Home » Events/Meetings »Public Transit » Currently Reading:

North & South Transit Study Meeting Notes

June 14, 2006 Events/Meetings, Public Transit 23 Comments

Yesterday I made it to the first of three public meetings to be held this week on the subject of future transit in St. Louis with expansion to both North & South St. Louis. They study is now in month five of 18 months. Very little new information was shared although this is the first time the public is being shown routes different than those that came out of the earlier study back in 2000.

As a small aside, it was nice of PR Consultant Laurna Godwin of Vector Communications to make sure I got a “Media Kit.” As a result I was able to download the images you see below rather than rely on my photographic skills to take pictures of presentation boards.

Regular readers know I am critical of the plan to run light rail down our streets. Not that I don’t like in-street transit. Quite the opposite, I am a huge fan of in-street mixed traffic modern streetcars (not slow heritage/vintage streetcars). I don’t like the light rail in street concept because it creates dedicated lanes and because everywhere except downtown it will require a fixed median which I believe will make it too challenging to bring back once thriving commercial streets where ever the lines passes. Advocates say it is a necessity to get the reduction in travel time to both get funding for the system and to attract riders. For now I’m going to leave this debate for another day with a few exceptions below.

The first meeting was held last night on the Northside at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, the site of the old Sportsman Park baseball stadium (history) and next door to the once thriving but now closed Carter Carburetor factory.

Another meeting will be held tonight, June 14, 2006 from 3:30pm to 6pm downtown (906 Olive) and then a third on Thursday evening, June 15, 2006, from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (Monsanto Research, 4500 Shaw). Click here for more info.

Northside Study Area:

Northside - Natural bridge Avenue.jpgAt right is the “locally preferred route” that came out of an earlier study way back in 2000. This is relatively straight forward and serves many areas on both sides of the line.

As with the South route, it is assumed the line will be extended one day into St. Louis County. These routes are simply a “small start” to quote the funding program. The intent is to get to the highway, I-70 in this case, with a park & ride lot.

In most places N. Florissant is quite wide and Natural Bridge is far wider than it needs to be. These are both results of earlier street widening projects (likely from the 1923 bond issue). These streets were likely packed prior to I-70 opening but now these seem like ghost towns despite quite a bit of activity in the area.

At this point the study team doesn’t know how they’d get from Natural Bridge to I-70 or where a park & ride lot would be located. The most logical choice for such a lot is at Goodfellow but last I heard the city was trying to redevelop that into a Home Depot and other big box suburban-style sprawl.

The dashed line shown at the end indicates connection to another railroad right-of-way that has potential to get a line out to the Westport area. The end of the line at this point is also not too far from the existing MetroLink line just to the West so it really has the potential of connecting up in several ways. This is good as not everyone in this area is necessarily seeking to head downtown. Having future options for multiple directions is very good.

Northside - Florissant Avenue.jpgThis alternative isn’t much of a real choice. I almost wonder if it was done simply because of the number of Southside alternates?

The problem here is that N. Florissant becomes very narrow North of Natural Bridge. I can’t imagine this working without having to widen streets and potentially take private property. The other issue is when you get further North you are basically serving cemeteries on one side and last time I checked dead folks don’t ride transit (they do, however, still seem to be able to vote…). The team was quick to point out these negatives in their presentations.

Don’t look for this alternative to go anywhere except the trash can.

Downtown Area:

Downtown - 9th:10th One-Way Pair:Couplet.jpgHere the blue line represents the current MetroLink system in tunnels under downtown and the red line is a proposed street-level route. This would place two lines on Clark & Convention Plaza (can we please call this Delmar once again) with a couplet on 9th & 10th.

Both 9th & 10th are currently one-way and in the downtown traffic study from December it was determined it would be “inappropriate” to change them back to one-way. I wonder if this study team has talked with the traffic study consultants on the impact of making some of these streets essentially off limits to cars? I should know more after this afternoon’s meeting.

This line makes a bit of a detour to pick up riders in more of the CBD (Central Business District) but does so in a much better way than the next alternative.

Downtown - Olive Chestnut Single-Track Loop.jpgUnlike the prior version, this alternative seems like it is going out of the way. Sure, if you work (or live) along the little loop then you are probably fine with the diversion but if you live to the North of here and work to the South you want to have more of a straight shot through. However, I’ll have to check because I think the concept might be that the North & South lines each make a loop and return to their own direction. Thus, if you lived North but worked South you’d need to switch trains downtown.

The route in the 2000 study included Washington Avenue but nobody is prepared to suggest we rip up the very costly paving bricks. Taking away parking for transit would also kill the street.

Southside Study Area:

Southside - Chouteau Avenue to Union Pacific Right-of-Way.jpgThis was the preferred local route back in 2000. It comes out of downtown in-street along Tucker or 14th and then takes Chouteau Ave West to just past Grand before heading into the Union Pacific right-of-way. The study team is still not sure how they’d get from Chouteau down to the right-of-way. Perhaps rebuild the bridge over the tracks, you know, the one nearly completely rebuilt.

Anyway, this route has some pluses and minuses. Again, I like in-street but I don’t like the medians & fences that would block one side of a street from another. Therefore, I still prefer this route to get to South County. It totally sucks for serving many of St. Louis’ more dense neighborhoods such as Tower Grove East and Benton Park.

The idea is to end at a park & ride lot near I-55 and Loughborough, the location of the new Loughborough Commons sprawlcenter. I can imagine by the time we get this line built this new shopping center will be ready to be razed anyway and then we can do a nice high-density TOD (transit oriented development) on the site.

Southside - Chouteau Avenue to Grand Avenue.jpgThis alternative is a take off on the one above. At Chouteau the line would turn down Grand. Say goodbye to the newly installed planters down the middle of Grand from I-44 to Arsenal. Also, say goodbye to on-street parking South of Arsenal. Wait, that will never happen. Say goodbye to this alternative because it just won’t happen.

Southside - Gravois Avenue to Union Pacific Right-of-Way.jpgGaining favor in many circles is this alternative which would use Gravois to cut through the South Side, picking up many potential riders. I love the route —- for a modern streetcar. I cringe at the thought of Gravois having a big median and fence down the the middle.

Southside - Bus Rapid Transit along Union Pacific Right-of-Way .jpgThe last of the alternatives is not for light rail but what is called BRT, or Bus Rapid Transit. This is basically a super bus which could very well look more like a rail vehicle than a typical bus. This alternative has the bus running out Market to Forest Park Parkway, down Grand, over on Chouteau and then into the Union Pacific right-of-way where it would run on a new private road.

Frankly, I’d like to see the BRT follow the Gravois route above. Use one of the new vehicles that looks like a modern streetcar/light rail vehicle. Give it overhead wires, basically everything except the rail in the street. This would leave Gravois more open feeling while still moving more people in a modern form.

The North & South routes are roughly 8-10 miles each for a total line of 16-20 miles. At realistic estimates of $30 million per mile we are looking at a good $480-$600 million of which the feds would kick in up to half (maybe more but we can’t assume that). So, we’d need to ruffle the local sofa pillows to find $240-$300 million. Sales tax in the city can’t cover this, we need support of St. Louis County. But, it remains to be seen if they will help fund the expansion of the system in the city only. That is where the new park & ride lots come into play, something for the county voter to use. Also, they have the promise of future expansion into the county.

But I wonder how much revenue the City of St. Louis could muster. Could we, for example, come up with $100 million in sales tax revenue to fund a modern streetcar line without going through all the federal red tape? Right now the study team is suggesting the earliest construction could start is in 10 years. I’ll be nearly 50 before we start construction on the next line? Sorry, but that just seems like too far away. What could we, as a City & County, do with our $300 million in local funds? That would build some mighty fine modern streetcar lines with completion in less than 10 years. One line out Gravois to connect with the Shrewsbury station of MetroLink and another North out of downtown along N. Florissant/Natural Bridge or along MLK. Either one could connect with existing MetroLink as well. Yes, it will take the commuter longer to get from their ranch house in the ‘burbs to a Cardinals game but is that a fair trade off for a system built sooner and for less money?

– Steve


Currently there are "23 comments" on this Article:

  1. tom says:

    Nice summary.However, your last paragraph reminds me of the 1994 argument of why we should proceed with Cross County without federal funding. In 1994 it was “For $325 million would could building the line in four or five years without federal funding.” I supported that notion and along with many others, was proven wrong. Go after the federal money, make Kit Bond produce for transit. Also, keep the transit partnership with St. Louis county going by seeking a common agenda. I would hate for the city to go it alone.

  2. Jim Zavist says:

    Without the $$$$, these will be just more studies gathering dust on shelf . . .

  3. Jon says:

    Three comments:

    1. Both downtown loop options miss the mark. One only connects north south, the other only east west. Take the first option shown above. The current line already gives 8th street access. Why not run the loop all the way out too 14th? Why provide access to such a narrow area? The purpose of building a downtown loop is to both connect the differing lines, but it is also to make downtown a better place to live, make it possible to live out at 18th street and get to your office down on 4th street. Neither of the propsals do much of anything to improve this situation. Very poor…

    2. Not sure about the southside study. I too perfer the Gravois line, as it does hit up the important near-southside dense neighborhoods. Seems like in street lines have worked well elsewhere, like Minneapolis, where it runs through city streets downtown with few problems. And low floor cars also would help too.

    3. As for funding, I am sure you know that St. Louis City passed the last tax increase for metrolink, but because the county didn’t, the tax has not been collected. Maybe we could just collect the city portion of the increase? Wonder how much that would provide to get these city lines built? As for making sure the county park-n-riders pay, just charge for commuter parking, like any other rail system or make sure the fair from say the Goodfellow and 70 station is the highest on that line.

  4. MH says:

    In a perfect world, we would see both of the last two options through South City get built and we would truly have transit options for a large portion of the South Side.

    This north / south line to me is a no-brainer, and if Metro can’t make this work, in my opinion the system as a whole is a failure. Our current single direction line is good (going to the airport was a truly great decision), but a lot of city residents north and south who would actually use the system don’t and can’t due to the location. The single north and south line still isn’t enough, but would be a great start.

  5. Tom says:

    The city portion of the quarter-cent sales tax it passed in 1997 would yield about $8 million per year, not near enough to pay the shortfall on the bonds for Cross County, plus the increased operating costs of CC, much less a city-only MetroLink/streetcar expansion.

    We need a major exansion program, state assistance would not be bad as well like Colorado as well as flexing highway dollars to transit such as Oregon.

    I have long believed elected leaders are far behind the wishes of the public on transportation.

  6. Jason says:

    I probably wont be the first to use any form of mass transit until one of two things happens. 1. Its more convenient to use the Bus or Train than to drive my own car.
    2. Its a more pleasurable experience.

    I know alot of people that feel this way. What they need to be working on is how this can become a venue for tourism. I think the Gravois route with a streetcar system lends itself well to this idea. I know I would love to ride a streetcar up gravois to get downtown.

    Right now it takes me 15 minutes to get door to door. If i were to take the bus I can guarantee that it would increase to 1/2 hour or more. One question, why in some of the plans does the north and south line run more east and west?

  7. IMHO, ALL of these options suck. light rail belongs underground or elevated or in its own right-of-way. period. Running huge Metro-Stink trains down the middle of a major street through neighborhoods and cutting off one side from the other is just asinine.

    Railed vehicles operating in a street with traffic are called STREETCARS, and if Metro wants to run trains in the streets this is the ONLY option that should be explored.
    Added benefit would be that it should be cheaper to contruct and serve a more useful purpose.

    And what’s with that big squiggly line crayoned on a map by a 3 year old they call “southside”?? It totally avoids EVERY AREA I would call desireable to have transit to in the “south side”. Am I going to take a MetroStink train to go buy lumber at the new Loughboroh center? um, no.
    Would I want to hop on a streetcar to get over to Grand S Grand for some Pho Grand? Hell yeah.

    Agree with Jason too. Right now my commute takes ~25 minutes. By transit it would take over 2.5 hours, EACH WAY.

  8. I would have to agree that running light rail down streets would kill pedestrian traffic… literally! Streetcars would work much better.

    I use Metrolink every day during the school year, and I find it great, however most of you will notice that the land it travels through is not pedestrian oriented. Sadly, most of it is actually quite undesirable for any use, which is why it was chosen.

    Light rail belongs underground, raised as a monorail, or in greenspace along the street like Forest Park Parkway.

    The speed of Metrolink would have to be reduced even further in pedestrian areas. Whats the point? Get streetcars.

    As Jim pointed out, these studies will amount to pipe dreams unless the Federal Government, and St. Louis County put up some more cash.

  9. Jon says:

    Doug, spend some time in any of the cities around the world that use light rail in the streets. I haven’t seen it harming pedestrian acitivity.

  10. tom says:

    St. Louis is the only city in the US where there is not street running of light rail. I recommend a trip to Portland Oregon to see how successful this is. Planners have to pay attention to pedestrian access and bus connections to make it work well. Salt Lake, Denver and San Diego have done this well. If we rely totally on exclusive right of way for MetroLink, we are raising the price and therefore limiting the speed which which the system can be built.

    Time is not the only factor in commuting decisions, cost is another. If you live in the city and haven’t been on a bus again, you might take a new look. Often bus commutes can rival MetroLink in terms of time because of their ability to get closer to the origin and ultimate destination.

  11. Matt says:

    I think that what the last two posters brought up is key: the reason the current line(s) are and will be so successful is that they provide a viable transit alternative to the car. The lines need to be at least a bit competitive in travel time to personal transportation. If I can make the trip in 15 minutes by car, and 45 minutes to an hour by Metro, I’m taking the car. I can do a lot with that extra half hour.

    This is where I feel that the in-street options would fail most miserably, in addition to the points Steve already brought up. These lines have to deal with signals and vehicular traffic, and as a result, must run at a slower speed. IMHO, the in-street lines are more like trolleys…not something most people would want to take for more than a mile or two, and certainly not for a 15-mile commute.

    [REPLY Actually what is being proposed is in-street in dedicated lanes, that is, lanes without cars & trucks. Also, with in-street light rail or streetcars the traffic signals are controlled to give the transit the right-of-way. In that sense the in-street light rail can actually move quickly through the city. – SLP]

  12. Jim Zavist says:

    FYI – most fatalities with Denver’s light rail system have been suicides and/or seriously drunk pedestrians. If I remember correctly, the total toll is less than a dozen over ten years, and only two were on the on-street part. The others occured on the deicated right-of-way parts.

  13. Sam Snelling says:

    I don’t like any of the southside options, to be quite honest. A Grand line makes sense, as displayed by the high ridership of the buses on Grand, but I think that it would make more sense to have streetcars running up grand moving people from Gravois (maybe further south) all the way up past Grand Center.

    The first example in the SS line, doesn’t really make any sense at all. Unless this would give them the least amount of problems acquiring the land and construction costs. It does take you to the Hill, but many of those streets are so small anyway, I don’t think that’s a very good area for a major transit line to go through. Again, a smaller streetcar would be good running along Southwest or something.

    I think the best line for SS would be Chouteau to Jefferson to Gravois. From there you could continue the line on the UP dedicated line, if they want to appease 55 drivers that much.

  14. Hans Gerwitz says:

    I’d like to echo Jon’s remark that neither loop proposal seems to serve Downtown internally. I’m not sure how best to widen the loop because of the America’s Center superblock, but I’d rather see a robust bus system everywhere and a free trolly loop Downtown for the tourists now, anyway.

  15. Becker says:

    In regards to the south side options I would support the first option above the others. We have already seen that it is much easier to build these lines on old rail ROWs rather than try to build around existing neighborhoods. True this may not hit the “hip” neighborhoods but right now Metro needs to have a successful build project not another Cross-County style money pit. In addition this line would do the least to damage the fabric of neighborhoods by dividing them.

    Hopefully in the future another south line could be constructed that would run either all of the way down Broadway or perhaps Gravois to Jefferson to Broadway.

    I really don’t see the point of adding mass transit to Grand. For one the street is narrow enough as it is. Yes I realize that all of the hipsters want to go to Pho Grand and shop at the Vintage Haberdashery. But to me that only shows that these neighborhoods don’t need public dollars spent on them. If we have to spend our limited public reasources to improve the city, why not spend them on neighborhoods that truely need the help and spur development?

    That would be like wasting millions in streetscape improvements on the CWE.

    I hear a lot of “this would be really cool for me” opinions in this discussion but not much about what is best for the city as a whole. I thought this was a ‘power to the people’ kind of forum.

    What do you think Steve?

  16. steven says:

    Tom: “I have long believed elected leaders are far behind the wishes of the public on transportation.”

    yes, but they’re right in step with the highway lobby.

    Where does MoDot fit into this? Are they just a road building organization, or do they have any interest in seeing mass transit built? The “Department of Transportation” seems like it should encompass all forms of transport.

  17. tyson says:

    I lived in San Diego and used their trolley regularly, it functions basically like a large streetcar, so I don’t really understand the opposition to running it down the middle of a street. If you think it acts as a barrier, Gravois is basically a small highway as it is, and not real inviting to cross.

    [REPLY – The rail vehicles are not the issue. The barrier comes in the of, literally, a barrier. They’d build a wall down the middle of the street and have a fence. You could only cross by car at “major intersections” with some pedestrian crossings in between. This, in my view, is a major problem in an urban area. – SLP]

  18. Jim Zavist says:

    I’m waiting for tonight’s presentation before I make any final selections, but based on what I’ve seen and read so far, I’m leaning toward:

    · Northside – Natural Bridge (LPA) option

    · Downtown – Olive & Chestnut Loop

    · Southside – Gravois / UPRR option

    I’m no expert on the northside, so Steve’s logic about cemeteries makes sense. A downtown loop focused on the longer side of city blocks provides the potential for longer trains and more capacity, and not being parallel to the existing metrolink would get rail transit closer to more potential riders. The Gravois alignment seems to be a good compromise between direct service and a minimal impact to existing infrastructure (Gravois is wide enough to accomodate two tracks fairly easily). The other two options, by meandering through other neighborhoods, would likely attract fewer riders than they would scare off, since the overall travel times would likely be longer (although an option that went even futher west and “touched” the Barnes campus might be viable).

    The other part of the equation (and the discussion) involves technology. Light rail can operate on city streets successfully (as San Diego, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston and Denver already do). The (slight) difference is in how the vehicles are constructed. The Siemens vehicles used in San Diego, Salt Lake City and Denver are essentially the same as the ones used here – the only difference is the door configuration (high versus low – we have one low door for operator changes, the other cities all have low doors). Using identical/similar vehicles simplifies maintenance. Minneapolis uses a low-floor light rail vehicle that simplifies boarding, putting most of the steps deeper inside the vehicle, instead of right at the door. Low doors eliminate the need for dedicated stations – trains can stop at a curb downtown or along a street instead of requiring the stations with the platforms we now use. And lower speeds (within existing speed limits) eliminates the need for fences and barriers along city streets (although most systems are built using a dedicated lane). So, before fixating on light rail versus streetcars versus trolley buses versus BRT, lets get a viable corridor defined and select the most appropriate vehicle to do the job!

    Bigger picture, I see a real need to look at the bigger picture. It appears that both planning and construction are driven more by political boundaries and available funding than by trying to create a rational system for moving people from point A to point B. This study is constrained by the city limits. Cross County is being built to appease the county. There’s service on the east side that goes most of the way to an airport no one really uses. While this study pretty much has to stay within the city limits (due to its funding), I’d like to see a stronger concept for extending beyond the city limits to other lines and other employment centers. The southside line should connect to the new Shrewsbury station. The northside line should offer direct service to the airport and/or UMSL. There should be obvious, attractive and large park-and-ride facilities anywhere a line crosses an interstate, with easy-on and easy-off to get people out of their cars (not the case on the Cross-County line at either I-44 or I-64/US-40).

  19. Joe Frank says:

    I attended the rather cramped open house at the Downtown Partnership board room yesterday, but came away with some different impressions I’ll share later.

    But on Jim’s comment:

    “There should be obvious, attractive and large park-and-ride facilities anywhere a line crosses an interstate, with easy-on and easy-off to get people out of their cars (not the case on the Cross-County line at either I-44 or I-64/US-40).”

    Huh? The interstate exits at 40/170 or 44/Shrewsbury are not part of the scope of the Cross County MetroLink project. You can’t fault Metro for not changing the exit configuration.

    The Brentwood-I-64 station will be within sight of the highway. Eventually, a large parking garage will be built just south. It’s a very high traffic, high land value area.

    It’s not like I-70 and North Hanley Road, where few people are willing to live because of the airport noise and generally degraded quality-of-life over the years in that corner of North County.

    Meanwhile, the Lansdowne-Shrewsbury-I-44 station will have a very attractive, gigantic park-ride lot when it opens. Again, the surrounding neighborhoods have fairly expensive housing stock (per square foot, that is). I’m concerned how people will actually access it from I-44, but I think it will be a huge success nonetheless.

  20. Jim Zavist says:

    I’m not questioning the ultimate success of the parking being provided for the Cross-County Extension (I expect it will be filled from day one). I want to encourage transit use, especially by getting people headed into town out of their single-occupant vehicles, and if they can’t see the light rail (40/64) or figure out how to get to light rail (44) from the freeway, there will be little incentive to do so . . .

  21. SMSPlanstu says:

    My friend interning in planning just like I and both Missouri State Planning students (accredited bachelors program and one of two dozen in the nation) went to the Thursday Southside meeting. I had hopes of seeing you there especially after seeing two orange bikes in the entryway. Isn’t it strange the Monsanto Center has indoor bike parking that is air conditioned/heated in winter.
    I like the southside alternatives of Gravois and Grand and wished for elevated rails but alas too costly. No like the northside cemetary route

  22. Jim Zavist says:

    I attended the south side public meeting last night (6-15-06) at the Monsanto Center and found it to be somewhat enlightening. The Natural Bridge and Gravois alignments seem to have the most promise. What wasnÂ’t answered was just exactly what was trying to be accomplished regarding transit. Is the goal to improve local service along the selected alignments OR is the goal to provide better commuter service from suburban areas outside the city limits? (And yes, for the most part, these ARE mutually-exclusive goals.)

    Current land uses along both corridors, along with the densities of the adjacent residential areas will not support an investment in rail transit. The existing Route 4 on Natural Bridge offers ½-hour service now, while the Route 10 on Gravois offers ¼-hour service. Adding capacity with rail vehicles simply doesn’t seem warranted. It would be much more cost-effective to increase the number of buses on each route, to provide service every 15 minutes on Natural Bridge and every 7-10 minutes on Gravois (a la the Los Angeles Rapid Bus system). Both corridors could benefit from signal prioritization for transit, but converting from bus to rail would alone result in little added demand. It would take both a planning commitment to significantly increase densities along the corridor (mixed-use developments, multi-story residential buildings, etc.) combined with an economic demand for the higher densities, similar to the demand for lofts along Washington Street or in gentrifying parts of Chicago. And to support densities like this along either corridor would require having stops every 2-3-4 blocks, which would result in a very non-rapid trip between the county line and downtown (although the bus system could be configured with both local and express service, something that could easily double the cost of a rail solution). The only good thing about both alignments is that the existing street width could easily accommodate either dedicated bus lanes or rail lines.

    If the goal is, however, to provide better service to suburban commuters, both corridors could also work well in moving a large number of passengers (the existing street widths could accommodate rail with minimal impacts on local traffic) through our “inner-city neighborhoods”. Unfortunately, this would be done at the expense of the existing residents and businesses. First, the corridors would be disrupted by several years of construction. Next, shiny new trains would be gliding down the center of the streets with stops every 1-1½ miles. If you happen to live or work near one of the new stations, great – you get a speedy ride downtown (but you also get more people wanting to park nearby). But if you live or work between two stops, you really gain nothing – you have a train passing by every 10 or 15 minutes, but all you really get to do is wave as it goes by! That said, I’d vote for using available rail corridors wherever possible to provide this type of service.

    [REPLY – I’m shocked, we are finally in agreement on a transit issue!!! The goal, as described by the study team, is very much to provide a quick way for county residents to get downtown once the lines are extended. In the meantime they can park at a lot at the end of the line.

    They say increasing development is one of the goals but as you indicate this seems unlikely except at the actual stops every mile or so.

    Your points about demand and capacity are well taken. I go back to the modern streetcar. The modern streetcar is longer and holds more passengers than a city bus but is not quite the size of a light rail vehicle. Sorta the middle ground. Modern bus vehicles used in BRT projects are very similar to the modern streetcar expept they have rubber tires. Either a modern streetcar or BRT would serve the local neighborhoods much better than the light rail would. I agree too that density needs to increase substantially to warrant the rail investment. – SLP]

  23. Jim Zavist says:

    For transit to work, it’s not an all or nothing situation. I see streetcars being viable on local routes with proven demand or in certain areas where densification is happening. The reality of transit, especially for the daily rider, is less about a specific type of vehicle and more about having frequent, direct service in clean, safe vehicles with a minimum amount of transfers or waiting. With the present demand (as reflected in the present half-hourly service) on Natural Bridge, it’s hard to imagine any upgrades making sense except for political reasons. Bi-state/Metro is not stupid – they put out service where the riders actually are and (try to) scale back on service where the riders aren’t. While a change to a rail vehicle will likely result in increased ridership, if it’s truly a replacement for an existing bus route, with frequent stops and a similar timetable, any longterm increase will be relatively modest and come nowhere close to justifying the million-dollars-per-mile capital investment required.

    Boulder, Colorado has had a lot of success focusing on the frequency side, running smaller buses as frequently as every 5 minutes on certain routes. Combine that with creative names for each line (Hop, Skip, Jump, Leap, Bound, etc.) and a lot of stigma of riding the bus goes away. Combine that with limited parking and “free” rides (paid for through student fees) and there’s even more reason to ride. Bottom line, it’s still a bus, but you don’t have to wait long, and if you “just missed it”, the wait for the next one is tolerable (not a half hour or hour or never). It’s not the vehicle, it’s the service that counts!


Comment on this Article: