprise many to know that a college town in the middle of Missouri is more accessible to the car-less citizen than our beloved 18th-century city on the banks of the Mississippi, it probably should. Really, it should concern us. St. Louis, a city that developed along its streetcar lines, has succomed (as most American cities have) to the automobile and everything that comes with it. This is a reality only truly understood when lived, as so many of our area’s residents do every day.

My latest experience being car-less wasn’t anticipated or welcomed and was terribly-timed. The story began last November, when I quit my job to pursue a new startup full time. This is the second business I have started so I had at least an idea of the risk involved when I took the leap. With a couple of months-worth of money in the bank I planned to get the business off the ground and worry about the rest later. Then, a month later as perhaps a fitting close to the most-strained holiday season I can recall, the engine in my truck blew up on Christmas night. Given the situation I’d put myself in, I didn’t have an option other than move forward. Thankfully I had a decent bike to do it on.

In the past four months I have become a more conscience traveler – logistics of movement are something taken for granted with a working vehicle in a car city – between bike, bus, and train (and a borrowed vehicle here and there), getting around town has mostly been manageable. It has also, if I’m being honest, been a pain-in-the-ass at times and has led to a few cancelled meetings on account of weather or time-constraint. While biking has certainly been good for my physical health, being somewhat travel-restricted is probably not ideal for a startup co-founder and biking in January is definitely not that fun. Getting across the city as a single mother with two jobs is probably even less fun, but we’ll get to that.

Our startup community has recently been getting some national attention. Most of this press has identified St. Louis as a great place to start a company because of our affordable cost of living, i.e. cheap rent. There needs to be an asterisk however, indicating the near-requirement of vehicle ownership. In true car-culture fashion, the cost of transportation is externalized and true cost of living ignored. Riding Metro is cheap, if you can get to it, but owning a car – not so cheap. Yet this is the narrative St. Louis projects outward and how much of our development is marketed: it’s cheap to live here so all the young professionals and college grads will want to stay!

Though attracting new people is important as is retaining transplants who move here for college, we are missing the larger point in much of our discussion of where St. Louis is heading. If we are to sustain our recent growth within this community, we’ll need a new narrative. We should focus on the people who are here, rather than those who are not. Those for whom travelling across town is a daily inconvenience at best and a struggle at worst. Liveability and more specifically, equity, should be the beginning of every conversation about development, policy, and just about anything else talked about in City Hall or around our dinner tables. The cities we are trying to compete with aren’t top-tier cities because they had good marketing or cheap rent, they are liveable, walkable, bikeable cities that people want to live in.

If we move forward with equity in mind – racially, culturally, economically – we can capitalize on these current positive development trends and ensure that our startup boom becomes a long-term economic boon for everyone in our city. With many cities having the same conversations as we are today, it will be the cities who get these details right that are relevant in twenty years. Let’s make sure St. Louis gets it right. We can talk about the great things that are happening in our city, and those are good conversations to have, but we have to acknowledge the scope of work that remains. Our transit system is not bad for a midwestern city, but it sucks compared to a European one, or even a turn-of-the-century St. Louis one! We have expanded our bike and pedestrian infrastructure but many of our roadways remain expert-level Frogger challenges not for the faint of heart. It’s time to roll up our sleeves.

The past months have been instructive and even though I would prefer to have a working vehicle, I recognize that I’m prioritizing my new business above travel convenience, but not everyone gets to make that choice. Transportation shouldn’t be difficult for anyone in a modern city, with or without a car. I am confident that we can get this conversation right and become a world-class city for generations to come. St. Louis would finally be a liveable city for everyone and people will want to move here not for our cheap rent but because we are a model 21st century recovery city – a city that has scars and isn’t afraid to talk about them. We’ll recognize the lessons in our past and move forward together towards a better future for all.

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  • guest

    I have lived in many different areas of st. louis as well as como and also i have lived in chicago, and charlotte (have also done a large amount of international travel). Having said this I full heartedly believe st. louis has the worst public transit systems of anywhere i have lived or traveled. I find it very difficult to get around the city/counties. A lot of the public transit systems here also seem to me to be poorly managed as well as unsafe. I have personally know a number of people who have been mugged or harassed while riding the metro link as well as waiting for buses. The lay out of the city is also very poorly designed for any form of travel other then by means of car.
    Overall very unimpressed.
    I do like this city and wish to see it improve in these areas.

  • Terry Mitchell

    Supporting your discussion, look at the Housing + Transportation Index . . . St. Louis is affordable, but much less so when transportation costs are considered . . . Look at the comparision maps:

  • Dave

    I can’t say I agree with the sentiment that CoMo is more hospital to being carless than St. Louis. In fact, I would say the opposite. Now, it is totally dependent on where you choose to live in each region and where your job is. Living in StL city without a car is certainly doable and quite easy if you are located anywhere within the central corridor and work between downtown and Clayton. I’ve found bus access to be pretty good and timely, and of course Metrolink and biking help. For CoMo, living downtown or on/near campus allows you to access most needs on foot or bike. However, have you ever tried to navigate to the very built southern or northern end of Columbia by bike or public-transportation? That I would imagine reflects a similar commute from St. Louis or St. Charles county to other areas in the region.

  • onecity

    I think the affordability of STL is massively overhyped. I moved here from Uptown in “high COL” Minnesota, and once you factor in either a) the price of good prewar housing in an acceptable school district or b) private school tuition, plus the costs associated with the insane amount of mandatory driving because everything is so badly connected/sprawled out, it’s really a wash at best. You pay about the same in the end for a worse experience. Just my .02.

  • zlurpmobile

    White St. Louis county residents are some of the most racist people I’ve ever encountered – and they’re totally in denial about it. They are the biggest obstacle to any reform in urban planning and public transit because they view these things as handouts to the blacks. Identifying the problem isn’t difficult, but executing a solution is. There’s no reason to equivocate behind rhetoric about “structural equality” or whatever, that sort of dogwhistling is their game.

  • rgbose

    Anyone else had or choose to go carless in St. Louis? What was your experience? What were the benefits/challenges? How did you cope or overcome those challenges?

    • tbatts666

      It’s fun.

      I live in LaSalle park, and commute to Slu health campus every day.

      It’s nice having the soulard farmers market in walking distance. My grocery store!! And it’s super cheap.

      Biking is like really fun. I especially like bicycling in the winter. You get to gear up like some bandit trying to survive in a frozen post-apocalyptic world ruled by giant rolling metal machines. So hardcore.

      The greatest challenge is probably the daily verbal abuse. But it’s improved my ability to insult people.

      I run into friends all the time biking. And it’s nice being able to smile and say hi to strangers.

      Biking is also the best way to get lost and experience architecture. Most of the older buildings in Stl were meant to be viewed from the center of the street. Biking is the best culurally acceptable way to get to this perfect viewing point.

      For me it’s more challenging driving than biking. On a bike I am not endangering anyone else, I am so worried about hitting someone when I drive.

      Cars are a headache. Fixing Them sucks. Buying gas sucks. Insuring them sucks. Depending Them on the sucks.

      I am a white male with a short commute, so I don’t have the other challenges many other people in the city have biking. I have never been pulled over or sexually harassed.

      I don’t wear spandex. I ride a heavy steel bike with lots of cargo space.

      . With the amount of trails to nowhere Around Stl I suspect that suburban spandexers (mobikefed) sort of control the bike funding in Missouri. But that claim might be a stretch.

      • John Tharp

        Hey, I’m a current Chicago resident, and I am on my way to living in St. Louis by the end of June, where I will be traveling exclusively by bike. I might also be living in LaSalle Park, and I’d like to pick your brain about your experience with the area if you’re up for it. I hope to hear from you!

        • tbatts666

          Welcome to stl. Please contact me when you are in town. More bikers always welcome.

    • Ariel

      I’ve chosen to be carless in STL for the past 7 years and I’ve made it with a combination of Metrolink, Bussing and Biking. It was a major factor in my decision to move to the CWE (it’s near a major hub) but I spent 2 years in the county where EVERY TRIP was 1 hour. In fact, for a short while, I was spending 4 hours in transit every day to get to and from work. But I’m lucky – the fact that I’m able to make mass transit work is in part due to privilege/being fairly well off. If the bus were late or broke down or not running – I can afford a taxi. I have friends who have given me emergency lifts to urgent care centers in the county. If I were making minimum wage, I couldn’t afford the unreliability and patchy coverage of our system. Though I could currently get a car, it wouldn’t leave me much financial room with the student loan payments I have. Having lived in both Chicago and Boston before STL, the state of transit here is depressing but things won’t get better if people don’t use it. Ironically, if our transit system was better, I might actually spend more money in the county instead of ordering everything online.

      • tbatts666

        I can second also buying a ton of stuff online.

        Why do you go carless?

    • Kevin

      Carless by choice, though I also appreciate not having the expense. I live at the city/county line near the Loop. It’s a manageable challenge. On the whole, benefits far outweigh the challenge. Benefits: health, deeper connection to community, environment, morale boost from knowing I’m contributing to more vibrant urban space in St. Louis.

      • tbatts666

        There is something spiritual/emotional to biking in STL.

        Good on you, Kevin!

    • Andy Struckhoff

      Growing up in the City, the bus was always a reliable mode of transportation. I remember my mother taking the bus to work; and I remember taking the bus downtown with my grandmother to go shopping. I rode the Bi-State bus to get to and from high-school every day. In college, I lived downtown and took the bus to classes at SLU. After college, and after my wife and I tied the knot, she and I lived in the Southwest Garden neighborhood and then the Lindenwood neighborhood and we kept one car for a few years. My wife kept the car during the day so she could get around with our kiddo if she needed to, and I took either the bus or metrolink to get to work downtown. It was cost-effective and manageable. That being said, I’d like to have as many bus routes now as we used to have back in the day so that traveling by bus would take a little less time.

  • Guest

    I believe average area rents have gone up and are around $700/month. If you earn minimum wage, then you are most likely priced out of a 2-bedroom apartment and probably living paycheck to paycheck to afford a 1-bedroom apartment. Just an observation of the economic reality of how far a minimum wage can go.

    People won’t move here in droves because there aren’t a lot of jobs. Why else would people live here? Rural Missouri is cheaper than St. Louis. Do droves of people choose to live there for affordability reasons alone? Job opportunities just aren’t there.

    • matimal

      Why are you in St. Louis? When will you be leaving?

    • Adam

      To be fair, St. Louis city offers many urban amenities that residents of rural MO can’t access. I agree that jobs are the number one attractor, but people do make job compromises to live in urban instead of rural areas (and vice versa to some extent I’m sure).

  • moe

    An interesting point of view, for sure. Even back in the 80’s, Columbia was ahead of the curve. Of course, they’ve had to fight to be progressive as they are doing now with plastic bags (they want to ban them and some jackass Representative in Jeff City who just happens to work for grocery suppliers wants to make it illegal for all cities to ban bags). On transportation, I’ve found that St. Louis runs along a scale….the poorer you are, the more difficult it is because where the poorest live, the transportation options just plain suck. Then if you’re middle class and above, you have a car but then you complain about “rush-hour” and how horrible it is (never mind that our “rush-hour” is a walk in the park compared to LA). But poor or rich…no one wants to pay for better transportation items. Sure, we’ll take free money from Uncle Sam but then complain our federal taxes are too high. We’ll spend $30 Million on a 2 mile trolley and plan for more of the same, yet won’t spend $1 Million for extra bus runs.

  • matimal

    This will take decades. The work we do now to move in this direct will bear fruit after more than a few of us are gone, from St. Louis or existence, but it should inspire us to do something for the next generation.

  • RyleyinSTL

    Good post. Public transport in STL does leave plenty to be desired. However I’d imagine that the “near-requirement of vehicle ownership” in STL isn’t any different than most of our other rust-belt and Mississippi Valley brothers….not that we shouldn’t aim to improve that.

    I think one of the biggest issues holding back public transport here is the extremely low cost of vehicle ownership. Gas taxes are nearly the lowest in the nation, we have no toll roads, parking is very inexpensive (and extremely plentiful), the weather allows cars to last decades (typical winters see little use of salt) and licensing costs are minuscule. Sure there is the “property tax,” but if you are driving around in an old beater, it hardly amounts to anything.

    Build some toll roads, increase gas taxes, reduce parking and impose congestion taxes/fees, and folks will be clamoring for better transit.

    • Alex P

      I agree completely. And the best part is that what you’re describing is not an attempt to make driving more expensive, it’s making car ownership reflect the true cost of car ownership. Highways and roads across the U.S. and especially Missouri are heavily subsidized. Missouri law states that gas taxes can only be used to pay for roads, meaning that other sales taxes that should tack on another 20 cents per gallon do not apply. How is my need for groceries any different than my need for gas?
      Plus, we are going to have to start paying for the effects of climate change here soon. And that money is not going to come from gas taxes much less the past 100 years of gas taxes. It’s going to come from the cities and states that feel those effects, even some very sustainable cities like New York and Boston.

      • RyleyinSTL

        Exactly! Actually fully covering the costs of our automotive lifestyle…. Midwesterners will never go for that.

  • Curtis

    Hey, STL Next..succomed is not a word. I understand mistakes but this is a clear case of not knowing how to spell a word (try succumbed) and put the author’s validity in question. What has happened to editors?

    • Adam

      no, a handful of spelling errors does not call the author’s credibility (not validity) into question. how would it? since he spelled a word wrong he must have made it all up? while you’re weirdly fixated on spelling, the rest of us are more interested in the author’s shared experience.

    • Adam

      or if you must point out the error, try being a little more diplomatic.

      • Lrs

        Hi pot meet kettle

    • jhoff1257

      IT’S A BLOG. It’s like people think this is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He’s a city resident who, as far as I can tell, has never written in this space before. I missed the misspelled word completely. I was too busy focusing on the point of the post.

      And while we’re making corrections, it’s nextSTL.

  • Great post, Ryan!

    • Yep. Hits several points of interest or need as it relates to those who live/work/experience St. Louis. Public transit in St. Louis certainly isn’t impossible if you’re willing to do the work, but definitely not easy or welcoming.

      Still get a kick out of the sense of surprise I get from family when I arrive back in town at the Amtrak station:

      “Need me to pick you up?”

      “Nah, I’m good.”


      “Uh huh. I think I’ll just walk down to your office. We can meet up after work.”

      [Sidenote: This office is at Broadway/Pine so, like, ten blocks max…]

      “That’s far…”
      “Not really. Who knows — might just take the Metrolink down.”

      “Ohhhhh-kay. Call if you change your mind…” *click*

      Now imagine the uncomfortable conversation when I say I’m going to bus it all the way down to Loughborough/Morganford…

      Such an odd thing to see public transit so widely dismissed — or worse, despised — by so many in this City/region. It could easily be so much more than it is! Can’t wait for the day that a) the local/state government gets some gumption and significantly increases the gas tax, and b) Metro actually makes good on its previously-promised North-South Metrolink.

      • rgbose

        EW Gateway is the org that decides to do Metrolink expansions

      • Imran

        Ha. Reminds me of conversations I’ve had:
        ‘Need me to pick you up from the airport?’
        ‘No, I’ll just take Metrolink’
        ‘How about I pick you up at the station?’
        ‘Its 5 blocks. I can walk or transfer to the bus’
        ‘(incredulous/horrified silence)….Okay’

      • Devin in South City

        I’ve gotten that same reaction when people find out I’m riding the bus with my toddler.

  • Truman

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that COMO has better/more public transportation than the city of St. Louis. They are 2 totally differnt scenarios. Most if not all large universities and flagship state universities are well covered by public transit. The reasons being that space for student parking is at a premium, many students don’t have cars, cuts down on potential lawsuits and negative press from drinking and driving, muggings and rapes etc. Also when the majority of the users of the college town public transit are college students, this creates a much more safer, less unknown enviroment than say St. Louis’s Metrolink. It’s an apples and oranges comparison but apparently that’s Nextstl’s writers strong suit.

    • northstar

      That sounds like all the things a city should address: minimize the need for parking, minimize drunk driving by eliminating driving, enhance walkability, more eyes on the street/fewer rapes and muggings, tight knit communities. Am I missing something?

      • Truman

        Ya I’d say you’re missing the cost of college tuition that provides these things along with the high salaries the higher Ed academics bring to small towns with big universities along with being a recession proof industry and never being able to relocate like private sector companies. A city like St. Louis should certainly address things like this but in the end it’s all about the dollars and where their going to come from to fund these things.

        • matimal

          So, your saying the secret is to have more high wage jobs.

          • Truman

            I don’t know any secrets but I do know that college professors, deans, and many other university positions can come with tenure, amazing retirement deals, free tuition for their kids, and you know your job is not relocating or downsizing. I’m not sure what you mean.

          • matimal

            I guess I don’t know what you mean either.

          • Truman

            In response to Northstar’s response to my original comment I pointed out the difference a smallish town with a major (20,000+ undergrads) university and a city like St. Louis has when it comes to public transit and what it requires to make it feasible. The writer says that Como was more accessible to the carless than STL, I felt that was not unique to Como but that is the norm for towns with major universities and the ways and means they are able to have better transit than STL.

          • matimal

            So, they don’t offer any example that St. Louis could follow. I understood your point. I’m just wondering what value it has for a supposedly pro-St. Louis forum. There’s no limit on people arguing for the impossibility of St. Louis’ improvement elsewhere.

          • Truman

            You’re right, I forgot that this blog only welcomes comments that have the same views. Thank your for reminding me diversity in ideology is not welcome here.

          • matimal

            So, you DO have a view on improving St. Louis! Let us have it then.

          • matimal

            So , you DON’T have any ideas about improving St. Louis? Got it.

          • Truman

            Definitely not suggesting there’s no hope for St. Louis because it’s not a college town. Why the snark?

          • matimal

            I don’t see the relevance of your comment, that’s all.

          • Truman

            You don’t think that major differences in college towns vs STL Impact mass transit? Ok then to each is own I guess, I just don’t think it’s fair to compare STL to a college town like Como. What exactly is the relevance of your comments? To be snarky? What’s your point?

    • jhoff1257

      I think saying Columbia has better or especially more mass transit than St. Louis City is a bit disingenuous. Metro Transit has to provide service to the City, County and St. Clair County, Illinois. Not just a small college town. And yes when a significant portion of your service area is carless college students, it’s not surprising that many would ride public transit. COMOConnect (many of whose routes are solely Mizzou student shuttles) carries roughly 2 million riders per year. MetroLink alone hauls roughly 20 million in one year with current ridership hovering around 60,000 riders per day. MetroBus carries over 35 million per year with roughly 100,000 riders per day. Metro Transit actually covers most of the city and county. They don’t necessarily cover it efficiently but they do cover it.

      All large universities in St. Louis are well served by public transit and many have programs in place to subsidize student rides. Washington University and it’s med school, St. Louis University, UMSL, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and SWIC can all be directly accessed by MetroLink.

      And what does “less unknown environment” mean? Tens of thousands ride MetroLink every day, should all those riders expect to know each other? It’s public transit, of course it’s somewhat “unknown.” Unless of course you use it regularly and know it… And for what it’s worth the rate of crime on mass transit in St. Louis (even after recent incidents) is still very low compared to other transit systems. 5 people were raped on Boston trains in 2014 in a 15% increase in overall crime that included a 35% increase in aggravated assault.

      Apples to oranges, I know, but everyone else is doing it.

      • Kevin

        I think poster has an overall good point about quality of transit in St. Louis, but I agree the Columbia comparison is off.

        Plus, contrary to popular perception, Columbia is actually quite the sprawling city. The city’s rapid population growth clearly took planners by surprise, and a lot of generic automobile-dependent neighborhoods have developed. Yes, downtown and campus are highly accessible, but living in other areas is difficult.

  • Weatherman

    Just because one is not in the arbitrary political boundaries of the “city” doesn’t mean toy can’t call yourself a native St. Louisan

    • Weatherman

      **you** not toy

  • Enjoyable article. Totally on point. But…

    “I am a native St. Louisan, raised in South St. Louis County…”

    Well, you’re not a St. Louis native at all then! (unless, I guess, the time “raised” in the county didn’t begin immediately at your birth and instead your first 2-3 years was spent in the City). 🙂

    • Native St. Louisan

      I appreciate the city pride and all, but Ryan IS a native St. Louisan. His experiences growing up probably included both St. Louis County AND St. Louis City.

      I don’t understand what’s constructive about telling someone they’re not St. Louis enough. Anyone who is as passionate about St. Louis as Ryan has clearly shown–judging from this article–is a native in my book (this coming from someone who grew up within the city boundaries).

      I say this not to confrontational, but just to express how much it sucked having other St. Louisans condemn me for growing up and living in the city. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone else, including people born and raised in St. Louis County. At the end of the day, we’re all one region and in this together.

      • northstar

        I think a lot of city residents blame county residents for emptying the city of its resources and causing the blight city residents now must content with, when countians’ ancestors fled in the 50s and 60s and 70s. They are viewed as traitors, or at least the spawn of traitors. Anti Saint Louisans. That probably isn’t fair to the people of today, but it explains the attitude.

        • Truman

          And hence why county residents don’t take city residents that feel that way toward them very seriously. If wanting a better life for your family with better schools and safer neighbirhoods is a crime then I guess the county dwellers are guilty as charged. Funny how no one ever addresses the major migration to Sunbelt cities or the lack of leadership and vision for more adequate housing in the late 40’s and 50’s by the city drove people to sprawl. But I guess it’s easier for the city crowd to take cheap shots.

          • jhoff1257

            To be fair County residents haven’t really done themselves any favors with their rhetoric towards City residents. Just read a Post-Disptach comment thread on anything regarding the city. I was born and raised in the County and to this day I still hear the same old crap about how all city residents are poor and all city residents are criminals (among a litany of other things). I had teachers in high school telling us about carrying loaded guns around city attractions and telling us to stay away. The attitude is no better out there. Both sides need to grow up and realize this kind of petty shit only weakens us.

          • Truman

            Ya you missed my point completely. It’s not about county vs city, it’s about migration to sunbelt cities, lack of city leadership planning for returns of GI’s wanting to purchase homes, stealing land in Mill Valley from blacks etc. How come these issues are never brought up? You must be very blessed that your life experiences thus far have never made you view the city the same as others that have had very very different experiences.

          • jhoff1257

            Actually I didn’t. You should have made those points in your previous comment instead of talking about not taking the “city crowd” seriously because they like tossing “cheap shots.” A quick mention of sunbelt cities does not make a point.

            Most of the city’s migration went to the county and outer surrounding areas. Did some go to sunbelt cities? Sure, as many people from lots of cities did, but in the grand scheme of things most went to the suburbs, this was the case all over America. It’s called white flight. In the 40s city leaders (around the nation) were expecting significant urban growth which is when we started to see large housing projects popping up and huge urban renewal projects such as the Mill Creek Valley clearance and Pruitt-Igoe. This was what was expected at the time. Then around the 50s deseg, freeways, and government subsidized housing in the suburbs began and the exodus was on. No one at the city level was planning for that and by the time they realized it, it was too late.

            I’m not really sure why you chose to get personal in the end. I’m sorry I’ve never been the victim of a crime in the city? I’m not really sure how to respond to that. Sorry my life experiences have been different from other people. Imagine that.

          • Truman

            It’s cool you don’t agree with my opinion, I don’t need nor seek your approval. I didn’t choose to get personal I was just following your lead when your referenced your disdain for your high school teachers.

          • jhoff1257

            Except I didn’t reference any “disdain.” Simply repeated what a few of them used to tell us. I actually liked my teachers. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything they say. One even told us about taking a loaded gun into Busch Stadium. Still a great history teacher though.

          • Truman

            My bad dude, I thought you implied feelings of disdain with the last 3 sentences of your post. Let it go man you win

          • STLEnginerd

            Every city in America had mass migration to the suburbs. The key
            difference for St. Louis is that unlike many more favorably viewed dense urban
            cities, here no one replaced the ones who left St. Louis. Out-migration, and racial conflict is a
            factor but lack of new foreign born immigrants is what sets us apart from our peer cities. IMHO

          • John R

            A relative lack of immigrants applies to the whole region, btw. Same with domestic in-migration.

          • matimal

            But even St. Louis’ sister cities of Cincy and Pittsburgh had the scale of white flight that St. Louis had. St. Louis’ racial divisions are stronger than in those cities.

          • Brian

            I grew up in north St. Louis and watched my neighbors move out in the late 1960’s for no other reason than black families moved into the neighborhood. The blacks families that moved into the neighborhood were middle class. They held jobs at Rexal Drug, Busman Fuse, the Army installation on Goodfellow, the GM plant on Union, etc. In fact, these were the same places my erstwhile white neighbors worked. When they moved in, there was no increase in crime, neighborhood safety remained the same, and the schools did not go to hell. My family stayed put, one of three families on the block, and the only one with children, to do so. My 4 siblings ranged in age from 12 to 6; I was 9. I lived in the house until I was 25. I was never afraid living there, our house was never burgled, and our car was never stolen. The neighborhood did change over the years. The employers I mentioned above all left St. Louis, taking their middle-class jobs with them. The drug scourge of the ’70’s and ’80’s took their toll. Home prices stayed the same in the neighborhood; unfortunately, the cost of everything else went up. The schools suffered declining enrollment, with the greater portion of the student body coming from poorer families. I do not begrudge someone seeking a better life for themselves and their children. But that was not the case with people who left my old neighborhood. People left because they did not want to live with black people. I do not think of those that left as traitors; rather, I think of them as ignorant, pusillanimous, and pitiful.

          • Yojimbo


          • Truman

            I don’t disagree with anything you mentioned, I am surprised that you know for 100% that the reason everyone left was due to blacks. Not one single family wanted to live in a new bigger home? And it’s definitly not right and I don’t agree with it but Americans have the freedom to live wherever they want, it’s not against the law to not want to live next to a black person, it’s not right but there is nothing illegal about it. And in the end. It doesn’t really matter what you think of those that left for the county because they never think about you.

          • jhoff1257

            “It doesn’t really matter what you think of those that left for the county because they never think about you.”

            Wow. That is an extremely condescending thing to say.

          • matimal

            It’s also untrue.

          • matimal

            Interesting story. What’s it got to do with the article?

      • I guess an emoticon would have played better than a colon-closed parentheses combo. You’re going to make me debate inanities on the internet, aren’t you? Well, I had a good run…

        You’re right, not an issue at all — accept as it relates to the traditionally-accepted definition of the word “native”. The writer is a St. Louisan. He lives in the city of St. Louis, so true. The writer is a native St. Louisan. He was not born/raised in the city of St. Louis, so false.

        Again, not an issue as it relates to city issues and a person’s interest/passion/action thereon. Hell, I’d rather have 60 non-natives who’ve never stepped one foot in the city jump off a bus and go to work making it better, than wade through the tired complaints and historical/cultural prejudices of 600 who’ve lived in St. Louis their whole lives!

        I say be proud of the fact you aren’t a native of an area — it means you’ve worked and grown and explored and experienced, recognizing opportunities and qualities in the place(s) you’ve adopted as home, and in those you’ve met after you arrived.

        There’s nothing inherently good or bad about being a native Lemay-an (or whatever place a person in south St. Louis County may have grown up), just as there’s nothing inherently virtuous or villainous to being born a St. Louisan. Own it, I say, and land where you’re willing.

        In interest of exposure, I was a native Prairie du Rocherian…then an Edwardsvillian, now a Chicagoan and someday a St. Louisan, if the fates allow, where I can put my skills/interests/passions to work in a City for which I feel a deep love and fierce protectionism.


        • Yojimbo

          Give it up! Dude’s a native St. Louisan. Sheesh.

    • RyleyinSTL

      Given the history and dynamics of the region, and the fact that STL City is not part of STL County, I’d have to agree with KevinB. If you don’t live in the city your’re not from the Red Brick Mama.

      • Guest

        Lol…division, division, division. That’s really what’s wrong with St. Louis. Having been born (1949) and raised in Granite City I’ve always considered myself a St. Louisan. We shopped, attended sports games and events, went to the zoo, Shaw’s Garden, etc. etc. etc. in this wonderful city. I now live in St. Louis county but have not lost sight that St. Louis city is the entire area’s raison d’etre. How many suburbs would be here if not for the city of St. Louis? To put her down, to negate her is the same as negating your own mother IMO. What in blazes is wrong with people that can’t see the importance of the city being the center of business, civic activities, urban living and therefore the prime interest in the entire metro area? I really don’t get the ignorance of these people.
        Supporting the city of St. Louis does not mean you have to move to it. But constant bickering and putting it down does incalculable damage…just in case you haven’t noticed.

        • Adam

          I’m seeing where anyone put the city down in the above comments…

          Anyway, while I agree that there are ways to support the city even if you live in the county, the problem is that the vast majority of the county and exurban population thinks that going to an occasional Cards game or going to the zoo a couple times per summer should be sufficient and that their responsibility ends there. Unfortunately it’s not sufficient because the city’s population is no longer proportionate to it’s infrastructure due to suburban flight. The sad truth is that the region will continue to decline—along with the city amenities that suburbanites use—until more people start living, shopping, paying taxes, riding transit, etc. in the city where the majority of the region’s infrastructure exists. There are lots of ways to rationalize one’s choice to live outside of the city, but like it or not the state of the city is directly dependent on that choice.

          • Adam

            sorry, i meant “not seeing”.

          • DollarBill

            “The city amenities that the suburbanites use” You are aware that St. Louis County pays its fair share for the zoo-museum district that isn’t even in its boundaries. County residents are subsidizing city amenities but it’s still never enough for you is it? What do county residents get for their 1% earnings tax they pay for tr privilege of working inside city limits? Maybe the county should start taxing city residents that work in the county.

          • Adam

            i’m aware. your comment hits on the point i was making—many suburban/exurban residents feel no responsibility beyond the minimum amount that they’re forced to contribute. and many seem not to recognize or care that as St. Louis City goes, so goes the rest of the metro. county residents USE the zoo and museums so it’s not like you’re subsidizing it just for city residents. and the 1% helps pay for the streets that you use when you drive into the city and the stoplights that maintain order on the streets; the city employees who empty the sidewalk garbage cans that you throw your lunch trash into; the police department that tries to maintain order while you’re here for work or for a Cards game; homeless services that cater to the county’s homeless that get dropped off in the city by county police; etc. etc. the daily migration of suburban residents into the city is much larger than the reverse, and suburban residents put considerably more stress on city infrastructure than city residents do, collectively, on county infrastructure. i guess the alternative is to put toll booths on all roads and highways into the city and to charge non-city-residents admission for entrance to the zoo and museums.

          • DollarBill

            I think that would be a great idea to charge museum admission, that way St. Charles,
            JeffCo and Metro East users can pay their fair share too. Same goes for toll roads. And as for the Cards games, all professional sports teams are required to pay off duty officers or pay for extra on duty officers for their security, so city residents certainly are not on the hook for that. The entitlement attitude you have will not get you far in life. You cannot force people to “feel” responsible, especially when you come off so abrasive. Funnel that passion into being positive. You get more bees with honey than vinegar.

          • Adam

            i’m sorry you’re so easily abraded. unfortunately the “honey” boat sailed a long time ago—i’m not worried about attracting older suburbanites back to the city. it’s never gonna happen. and you’re right: most are never going “feel” responsible for anything other than their half-acre of land out in Fenton or wherever because “FREEDOM!”. it’s sad, really. the future of the city is in the hands of younger generations who, like myself, were raised in cars and despise the isolation and wastefulness of suburban life (although i would say i’m on the cusp age-wise as i’m 37).

            i do think it’s funny that your concept of entitlement doesn’t include sprawling on government-subsidized highways using government subsidized fuel, wastefully abandoning ring after ring of the metro’s core for ever-farther-flung government-subsidized subdivisions in order to escape poor people. but whatever. sure sucks that MODOT is using city residents’ tax dollars to fund highway expansion in Chesterfield and St. Charles instead of for transit that city residents might actually use.

          • DollarBill

            Oh I’m not easily abraded, I’m honestly just trying to hear you. I never said you were worried about attracting older suburbanites back to the city, I myself am about a decade younger than you. I’m also not sure why you thought my concept of entitlement didn’t included sprawling on government subsided highways using government subsidiEd fuel, I never said that or anything close. I’m also confused how you came to the conclusion that MODOT was using city residents tax dollars to fund highway expansions in Chesterfield and St. Charles, last I checked they were using all state taxpayers money, has this changed? I sense you are angry at non city dwellers but it’s hard to understand your points when you seem to jump to conclusions and assume I have views that I never stated. I’m also concerned that if you are so judgmental about people who live in Fenton, because freedom? Maybe you should work towards are more socialist government or find a country that would suit your needs. Freedom is just something that’s not going away anytime soon.

          • Adam

            Bill, I didn’t express any assumptions about you, actually. Read again. My comment about attracting older suburbanites back to the city stemmed from your comment about attracting flies with honey. The point was that the city needs an infusion of people who give a damn, and that’s not going to come from those who abandoned the city to sprawl out to St. Charles in the first place, which comprise primarily people of my parents’ generation and their parents’ generation, and now includes some of their children. So I’m not really worried about offending those people when I talk about the wastefulness and selfishness of sprawl. They’re the same people who complain about having to pay for using the city’s infrastructure on a daily basis and to—god forbid—maintain civic and cultural institutions for the good of people other than themselves, while regularly using infrastructure that is paid for in part by city residents (a.k.a. also state tax payers). That’s hypocrisy. It’s sad that “freedom” is so often used as an excuse for selfishness and rampant, destructive consumption. And Bill, you complained about county residents having to pay the 1% and the zoo museum tax and then called me entitled for suggesting that it’s equally unfair that city residents have to pay for county infrastructure. What conclusion should I have drawn other than that you think county residents are entitled to the subsidies they receive (which enables sprawl) while city residents are not?

    • moorlander

      Native St. Louisians include those born in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. A wider and still acceptable definition would include the entire St. Louis Region.