View from this ‘Polar Express’ train ride not so jolly for families, riders say

A staple holiday attraction for families in St. Louis is leaving some guests feeling less than jolly. (Source: KMOV)
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 10:58 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV/Gray News) – A staple holiday attraction for families in St. Louis is leaving some guests feeling less than jolly.

The Polar Express train ride at St. Louis Union Station has been a fan-favorite attraction for years, carrying visitors through a winter wonderland along the riverfront.

However, Chris Nagus, a former KMOV journalist, noticed something else while on the ride with his family.

Nagus said he saw a mess outside his train window, looking out at trash, construction debris, and vacant buildings on either side of the railroad tracks.

He also noted that many riders on the train were out-of-town visitors, which he called “embarrassing.”

“What kind of story are people telling about St. Louis? I can’t imagine it’s a positive one.”

Nagus posted video of the mess on X, formerly known as Twitter, tagging Mayor Tishaura Jones and Aldermanic President Megan Green.

“Why do we put up with this?” he wrote in the post. “Do we want people to come back?”

The post sparked a discussion about vacant properties and city policies. Green replied with a thread highlighting the challenges of dealing with vacant buildings, also hinting at new legislation that could come out of an upcoming meeting with the Vacancy Collaborative.

Green’s office told KMOV she was not available for an interview on Monday.

“I think people want to see local leaders be vocal about this policy,” Nagus said. “It’s not just a tourism issue. It’s a quality of life issue.”

Business owners along the route had also been disappointed with the property along the northern riverfront.

Greg Jordan, the owner of Jordan’s Warehouse, said he had invested in the area more than 12 years ago, believing in its potential.

While he said he believed in his business and in the future of the neighborhood, he was also concerned about the number of crumbling industrial buildings bordering his property. One building was currently undergoing demolition.

“In many cities, this would be prime real estate,” he said. “There are quite a few issues that, in time, will be corrected. We’re doing our part to improve things in a positive way.”

Nagus said he hoped that drawing attention to the problems downtown would help get the problem fixed.

“As someone who cares about this area, I’m tired of it,” he said. “I think we can do better as a region.”

Polar Express St. Louis sent a statement to KMOV about Nagus’ post, writing:

“Union Station is creating activities and making destinations that bring people downtown. Some of our visitors may be experiencing downtown for the first time thanks to these activities.

We are having a record-breaking season on the trains, with thousands of families making holiday memories this season.

We hope that the City of St. Louis continues to work on solutions for the unhoused, especially at this time of year.

Enjoying the holidays in a safe environment is our priority. The riverfront area encampment has no practical impact on the excursions as passengers do not get on or off of the train in that area.”