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Transit Visibility: Metro vs DART

August 6, 2012 Featured, Public Transit, Retail, Transportation 6 Comments

The headline isn’t referring to the visibility of transit vehicles, but the transit agency itself. More specifically the transit store and board of directors.

ABOVE: Any clue what goes on here? Let’s get closer so you can see.
ABOVE: It’s obvious now, right?

Above is the entrance to Metro’s MetroRide Store where you can get transit schedules and buy transit passes. Everyone walking by on Washington Ave would know that, wouldn’t they? The Convention Center MetroLink station is a block to the east, the #40 (Broadway) MetroBus also stops there.  Some photo ID services are here, seniors and disabled have to visit the strip center on DeBaliviere. Metro’s headquarters is in a building a block away from the Laclede’s Landing MetroLink station, not serviced by a single bus line.

In Dallas last month I noticed how DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) was totally different, you know, making sure people knew how to find it.

ABOVE: Dart’s offices are located at one of the busiest light rail stations, the Akard Station. The yellow windows on the right market the store just inside their HQ.
ABOVE: Well that’s pretty clear! No confusion about what I’ll find inside.

Retailers know to get customers they need to draw people into their stores for a sale to happen.

I also like how DART calls their light rail simply “rail”, very equal to “bus.” All transit riders ride DART regardless of whether they ride bus, rail, paratransit.

Visibility extends to the board managing the agency.

ABOVE: DART’s boardroom is just inside the building entrance unlike Metro where you have to sign in with security and be escorted upstairs just before the meeting starts.

Our MetroRide Store description tells another part of the problem: Location

Trying to decide which Metro Pass or Ticket is the best value for you? For assistance with your Metro fare purchases, you can call or visit the MetroRide Store, 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101, 314-982-1495, (located inside America’s Center at 7th & Washington, Downtown St. Louis), open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays. The MetroRide Store accepts MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, personal checks, debit cards and government transportation vouchers.

701 Convention Plaza? Some know Convention Plaza used to be called Delmar but part downtown was renamed in the 1970s when the Cervantes Convention Center was built. In the early 1990s the convention center was expanded two blocks south to Washington Ave, at that time Convention Plaza was bisected by the expanded building.

ABOVE: Looking at a map someone would logically go to 7th & Convention Plaza to find 701 Convention Plaza, right? But they’d be too far north if they did.

The address should be 703 (or 705) Washington Ave!

You have to really want to buy a transit pass or attend a Metro board meeting to seek either out. Neither should be as difficult as they are. Tomorrow I’ll share a few ideas I think we should consider copying from DART to improve bus and rail service in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    While I basically agree with many of your thoughts, I do have some different perspectives . . . depending on how visible the board is, and how many controversial issues they may be working with, there may very well be a need for various levels of security – it’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world.

    While a visible transit store is a nice amenity, as either a regular transit user or a visitor in a strange city, there are two things I’m looking for, schedules and passes.  With modern technology, many people are just as likely to do their research online as they are to search a rack of paper schedules.  Where a physical presence will continue to be needed, at least for a while longer, is for buying passes.  For that, I’d rather have them available at designated retail outlets instead of at some central agency “store”.

    When I was in Honolulu, I could buy a multi-day pass at one of the convenience stores within a block of my hotel.  In Denver, I could buy monthly passes at Safeway or King Soopers (comparable to Schnuck’s and Dierberg’s, here).  Here, we welcome our arriving transit users with doubled transit fares in the ticket vending machines at Lambert Airport (in addition to hiding our transit store)!  And I have no idea what it’s like to arrive by bus or train at our new station – we have a transit hub there, and if we’re going to do a transit store, it really should be there, not in the convention center

    Our core issue/challenge is a fare structure and delivery system that is way more opaque than it needs to be.  We charge different fares for rail and bus, even though they’re going the same distances.  We carge for transfers. Where to buy and how to ride are off most people’s radar.  And whether it’s a cause or an effect, a system spread (too?) thin results, in many cases, way-too-long travel times.  In the bigger scheme of things, our less-than-ideal transit store is a minor issue.  I’d rather focus on improving Metro’s website and making transit/bus (not just rail) passes available at every TVM and at more places like Circle K, Walgreens and Quik Trip.

    • DART has a metal detector they move into place prior to a board meeting because of security concers.
      I bought day passes at the machines at the light rail strops. But for a local with questions and needing a monthly pass or a photo ID the store is a necessity.
      While I Dallas I did use the Maps app to look up a bus once, I looked at the posted schedules several times, it was more convenient. I witnessed others also using the schedules. In St. Louis I’ve often witnessed riders asking about printed schedules while on the bus, they’re often out. Metro’s schedules are also significantly harder to read based on the format used to communicate the info.

      • JZ71 says:

        I don’t disagree that a transit store is both useful and a valuable amenity, and as such, should be visible and accessible to as many users as possible.  My point is more KISS – fares should be simple and easy to understand, and not require human intervention to figure them out (you’re not buying a ticket on Amtrak or Greyhound, for a trip of widely varying options, for god’s sake).  Schedules should be available from multiple locations, not just a few central points – put them online and make them easy to use and try to keep them stocked on all transit vehicles.  Bottom line, bring transit to the people, don’t make them trek to Mecca – this ain’t the Apple Store!

        If we want to better serve tourists (and many locals), we need to have a system tourists can understand without a personal tutorial.  We need a great website, distinctive vehicles, frequent service and one-day, three-day and weekly passes available from multiple retail outlets, open nights and weekends, not just 9-5.  We can’t expect tourists to make a special trip across town to learn about Metro.  And, we need to remember that conventioneers are not our primary tourist transit market – their time is usually highly scheduled and events outside the convention hall or hotel usually include group travel using private charter buses – our primary tourist transit user is the individual, family or small group who CHOOSES to explore St. Louis AND arrives here by air, train, bus or bike.  People arriving by car, truck or motorcycle are MUCH more likely to drive to our sights, and not even to attempt to use public transit.

        “Should” people from out of town just park their cars and use Metro?  Yes, and I should lose 50 pounds.  It comes down to picking your battles.  The Bi-State board has made it pretty clear that tourists are not a priority of theirs.  If they were, they’d have discount passes available at Lambert, NOT double the fares for boarding Metrolink at just these two stations!  But I do kinda get the logic – we locals are the ones paying to support the system every day, not someone who’s here for just a few days, so maybe it does make sense to focus service solely on the needs of local consumers?

    • Eric says:

       I can understand terrorists attacking a bus or train (high concentration of people), but why a transit store??

      • JZ71 says:

        The security is there for the board meetings, not a transit store. And it’s not to protect against terrorists, it’s mostly to “protect” the board and staff from irate constituents and frustrated transit users . . . .

  2. JZ71 says:

    One thing that needs to be answered about DART is whether “one of the busiest light rail stations” came first, or the headquarters / transit store did?  Putting all the uses together makes absolute sense.  For better or (more likely) worse, Bi-State / Metro’s headquarters is not all that conveniently located, on Laclede’s Landing, and that won’t be changing anytime soon (imagine going to the voters for approval to build Metro a new one!).  What I do know about RTD, in Denver, is that their two main transit hubs both have staffed ticket-vending and information operations.  Hopefully, Metro “will see the light” and incorporate (and relocate to?) a new transit store at their growing Civic Center Transit Center, as they move forward to double the number of bus bays there.


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