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Commentary on MetroLink in West End Word

August 15, 2007 Media, Public Transit 39 Comments

IMG_0974.JPGThis week’s edition of the West End Word includes an editorial from me on the one year anniversary of the MetroLink light rail extension to Shrewsbury. See ‘One Year On, MetroLink Fails to Impress.


Currently there are "39 comments" on this Article:

  1. GMichaud says:

    Good article Steve, I think your comments are right on. To compound the problem the East West Gateway Council of Governments picked the route on the south side of the city in the same manner, opting for speed rather than usability by the citizens. The irony of the proposed south side line is that it parallels the existing Metro. The proposed Metro runs along Chouteau only a few hundred feet from the existing Metro line. This is duplication of rail transit in a region with very little transit to start with.
    What’s worse the organization that supposedly represents the voice of the people, Citizens for Modern Transit, sits like a bump on the log without a clue either. It just rubber stamps East West Gateway decisions.
    The failure of leadership is massive, and as you point out they can’t handle the details, nor the big picture.

  2. I enjoyed reading your take on Metrolink’s cross-county extension. As a resident who has made the conscious choice to
    go carless, I use metrolink frequently and agree with most of what you’ve written about the lack of convenience of the
    newer stations. I’m particularly disappointed in the Brentwood-64 station, which seems to have made no attempt to make
    the area’s surrounding amenities accessible to riders. That being said, the stations are where they are and are not going
    anywhere; so my question is, how can we implement improvements to these existing stations to increase their convenience
    and thereby increase ridership? It seems to me that a lot could be done at little expense to make them more pedestrian-
    friendly and improve access to nearby shopping, etc. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts/suggestions.
    p.s. As a former Toronto resident, I must say the slowness of their on-street streetcars was at times agonizing and the
    relative speed of the Metrolink is a welcome relief. My feeling is that St. Louis’ best transit bet would be to develop a well-
    thought-out North-South metrolink line and a serious change in attitude towards buses; New Yorkers ride buses, Chicagoans
    ride buses, Torontonians ride buses, yet there seems to be some terrible aversion to them by many St. Louisans. That has
    simply got to change. I also wouldn’t be opposed to a couple of straight-shot streetcar lines (maybe Grand & Kingshighway)
    if they could have dedicated lanes, as Toronto is trending towards, but getting them mixed up in car traffic is kind of a

  3. 63101 says:

    “I cannot help thinking that if Metro had had about half as much money for this project, we would now have a line that is twice as good.”

    This part made me chuckle a little bit, when one considers that it took 30% more public money than we were told it would to get this line running.

    Some of this lack of ridership I suspect also stems from a lack of effort on Metro’s part to provide sufficient information to make the new line easy to use, or even to announce its presence at all. The Shrewsbury line opened at the end of August, but no permanent signage went up until well into the winter. This is a systemic problem: the online trip planner is laughable, train operators and bus drivers fail to make consistent, audible onboard announcements, and I challenge you to look at any bus stop sign and try to discern from it any relevant information about catching a bus.

    I doubt Metro has deliberately written off automobile owners as customers they will never attract. It sure does seem to me, however, that they’re just settling for serving people for whom there is no alternative to public transit.

    And, to address your point about I-64, an effective region-wide plan to get cars off the road cannot ignore the I-64 corridor. While the Cross-County development may not have been the best time to do it, we would do well to have commuter rail following I-64 out toward Chesterfield Valley. Unless ethanol raises the price of corn to where it becomes profitable to bulldoze everything outside the I-270 loop, people will still drive on I-64.

  4. Luftmensch says:

    Ironically, it’s the slowness (and cost) of the Metrolink that keeps it from being worthwhile for me. I can drive from Skinker-Debaliviere to Sunnen Station in 10 minutes. The train takes longer (15 minutes?) because it detours north to Brentwood before coming back down to Maplewood and Shrewsbury. Add the time spent waiting, the inconvenient placement of the station, the horrible bus connections, the absence of a decent bus shelter, and the $4 rt fare, and it just makes no sense.

    In spite of all that, I still take the train, because I’m not a sensible person, and I just love trains, but I imagine it’s hard to build a public transportation system on guys like me.

  5. CWB says:

    I enjoyed your piece, but I’ll agree to disagree with some of your points. First off, I don’t think underground stations detract from ridership. I know Washington DC is a different animal, but the red line (which is the busiest line in their system) has many stations deep underground. I just can’t accept that stations at-grade would attract more riders that those below grade. The speed would be so slow that many of the choice riders using the current line might leave. My preference would be to stay the course and keep building Metrolink with as few street-level interactions as possible (light rail with heavy rail characteristics). Its the only way to keep speeds up.

    I completely agree with your assessment of the Clayton station, which is why I can’t understand why so many people want Metrolink down the middle of Highway 40. Can you imagine what a Frontenac station might look like? Yikes! If people want rail service to Chesterfield, commuter rail with access to Clayton and Downtown should be explored. Not Metrolink. Even with congestion on Highway 40, rail service that averages 30-35 mph can’t compete with cars on a trip from Chesterfield to Downtown.

    I don’t think it was anyone’s (engineer or planner) preference for the Clayton station to be at that location. The obvious choice would be underground in central Clayton. But the budget didn’t allow it. I doubt that the City or businesses would have supported a street-level system.

  6. Tim E says:


    I think Cross County line is not too far off for what a light rail should be considering that the majority of the are is already steep in automobile development. Which city outside of New York and Chicago isn’t? Light rail is a fixed transit system that maintains some headway speed on a route shorter then a typical commuter line, limited number of stops at activity or employment centers in areas for the most possibility of density development (Downtown Clayton, Brentwood Blvd, The new meridan tower and now a proposed dense retirement community to replace Deer Creek Plaza makes this the best bet in the area as far as I’m concerned), and majority of it above ground. The stations were developed on politic grounds which will happen with any developent.

    What I appreciate about your article was the point on how much money we spent on the hope that density will someday be built upon it. Not the best way to develop mass transit or make the most out of taxpayer dollars. Especially in St. Louis!! I just wished you mentioned the word street car at the end. Six hundred million would have went a long way in placing and financing the operations of some well placed street car lines around the original metro link line as well as my wish of getting the original line under Lambert Terminal for a real urban station and onto St. Charles City (a nice east/west connection to the proposed north/south street car line)


  7. 63101 says:

    And on a side note, Metro needs to stop screwing visitors (and residents who didn’t buy a return ticket in advance) by charging $3.50 for a one way trip out of the airport.

    Double pity on the poor out-of-towner who doesn’t know it’s cheaper elsewhere and buys a round-trip pass at the airport vending machine.

  8. Craig says:

    I’m not sure that the purported lack of ease of use of the Shrewbury line is the main reason that its ridership is lower than the original Metrolink line. The commuters along the new line can afford cars (many of them have 2-3 in their family) and gas. It takes them about 20 minutes max to commute to downtown and Clayton by car and many of them have free or heavily subsidized parking courtesy of their employer. Why would they take a Metro ride that would be longer and debatably more expensive than their car commute? It doesn’t have anything to do with ease of use or where the Clayton station is located.

    Contrast this with the more popular original line which services (a) lower income areas and people who would be solely riding the bus if it wasn’t for light rail, (b) Illinois residents – from which commuting to Missouri by auto can be an ordeal compared to using the ‘Link, and (c) tourists or native airport users.

    Until traffic gets much worse, the Metro extension just won’t be as popular.

  9. Jeff says:

    While the Metro is far from perfect, we must realize that many other cities are actually jealous of our transit system. For a metropolitan area that has been starved of rail transit for almost half a century, St. Louis has been surprisingly embracing of MetroLink. It has quietly become an intrinsic part of the urban fabric to the point that if it shut down suddenly, the flow of the city would be significantly disrupted. We must not forget how lucky we are to have a system that serves the airport, major universities and numerous points of interest and employment centers. Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Detroit, etc. would kill for a system half as extensive as ours!

    Things I hate about it: As others have said, many suburban stations along the cross-county line are isolated from the walkable areas. Hopefully future dense developments and some smart re-designing will help these stations become more accessible and convenient for pedestrians.

    Things I love: The way MetroLink incorporates the old with the new. There’s something very cool about the trains zipping through century-old tunnels and old rickety rail corridors. It’s a unique trait of our transit system! If you look at old pictures of Forest Park Parkway (formerly Millbrook Ave.), you will see that the MetroLink follows the exact same path that the streetcars used back in the day. Pretty cool I think.

    I also love the fact that Wash. U. students, many of whom hail from large cities accustomed to rapid transit, now have a convenient rail connection to other parts of the city. I think it helps to create an image of St. Louis as a respectable metropolitan city.

    I am confident that our rapid transit system will continue to expand and mature, and will become as much a part of the city as the Arch and Forest Park. It will never be the quickest most practical or most efficient transit system, but it wouldn’t be St. Louis if it was!

  10. dude says:

    most of the cross county extention stops are bad. The R.H. stop at Dierbergs has poor access to Dierbergs. Thanks for the extra walk. Clayton needs a west exit to the platform. Sunnen shouldn’t be a station but election board is a Sunnen tenant. The image that were not discriminating against the poor is important apparently. John Edwards would be proud. The galleria station is bad. Nothing like dragging all those Christmas purchases across parking lots for SUVs in winter weather to ride the train. $2 a ride is too pricey. Throw half of the fair onto car owners. A complete joke is an exageration but the new line certainly hasn’t revolutionized StL. I can walk to sunnen but still drive to Card’s games.

  11. john says:

    MetroLink should be renamed MetroStink. The extension reflects political wants and power brokering over public transportation needs. It is quite interesting how you phrased this predicament by stating “I cannot help thinking that if Metro had had about half as much money for this project, we would now have a line that is twice as good.” Too true! I’m a fan of mass transit, especially trains, but my family and I will not use this system even though a station is just two blocks from our home. Well at least one local institution got what it wanted while the rest of us will be forced to pay for this stinky result.

  12. Melanie Harvey says:

    While I agree with many of your criticisms of Metro, there are some things too late to be complaining about, so why contribute to the already negative attitude about transit in St Louis? Let’s work on what CAN be done: insisting on better signage, pressuring those outside Metro’s jurisdiction (such as Dierberg’s at the Brentwood station) to improve pedestrian access, participating in planning for the future (I know you are doing this) and above all actually using Metro NOW to demonstrate that one needn’t be poor or disabled or even “Black” to use public transit.
    Metro is a system – including buses – not just a ride to the Airport: USE IT OR LOSE IT.

    Melanie Harvey
    I visited Baltimore for the first time this summer,getting there by Amtrak and learning their transit system when I arrived. They have a combined bus, subway, and light rail system with the latter like a streetcar through downtown. (They also have commuter trains to D.C.) Like St Louis the use of the bus system reveals old habits of racial prejudice (the kindest way to say it). Unlike St Louis there is more information readily available on the street. BUT one thing St Louis has that most other places don’t is TRIPFINDER, the on-line personalized route planner.

  13. Tyson says:

    If people are expecting Metrolink to be the type of walk-ride-walk system you’d find in Chicago or New York then they’re going to be disappointed. One of the main functions of the Metrolink system has always been to reduce the time between bus connections and to reduce the duration of auto trips into the core, not to eliminate them altogether. Thus park-n-ride customers will always be a major constituency for Metrolink, and it is reflected in the design of the stations. Most stops have limited TOD potential, and even semi-TOD like Hanley Station will only benefit the few hundred people who end up living in the condos.
    David M. is right that the solution to many of our day-to-day transit needs lies not in billion dollar light rail extensions (though these may sometimes be justified for long distance suburban commuters), but in a more efficient local bus (or streetcar) system that runs in dedicated lanes on existing roads. Any major road reconstruction (like the upcoming Hanley Rd. project) should include dedicated lanes for transit and HOV.

  14. Berlin says:

    At the end of the day, someone has to pay for mass transit whether it’s buses or light rail and public transportation’s costs don’t get completely covered by its fare-paying ridership. Here in the St. Louis region, Metro has to get more money from taxpayers in the county to help pay for its costs. The cross-county line was built much less out of a need for transit in Shrewsbury and much more out of the need to prove to county residents that ‘Hey, Metro serves you too so please vote for a tax increase to help pay for it all.’

    The cost overruns have forced Metro to consolidate and eliminate bus lines, a negative consequence for those in most need of public transportation.

    On the poor public image of the bus, never forget that land use and transit are intimately related. You won’t eliminate the perception of the ‘bus’ as a ‘loser cruiser’ in St. Louis until you reach a sufficient density that every class and race and any other socioeconomic class finds taking the bus preferable to getting in their car for their daily commute.

  15. acrophobia says:

    I love that many schooled urbanists use this blog, and enjoy your insights, but I respectfully request that writers resist the acro-speak of your profession. Some of us who spend most of our time in other spheres have to stop and translate things like TOD and HOV. Or skip over them and wonder what the writer actually meant.

  16. Jim Zavist says:

    Steve, I agree with many of your observations and most of your conclusions. I would like, however, to make a few points. One, by defintion, this is the cross-COUNTY connection. It does a better job of serving points in the county, especially Clayton, than it does in getting many county residents into the city or vice versa (case in point – it’s quicker to take a bus from the Shrewsbury Station to downtown St. Louis than it does to take the train – the only time the train is a better option is if the bus isn’t running).

    Two, for some reason, Metro’s fare structure is set up to discourage transfers (you gotta pay to transfer to the train, whereas a direct bus trip is less expensive). Transit needs to be viewed (and used) as a SYSTEM (bus & train), not as disparate elements. Coming from Denver (where transfers are free) it looks like the fare structure here could, and probably should, be changed to provide a more seamless experience.

    Three, in a politically-driven transit system, station placement is driven by politics more than by the needs of daily riders. This includes station access points (or not having them, as in the Dierbergs scenario).

    Four, what’s more important than whether a station is 50′ down or 75′ up are a) the connections (diect, functioning, convenient) and b) what’s in the immediate vicinity / TOD. The stations downtown are no less “painful” to access than many of the ones on the new line. The difference is once you pop out into daylight, there’s a there there (and it could actually be your destination). The challenge / opportunity at most Metro stations outside the downtown core is creating Transit Oriented Development (TOD). And that’s something out of the control (for the most part) of Metro/Bi-State Development, it’s squarely in the laps of the local jurisdictions. There are plenty of successful models out there (Railvolution, Urban Land Institute, Portland, Dallas, etc.), we just need to elect leaders willing to embrace change, not ones who want to turn their backs on transit riders.

    Five, the only way to change suburban attitudes towards buses is to think outside the box and provide bus services that meet the needs of suburban users. This includes convenient park-and-rides, express bus services into downtown AND to sporting events like the Rams’ home games, and demand-responsive service (call-and-rides) in many suburban communities. Yes, there a minority of suburban riders who are truly transit dependent, but it’s a much smaller percentage than in the city. More suburbanites will ride the bus and/or train if it’s frequent, clean, safe, quicker, easier, less expensive, transfers are quick and painless and they can park their car at a station with a great deal of assurance that it won’t be broken into by the time they get back. Much like our previous discussion on valet parking, if suburbanites viewed Metrolink as a downtown dining transportation alternative, it would be used more. But when it runs every 20-30 minutes (later in the evening), it becomes a huge disincentive.

    Six, I disagree that in-your-face design (run it down the middle of 40) is all that effective. And I agree, middle-of-the-highway platforms are “problematic”. The biggest drivers in getting people (who have other choices) onto transit are cost and time. Use existing programs to make subsidized passes available to more potential riders. We get used to paying for certain things, like gas, and parking if we work downtown. We also like to think that we’re getting a deal. Free parking + a monthly pass for less than the cost of parking in a garage downtown + avoiding rush-hour driving = an attractive package. If transit offers a better alternative, it will be used.

    Finally, we’re missing a great opportunity next year to implement bus rapid transit along Clayton Road between Metro’s existing park-and-ride at 40 and Ballas and the Metrolink station in Clayton (or the one at the Galleria). The technology exists (reversible lanes, signal priority) to give buses a priority over other traffic, even on city streets. Throw in free transfers and free parking and you create a viable alternative to being stuck in construction traffic. Bottom line, it gets down to thinking creatively, taking risks and trying to meet every riders’ needs!

  17. soulardx says:

    For those that consider Atlanta a more progressive city with better public transit than STL, the Atlanta Lennox Square MARTA rail stop is very similar to our Galleria Metrolink stop. Lennox Square is Atlanta’s top mall like the Galleria here. At the Lennox Square stop, one has to walk across a busy main thoroughfare and then about 2 more blocks along a busy main street to get inside the mall. Sure, it’s not ideal, but I’d say our Galleria stop is the least of the deficiencies with the new line. That’s not to say we can’t make it more safe for pedestrians and improve the Brentwood crossing though.

  18. James says:

    I had my *gulp* 20 year highscool reunion a couple of weeks back. Turns out a classmate of mine owns the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate franchise in the Dierbergh’s plaza at the Richmond Heights station. I was telling him about the awful time we had on a Sunday ‘let’s ride the new extension’ trip and tried to get some food at the grocery store. For those who haven’t been there, you go on a long narrow sidewalk ramp from the platform that drops you in the middle of the service drive on the back side of Dierbergh’s. There is no way to walk from the station to the shopping center without walking in the middle of the road. Try doing that with 2 kids in strollers sometime.
    Anyway, my friend said that the owners of the center were not interested in having any connection to Metrolink, actively tried to block the connection, and have intentionally made it as uninviting as possible. They have certainly succeeded.

  19. Jeff says:

    Maybe that explains why Dierberg’s does not have any stores located in the City.

  20. bch says:

    In London, the bus stops and tube platforms have displays stating how long until the next train/bus will approach. They have maps at each location showing where the buses/trains will take you to, and what connections you can make at different stops. Every bus stop I can remember had a bench to sit out and cover from the rain.

    In St Louis, you stand, unprotected from the weather (most bus stops anyway), wondering how long until the next bus, knowing that if you just missed one it could be a long wait. You also have no idea the route the bus will take if you haven’t ridden it before, and there are never any fliers left on the bus that could inform you. You can try looking things up on the Internet in advance, but each route has its own pdf that you must download and look at. The trip builder is okay, but if you want flexibility to go where you please in the city, not just from A-Z, it takes a lot of time to figure things out.

    Finally, the cost for a family to use Metro is expensive. In St Louis, my family could not function well without a car, so paying $8 for my wife and I to go out when we are already paying for a car is somewhat silly. Its not like I can skip my car payment and insurance payment if I choose to ride Metro. I occasionally take buses to work since my employer provides free travel on Metro, but my trip turns into 45 minutes of travel instead of a 15 minute drive. That’s an hour a day I’d rather spend with my family, even if its wasting gas.


  21. john says:

    BUS CONNECTIONS: Yes extremely important that these routes complement and enhance but the extension has led to new routes which are not accomodating to efficient travel. Take the RH-Galleria station as an example. Instead of having the station and/or bus stop on Clayton Road (a few hundred feet north and by the way, the new building there was bought and torn down for MetroLink), easily accessible to the north-south Brentwood Blvd. route, the station was placed in a hard to find location. Even the security guard told me he had a hard time finding it. Thus instead of staying on these major routes, the buses have to deter and drive on Galleria Pkwy. This adjusted route adds time, pollution, noise, wasted fuel, etc. in order to serve the poorly placed MetroStink station.
    DIERBERGS: I spoke with a vice president about this problem before the station was built. The company’s concern was that their parking lot would be used “for free” by train riders, especially for downtown sporting events. Obviously, this would interfere with parking for customers and undoubtedly interfere. The result was to make the stop inconvenient for users coming from the west. This station is also poorly located and too close to the RH station.
    CLAYTON: The station on Meramec was not the original intended location. One of the original locations was on Hanley Rd next to FP Expwy. The stories in Clayton are long and involved numerous businesses and homeowners. Without getting into the major controversies, most did not want the stations or tracks at ground level. The Meramec station was the compromise. The other station on Forsyth mainly serves WashU’s western campus… how conveniet.
    BOTTOM LINE: The main objectives of light rail were so compromised that in many ways the system (bus & rail) fails to serve a major portion of the community. Thus Steve’s insightful point is accurate: each compromise reduced the value of the system while driving up the price… truly poor planning StL-style.

  22. Dicko says:

    It’s interesting that when the subject turns to rail transit, everyone is an engineer or planner and everyone knows how to build the “best” system for the region.

  23. CWB says:

    Many are chalking up the compromises that were reached in building Metrolink to “poor planning STL style”. Well if the 20+ idiots that commented on this blog got together and tried to etch out the extension guess what? Numerous compromises would be necessary and each person would almost certainly have to give up something they wanted. And then everyone else in the region could comment on how the extension doesn’t serve their “needs” and that poor planning was the culprit. With the political and business pressures in the region, none of you could do better.

    [SLP — Well clearly many professional firms from the original ‘Cross County Collaborative’ didn’t do so well as Metro felt the need to fire them before the job was done.  It will be interesting to see how those four firms, and all their consultants, fair in court.]

  24. Brian says:

    Parochial St. Louis suffers from fragmented planning. Whose to blame for Dierberg’s poor access to MetroLink? Metro or Brentwood? But what’s worse than the indirect pedestrian access, is that such development with more orientation towards the automobile than the pedestrian would even be allowed next to a long-planned rapid-transit corridor.

    Despite its lovely town center, Maplewood played the fragmented game of chasing limited sales tax dollars and approved Maplewood Commons. Now, even though they’re much richer to begin with, Richmond Heights will waste more land close to MetroLink on even more auto-oriented retail along Hanley Road.

    I’m so glad to now work where the mission is to be the “premier city in the country for integrating land use and transportation choices.” In Charlotte, planning, transportation (streets, sidewalks, bike) and transit are all functions of a city covering almost everything within its beltway (imagine if St. Louis city limits were 270). As a result, when a big-box (Lowe’s) wanted to locate in a designated transit corridor, it was forced to wrap itself with dense housing, other retail and even rooftop parking. http://liveinsouthborough.com/about.html

  25. Jim Zavist says:

    Dicko & CWB – critical analysis will hopefully help all of us avoid making similar mistakes on future corridors. And yes, in many ways, transit IS all about ME – if the system can’t meet my needs, I won’t use it as frequently, or at all. As Luftmensch and dude point out, there isn’t a lot of incentive when the trip takes three times as long via transit! There are many small solutions that can happen to improve things (without starting from scratch on any of the existing lines or stations).

  26. Tom Shrout says:

    The success of Cross County should be measured in about 10 years, hopefully after some enlightened developers have filled in the gaps around the stations. In terms of ridership, Cross County is about where the first line was after a year back in 1993-94. But for it to be the right development, locally elected officials have to “get it.” Citizens for Modern Transit is developing a model TOD overlay code which we can hopefully sell to the municipalities so the Dierberg’s atrocity is not repeated. One of the things the region lacks is a TOD manager at Metro. BART, DART and Denver all have people whose jobs is to think about what happens around stations and to work with developers and local municipalities to make it happen. One thing to keep in mind, these cities are all experiencing rapid growth and the elected officials are faced with how to handle the growth. We don’t face those same pressures in St. Louis. All of this will be discussed at an October 11 afternoon forum at the Missouri Historical Society. Last year a number of the mayors attended. You all are invited.

  27. CWB says:

    Jim, I agree that critical analysis can be helpful, and I hope that enhancements can be made to the Cross County extension to increase ridership. What’s irritating are the backwards-looking people that always want to blame someone or something. And often times, these are people that don’t attend workshops or participate in the process.

    The Dierberg’s situation has come up. Is Dierberg’s to blame? I don’t think so; their concerns about commuters using the store’s parking are legit. Is Metro to blame? I don’t think so either; they essentially received a commuter parking garage on that site for free. Is Brentwood to blame? When they approved the redevelopment of that site, Metrolink was probably too far down the line to be on their radar screen. So maybe it’s Brentwood’s fault. But at any rate, embarking on crusades against the area’s fragmentation or “poor planning” is counter-productive. As you said, we should be searching for solutions.

    [SLP — It is usually a good idea to actually identify the problems prior to seeking solutions.]

  28. GMichaud says:

    Brian, your description of how Charlotte is successful in integrating transit with development is most helpful. It is the type of critical analysis, in the words of JZ that CWB and Dicko seem have trouble understanding. Aside from the obvious immaturity shown in the name calling there has been many previous posts that have offered both analysis and solutions.
    I believe Steve’s piece pointing out the flaws of the system is a good place to start in the redesign of the transit system. Compromise is needed to be sure, but more important is the formation of policies such as the transit zoning cited in the Charlotte example forcing any development, such as a box store, to conform to standards to help make the transit system work well.
    What is being done in St. Louis is haphazard development that relies on patchwork, filling in with commercial development, trying to interface itself with projects such as Dierbergs.
    Meanwhile the Dierbergs apparently don’t have the vision to attempt a solution that satisfies the traveling public and commercial interests at the same time.
    In fact any need of parking can easily be controlled, although a need for parking also reflects failure in the design of the transit system. This is especially graphic at the Hanley Road Transit Stop where there is parking for 1000 cars. In successful transit systems around the world people are able to ride transit from near their home to their destination. No parking needed.
    This also helps account for poor transit times and other problems. It boils down to a system that is not well designed, from maps, to transfers, to routes, transit in St. Louis, even with MetroLink, is second rate. Attempts at good design, as cited by Brian in his Charlotte post, may not be perfect, but at least it creates a higher plateau to work from than we have in St. Louis.
    So yes there is poor planning and poor transit design in St. Louis. In design you have to define the problem or program before you can arrive at a solution. How is it possible to design a solution with analysis of the problem?
    I get the feeling that people like CWB would prefer the comfort of a Communist society like China. The people are not allowed to comment and the government does what it damn pleases.

  29. STeel says:

    I have read a lot of critiques and bitches, and seen minimal realistic suggestion as to how things should be done. I think one of the main things no one seems to be thinking about is the how extremely difficult it is to pick a transit line that can serve the St. Louis metro area. This is because the St. Louis metro is so sprawled out that that it is impossible for one line or even a couple of lines to serve the entire MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area).

    The reality is we cannot change the lines that are already in existence. However, we can embrace them and choose to change what is around them. This is also requires changes in our personal life. From what I have gathered most of you all want a perfect
    transit system to be put in place so you can use it here and there, maybe for a dinner date, or a cardinal game. Or maybe you might use the train if it were more convenient. This is not why the Metrolink is put it place (it is simply an added benefit). The MetroLink is a commuter transit system first, not the Saturday family novelty only to be bitched about Monday morning after your 30 minute auto commute. If you want MetroLink (or the entire transit system) to be better start using it more often. This may require some sacrifice, it may require a little extra time, it may require you to exercise a little bit or orient yourself with the apparently difficult understand system.

    It will also require a change in thinking. Considerations should be made regarding where you choose to live in relation to employment, where you choose to live in relation to transit stations, and where you choose to eat, shop, play in relation to where you live. It is also requires for you to detach yourself from auto-dependence. Before you make decisions consider some of the factors listed above. If you can walk, bike, and/or take transit it should be done. The reality is it doesn’t take that much longer and often is a much more relaxing way to get from point A to point B.

    If more people began using St. Louis transit in spite of its inefficiencies eventually a better more user friendly system will be created. We may not have the best light rail system but we do have a light rail system and it will never improve if people unless people support it. The idea shouldn’t be: bitch, bitch, bitch about the Metro’s inadequacies, it should be: work to improve the system and learn from our mistakes in order to promote the further development. None of which can be done if you don’t get out of the car and get on the train.

  30. Joe Frank says:

    While I agree there are problems with the extension to Shrewsbury it does at least have video and audio indicators that “the next train will be arriving in 30 seconds.” It also has functional clocks on those reader boards.

    Of course, the original line started out with clocks on most of the stations, but none of them are functional anymore. Forest Park was rebuilt along with the new line, so it also has those features — not to mention heaters!

    I don’t live along MetroLink, but I do ride MetroBus to work almost every day. Nowadays, I usually drive for evening and weekend errands, and sometimes for work meetings in St. Charles and other places in the hinterlands of Missouri.

    Granted, I was a Washington University in St Louis student, but I don’t think it’s so bad that WUSTL got its campus connected via MetroLink. That and their cooperation with Metro for the shuttle service and the U Pass program (free transit passes for WUSTL faculty, staff, students, and some contractor employees) probably has reduced the number of vehicles on the road in the immediate vicinity of campus. And that’s a good thing. They cooperated by providing right-of-way space when needed; after all, UMSL has two stops on campus because they were willing to cooperate back in the 1980s during the planning phase. Remember, the original proposal was for MetroLink to operate on-street along Natural Bridge Road, with a stop at the front door of UMSL. That plan was shot-down by residents of the surrounding municipalities.

  31. john says:

    Thanks Tom for the notice on the meeting. The two best ideas to improve MetroLink is through the synergies offered by improving the design of the connecting bus routes and to provide bike paths along all MetroLink right-of-ways. The fastest and most efficient means of personal travel is the combination of train & bike. Therefore I would also suggest that bike racks be put on the trains like in some other cities. Unfortunately, the placement of the tracks on the right-of-ways was done in a manner that will make adding the bike paths difficult. The original plans for the extension had a bike path that connected Shaw Park in Clayton with the paths in Shrewsbury. Imagine, I use to be able to bike/walk from Shaw Park with my young sons to Maplewood without ever having to cross a street or wait for stop light to change. To travel the same route now requires using the pedestrian/biking nightmares as Hanly Rd, Eager and Brentwood Blvd. and having to go through 18 stop lights. That’s progress?
    Eliminating auto traffic next to WashU is a good thing but at what cost? In addition, the U is expanding its parking spaces. Ironically, some of my doctor friends who work for BJC were totally against the extension through Clayton. However, living next to the Clayton station in a million dollar home, they now ride Metro to work for free. It’s truly amazing that once people benefit from the public money trough they quickly appreciate the subsidy. As the h/w told me, “we’ve received a $10,000 per year tax-free bonus as we no longer have to pay for parking, gas or extra car maintenance.”

  32. RV says:

    As with any large-scale infrastructure project, MetroLink certainly has room for improvement. But so do many transit systems across the country. But at the end of the day, I am quite grateful that St. Louis has a rapid transit alternative that appears to be very successful and appreciated. It makes me happy to hear suburbanites talk about taking the train to ballgames and elsewhere. That’s progress. In fact, MetroLink is one of the few aspects of our city that demonstrates a progressive, can-do attitude that cities like Cincinnati, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Detroit and other cities envy.

    And I agree that it’s easy to look back and dwell on all the things that should’ve been done differently, but I’m not sure how productive that is. There is much more to it than saying, “It should be built like this.” I wish it were that easy.

  33. Tom Shrout says:

    Joe Frank makes an excellent point: “Remember, the original proposal was for MetroLink to operate on-street along Natural Bridge Road”

    There are many examples of what planners thought was best, is not what was finally designed and built after the process entered the political phase.

    Planners preferred MetroLink at grade along Carondolet in Clayton with at grade stops at the Ritz Carlton and at the Government Center. Wealthy Clayton Business interests leaned on Buzz Westfall so we end up with MetroLink under and in the middle of Forest Park Parkway. In 1982 planners conceived of MetroLink along Forest Park Parkway to Clayton as part of the initial MetroLink line, but that was shot down by vocal neighbors and almost shot down a second time 15 years later. At grade stations at Skinker and Big Bend were planners initial concept which would have required signal prioritization. Neighbors insisted on tunnels which led to higher costs and construction delays.

    There are planners in St. Louis that know what should be done, but there is more to be done to get the good plans through the political process.

  34. Kevin S. says:

    The new extension works quite well as a park-n-ride commuter line, and I suspect its utility will become even more apparent when the new I-64 construction really gets going. People seem to be dissapointed that they can’t walk out their front door to a metrolink stop and take it to the grocery store and back. This isn’t London or Manhattan. This type of trip may be possible occasionally from places like the CWE to Downtown or vice-versa, but in large part, as has been pointed out, the point of the system is to provide park-n-ride options into the main employment centers of Clayton, BJC, and Downtown – a function it serves well. As long as this is the case I would not expect the suburban stations to be the little islands of city life that people seem to want. The real growth potential of the new line is in filling up the parking lots/garages at Shrewsbury and at I-64. If this can happen then perhaps people will have more of a stomach for the more “urban” northside-southside line.

    If folks want a better door-to-door type system then a better funded/designed bus system is still the way to go.

  35. jeff says:

    St. Louis: A Can-Do City

  36. Tim E says:

    Yes, Deibergs as well as Home Depot are not inviting to transit right now. But realize that a big parking lot is the next easiest site to develop after a green farm field. A dozer, shovel, grader and a few dump trucks can have a site cleared and leveled very quickly at minimal cost (asphalt is a recyceable material in demand, no vegetation with trunks & roots, sand/gravel subbase already in place, and the site is already leveled). Second, their is a minimal number of owners to negiotiate or purchase the site from. Better yet, the owners realize that density gives them more value then the parking. Third, I would tend to believe that zoning is much easier to change on commercial then single home residential property. Fourth, someone being forced off their property or litigation of the property has most likely happened already (unfortunately when the big box was built). Finally, you can only improve upon a parking lot!


  37. john says:

    Notice how rail advocates fail to address the most salient points such as: 1) the failure to incorporate bike paths along the extension, 2) the failure to make stations easily accessible, 3) the failure to locate stations to make travel more efficient, and 4) the failure to be honest with the public about the costs of building and maintaining an inferior design. Collectively they spell disaser and individually should have been “deal killers”. Admitting and stating as much would have been a public service and hopefully led to a public debate. As built, they describe leadership and adviocacy that is bankrupt in ideas and reflect massive failure in creating public consensus.

  38. South Side Red says:

    I find this whole exercise interesting mostly for its future implications and its lessons for the eventual Southside and Northside urban lines. Yes, a lot could’ve been done to make these stations more pedestrian-friendly, and there were many missed opportunities along the way. But let’s face it: pedestrianizing areas like “Maplewood Commons” and the Hanley/Eager stripmall clusterfuck was a lost cause already. Those communities have made their (bad/dumb) decisions about what kind of development to chase, and an army of MetroLink planners can’t change that.

    I’m more interested in applying these lessons to future lines in urban areas, to make sure route and station design enhance and relate to their urban surroundings. At Manchester and Big Bend, or 40 and Hanley, or 170 and Clayton, there’s nothing there to enhance.

  39. Laura says:

    I think the metro extension was a great thing. I came to St. Louis for graduate school from a very urban city that has an extensive train system and was pleasantly surprised to find the metrolink as being very accessible.

    Granted, while it does only go to certain areas, it is especially helpful in accessing anywhere from the West End to Wash U or UMSL, the airport and the Galleria and other areas now the 64/40 is shut down.

    I recently bought a condo in the Skinker/DeBaliviere neighborhood for a really low price through Metropolis DP. http://www.metropolisdp.com. As a student, they were really helpful, and it is a great location because I’m able to access the metro at a pivotal stop (DeBaliviere/Forest Park). I barely use my car anymore because I can easily get to school or walk to my other destinations from my neighborhood.


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