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Walkability Around The Maplewood MetroLink Station

October 12, 2010 Accessibility, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Zoning 15 Comments
ABOVE:worn path where a sidewalk should be, west of the Maplewood MetroLink station on Manchester Rd.

The “Cross County” MetroLink extension opened in August 2006.  In that time many would expect new development and increased walkability around the new stations but we had no plan beyond the line.  I’d plan for and require dense development and walkability over time.  But  not in our region, here we can spend hundreds of millions on transit infrastructure but not change the land planning to justify the infrastructure capital investment.

ABOVE: Aerial view of the Maplewood MetroLink station along Manchester Rd, just east of Hanley. Image: Google Maps

To make the transit investment worthwhile there must be nearby destinations (housing, office, retail, etc) and the ability to walk to/from transit and these nearby destinations. In cities where transit is planned and zoning is changed in anticipation of a transit line you get new dense & walkable development occurring before the line even opens for riders.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. Rick says:

    Steve – What do you think of the development patters around the next station north, the Hanley/Richmond Heights stop?

  2. Kasey Klimes says:

    The Maplewood station area could be vastly improved, as could Brentwood (even a simple sidewalk would be a good start there), as could a number of north red line stops. The most amazing to me though are the huge vacant lots and parking lots around the Forsyth station – this is prime real estate!

    I'm not saying anything new, but St. Louis desperately needs a comprehensive, meaningful, and well funded Transit Oriented Development plan. As you've pointed out Steve, without good TOD, our fairly solid transit system means nothing.

    My question then is how do we get this accomplished? Can the city/county/Metro buy and develop the land? Can we implement TIF incentives? Could we be really progressive and implement land value taxation?

    Whatever it is, this is a huge problem for transit in St Louis.

    • JZ71 says:

      Actually, what St. Louis really needs is a successful, local TOD project. That's going to take a developer who both “gets it” and is willing to take the risk AND it's going to take buyers / renters who are willing to live in a higher-density project next to a Metrolink station (duh). In other cities, like Denver, TOD didn't really take off until people saw that it worked and that they could make money at it. Look at something as simple as the Metropolis condo conversions at the Forest Park station. They're classic TOD, yet they're not really selling, and certainly not for any sort of premium. You can plan all you want, but until the money's there, not much is going to happen.

      • Kasey Klimes says:

        I agree that a successful TOD project would set a precedent and prove that TOD works.

        I disagree that the Metroplois condo conversions at the Forest Park station are a good example of TOD. They may be 'classic' but they are far from ideal and far from true TOD. They are dense and close to a light rail stop, but that is not enough for true TOD. The major component of TOD that area lacks is mixed use development. It is very residential-heavy, not enough commercial development. There is no grocery store, no corner store than I'm aware of, no post office, only a couple restaurants, only one bank (Pulaski) and I think there is a dry cleaner/laundromat. There are some commercial storefronts nearby but they are mostly vacant. Hopefully the cafe replacing Velocity will improve things a bit, but much more is needed for this to be quality TOD. The street grid also needs to be more complete around that area for better walkability. No more needlessly dead-end streets that would otherwise connect to a grid.

        The bottom line is that transit-access is not enough to sell St. Louisans (or anyone, really) – the area must also be walkable and mixed use so that common errands are no more than a ten minute walk away. With this formula a car suddenly becomes optional, and that transit proximity suddenly has value.

        I say this partially from experience – I live on Pine & Euclid in the CWE, a very specific location I chose because it allowed me to live without a car. The CWE Metrolink stop is less than half a mile away, and grocery stores, restaurants, the library, multiple banks and other amenities are all within a few blocks. Unsurprisingly, the CWE stop is also has the highest boardings per day of any Metrolink station.


        • D f says:

          “There is no grocery store, no corner store than I'm aware of, no post office, only a couple restaurants, only one bank (Pulaski) and I think there is a dry cleaner/laundromat. There are some commercial storefronts nearby but they are mostly vacant.”

          Why doesn't anyone open a grocery story, corner store, or more restaurants in the vacant storefronts? Answer: There isn't enough demand, the market wouldn't support these stores. If opened, they'd quickly go out of business. Transit oriented development just DOES NOT WORK unless the land value is at a sufficiently high level. In the St Louis area, only a handful of spots have that value. Maplewood and DeBaliviere are not among those spots!

          • Cheryl says:

            Actually, there is a “corner store”. You can get milk, dog food, candy bars, etc. They seem to be pretty busy. There also are more than a couple of restaurants. I count two pizza places, a Chinese restaurant, a wings restaurant, a donut shop, a subway, and a new coffee shop starting up. Besides restaurants, there is a dental office and the laundromat and bank already mentioned. A block down Pershing, there is a medical office, insurance office, other offices. Etc. Not everything we want, but there is commercial activity.

  3. Joshua says:

    Cross County is not garnering the development I though it should, but it has been a rough economy. Unfortunately, our regional leaders and Metro live under a rock and don't realize that TOD is supposed to go along with light rail expansion. My biggest fear now is that County leaders are going to push for Westport as the next Metrolink line, but if Cross County is any indication of how they handle development then I guess Metrolink will be nothing more than a glorified commuter system. I do know that CMT/Metro were saying they were going to hire and expert on TOD if Prop A passed, but I have yet to see this. Fingers crossed!

    • Tpekren says:

      Have to agree about slow pace of development. Which has a lot do with the economy and real estate market overall. However, I also think their has been a poor approach to transit development by the respective communities, Richmond Heights, Brentwood and Maplewood. Between them they have four stations and have some good potential if a better street grid was introduced around the stations. Picture a through street parallel to Hanley that would have provided access between Best Buy and Hanley station that incorported a good sidewalk/pedesterian access away from Hanley or how about a realignment of Hanley business park streets to better facilitate movement to and from the Brentwood/I-64 station. Unfortunately, they have all been focused on the almighty sales tax dollars via the holy grail of the next big box store. In other words, it also takes good street infrastructure to make transit work.

      My next big gripe, I agree that pushing forward with Westport is not the best option. Instead, build upon the existing system by extending the spine line past Lambert to Earth City, adding stations at Lindbergh Blvd (good north south bus lane) and Earth City Expressway (which gives access to more employers, riverport, Harrah's casino, etc.). On top of it, its a good trade of for the airport giving up right of way in return for new stations at the respective stations. The current add on stations really don't serve travellers well. Second, rebuild some current stations to facilitate three set trains and providing overhead canopies. Finally, extend Cross County. Yes, it will only better serve Clayton CBD due to lenght to get downtown, but will strengthen and create potential ridership on the rather short light rail line. Having truncated lines will not serve transit well in the future. Especially if you can't build upon what you have.

      • We have too much fragmentation in our region, too many municipalities. The developments adjacent to the station on Eager and on Hanley near Maplewoos all knew transit was coming when those were built yet they built as if they were not near transit or any pedestrians. The substantial infrastructure investment by the government should have had substantial requirements to be phased in over time. The first would have happened before the Cross County line even opened. If they want free market results they could have funded and built their own transit line, as developers did a century ago.

    • Court says:

      Just as an FYI Joshua, Metro has, since the passing of Prop A, formed a TOD Committee that includes members of East-West Gateway. We're in the process now of creating action items and determining our role as facilitator in the process.

  4. Alfred Fickensher says:

    Please forgive me this off-topic foray. While I don’t really wish to hijack your blog thread – well, I did wait all day till the traffic kind of slowed down on it – you triggered a neat memory about Hanley Rd just north of Manchester.

    Back in 67-68 we lived in Maplewood and I was a young aviation buff with a good, white-shirt & tie kind of job at McDonnell Aircraft. Sometimes on my way home from work I’d use Hanley Rd south from the end of the “Inner Belt” (no idea what that’s called now, but it was still relatively new and still very unfinished north of Olive Blvd.

    Located on the east side of Hanley maybe a couple hundred feet north of the Manchester intersection, there was a factory which produced a line of aluminum home building products. This company weather-tested their aluminum siding and such by blasting them with high wind and grit or water or whatever, and to do that they were using a WWII US Navy Corsair propeller airplane to make the wind.

    The airplane had its wings removed and the fuselage was mounted on a fabricated steel mobile framework which was kept inside the chain link fence but entirely visible from passersby on Hanley Rd. I was able to observe several of the “tests” and it was quite exciting and technically interesting to watch and hear the big radial engine and huge propeller running at (I assume) full throttle.

    I have no idea what that area is like these days, but back in the sixties it was all industrial and heavy commercial and nobody apparently complained about the noise.

    After reading this blog post this morning, I spent some time searching for a photo I had taken one day during a dust or grit test. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to find the pic, possibly the only record of that little bit of St Louis history, so I hope it isn’t really lost or destroyed. Oh well.

    Thanks for the space and now back to the MetroLink stop.

  5. Tpekren says:

    Steve, could you comment more. I believe what the post is missing is that most of property just north of the Maplewood station and just south of the Sunnen Station stop (the other Maplewood stop) between the cross county line and Hanley Road is actually owned by the Sunnen Group/Family as they have secured a number of properties between their own manufacturing sites and the Sunnen Business park. Including a number of homes just north of where Hanley and Laclede station come together. I believe they outlined a development plan in the St. Louis Business journal before everything crashed.

    Unfortunately, it not only takes money but a market to develop a lot of space. Especially if you want density as proposed in the TOD. The post might be improved upon if Sunnen's conceptual drawings were posted in conjunction with the existing photos. I think what they proposed is a start but probably still falls short of true TOD.

    • JZ71 says:

      Smart, successful developers only build what sells. In many other cities, new rail transit investments have resulted in TOD and, for better or worse, gentrification. Here, for whatever reason*, little seems to be happening. Yes, there's one residential development in East St. Louis, and Express Scripts continues to expand between the North Hanley and UMSL North stations, but nothing else seems to be happening or in the pipeline. We seem to be stuck between no apparent market and no developer willing to take the risk.

      The same held true in Denver until the first successful project was built in suburban Englewood, where a defunct mall provided a contiguous parcel, and a partnership between a local government and a willing developer provided the/a product that was popular and successful. Once there was local success, albeit not a “perfect” TOD project (part of the project was a new Walmart), other communities and other developers “got it” and now there are multiple projects completed, under construction and in planning.

      *too easy to drive/little reason to use transit? fear of crime and/or outright racism on the part of potential users? an incomplete, imperfect system that doesn't serve enough real destinations? a lack of walkability at too many stations? uncertainty over schedules? legislative or planning hurdles? financing, for both developers and buyers?

      This study, while interesting, with some useful perspectives, won't apply here until we see a lot more TOD: http://www.northeastern.edu/du

  6. JZ71 says:

    and kudos to NextStopSTL: http://toddata.cnt.org/


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