The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis wants to connect to the city’s central corridor to the west. On Friday it issued a Request for Qualifications (link) to hire a consulting firm to study the feasibility to connect to midtown, the central west end and the planned Loop Trolley. From the RFQ:
The proposed streetcar will strengthen the region’s transit system by feeding into current and proposed MetroLink and MetroBus lines; solidifying existing and spurring additional economic investments. With the streetcar line’s frequent stops along the central east-west corridor, the line will complement and serve intersecting MetroLink and MetroBus routes. With the efforts for the Loop Trolley, the ability to connect the two lines would benefit both efforts and enable riders to go from Downtown to University City by streetcar. A preliminary analysis of connecting the two lines should be included. The feasibility study will build the foundation for additional environmental and engineering work, the tools necessary for the basic environmental work to position this project for additional funding opportunities in the future.
Post-Dispatch writer Tim Bryant made his route suggestion on the Building Blocks blog:
Begin with a single-track loop around the Old Post Office downtown. Close Eighth Street between Olive and Locust to traffic and convert that block to a streetcar terminal connected directly to an expanded 8th & Pine MetroLink station below.
From the Old Post Office, a double-track line could head west on Locust past the Central Library, through the growing Downtown West area and Midtown Alley to near SLU, where the line could jog over to Olive Street and continue west through Grand Center to the CWE.At Walton Avenue, the line could head south then west again at McPherson Avenue next to the apartment building where a young Tennessee Williams lived with his family. (The family’s apartment is believed by some to have provided Williams the inspiration to write “The Glass Menagerie.”)
After passing through a CWE business area, the streetcar line could turn south on Kingshighway then west on Waterman to Union, to Pershing and, finally, to DeBaliviere Avenue, where the streetcar could end with another connection to MetroLink and the planned Loop Trolley. (STLtoday.com w/map)
I’ll admit the idea of a streetcar line running on Locust directly in front of my building is mighty appealing, but that’s main problem with Bryant’s route — it goes where development’s already happened. Thus little would be gained from the significant upfront capital costs. To spur “additional economic investments” the route needs to go where that’s actually possible.
Currently two bus lines connect downtown to parts west: the #10 on Olive/Lindell and the #97 on Washington and Delmar west of Compton. Simply replacing one or the other with a streetcar line isn’t feasible. Well you could replace the #10 on Olive/Lindell but you’d not want to keep going west of Kingshighway with Forest Park on one side and mansions on the other.
I’ve suggested a route before, from November 2008:
An example, that I’ve articulated before, would be Olive heading West from downtown, jumping North to Delmar at Vandeventer or Sarah and then continuing West on Delmar to the loop. (post)
My thinking is unchanged, the opportunities to build new density along the route and within a few blocks in each direction are excellent.
East of Tucker a single loop would be made through the central business district, passing no further than one block from the 8th & Pine MetroLink station. West of Tucker a track on either side of a center median. Passengers would board from points along the median. This is important to keep costs down since St. Louis streetcars originally ran in the center so manhole covers and other access points are on the outer edges and the center is relatively free of obstructions.
Like Bryant’s route I want the line to be on Olive west of Grand. The Olive-Lindell split has been reworked (post) since I last suggested a streetcar follow this old route but the intersection could be redone again. Staying on Olive is important at this point because of potential development sites between Grand and Vandeventer. At Vandeventer I’d make right and go north one block to Delmar. From there follow Delmar and join the Loop Trolley.
How do you justify such a massive capital expenditure when the area is currently served by bus routes. If our zoning remains unchanged along the route the expense can’t possibly be justified at all. I love streetcars and to have a line within a block of my loft would be wonderful. But as we’ve seen with MetroLink light rail, without government setting development goals through the use of it’s police power a streetcar line won’t spur new investment and density along the line. Sure, some would happen, but as much as if required. The highest density should be on the blocks facing the route with a drop on each of the next two blocks.
I’m glad to see the Partnership taking this first step. Next would be dropping the idea of north & south light rail lines, building streetcar lines instead to connect north & south city into downtown.
- Steve Patterson