Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

St. Louis Struggles With an Old Question: “Why Go Downtown at All?”

3:13 PM PST on December 9, 2015

Alex Ihnen at NextSTL uncovered this video from a 1965 television program about traffic and commuting in the St. Louis region. Noting the growing number of businesses in the suburbs with "free parking," the narrator asks, "Who needs to go downtown at all?" This leads to a vision of the future that turned out to be eerily accurate:

On the surface at least, this question seems to suggest a realistic and sensible solution to the problem of all-day parking and rush hour traffic in the central business district of any big city. Why go downtown at all? Why, indeed.

Just the same, many of us will have the uneasy feeling that this solution is almost too easy, that there’s a hint of danger in it, the threat perhaps of some kind of social disorganization on an enormous scale.

The suburbs surround what we have long thought of as the central city, the core area, but what will happen to the surrounding belt of suburbs if this core simply disintegrates and then vanishes? Could the suburban belt just go on expanding forever leaving a bigger and bigger circle of nothing much in the middle, a bigger and bigger hole in the doughnut?

Ihnen says the video presages the hollowing out of St. Louis, which lost about 60 percent of its residents since the time this video was shot. And to an unfortunate extent, the question at the center of the video is still relevant today, he writes:

We continue to talk about rapid transit expansion (a new MetroLink line), and urban transit in the form of streetcars and buses. We continue to preach the necessity of a strong urban core. We continue to complain about traffic and parking. What’s been learned, what’s changed in half a century?

Why are we still asking “Why go downtown at all”?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Transit Blog reports that the city might cancel the transit portion of the deep-bore underground highway project that was sold as a "tunnel plus transit" plan. Naked City considers whether Charlotte can become more walkable and bikeable. And Streets.mn presents a four-part proposal for growing the Nice Ride bike share system.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Los Angeles

Solis Motion Demands Community Benefits for Stadium Gondola to Proceed

A motion from Supervisor Solis would require the gondola project commit to many community benefits - from robust, affordable housing to truly committing to using no public funds

February 22, 2024

SGV Connect 121: El Monte and South El Monte, with ActiveSGV and Libros Monte

Podcast features ActiveSGV's David Diaz on various multimodal/complete streets projects - and Pedro Gonzales on Libros Monte and Mt. SAC's El Centro: Latinx Student Program

February 20, 2024

This Week In Livable Streets

CicLAvia, Metro lower 710 Freeway widening plan, C Line construction, Alternative Traffic Enforcement at Transportation Committee, street racing, and more

February 20, 2024
See all posts