Uber Dispute Leads to Nasty Words, "Douche" Allegation From Taxi Commission Chair

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Scott L
Taxi drivers in Chicago protest Uber.

Last night, St. Louis Metropolitan Taxi Commission Chairman Lou Hamilton sniped on Twitter that fellow commissioner Chris Sommers was "an insufferable douche" and suggested Sommers should go to work as a lobbyist for Uber.

Sommers, in response, jabbed at Hamilton for his affiliation with Jeff Roorda, the former police union honcho, Darren Wilson apologist and failed candidate for state senate. Oh, and he made fun of Hamilton's previously reported affinity for outfitting his SUV with red lights and a siren.

This, apparently, is what Twitter does to grown men -- Twitter, and a high-stakes battle over whether Uber can enter the St. Louis market.

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Uber Says Regulators Blocking Plan to Give St. Louis Free Rides This Weekend (UPDATED)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr//State Farm
Uber plans to offer free rides in St. Louis for the July 4th weekend.

UPDATE at 1:20 p.m. on July 1: The Metropolitan Taxi Commission has responded to Uber's offer -- and free rides will not be happening in St. Louis this weekend. We've updated our story and headline accordingly.

Scroll to the bottom of the story for the very latest.

Original story follows.

UberX could be coming to St. Louis as early as tomorrow -- whether regulators are ready or not. And for this weekend only, the rides would be free.

That's the sales pitch made by the ridesharing app's general manager in a letter to the Metropolitan Taxi Commission on Monday, offering to give free lifts to riders throughout St. Louis city and county from Thursday, July 2 to Sunday, July 5. All Uber needs to extend its generosity, the letter suggests, is the commission's blessing.

But for Uber, that has proved the trickiest part of all. The company has stated for a few months now that it's ready to set up shop in the area -- but it has yet to get regulatory approval. It fears an impasse on two key issues: the type of background checks performed on drivers, and whether those drivers must undergo drug tests.

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Parking Rates Increase in St. Louis This Week -- But Here Are 3 Reasons That Doesn't Suck

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Peter Roome
Meter rates will go up to $1.50 an hour in downtown St. Louis as of July 1.

First off, the bad news: The rate for parking at a meter in St. Louis is going up this Wednesday, July 1. So is the cost of a parking violation.

Previously, a parking fine in the city cost $10 if you paid promptly. Now it will be $15. And while meters used to charge $1 an hour to park downtown, and 75 cents in the rest of the city, as of Wednesday, they'll charge $1.50 an hour in high-demand areas (which includes downtown) and $1 elsewhere.

So that's the bad news. But after talking to Jared Boyd, chief of staff and counsel for the St. Louis City Treasurer's Office, we're convinced things aren't quite as bad as they could be. Here are three silvery linings tucked into those higher rates:

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St. Louis Decision on UberX Up in the Air for Another Month

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Jason Devaun
Uber has drivers signed up and ready to go -- but needs permission to enter the St. Louis market.

The Metropolitan Taxi Commission, or MTC, which governs cab drivers in both the city and county, met yesterday to ponder the UberX question -- basically, whether to allow Uber's ride-sharing app entry to the St. Louis market.

St. Louis is the largest city in the country without UberX, and the company had been hoping to set up shop here by the July 4 weekend. Sagar Shah, Uber's general manager for the St. Louis area, says that drivers are all signed up (in some cases, they're already driving in Metro East, where UberX is allowed) and ready to go.

But after today's meeting, the company has no more clarity on the situation than it had before, Shah says.

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MetroLink Passengers Stuck on Train with Belligerent Drunk (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of a MetroLink passenger
Above, a man suspected of drunkenly causing an altercation on the Blue Line is finally taken away by EMS at the Shrewsbury station.
UPDATE: We updated this post around 1:50 p.m. with new info from the St. Louis County Police Department. See update at the bottom of the post. We also updated around 6:45 p.m. with additional eyewitness information about the fight.

Original story follows....

An incident on MetroLink's Blue Line turned ugly last week, when a drunk man making racial slurs apparently hassled a woman exiting the train at its Brentwood station. She whacked him with her purse, a witness tells Daily RFT, and made it off the train.

But another passenger was fed up with the man's belligerence, says the witness. That passenger clocked the intoxicated man.

And that's when things got really screwy.

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What To Expect When Construction Begins on Delmar Loop Roundabout, Trolley

Courtesy of Loop Trolley
With fewer than two weeks before construction starts on the long-debated Loop Trolley, project organizers released details Wednesday about what drivers and pedestrians can expect.

Construction on the $43 million, 2.2-mile trolley line connecting the Delmar Loop with Forest Park begins March 23 with the installation of a permanent roundabout at Trinity Avenue and Delmar Boulevard.

The roundabout on the west end of the Loop is designed to improve traffic flow in and out of the popular Delmar Boulevard business district, which was named by the American Planning Association as one of the ten greatest streets in America. The roundabout will sit between University City's famous Lion Gates, two pylons topped with a sculpted lion and tiger in 1909, before Delmar Boulevard was a paved road.

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Loop Trolley Construction Will Start in March

The Loop Trolley should be ready for riders in late 2016.
After years of planning, lawsuits and hold-ups, construction on the Loop Trolley is expected to start next month.

Construction on the $43 million, 2.2-mile trolley line connecting the Loop with Forest Park begins in March with the installation of a permanent, landscaped roundabout at Delmar Boulevard and Trinity Avenue to replace the traffic circle that now manages traffic near University City's lion gates and public library.

Once the roundabout is built, workers will begin laying the trolley track in late May, starting in the Loop near Kingsland Avenue. Cars will still be able to drive through the Loop business district during construction.

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Loop Trolley Project Hits Small Delay When Bids Come In $11 Million Over Budget

Loop Trolley
This is what the Loop Trolley should look like when it opens in 2016.
Loop Trolley project organizers are changing their strategy after the first round of bids for the project came back $11 million over budget.

Contracts for electrical and track work for the $43 million, 2.2-mile trolley line are going back out for another round of bidding, this time in smaller, more streamlined packages designed to save money, says project manager Chris Poehler.

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Trains Filled with Explosive Crude Oil Will Stop Traveling Through St. Louis

Paul Sableman on Flickr
A Union Pacific train rolls through St. Louis.
Trains filled with the same explosive oil that leveled a Canadian town will no longer run through the city of St. Louis, much to the relief of St. Louis' fire chief and a group of residents organizing against the tankers.

"We just won round one," says Timothy Christian, a member of the newly formed St. Louis for Safe Trains, a group composed of mostly Holly Hills residents who first fought back against the dangerous trains. "I brag about the south side all the time. This is what is right. This is what needed to be fixed."

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Bigger, Bendy Buses Roll Out on Grand Route Today to Ease Crowding

Meet St. Louis' newest public transit vehicle, the articulated, 60-foot bus.
Whether you drive along Grand Boulevard or catch the No. 70 Grand Line bus, you'll notice something new on your commute this morning.

St. Louis Metro Transit debuts its new 60-foot articulated buses -- which look like two regular buses linked by a pivoting joint -- on Monday to ease overcrowding on the region's busiest bus line. The buses are twenty feet longer and accommodate 25 percent more passengers than the route's former buses. The buses also have 14 more seats and more standing room than Metro's (now) second-largest buses.

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