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Readers: MetroLink Light Rail was a Good Investment

August 10, 2011 Public Transit, STL Region 31 Comments

This morning I’m meeting a friend at the airport so we can catch up on the ride to his downtown hotel. Sure, he could take a cab or ahotel shuttle or I could drive out there to get him, but why?

ABOVE: The MetroLink platform at the main terminal

Our light rail connection to the airport is outstanding. We’ve enjoyed the connection since 1993. When I flew to Seattle in 2009 their airport light rail wasn’t yet complete.   Flying into LaGuardia Airport in 2005 I took a bus into Manhattan, NYC’s excellent rail system didn’t reach the airport.

No doubt the airport connection helped garner so many favorable responses in the poll last week, Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?:

Q: MetroLink light rail opened 18 years ago, was it a good investment?

  1. Yes, it is an important part of our region’s transportation system. 180 [79.3%]
  2. Other answer… 19 [8.37%]
  3. No, likely cost too much given the ridership 16 [7.05%]
  4. Possibly, need data to know 10 [4.41%]
  5. unsure/no opinion 2 [0.88%]

Here are the numerous other answers:

  1. If it went faster I would easily say YES. Right now it is a VERY “nice to have”
  2. Yes, although we need more lines for it to be truly effective.
  3. Good starter line but not designed to take advantage of STL’s Urban Form
  4. Yes, but it needs more lines to make it fully functional
  5. No, because it’s taking away from the bus system.
  6. It’s a good start, we need a north south line in high density residential nabes
  7. It’s a needed part of trans. system, but need data to know if good investment
  8. Yes, but it needs to be expanded to MidAmerica to grasp the airport’s potential.
  9. ghetto link
  10. Good investment, but really need to encourage TODs to maximize investment return
  11. Overall yes but NIMBYs have strongly compromised its potential and overall worth
  12. Yes, but the subsequent failures have hurt: lack of extension down 40, etc.
  13. a good investment subsequently wasted by failure to expand to critical mass
  14. It would have been but not as it stands.
  15. No. It is too limited to be useful.
  16. Only if they build more lines
  17. Yes, but we need to do better.
  18. yes, but it still needs improvement in service hours and number of stops
  19. Without turnstiles, we have no idea how much revenue we are losing.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Light rail is one of several types of fixed rail transit, others include heavy rail and streetcars. Each has it’s place. Light rail into Illinois and to the airport was a good investment because we had the right-of-way, bridge, and tunnels to support the construction.
  • The extension further into Illinois was also a good investment as the distance is substantial, getting many cars off the roadways with minimal infrastructure since the line used existing at-grade right-of-way.
  • The extension to Shrewsbury, however, was not a good investment. Expensive tunnels and flyover bridges drove up costs enormously. The distance covered is not that great.
  • The lack of turnstiles made sense in the late 80s when the original line was being planned, ridership was unknown and the additional costs to construct a closed system would have been too much. I don’t think much revenue is lost by those who don’t pay, but not having a reloadable card option (yet) is a huge disadvantage.
  • Light rail is typically run in it’s own right-of-way so therefore it isn’t where you need it to be – in the street next to your destination.
  • Light rail doesn’t belong in street right-of-ways, that’s what a streetcar is for.
  • I see very limited need for additional light rail in the region.  An extension into Madison County Illinois would be nice.  Connecting north county via existing right-of-way from Clayton or airport area makes sense too.  Extending into south county from Shrewsbury also makes sense.
  • I oppose street running light rail going through north & south St. Louis to get county riders downtown.
  • We will never again have a streetcar system serving all neighborhoods in the city and light rail only serves a very small portion of people.  Bus service, therefore, is the main mode of transit.
  • Light rail distracts Metro and funding from bus service, which has been getting the short end of the stick for too long.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

  1. Stlplanr says:

    Build Northside-Southside as modern streetcar in semi-exclusive or transit-priority lanes, thus a “rapid streetcar.”

    And shorten the “MOS” (minimum operating segment) shown in the Moving Transit Forward as a starter project.  Old North St. Louis to Cherokee along the Northside-Southside “LPA” (locally preferred alternative) via 14th Street through Downtown would make a great starter line.

    Later, extend the line to Bayless via streets (not I-55) to connect with future MetroLink there, as well as to UMSL via Natural Bridge (not Goodfellow) to connect with existing MetroLink.

     
  2. Stlplanr says:

    Build Northside-Southside as modern streetcar in semi-exclusive or transit-priority lanes, thus a “rapid streetcar.”

    And shorten the “MOS” (minimum operating segment) shown in the Moving Transit Forward as a starter project.  Old North St. Louis to Cherokee along the Northside-Southside “LPA” (locally preferred alternative) via 14th Street through Downtown would make a great starter line.

    Later, extend the line to Bayless via streets (not I-55) to connect with future MetroLink there, as well as to UMSL via Natural Bridge (not Goodfellow) to connect with existing MetroLink.

     
  3. Douglas Duckworth says:

    I arrived in Lambert from Toronto last Thursday. I paid for a two hour pass, even though other stations sell the one ride fare, took the freight elevator, and arrived on the platform only to find that all doors on the train were closed and would not open except for the front and rear. This has never happened before and I hope it does not again. It was unacceptable. Upon leaving the main terminal, I was greeted by a driver who could barely compose a sentence enough to shout out the bus connections.  Why do the drivers talk?  Why are stops and connections not automated?  On the bus the rider is lucky if the PA system works, if the driver even shots out connections, and again if it’s possible to understand.    Two days ago I took the Hampton 90 at noon in order to get downtown. The driver was very nice, however I was dismayed to see the bus going down 40. Why exactly is this going on? I thought it was going to stop at Central West End station, but no it then went down Forest Park Parkway. What is the point of not going through the park and only from 9am to 5pm?  I saw no road closures.  I asked an older person at Forest Park Station, who said he had been using Metro for 4 years, about why there is no longer a bus schedule posted.  I also asked about why the bus does not go through the Park. He said it was because “Metro wants tourists to use the Trolley, they don’t care about everyday riders.”  He then offered he a schedule and said he gets them from the library.  Riders should know whenever they approach a stop when the next bus will be arriving.  It should not be their responsibility to check online or stockpile bus schedules.  It must be posted at every stop.Why do we have this Muny Bus and the FP Trolley? I was waiting for the 90 for 40 minutes and these two dumb buses came by empty, stopped, and no one got on the bus. Perhaps Metro shouldn’t plan for the weekend white suburbanites but the people who use the system every day? Even if it wanted to plan for white people who have other alternatives, they aren’t going to choose Metro when it’s doing bus cuts, lacks posted schedules, and has 40 minute transfer times. You can paint the Hampton 90, call it the Hampton Trolley of Excellence, but people aren’t going to ride it if service is bad. Those that have to will complain to themselves and wish they had a car.  Apparently bus cuts are going on right now to the Hampton 90 which was my line and which I am using now while I am in town.  A lot of elderly use the 90.  My great aunt used to take it all the way to Riverview TC back in the day.  Removing stops isn’t about efficiency but an unwillingness to fund transit. Stops are placed far enough apart and if people don’t always use them it doesn’t cost a lot of money to keep a metal sign standing.  If anything Metro should be upgrading their fleet and frequency of service.  Why does it not even have GPS so people can text to get the next bus arrival? Again when you walk to a stop, even the small ones Metro wants to remove, it should have a posted schedule.

     
  4. Douglas Duckworth says:

    I arrived in Lambert from Toronto last Thursday. I paid for a two hour pass, even though other stations sell the one ride fare, took the freight elevator, and arrived on the platform only to find that all doors on the train were closed and would not open except for the front and rear. This has never happened before and I hope it does not again. It was unacceptable. Upon leaving the main terminal, I was greeted by a driver who could barely compose a sentence enough to shout out the bus connections.  Why do the drivers talk?  Why are stops and connections not automated?  On the bus the rider is lucky if the PA system works, if the driver even shots out connections, and again if it’s possible to understand.    Two days ago I took the Hampton 90 at noon in order to get downtown. The driver was very nice, however I was dismayed to see the bus going down 40. Why exactly is this going on? I thought it was going to stop at Central West End station, but no it then went down Forest Park Parkway. What is the point of not going through the park and only from 9am to 5pm?  I saw no road closures.  I asked an older person at Forest Park Station, who said he had been using Metro for 4 years, about why there is no longer a bus schedule posted.  I also asked about why the bus does not go through the Park. He said it was because “Metro wants tourists to use the Trolley, they don’t care about everyday riders.”  He then offered he a schedule and said he gets them from the library.  Riders should know whenever they approach a stop when the next bus will be arriving.  It should not be their responsibility to check online or stockpile bus schedules.  It must be posted at every stop.Why do we have this Muny Bus and the FP Trolley? I was waiting for the 90 for 40 minutes and these two dumb buses came by empty, stopped, and no one got on the bus. Perhaps Metro shouldn’t plan for the weekend white suburbanites but the people who use the system every day? Even if it wanted to plan for white people who have other alternatives, they aren’t going to choose Metro when it’s doing bus cuts, lacks posted schedules, and has 40 minute transfer times. You can paint the Hampton 90, call it the Hampton Trolley of Excellence, but people aren’t going to ride it if service is bad. Those that have to will complain to themselves and wish they had a car.  Apparently bus cuts are going on right now to the Hampton 90 which was my line and which I am using now while I am in town.  A lot of elderly use the 90.  My great aunt used to take it all the way to Riverview TC back in the day.  Removing stops isn’t about efficiency but an unwillingness to fund transit. Stops are placed far enough apart and if people don’t always use them it doesn’t cost a lot of money to keep a metal sign standing.  If anything Metro should be upgrading their fleet and frequency of service.  Why does it not even have GPS so people can text to get the next bus arrival? Again when you walk to a stop, even the small ones Metro wants to remove, it should have a posted schedule.

     
  5. Douglas Duckworth says:

    I arrived in Lambert from Toronto last Thursday. I paid for a two hour pass, even though other stations sell the one ride fare, took the freight elevator, and arrived on the platform only to find that all doors on the train were closed and would not open except for the front and rear. This has never happened before and I hope it does not again. It was unacceptable. Upon leaving the main terminal, I was greeted by a driver who could barely compose a sentence enough to shout out the bus connections.  Why do the drivers talk?  Why are stops and connections not automated?  On the bus the rider is lucky if the PA system works, if the driver even shots out connections, and again if it’s possible to understand.    Two days ago I took the Hampton 90 at noon in order to get downtown. The driver was very nice, however I was dismayed to see the bus going down 40. Why exactly is this going on? I thought it was going to stop at Central West End station, but no it then went down Forest Park Parkway. What is the point of not going through the park and only from 9am to 5pm?  I saw no road closures.  I asked an older person at Forest Park Station, who said he had been using Metro for 4 years, about why there is no longer a bus schedule posted.  I also asked about why the bus does not go through the Park. He said it was because “Metro wants tourists to use the Trolley, they don’t care about everyday riders.”  He then offered he a schedule and said he gets them from the library.  Riders should know whenever they approach a stop when the next bus will be arriving.  It should not be their responsibility to check online or stockpile bus schedules.  It must be posted at every stop.Why do we have this Muny Bus and the FP Trolley? I was waiting for the 90 for 40 minutes and these two dumb buses came by empty, stopped, and no one got on the bus. Perhaps Metro shouldn’t plan for the weekend white suburbanites but the people who use the system every day? Even if it wanted to plan for white people who have other alternatives, they aren’t going to choose Metro when it’s doing bus cuts, lacks posted schedules, and has 40 minute transfer times. You can paint the Hampton 90, call it the Hampton Trolley of Excellence, but people aren’t going to ride it if service is bad. Those that have to will complain to themselves and wish they had a car.  Apparently bus cuts are going on right now to the Hampton 90 which was my line and which I am using now while I am in town.  A lot of elderly use the 90.  My great aunt used to take it all the way to Riverview TC back in the day.  Removing stops isn’t about efficiency but an unwillingness to fund transit. Stops are placed far enough apart and if people don’t always use them it doesn’t cost a lot of money to keep a metal sign standing.  If anything Metro should be upgrading their fleet and frequency of service.  Why does it not even have GPS so people can text to get the next bus arrival? Again when you walk to a stop, even the small ones Metro wants to remove, it should have a posted schedule.

     
    • Douglas Duckworth says:

      Sorry, I copied and pasted.  Paragraphs didn’t work.  

       
      • Wqcuncleden says:

        The Trolley goes all thru Forest Park stopping at all the different attractions.  They can’t have the 90 Hampton doing that or it would add way to much time for those just trying to reach a north or south destination.

         
  6. Douglas Duckworth says:

    Sorry, I copied and pasted.  Paragraphs didn’t work.  

     
  7. Douglas Duckworth says:

    Sorry, I copied and pasted.  Paragraphs didn’t work.  

     
  8. Wqcuncleden says:

    The Trolley goes all thru Forest Park stopping at all the different attractions.  They can’t have the 90 Hampton doing that or it would add way to much time for those just trying to reach a north or south destination.

     
  9. Anonymous says:

    Steve, agree with a lot of your thoughts.  Specifically Metrolink, any expansion should emphasize extension of Shrewsbury Line (it is built and best chance to get ridership desired is an extenstion and semi-TOD’s thorugh Richmond Heights/Brentwood/Maplewood) and expansion west of Lambert.   You could literally extend metrolink west on Lambert property and MoDOT I70 ROW without touching anyone else.  This offers a connection to north/south Lindbergh bus service or future BRT as well as an Earth City stop, a county employment center.   Dumbfounded on why Metro doesn’t even purse the Environmental Impact Statement and prelim engineering on either idea after Prop A was passed.  Unfortunately, guessing that Dansforth wants the proposed Daniel Boone LRT running through his baby and has co-opted the county politicians.

    I also think you have it right on the east side of the river, Go to SIU Edwardsville before Mid America!!! In other words, getting to Scotts AFB was the key.  Of course, biased and prefer it connects directly through downtow but politically won’t happen as the money train will be on the Illinois side to make it happen

    As far as other modes, I think the city itself would be much better served by some select streetcar lines that intersects metrolinks current spine line at far less cost then the current pipe dream of the North South Line.  Yes, you won’t ever see a streetcar systems comparable to what once existed just as you won’t see the same population again.  However, The City/Metro/SLU/Grand Center should be able to build a streetcar on Grand Ave or a downtown loop can be built if one man show Joe Edwards can get a tourist trolley line built in the loop. 

    The other possibility for fixed transit in the future  is a commuter rail line from Alton, Il through Downtown, onto Euraka/Pacific.   The rail row is there and continue investment in Amtrak and Higher Speed Rail through Il into St. Louis will help.  Just need downtown to regain some of its lost employees over the decades. 

    Add all these up and think you have a decent system as long as you can keep the bus routes intact to weave it all together.

     
  10. tpekren says:

    Steve, agree with a lot of your thoughts.  Specifically Metrolink, any expansion should emphasize extension of Shrewsbury Line (it is built and best chance to get ridership desired is an extenstion and semi-TOD’s thorugh Richmond Heights/Brentwood/Maplewood) and expansion west of Lambert.   You could literally extend metrolink west on Lambert property and MoDOT I70 ROW without touching anyone else.  This offers a connection to north/south Lindbergh bus service or future BRT as well as an Earth City stop, a county employment center.   Dumbfounded on why Metro doesn’t even purse the Environmental Impact Statement and prelim engineering on either idea after Prop A was passed.  Unfortunately, guessing that Dansforth wants the proposed Daniel Boone LRT running through his baby and has co-opted the county politicians.

    I also think you have it right on the east side of the river, Go to SIU Edwardsville before Mid America!!! In other words, getting to Scotts AFB was the key.  Of course, biased and prefer it connects directly through downtow but politically won’t happen as the money train will be on the Illinois side to make it happen

    As far as other modes, I think the city itself would be much better served by some select streetcar lines that intersects metrolinks current spine line at far less cost then the current pipe dream of the North South Line.  Yes, you won’t ever see a streetcar systems comparable to what once existed just as you won’t see the same population again.  However, The City/Metro/SLU/Grand Center should be able to build a streetcar on Grand Ave or a downtown loop can be built if one man show Joe Edwards can get a tourist trolley line built in the loop. 

    The other possibility for fixed transit in the future  is a commuter rail line from Alton, Il through Downtown, onto Euraka/Pacific.   The rail row is there and continue investment in Amtrak and Higher Speed Rail through Il into St. Louis will help.  Just need downtown to regain some of its lost employees over the decades. 

    Add all these up and think you have a decent system as long as you can keep the bus routes intact to weave it all together.

     
    • Agree with tpekren’s suggestion of limited streetcar lines.  Grand Ave. is the easiest call (and was an old streetcar line).  Heavy traffic, connects to a Metrolink station, includes Saint Louis University, SLU hospital, and Grand Center (Fox / Powell).  Kingshighway makes mucho sense as well.  It’s less than 1 block from Kingshighway to the Metrolink Station in the CWE.

       
  11. Anonymous says:

    Two points.  One, transit works best when driving a single-occupant vehicle (SOV) is, or becomes, a pain-in-the-posterior – stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic on a daily basis and paying a bunch to park.  Otherwise, transit evolves to primarily serve the transit-dependent, people who can’t drive or don’t have cars.  Unfortunately (for transit), for most commuters in the St. Louis region, using the SOV isn’t much of an issue here, and our current transit system, especially the bus part, reflects that.

    Two, while I get the attraction of rail transit, especially for the occasional user and as a development amenity, for the daily user, the mode actually becomes secondary.  If a bus provides better (more frequent, more direct) service, there’s no reason not to use it and like it.  Even a route like the 70 Grand would be improved more by doubling the number of buses, running them every 5 minutes instead of every 10, than it would be by replacing it with a streetcar.  The big negatives any transit system needs to overcome are wating to get on in the first place and waiting to transfer to another route to complete a trip.

    More-frequent service, especially the kind that runs so frequently that it eliminates the need of having to worry about a schedule, starts to make transit much more competetive to the SOV.  It’s when a route runs every 20, 30 or 60 minutes, and you end up “just missing” it more than a few times, that the convenience of an SOV, no matter the cost, starts to become much more attractive.  And, unfortunately, it truly is a chicken-or-egg challenge – you need riders to justify frequent service and you need frequent service to attract riders.  Spending money on good routes to make them better will usually yield better results than investing in random infrastructure projects (like the Loop trolley) that aren’t part of a larger system plan.  One great example is in Boulder, Colorado, where it’s all bus yet is still well utilized:  http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8825&Itemid=2994

     
  12. Anonymous says:

    Two points.  One, transit works best when driving a single-occupant vehicle (SOV) is, or becomes, a pain-in-the-posterior – stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic on a daily basis and paying a bunch to park.  Otherwise, transit evolves to primarily serve the transit-dependent, people who can’t drive or don’t have cars.  Unfortunately (for transit), for most commuters in the St. Louis region, using the SOV isn’t much of an issue here, and our current transit system, especially the bus part, reflects that.

    Two, while I get the attraction of rail transit, especially for the occasional user and as a development amenity, for the daily user, the mode actually becomes secondary.  If a bus provides better (more frequent, more direct) service, there’s no reason not to use it and like it.  Even a route like the 70 Grand would be improved more by doubling the number of buses, running them every 5 minutes instead of every 10, than it would be by replacing it with a streetcar.  The big negatives any transit system needs to overcome are wating to get on in the first place and waiting to transfer to another route to complete a trip.

    More-frequent service, especially the kind that runs so frequently that it eliminates the need of having to worry about a schedule, starts to make transit much more competetive to the SOV.  It’s when a route runs every 20, 30 or 60 minutes, and you end up “just missing” it more than a few times, that the convenience of an SOV, no matter the cost, starts to become much more attractive.  And, unfortunately, it truly is a chicken-or-egg challenge – you need riders to justify frequent service and you need frequent service to attract riders.  Spending money on good routes to make them better will usually yield better results than investing in random infrastructure projects (like the Loop trolley) that aren’t part of a larger system plan.  One great example is in Boulder, Colorado, where it’s all bus yet is still well utilized:  http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8825&Itemid=2994

     
  13. JZ71 says:

    Two points.  One, transit works best when driving a single-occupant vehicle (SOV) is, or becomes, a pain-in-the-posterior – stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic on a daily basis and paying a bunch to park.  Otherwise, transit evolves to primarily serve the transit-dependent, people who can’t drive or don’t have cars.  Unfortunately (for transit), for most commuters in the St. Louis region, using the SOV isn’t much of an issue here, and our current transit system, especially the bus part, reflects that.

    Two, while I get the attraction of rail transit, especially for the occasional user and as a development amenity, for the daily user, the mode actually becomes secondary.  If a bus provides better (more frequent, more direct) service, there’s no reason not to use it and like it.  Even a route like the 70 Grand would be improved more by doubling the number of buses, running them every 5 minutes instead of every 10, than it would be by replacing it with a streetcar.  The big negatives any transit system needs to overcome are wating to get on in the first place and waiting to transfer to another route to complete a trip.

    More-frequent service, especially the kind that runs so frequently that it eliminates the need of having to worry about a schedule, starts to make transit much more competetive to the SOV.  It’s when a route runs every 20, 30 or 60 minutes, and you end up “just missing” it more than a few times, that the convenience of an SOV, no matter the cost, starts to become much more attractive.  And, unfortunately, it truly is a chicken-or-egg challenge – you need riders to justify frequent service and you need frequent service to attract riders.  Spending money on good routes to make them better will usually yield better results than investing in random infrastructure projects (like the Loop trolley) that aren’t part of a larger system plan.  One great example is in Boulder, Colorado, where it’s all bus yet is still well utilized:  http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8825&Itemid=2994

     
    • Tpekren says:

      Can’t really throw numbers at you JZ, but Grand Ave is a question of capacity at this point. In an ideal transit world you would wish to have that problem on every route.  However, your missing the point of why a streetcar would work on Grand Ave.  Streetcar, being one of the cheaper fixed transit options and as most fixed transit systems, once they are up and running gives you a better operating cost structure when their is sufficient demand as buses are not necessarily cheaper to run as increase capacity often results in much higher labor costs and the likes.  Yes, a bus is cheaper on the capital front end but very labor, maintenance and fuel intensive any you look at.

      The trick of course, as you allude too, is matching the transit option that makes sense at the end of the day and will be utilized with/meshed into/or strengthen a bus first transit system.  That’s why I think a new metrolink line at best works in Madison County where as extensions on the Missouri side is probable the extent of any expansion in the foreseeable future.  However, I do think a couple select streetcar lines could be beneficial to the transit mix.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        We’re dealing with finite resources.  Given what little I know about the east side, I agree that extending Metrolink into Madison County probably makes sense IF we want to continue to encourage suburban sprawl.  The same would go for extending it into St. Charles and/or Jefferson Counties, on this side of the river – it helps mitigate the pain-in-the-posterior factor of choosing to live on the fringes of the metro region.

        Bigger picture, you need to know that paying the operator typically carries a higher hourly cost than paying the capital cost of the vehicle they’re operating.  And yes, you do trade off pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later.  Buses cost less than streetcars, and streetcars cost less than light rail.  In exchange, the more-expensive vehicles last proportionally longer, and because they can typically carry more passengers, can reduce operator costs (when operated at capacity).  But the downside to more expensive is usually fewer of them (finite resources).  It’s the old dispersed versus concentrated conundrum, and fewer usually means less-frequent service.

         
        • tpekren says:

          Definitely agree on finite resources and certainly see how one large project really impacts the ability for Metro to do anything else, ever so obvious by the go it alone attitude of Cross County Extension (Shrewsbury line).  Definitely agree that the bulk of Metro transit should be the bus and think they are making an honest effort to streamline and add flexibility to better utilize those assets/provide better service.

          In the same breath, you also need to consider that approval of Prop A was two parts in which 1/4 sales tax increase was to go towards expansion of metrolink on the Missouri side with the requirement for matching Fed funds (which makes a whole lot more sense to leverage all possible resources as well as having to jump through Feds Cost/Benefit requirements).  In other words, voters favored supporting and expanding fixed transit.  Considering the state of federal finances, etc. the question becomes,  how do you best utilize Prop A revenue source to give voters what they want?  In my opinion, drop the initial preference for the new Daniel Boone Alignment that was expressed before the Prop A vote.  This of course will require some political courage.

          In its place, I would put out a three part propisition and commence planning & preliminary on all three.  Why a change of pace? The followoing options can be accomplished and funded separately, modest in terms of size and scope separately, would most likely cost less altogether then a new Daniel Boom Alignment or a North South line, makes use of existing City/County/MoDOT owned ROW, and will be easier to complete EIS and work through Feds approval process.  I believe Metro has a five year timeline just get approval on Daniel Boone Line.

          1) Lambert to Earth City extension – realign through Lambert and add two to three stations between Lindbergh and Earth City Expressway.  Private stakeholders could include Riverport and Harrah’s casino.  Major benefit, incorporating infrastructure access improvements for Lamberts terminals (At the end of the day rebuilding Forest Parkway and upgrading utilities was a plus)
           
          2) Cross County Extension – Shrewsbury to I-55 (with planning extending to South County mall).  Again, its a modest extension that would include two to three stations. 

          3) Grand Ave or Downtown loop fixed transit.  Get creative with the definition of metrolink/light rail. Yes it might not fly with everybody but the city really needs to off the fixation with an all or nothing new North South Line mentality in order to embrace some improvements that are doable, politically and financially.  

           
          • Don Head says:

            If it was up to me:

            I’d take the Lambert extension past Earth City, and go all the way to MidRivers Mall.  I see no reason to exclude St. Charles/St. Peters.. they’re an important part of the region that is seeing a lot of residential growth.

            I’d run the Shrewsbury line down to South County mall (as you suggested).

            I’d split a third line off (probably where the Lambert/Shrewsbury split takes place currently, Forest Park/DeBaliviere I think), and run it down/along/near Hwy 40/I64, all the way to Highway K. There’s dozens of large corporate campuses along this stretch of Hwy 40, especially in Town & Country, Chesterfield, and the Weldon Spring area.  You’ve also got the Chesterfield Mall, Chesterfield Valley shopping area (THF Blvd/Boone’s Crossing), and Chesterfield Airport.  West County mall wouldn’t be far off from this route, either, and if nothing else, could get improved bus service from a “nearby” station (the existing bus transfer point at Ballas would probably be a great place for the rail to pass through).

            Of course, that’s me being all dreamy again.  I’ll stop tooting my “Don’t Forget Us Out Here In West County” horn now.

             
          • Tpekren says:

            Understand,

            The problem with going into St. Charles is that they don’t want transit nor do they pay for it.  Thus, Earth City with maybe a jog to the left or right is as far as your going to get in the foreseeable future.  My thought, just stop at Earth City where the system gains ridership from Harrah’s/Riverport/Verizon amphitheater as well as the extensive Earth city industrial park (throw in some bike trail improvements and you got access to a gem of a county park and lake) and time will tell if St. Charles wants it or not. 

            The other option with extending metrolink through Lambert is a left turn at Lindbergh to the defunct Northwest Plaza.  Talk about a future TOD opportunity. 

            The trouble I have with a I64/Hwy 40 alignment is now your promoting rail line that supposedly will be supported by scattered office parks specifically built around the automobile just as the malls/box strips you detailed with workers and shoppers who are dispersed everywhere in West County and St. Charles County to boot.  In other words, I think every study to date shows that no ridership will exist.  I would rather advocate for electric car charging stations for individuals who obviously can afford and make use of the automobile extensively, desire the convenience and moved to West County for the very specific reason of having space and its percieved benefits with some better and select bus express service.

            Instead, in the future why not support a commuter rail line along existing UP Right of way.  It can fully utilize the new downtown intermodal/train station and UP passes through a Maplewood neighborhood not to far from its downtown, goes through the heart of Webster Groves, Kirkwood (Amtrak station stop), Valley Park/Fenton, and so on.  It already hosts Amtrak trains including the Missouri state supported River Runner (getting new bi-level cars in the future) and can be easily as part of the higher speed plan on the Illinois side.  In addition, lesser used BNSF track parallel to the UP line all the way from Pacific to downtown can be used to take off freight trains during ideal commuter train times.  In other words, the infrastructure is already there to support commuters going downtown and events/sport facilities.  

             
          • JZ71 says:

            A critical part of this discussion needs to be the “last mile” part.  Light and heavy rail are a great way to move large numbers of people over longer distances, to replace cars clogging freeways.  They’re not so good at dispersing small groups of riders around a neighborhood or office park.  Experts on TOD have identified a 1/4 mile radius as the ideal walking distance around a station, with a 1/2 mile radius being the practical maximum.  For rail to attract significant ridership, there needs to be either TOD on one end of the trip or a robust circulator system to distribute riders to their individual destinations.  Lacking that, you have what we have around many Metrolink stations today – few riders and little return on investment.  And the challenge with planning to run transit, of any type, in suburban areas, is a real lack of density – in Earth City, Riverport, along the Chesterfield corridor and in St. Charles and Jefferson counties.  For rail transit to work well we need to have the densities and walkability that we have around Central West End and downtown stations, not the densities we have at the Wellston, Richmond Heights and Sunnen stations, nor at the Ballas Road Transit Center.

            Suburban park-and-ride lots at end-of-line and intersecting stations are a way to create virtual density.  For them to work well, they need to have easy access to freeways and major commuter highways.  The Shrewsbury station should be capturing more commuters, especially from I-44, but there are no obvious connections.  The same holds true for the Brentwood Station and I-64.  North Hanley is better, but needs better signage from I-70.  For an example of what needs to happen, check this out:  http://maps.google.com/maps?q=South+Parker+Road,+Aurora,+CO&hl=en&ll=39.657877,-104.845619&spn=0.002684,0.006856&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=45.014453,112.324219&t=h&z=17  This is not TOD, this is a transit center in Aurora (suburban Denver), Colorado.  It’s designed to, and does, capture commuters from a major highway where it intersects a major freeway – think Gravois at I-225 or 141 at I-44.  The other half of the equation is that stations need to be far enough out that you’re not already halfway to your destination, as in “why bother?”.  For that reason, you need to look at an I-64 alignment as a way to get people into Clayton, BJC & downtown, not as a way to get people into Chesterfield.  The same goes for an Earth City extension – the end-of-line station needs to be next to Dave & Busters, with bus connections to the north and south, not at Harrah’s or Verizon – Metro needs to provide commuter parking, not private entities.

             
          • Wqcuncleden says:

            This wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many blockheaded idiots in St. Louis.  If a ramp doesn’t lead them straight off  the highway right to their destination, in this case the stations, it’s too hard for them to figure out.  If they have to make more than one or two turns they’re lost!

             
  14. Tpekren says:

    Can’t really throw numbers at you JZ, but Grand Ave is a question of capacity at this point. In an ideal transit world you would wish to have that problem on every route.  However, your missing the point of why a streetcar would work on Grand Ave.  Streetcar, being one of the cheaper fixed transit options and as most fixed transit systems, once they are up and running gives you a better operating cost structure when their is sufficient demand as buses are not necessarily cheaper to run as increase capacity often results in much higher labor costs and the likes.  Yes, a bus is cheaper on the capital front end but very labor, maintenance and fuel intensive any you look at.

    The trick of course, as you allude too, is matching the transit option that makes sense at the end of the day and will be utilized with/meshed into/or strengthen a bus first transit system.  That’s why I think a new metrolink line at best works in Madison County where as extensions on the Missouri side is probable the extent of any expansion in the foreseeable future.  However, I do think a couple select streetcar lines could be beneficial to the transit mix.

     
  15. Anonymous says:

    We’re dealing with finite resources.  Given what little I know about the east side, I agree that extending Metrolink into Madison County probably makes sense IF we want to continue to encourage suburban sprawl.  The same would go for extending it into St. Charles and/or Jefferson Counties, on this side of the river – it helps mitigate the pain-in-the-posterior factor of choosing to live on the fringes of the metro region.

    Bigger picture, you need to know that paying the operator typically carries a higher hourly cost than paying the capital cost of the vehicle they’re operating.  And yes, you do trade off pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later.  Buses cost less than streetcars, and streetcars cost less than light rail.  In exchange, the more-expensive vehicles last proportionally longer, and because they can typically carry more passengers, can reduce operator costs (when operated at capacity).  But the downside to more expensive is usually fewer of them (finite resources).  It’s the old dispersed versus concentrated conundrum, and fewer usually means less-frequent service.

     
  16. Anonymous says:

    Definitely agree on finite resources and certainly see how one large project really impacts the ability for Metro to do anything else, ever so obvious by the go it alone attitude of Cross County Extension (Shrewsbury line).  Definitely agree that the bulk of Metro transit should be the bus and think they are making an honest effort to streamline and add flexibility to better utilize those assets/provide better service.

    In the same breath, you also need to consider that approval of Prop A was two parts in which 1/4 sales tax increase was to go towards expansion of metrolink on the Missouri side with the requirement for matching Fed funds (which makes a whole lot more sense to leverage all possible resources as well as having to jump through Feds Cost/Benefit requirements).  In other words, voters favored supporting and expanding fixed transit.  Considering the state of federal finances, etc. the question becomes,  how do you best utilize Prop A revenue source to give voters what they want?  In my opinion, drop the initial preference for the new Daniel Boone Alignment that was expressed before the Prop A vote.  This of course will require some political courage.

    In its place, I would put out a three part propisition and commence planning & preliminary on all three.  Why a change of pace? The followoing options can be accomplished and funded separately, modest in terms of size and scope separately, would most likely cost less altogether then a new Daniel Boom Alignment or a North South line, makes use of existing City/County/MoDOT owned ROW, and will be easier to complete EIS and work through Feds approval process.  I believe Metro has a five year timeline just get approval on Daniel Boone Line.

    1) Lambert to Earth City extension – realign through Lambert and add two to three stations between Lindbergh and Earth City Expressway.  Private stakeholders could include Riverport and Harrah’s casino.  Major benefit, incorporating infrastructure access improvements for Lamberts terminals (At the end of the day rebuilding Forest Parkway and upgrading utilities was a plus)
     
    2) Cross County Extension – Shrewsbury to I-55 (with planning extending to South County mall).  Again, its a modest extension that would include two to three stations. 

    3) Grand Ave or Downtown loop fixed transit.  Get creative with the definition of metrolink/light rail. Yes it might not fly with everybody but the city really needs to off the fixation with an all or nothing new North South Line mentality in order to embrace some improvements that are doable, politically and financially.  

     
  17. Don Head says:

    If it was up to me:

    I’d take the Lambert extension past Earth City, and go all the way to MidRivers Mall.  I see no reason to exclude St. Charles/St. Peters.. they’re an important part of the region that is seeing a lot of residential growth.

    I’d run the Shrewsbury line down to South County mall (as you suggested).

    I’d split a third line off (probably where the Lambert/Shrewsbury split takes place currently, Forest Park/DeBaliviere I think), and run it down/along/near Hwy 40/I64, all the way to Highway K. There’s dozens of large corporate campuses along this stretch of Hwy 40, especially in Town & Country, Chesterfield, and the Weldon Spring area.  You’ve also got the Chesterfield Mall, Chesterfield Valley shopping area (THF Blvd/Boone’s Crossing), and Chesterfield Airport.  West County mall wouldn’t be far off from this route, either, and if nothing else, could get improved bus service from a “nearby” station (the existing bus transfer point at Ballas would probably be a great place for the rail to pass through).

    Of course, that’s me being all dreamy again.  I’ll stop tooting my “Don’t Forget Us Out Here In West County” horn now.

     
  18. Tpekren says:

    Understand,

    The problem with going into St. Charles is that they don’t want transit nor do they pay for it.  Thus, Earth City with maybe a jog to the left or right is as far as your going to get in the foreseeable future.  My thought, just stop at Earth City where the system gains ridership from Harrah’s/Riverport/Verizon amphitheater as well as the extensive Earth city industrial park (throw in some bike trail improvements and you got access to a gem of a county park and lake) and time will tell if St. Charles wants it or not. 

    The other option with extending metrolink through Lambert is a left turn at Lindbergh to the defunct Northwest Plaza.  Talk about a future TOD opportunity. 

    The trouble I have with a I64/Hwy 40 alignment is now your promoting rail line that supposedly will be supported by scattered office parks specifically built around the automobile just as the malls/box strips you detailed with workers and shoppers who are dispersed everywhere in West County and St. Charles County to boot.  In other words, I think every study to date shows that no ridership will exist.  I would rather advocate for electric car charging stations for individuals who obviously can afford and make use of the automobile extensively, desire the convenience and moved to West County for the very specific reason of having space and its percieved benefits with some better and select bus express service.

    Instead, in the future why not support a commuter rail line along existing UP Right of way.  It can fully utilize the new downtown intermodal/train station and UP passes through a Maplewood neighborhood not to far from its downtown, goes through the heart of Webster Groves, Kirkwood (Amtrak station stop), Valley Park/Fenton, and so on.  It already hosts Amtrak trains including the Missouri state supported River Runner (getting new bi-level cars in the future) and can be easily as part of the higher speed plan on the Illinois side.  In addition, lesser used BNSF track parallel to the UP line all the way from Pacific to downtown can be used to take off freight trains during ideal commuter train times.  In other words, the infrastructure is already there to support commuters going downtown and events/sport facilities.  

     
  19. Anonymous says:

    A critical part of this discussion needs to be the “last mile” part.  Light and heavy rail are a great way to move large numbers of people over longer distances, to replace cars clogging freeways.  They’re not so good at dispersing small groups of riders around a neighborhood or office park.  Experts on TOD have identified a 1/4 mile radius as the ideal walking distance around a station, with a 1/2 mile radius being the practical maximum.  For rail to attract significant ridership, there needs to be either TOD on one end of the trip or a robust circulator system to distribute riders to their individual destinations.  Lacking that, you have what we have around many Metrolink stations today – few riders and little return on investment.  And the challenge with planning to run transit, of any type, in suburban areas, is a real lack of density - in Earth City, Riverport, along the Chesterfield corridor and in St. Charles and Jefferson counties.  For rail transit to work well we need to have the densities and walkability that we have around Central West End and downtown stations, not the densities we have at the Wellston, Richmond Heights and Sunnen stations, nor at the Ballas Road Transit Center.

    Suburban park-and-ride lots at end-of-line and intersecting stations are a way to create virtual density.  For them to work well, they need to have easy access to freeways and major commuter highways.  The Shrewsbury station should be capturing more commuters, especially from I-44, but there are no obvious connections.  The same holds true for the Brentwood Station and I-64.  North Hanley is better, but needs better signage from I-70.  For an example of what needs to happen, check this out:  http://maps.google.com/maps?q=South+Parker+Road,+Aurora,+CO&hl=en&ll=39.657877,-104.845619&spn=0.002684,0.006856&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=45.014453,112.324219&t=h&z=17  This is not TOD, this is a transit center in Aurora (suburban Denver), Colorado.  It’s designed to, and does, capture commuters from a major highway where it intersects a major freeway – think Gravois at I-225 or 141 at I-44.  The other half of the equation is that stations need to be far enough out that you’re not already halfway to your destination, as in “why bother?”.  For that reason, you need to look at an I-64 alignment as a way to get people into Clayton, BJC & downtown, not as a way to get people into Chesterfield.  The same goes for an Earth City extension – the end-of-line station needs to be next to Dave & Busters, with bus connections to the north and south, not at Harrah’s or Verizon – Metro needs to provide commuter parking, not private entities.

     
  20. Agree with tpekren’s suggestion of limited streetcar lines.  Grand Ave. is the easiest call (and was an old streetcar line).  Heavy traffic, connects to a Metrolink station, includes Saint Louis University, SLU hospital, and Grand Center (Fox / Powell).  Kingshighway makes mucho sense as well.  It’s less than 1 block from Kingshighway to the Metrolink Station in the CWE.

     
  21. Wqcuncleden says:

    This wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many blockheaded idiots in St. Louis.  If a ramp doesn’t lead them straight off  the highway right to their destination, in this case the stations, it’s too hard for them to figure out.  If they have to make more than one or two turns they’re lost!

     

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