St Louis Doesn't Suck (St. Louis, Chesterfield: construction, living, cost of living)
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I've lived in St. Louis, New Orleans, and now Washington, D.C., and I have to say that St. Louis DOES have the worst traffic I have *ever* seen. Have you tried commuting between downtown or Clayton and the West County burbs on a daily basis? I lived in Chesterfield, and my commute was HELL every day. I've seen 27-car-pileups (like the one on 64 back in Feb/March of this year), and I've seen minor accidents, but the worst part was when there was nothing. No accident, no construction -- the traffic just didn't *move* for hours. It didn't matter whether I woke up at 6 am or 7 am -- I was always late for work. Not only does DC have a better public transportation system, but even my *drive* between Foggy Bottom and Rockville is not half as bad as my commute between Chesterfield and downtown St. Louis. I was in tears just about every day on I-64 E. There is simply no excuse for St. Louis (of all places) to have that kind of traffic -- it's not even a huge city with tons of businesses!
I guess the area is nice for families because you can afford a nicer house than most areas of the country, but the cost of activities kind of evened that out for us. For example, my kid had been to the free zoo a billion times; no one wants to go to the zoo every day. We visited every museum in the city many, many times. Thus, the only thing for us to do was go to the Chesterfield Mall every weekend... like every other suburbanite in the world... and waste money. I tried getting involved with other parents at my kid's school, but they weren't interested in doing anything other than "hanging out at the mall" or "Boy/Girl scouts" either. I wasn't a fan of that culture. I did have friends in the city, but they were all single and childless. I could not make friends with ANY parent at all (which isn't the greatest situation if you have kids...).
The only thing I really loved about the area was the people. Much like New Orleans, the people in St. Louis are the nicest, most open-minded people I've ever met. I didn't fit in with them at all, but they were nevertheless completely accepting and tolerant. It was a strange situation... I was bored to death, but frequently humbled by the random acts of kindness I encountered.
^You are absolutely crazy to say St. Louis has worse traffic than
DC! Of course it depends on where you live, but look at both areas as a side by side comparison, and no person in their right mind would say DC has better traffic. DC is also commonly cited as having the worst traffic in the US. You would never in a million years see St. Louis top that list or probably be anywhere on it at all. Of course DC has better public transportation...but also a few million more people in a similarly sized geographic area. How could traffic possibly be better?
I don't know about the rest of your post since I don't have
kids but I'm curious - what's so different about parents in Rockville? I have a friend I visit out there and it's the same basic cookie cutter suburbia as Chesterfield, though nicer near the metro.
the traffic here can suck depending on when you're driving to work...and I don't want to church it up or anything, but whoever was heading up the I-64 revamp failed miserably. I can remember the week it was done expecting a nice smooth drive from downtown STL back towards Creve Coeur but instead was greeted with a bottleneck at Hampton through McCausland, then heavy volume between McCausland and I-170. There was volume again by the time I'd reach I-270, and thank god I wasn't going further West where the "suck" would have continued...My commute into work at 5:30 in the morning was cake though, but you're barely sharing the road with anyone so i'd expect it to be.
There are suburban activities to do, but having kids will typically mean that your time is engrossed by the kiddos (ask how i know). As a result, finding activities to do outside the house with the kids in tow can be somewhat more limited, and I could see the Mall as being a "copout" but I don't know if it's the "only" choice available...probably just the easiest for people to come up with...heck, when I'm sitting at home watching the little one, my first thought of a place to go will be the mall...especially when I just want to get out of the house, and walk around...I could go to the park too, or simply for a drive, but...why save all that hard earned money I've made? LOL.
I can't speak for the DC-Northern Virginia commute (which I've heard is extremely bad), but DC to Rockville is definitely much faster than my commute between Chesterfield and Clayton (and later Chesterfield and downtown).
I find the culture of the parents dramatically different. In DC, they take their kids to farmers' markets, the dozens of free museums, musical avenues, art galleries, cheap & authentic ethnic restaurants, etc. The rent is horrible in DC, but the low cost of doing things somewhat make up for it. Again, the public transportation option allows you to hop on the metro and go anywhere.
The rent is lower in St. Louis, but the cost of doing things is much higher (mainly because the number of free venues is much lower, and like I said, most of the parents I knew spent their time at over-priced chain restaurants and shopped at the mall as entertainment). I accepted the mall invites sometimes, but every time I tried to bond via having "real" conversations (i.e. observing people, or talking about current affairs/movies/books, etc.), they weren't all that interested and just wanted to chat about kids/family life/cooking/cleaning (which I am personally not interested in). I would never call them boring -- just different interests, I guess.
I have a lot more to talk about with DC parents, but they're not as nice or welcoming as the parents I knew in Chesterfield, and they tend to brag about their money/prestige or get extremely nasty if you disagree with them politically. They are very, very liberal, and their brand of liberalism is nothing even the most liberal people in St. Louis would be familiar with. My liberal friends in St. Louis voted for Obama and believe in big government programs, but they tend not to "go nasty." The liberals I know in DC go right for the personal attacks (which I find very distasteful), and they have insane conspiracy theories where they think like, even moderate Republicans are "evil" and trying to "take away people's rights." I found the religious climate to be similar. I'm not religious, but my St. Louis friends generally left me alone in that area. In DC, I'm shocked by my fellow agnostics -- they trash even mainstream Christians in a manner that I find downright hateful -- swearing and trash-talking as if they are teeny-boppers instead of 45 year old women. They're well-read, they've traveled extensively, and they have a lot of prestigious degrees to their names, but if you disagree with them, it's like off with your head :-/
Last edited by yahmiefan; 12-17-2011 at 12:56 PM..
^Your observations are likely accurate but it depends on the circle of people you hang out with. I have friends in St. Louis city who have kids and love doing those things you said (farmers markets, ethnic food) but parents in Chesterfield are probably different. It wasn't clear from your posts but do you live in Rockville or Foggy Bottom?
Differing preferences and perspectives are an interesting thing. I actually like DC's secular liberal culture - and it extends outside the city limits more than it does in St. Louis where by the time you get out to Chesterfield it is largely all Republican.
I agree that St. Louis traffic is terrible. I think it's almost as bad as Chicago's, but Chicago covers more area, so if you have to get from one side of town to the other, it takes longer in Chicago. I am not an engineer, but it seems to me the reason it's so bad here is that the highways are poorly designed. As someone else mentioned, 64 is pretty unimpressive..(by the way, what other city would just shut down the WHOLE highway for a year?..I have never heard of such a thing). The area where you jump on to 170 from Hanley is a mess. There are always people left in the middle after the light has changed, honking, fingers flashing, etc. They shut the whole darn thing down, and that is the best they could do?
Actually, i'm very much in favor of the shutdown. Folks found alternate routes that might have added a couple minutes to a commute, but not much. I wasn't so much of a fan of the re-striping job that was performed on I-70 and I-44 to accommodate the increase in traffic. While the extra lanes were probably necessary, the way the covered the previous stripes and painted new ones left raised areas in the roadway, could be hazardous for a motorcycle (ask how I know). When they removed the stripes, they've left large gashes in the pavement where the previous stripe was, only slightly unsafe for bikes. What I disliked more, was that in the early morning, and especially during the rain, both sets of stripes were visible (the old stripes, and the new stripes). I'd commute to work before traffic was even remotely heavy, but It was pretty common for me to see folks who weren't actually in lanes, they were just hanging out.
As to shutting down a highway, it proved to be pretty efficient and got the project completed before schedule and under budget! Both good accomplishments as far as I'm concerned. The issue was the design of the highway, and the lack of major expansions. The new I-170 interchange is an improvement, but the area leading up to it is the same ole' same ole' congestion magnet it was before the redo.
Yes, our options for a Hwy 40 rebuild were 1 year with each section entirely shut down or 10 years of constant construction. I vastly prefer the former option.
Also, honestly everyone knows DC is positively top tier when it comes to free activities, but St. Louis has some of the best free attractions in the country! It's truly something that an emphasis is placed on, and it's very impressive. I'm sorry you ended up at Chesterfield Mall a lot, but I imagine that's easy enough to fall into in any suburban area. I could never get bored with all of St. Louis' free activities -- it's far and beyond just the Zoo (and again, the fact that such an incredible zoo -- Zagat's has called it the best in the country -- is free, is a truly amazing thing about St. Louis).
In addition to the zoo, other free activities in St. Louis include:
The Science Center
The Art Museum
The History Museum
Laumeier Sculpture Garden
The Museum of Westward Expansion
The Old Courthouse
The World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park
The Muny has 1,500 free seats set aside for every show
The Cathedral Basilica (Ok, sure it's a $1 admission, but to see the world's largest collection of mosaics, I think a buck is totally worth it)
Our Lady of the Snows
Scott Joplin House
Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts
Not free, but awesome nonetheless:
The City Museum
The Magic House
Museum of Transportation
Missouri Botanical Garden (one of the oldest in the US and a National Historic Landmark)
Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor (Schnucks sells family packs of season passes -- going just twice all summer pays for itself!)
Compton Hill Water Tower
And theater! And live music!
The Muny -- the nation's largest outdoor ampitheater and one of it's oldest
The Repertory Theater
And now we've got the old Kiel Opera house renovated and running! (Now called Peabody Opera House)
Anheauser-Busch brewery tours
That doesn't even count all the Blues, Cardinals and Rams games (81 Cards games alone! -- many of them day games and very inexpensive now with dynamic pricing)
Wowza, I need to save that list. St. Louis rocks.
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