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Grand Opening, 8 More Miles of St. Louis’ MetroLink Light Rail System

IMG_4537.jpgMetro & elected officials kicked off a series of ribbon cuttings this morning at the Forest Park Station in the City of St. Louis. This station was part of the original 1993 alignment but it was completely rebuilt to serve as a transfer station where the line now splits off to the airport vs. Shrewsbury.

I managed to stay ahead of the train and make it to a number of station openings: Forsyth, Brentwood and Shrewsbury. Below are videos taken at these openings. Interviews with a number of officials look and sound great but unfortunately they are not sync’d with each other (I can’t complain as YouTube is free). Many thanks to Pete at ArchCafe for giving me guidance on converting the clips from the camera format to Apple’s Quicktime Format (mp4) so the sound is sync’d.

You can also look at my photos from the opening on Flickr.

As you will learn in the videos this corridor has been held for more than a decade, awaiting this use. Also, the ribbon cutting was not done by a big pair of scissors but at each station they had ribbon that broke away as the train pulled in.

Arriving at Forsyth Station in University City

This is the big circular hole in the ground and yes, this is University City — barely! A local band was playing before and after the train arrived, keeping the crowd entertained. A number of vendors set up on the sidewalk just outside the station. One managed to block the artsy bike rack.

County Council Member Kurt Oldenwald

Lyda Krewson, St. Louis Board of Aldermen, 28th Ward

Ald. Krewson spoke at the Forest Park Station but access to the platform as limited so I was unable to hear her remarks there. While waiting at the Forsyth Station she shared her excitement about the new line.

Missouri State Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-88, Chair House Transportation Committee

Republican State Rep Neal St. Onge represents an area of St. Louis County with little demand/desire for mass transit, Ballwin/Ellisville. Yet, as chair of the House Committee on Transportation and a member of the St. Louis regional caucus he was showing his support for mass transit. Here what he has to say about permanent funding for transit in the region.

State Rep. Rachel Storch, D-64

Rep. Storch answers my question on her thoughts about her district (which includes the new line) and the region.

Arriving Brentwood/I-64 Station (Eager Rd)

A good crowd assembled at the Brentwood Station, holding a banner welcoming MetroLink.

Pat Kelly, Mayor of Brentwood and Larry Salci, Metro CEO

Brentwood Mayor Pat Kelly reads a typical proclamation as he welcomes MetroLink to Brentwood.

Arriving Shrewsbury Station (Landsdowne, I-44):

A really large crowd had assembled at the final station and eagerly applauded as it arrived.

St. Louis County Executive, Charlie Dooley

Jim Shrewsbury, President St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Check out the comments by Mr. Shrewsbury, I think we may have an urbanist at City Hall!

Tom Shrout, Executive Director of Citizens for Modern Transit

CMT and Tom Shrout have been major players in the transportation scene in St. Louis for a good 15 years or so. Here what CMT’s Executive Director has to say about next steps. Also, check out their new website.

Donna Baringer, St. Louis Board of Aldermen, 16th Ward

Todd Plesko, Metro’s Chief of Planning and System Development

Anjana Mohan, Metro Group/Scheduling

A personal friend that has been working on the new MetroLink consulting team. She is part of the reason the opening is ahead of the revised schedule.

I hope you enjoyed the various videos. Be sure to share your thoughts on them, MetroLink or topics closely related. If you have technical suggestions on how to make sure the audio is sync’d with the video please email me privately.

– Steve


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    Thanks for the interviews.

    Public funding of a deficient product is NOT a partisan issue? No wonder our public discourse continues to fall to new lows. We should be committed to transportation alternatives but this one is not the right one as currently designed.

    Steve, with all the millions spent on this modern behemoth , please address these questions:
    1) Why are there no ramps at the critical/connecting FoPa-DeB station?,
    2) The one ramp at the Shrewsbury is narrow and will allow for the passage of only one wheelchair, why?,
    3) As a realist, why should funds be allocated to a venture that promises ever increasing deficits?
    4) How does handing out free/reduced rate passes for students and others help?, and
    5) With all this money, time and human talent, is this the best we can do?

    The situation a FoP-DeB with no ramp is a serious problem. Having motorized lifts is not a secure alternative.

    As currently designed, Metrolink fails to deliver a viable alternative to autos to all but a few. As located the old train route should have been a bike/pedestrian path which would save the public millions of dollars. Our expenditures will become MORE partisan as the deficits grow.

    Light rail is too inflexible to address our future needs of transportation unless it is built in the middle of a highway. I’m not a big fan of the manner in which our highways are managed but I believe they are here to stay and thus a rail line down their center should be made a part of an overall transportation plan.

    A rail line hidden and poorly laid out will only serve a small minority. Even the security guards told me that they had a difficult time finding the stations. We can do better…

    [REPLY Thanks for the views!!! I agree that ramps are nice although don’t recall seeing ramps in places such as Chicgoo, DC, NYC, Toronto, Philly, etc… For those that can’t handle stairs the ramps can sometimes be too great a walk distance wise. For them, elevators are much better. When I look at each specific station I will take a look at accessibility.

    And then we have the through town vs. center of highway debate as well as the out of sight out of mind vs. in plain sight argument.

    Cities often use heavy rail for commuter trains to bring people to the core, Chicago being the nearest example. A cousin of mine uses this daily to get to her job in the city as the drive would take forever. Massive park-n-ride lots exist along the commuter line for people to catch the trains. But how would we do this in the St. Louis area? Chicago’s line was planned and built long ago but here we’d have to buy out homes to create park-n-ride spaces along the highway corridor.

    As a streetcar advocate I am obviously a fan of seeing rail transit. I think this new light rail line should have been more at grade at University City but it is otherwise quite visible.

    The costs for this line were enourmous, way out of line. As a result the debt payments are pushing the agency into bankruptcy. I can build a nice house for myself but if I can’t afford the payments and maintenance then it is not the right house for me.

    The ridership will be great for this new line and by bringing in more people between Forest Park and Emerson Park the daytime headways will improve to a mere 5 minutes between trains. Five mintues! The Grand bus (#70) will be at 10 minute headways although it should probably be on 5 minute as well given the demand.

    How we fund the daily operations of Metro and the next big expansion will certainly be an interesting debate. – SLP]

  2. Jon says:

    The comments by Neal St. Onge really suprised me. Given his location and role, I assumed he was long against transit and state support of transit. Perhaps his words are not the truth and he will never accomplish what he said above, but it does give a glimer of hope to those who know that for St. Louis, KC, and even Springfield to develope great transit systems, the state will need to set up and provide some support.

  3. SIG says:

    Response to John:

    There will always be negatives to any system. Nothing is perfect. The new extension goes through as dense of an area that St. Louis has outside the city. This means that real estate is very expensive, and a ramp takes a LOT more room than an elevator. They are not substitutable for each other either. Elevators at each station are designed to fit stretchers and emergency equipment.

    I am also told that those with prosthetic devices can actually find ramps rather cumerbsome. So I don’t know that ramps are the panacea that your narrative suggests.

    > why should funds be allocated to a
    > venture that promises ever increasing
    > deficits?

    The time frame of the investment is the factor. “EVER” increasing is a misnomer. What constitutes “ever”. Recycling programs and air quality control programs and restrictions, when viewed from this angle, also make a loss. We gamble on the potential gain from them in the long run, and those gains may be not directly measurable as monetary.

    > A rail line hidden and poorly laid
    > out will only serve a small minority.

    In my opinion, this has more to do with people’s attitudes and their needs for convenience in terms of timings, waiting, and being dependent on public infrastructure rather than their own possessions, than with the visibility of the stations.

    Everything is a cost benefit balance. If Metro had proposed ramps at each station way back in the mid 90’s, the cost of the project would have probably prohibited it from ever being accepted or built. If Metro had added ramps in the middle of the project, people like you would have been harsh critics of the change and the added cost – there’s no winning sometimes, you just have to press ahead with the best that is available given the context.

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    Metro was/is in an awkward siuation, and this weekend’s opening revealed several areas that still aren’t completed. And like the cliche says, you only get one chance to make a great first impression. Yes, they wanted to get the damn thing open ASAP (since it’s now a year late), and these items won’t impact every rider, but cumulatively, they create a series of negative impressions:

    1. The parking garage in Brentwood isn’t complete. Having 100 spaces instead 800 right off Highway 40 means that a lot of potential riders will either be scared off or pissed off when they try to ride this week, and it will require additional marketing to attrct them (back) when the garage is finished in a few months.

    2. I didn’t see any ticket vending machines at the Shrewsbury Station, the one with 800 spaces and the one where you’ll see the most originating passengers (not transferring from buses). Yes, there are staffed ticket booths at either end, but this a) costs more money (staffing costs) and b) means those casual/infrequent riders will have to learn how to use TVM’s either on their return trip or on some subsequent trip.

    3. And at the Shrewsbury Station, those passengers transferring from the train to the bus today will have to play hide-and-seek to figure out which bus stop to use / which bus shelter to wait at. It’s a simple (and effective) thing to add directional signage above the steps headed down from the platform at the south end (for example):

    (or STOP)

    A – 8
    B – 11 NORTH
    C – 11 SOUTH
    D – 17
    E – 46
    F – 93
    G – 11X
    H – 210

    That said, with these exceptions, everything else seemed to be working well. The stations are clean and well lit. The parking that’s provided is well done. My only other negative comments involve fundamental design issues that can’t be changed. Having to go up and over then back down to make transfers in Clayton will get old (although it offers more direct access into Clayton for pedestrians). And all those tunnels and sound walls make for a pretty boring ride (visually) between Clayton and Forest Park.

    Bottom line, it’s open and it’s working about as well as any new line I’ve seen work in revenue service. The transfer issues can be quickly improved with new signs, and the parking issues will simply take a few months to work themselves out . . .

  5. oakland says:

    I hope they can get more signage on platforms soon, as well. Currently there is no indication on many of the new platforms as to what direction the trains shall be headed, requiring an employee to stand there and direct people. Some plastic temporary signs could work wonders.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see someone already (at 7:30 am on revenue day1) get bounced off the train for having an invalid ticket, too. Perhaps if they’re more aggressive abut writing $85 citations, they’ll have a revenue stream that can eliminate the need for their upcoming “we spent way too much building this line” tax increase.

  6. Joe Frank says:

    Revenue Stream? It was always my understanding those citations were issued in the name of the municipality in which you got caught. So, most if not all the money goes into muni coffers. Fare evasion is an ordinance violation.

    So that money actually goes to the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County, or the municipalities of Wellston, Pagedale, Normandy, and Berkeley on the existing line; and on the new line, University City, Clayton, Richmond Heights, Brentwood, Maplewood, and Shrewsbury (as well as St. Louis).

  7. Jim Zavist says:

    Well, gang, my optimism was misplaced . . . I went by the Shrewsbury station over lunch and the parking lot is, at best, only half full. It looks like the next trick is convincing st. louis folks who work downtown and now pay for parking that it’s cheaper to park in Shrewsbury for free and to pay to ride the train . . .

  8. SMSPlanstu says:

    This is a fantastic post and it is great to hear from many politicians and Metro authority!

    The only drawback is that the following movies/interviews do not work:
    Arriving Shrewsbury
    Tom Stout
    volume on Mohon

    P.S. Join the Missouri APA chapter and come to the October conference!

    [REPLYPlease be patient on the videos, I redid all of them this morning to fix the sound but it seems YouTube didn’t get them formatted correctly. Third time is a charm…. – SLP]

  9. Steve Menner says:

    The cross county extenison is 11 millon of metro huge deficit next year with 8 millon going to bond repayment and 3 million to operate after federal funds and passenger fares applied. 6 millon of the defict is due to inflation and 11 million is metro fund penisons in advance for the whole year when metro used to fund pensions on a monthly basis.

  10. Todd Plesko says:

    To John:

    Your assumption about Wash U and other Universal pricing is incorrect.

    The Wash U universal passes are not free and the the pricing does not give preferential pricing to any University beginning FY2007.

    Prior this this year, universal pricing at UMSL and SWIC generated 36 cents and 52 cents per boarding respectively. The average cost per boarding for the same year for all fare media was approximately 86 cents. Prior to FY07, these fares were substantially lower than the average fare.

    With this year, pricing per boarding will be $1.00 boarding which will be close to the new average cost per boarding.

    While the base fare is now $2.00 per trip, $2.25 per two hour pass, and $1.75 cents for bus fare, when you factor in federally mandated reduced fares for disabled, children and senior customers, the average fare drops substantially. Transfers and multiple use monthly and weekly passes also generate very high usage per pass, again dropping the average fare.

    The Wash U and the other college programs will generate an average fare which meets or exceeds the system average fare.

    We also know that the program has attracted riders and revenue that we would never have obtained without the company incentive.

    To Steve Menner:

    The $11 million for pensions is actually $11 million to fund a retirement benefit of retiree medical insurance. It is not specifically to fund the Metro “pension.” This may be a small distinction since it can be described as a retirement benefit similar to a pension.

    The problem with this benefit is that in this current world, retiree medical insurance benefits is quite rare anymore. Pensions are easily understood. Medical benefits for retirees are less common anymore.

  11. Anjana Mohan says:

    Wow, I must be pretty conscious about the camera. I sound like a horribly affected and ingenuine person. Hope I don’t appear this way on an everyday basis. Yaargh. I will hopefully sound more normal the next time I’m on camera…

  12. cwe63108 says:

    The current ticketing system is a hassle. Too much energy is expended on ticket verification; it makes little sense. Smart Cards seem the way to go. Was it considered by Metro?

    It seems that events conspire to keep MetroLink a third rate system, with the excuse that “This is St. Louis”.

    Dierberg’s on Brentwood/I-64 has a half a mile walk when only 30 feet seperate the platform from the parking.

    Richmond Heights’s stop SHOULD be a Galleria stop, able to take older ladies from Illinois to the Galleria without their cars for lunch.

    Manchester/Maplewood stop SHOULD be the Walmart/Sams/Lowes, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebees stop.

    Well – this IS St. Louis.

  13. Jim says:

    I love to see that MetroLink is extending in all, but I live in Madison County, which is a 30 minute drive northeast of St. Louis (just go directly north from downtown on the Mississippi River Road and keep going until you get to highway I-270, then cross the river on I-270 and you’re in Madison County. I live in Edwardsville, which is Exit 9 off of I-270 in Illinois, and my Dad is a pilot for American Airlinesâ„¢.) I wish that MetroLink would extend to Madison County. It’s a 45 minute (30-35 mile) drive from our house to the airport, and with gas prices so high, and our car at about 25 miles per gallon, he has to pay about $7.00 each way! That’s $14.00 round trip to get to and from work! If MetroLink extended into Madison County, he’d only have to pay $2.00 each way, and he’d save $10.00 each time he rode MetroLink to the airport! He always has a schedule set up for him at the beginning of every month. On average he flies trips for 3-4 days, and he usually gets 4-6 days between trips. We could save up to $50 a month if there was a MetroLink in Madison County! We’d be able to save over $500 per year! I hope they extend to Madison County some day.

    [slp— Simple.  He needs to take the Madison County Bus which will deliver him to the East St Louis station where he can catch Metrolink.  Studies have been done and possible routes determined on how to bring the light rail service to Madison County.  Start a campaign to get the funding tax on the ballot for voters to decide.] 

  14. Jim says:

    My Dad flies on 3-4 day trips, and gets 4-6 days off at home between trips. He flies for American Airlinesâ„¢, but only in the 48 contiguous states.


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