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Accessing Metro’s Transit Access Center Not Straightforward

Seniors (65+) and the disabled can ride Metro for half price, but a reduced fare permit is required. Seniors have several options on obtaining such a permit, the MetroRide store downtown, for example. The disabled, like myself, must visit Metro’s Transit Access Center at 317 DeBaliviere. Let’s pretend we’re newly disabled and need to get a reduced-fare permit, for the first time. We arrive on the #90 (Hampton) MetroBus or via MetroLink at the Forest Park station.  Remember this station opened twenty years ago, and was altered significantly in 2006 when the extension to Shrewsbury was built.

We get off the bus or come up from the platform on the east side of DeBaliviere and head north to find our destination.

Based on the map online the Transit Access Center must be located in the strip mall over there.
Based on the map online the Transit Access Center must be located in the strip mall over there.
The curb ramp has nothing to do with the crosswalk, no curb ramp exists on the other end of the crosswalk. When the light turns green I'll have to head over to the auto drive where cars will be leaving.
This curb ramp has nothing to do with the crosswalk, no curb ramp exists on the other end of the crosswalk. When the light turns green we’ll have to head over to the auto drive where cars will be leaving.
Made it across safely, there's our destination
Made it across safely, there’s our destination
Drat, no ramps on either side of the driveway! We could enter the auto driveway and hope we find a ramp before a vehicle backs over us,  but none are visible from this point. Let’s continue along the public sidewalk to see if we can find another way in or our destination.
There's a ramp, but we can't reach it from here, We could go back and risk getting backed over or continue.
There’s a ramp to the right of that car, we can’t reach it from here due to planter/curb/parking, We could go back and risk getting backed over or continue until we see our destination. I say we keep looking for a safe route.
Oh, there's the Transit Access Center, there must be a pedestrian route down further.
Oh, there’s the Transit Access Center, there must be a pedestrian route down further.
See, I knew we'd find a direct way! Oh wait...
See, I knew we’d find a direct way! Oh wait…
Naturally a curb is in our way
Naturally a curb is in our way
All the way on the far end is a route to reach the storefronts from the public sidewalk.
All the way on the far end is a route to reach the storefronts from the public sidewalk.
We get to the door and we're glad it has an automatic opener, but it doesn't work when pressed. "It's never worked", says the person inside when we mention it.
We get to the door and we’re glad it has an automatic opener, but it doesn’t work when pressed. “It’s never worked”, says the person inside when we mention it.
Leaving we see the problems from the other side
Leaving we see the problems from the other side
Still too risky to go behind parked cars
Still too risky to go behind parked cars, why must it be such a challenge?
The fix here in this privstely-owned development is pretty simple actually, just replace a couple of curbs with ramps.

I’m not sure how long the Transit Access Center has been a tenant in this building, at least 4 years. The building was built in 1988, two years before the ADA and five years before the MetroLink opened. But for the last twenty years this development adjacent to a light rail station hasn’t been very accessible.

Again, this is the location every disabled person that seeks a reduced-fare permit must go. Granted, access from disabled parking is easy enough but many who need the permits can’t drive. For the disabled, independence is very important.

 — Steve Patterson


Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    What is the Transit Access Center’s relationship to Metro? Is it a subcontractor or or staffed by Metro employees? If they’re Metro employees, I’m surprised that they would be housed in leased space when Metro (I believe) has vacant retail spaces at one or more Metrolink stations (North Hanley comes to mind). That said, whoever operates the center should be cognizant of the challenges you documented here. It may have been the best option when it originally opened, obviously there are better options now.

  2. mark says:

    What has this to do with Metro at all. Why don’t you go to the city and the Alderman responsible? I don’t believe that Metro’s original charter was to make the whole city handicap assessable. It looks like the office itself is ADA compliant.

    • JZ71 says:

      Metro is required by the ADA to provide service to people with disabilities. The question then becomes what level of special service? Call-a-ride, discounted passes or just an ID card? Someone needs to determine the extent of a rider’s disability and that appears to be what happens here. What this “has this to do with Metro at all” is simple customer service – if you’re screening potential customers with a range of disabilities, then they damn well better be able to access the office! If 80%+ of your customers need ramps along an accessible path of travel, then duh, make sure there’s an accessible path! Metro chose to lease the space where it is, and continues to lease the space, even though it doesn’t work well. The easy answer is to fix the path of travel, the better answer would be to locate it within an accessible Metro station.

      • moe says:

        I can’t believe that there is only 1 office to serve the entire area. That is pathetic. This is just like the Social Security office moving from Chippewa out to Crestwood and the State Family Support Building on Chouteau closing. People are forgetting who they serve!

        • mark says:

          The number of disabled people as a proportion of total Metro riders is relatively small so it would make little if any financial sense to staff people and the necessary equipment to be able to screen potential disabled customers. Transit is expensive enough without adding unnecessary additional cost, and with one location staffed full time, the disabled are accommodated without unduly adding waste. But this brings me to my next question, why are we offering half price fairs to senior citizens and the disabled at all? What makes someone that is old or disabled more deserving of special consideration than a student or someone else with very low income? Or do we just make the assumption that all senior citizens and disabled people are low income and need assistance? If your older or disabled, and wealthy shouldn’t you pay more for requiring additional resources to accommodate you?

          • JZ71 says:

            While I agree, that’s a separate discussion (discounts). The real issue also isn’t certifying disabled riders to qualify for discounts on regular service, the real issue is weeding out people who claim to need call-a-ride service (which is REALLY expensive to provide) from those who just want the convenience of door-to-door service.

          • moe says:

            discounts are a separate discussion. Call-A-Ride…..has anyone ever seen a bus with more than one or two people on it? Not me, and I’m in the City. But then, what qualifies Metro staffers to determine a disability? Hell, even the State doesn’t let the local DMV office determine that.

          • JZ71 says:

            Been there, done that. RTD in Denver hired a qualified subcontractor to certify people’s disabilities, much like how Social Security does. Is it intrusive and inconvenient? Absolutely! But hey, you’re asking for special services and discounts. Why shouldn’t you prove that you really need them?! And no, the DMV does get to decide if you’re competent to drive, they just don’t decide if you qualify for a parking placard.

          • moe says:

            I should have been clearer. I was speaking with regard to the disabled placard. All one needs is a doctor’s signed consent and submit (with payment of course). It can be done by mail or at a local office. If it’s that easy to get a disabled placard, it should be just as easy to get a metro card. That was my point.

          • dempster holland says:

            When I was a Bi-State commissioner in the late 1970s, I proposed
            that the elderly discount be removed for rush hour riders, under the
            assumption that those riders were likely to be employed and there-
            fore not in need of a special subsidy. The professional elderly
            groups raised a stink, calling the proposal heartless. Since Bi-State
            had enough controversies, the proposal was dropped.
            This was a good example of why rational government is sometimes
            difficult to come by.

      • Terri says:

        I understand your point, but I disagree. Based on your logic, I wonder to what extent, then, Metro has the responsibility to provide an accessible path to all their bus/train stops, transit stations, etc? Does the “responsibility” extend just 1 block out, or would it extend 2 blocks, or even 3 or 4? I have to agree with mark–that the responsibility to provide an accessible path in public streets and sidewalks would belong to the municipality where the obstacles exist. The responsibility to provide an accessible path from the public sidewalk to the accessible building entrance would be that of Metro (or Metro’s landlord). If I am disabled and spend the night in ABC Hotel located at (Point A) 20th and Washington, and I decide to travel via motorized chair to the (Point B) train station located adjacent to Union Station, to what extent is Metro responsible to provide ADA compliant curb cuts from point a to point b? And what if only 40% or 30% of your customers need ramps along an accessible path of travel? In that case, is an accessible path any less critical? Or does the number have to drop to 10%?

        • Metro isn’t responsible for access outside its locations, if it were access to the Shrewsbury station wouldn’t be so awful. But where it decides to send disabled riders to obtain a required permit is their responsibility. They need to 1) pressure the city to fix crosswalks and 2) pressure their landlord to provide an access route or relocate elsewhere or fix the problem for the landlord. I prefer the strip mall get improved access since it is adjacent to a busy transit station.

          • JZ71 says:

            Or they need to relocate to a location that is fully accessible to both bus and rail riders.

          • moe says:

            Ahhh…the key. What’s the link between the landlord and Metro? Who knows who?

      • mark says:

        Your photos are extremely misleading as they are slanted to give the impression that wheelchair access to the Metro office would be difficult, which it is not. The Metro station has an elevator on the same side of the street as the metro office which is just down the street, but even assuming that someone wanted to access the office from the direction that your pictures show there are no obstacles to wheel chair access, other than someone may have to roll an additional 5 or 6 feet to get on the sidewalk. Again, any issues are the responsibility of the city and not Metro and you should be taking your complaints to the city.

        • Yes, someone arriving on the MetroLink can easily come up on the west side of DeBaliviere, if they know to go to the far elevator. However, as I mentioned, someone arriving on the #90 Hampton bus will be let off on the east side of DeBaliviere. MetroBus carries the majority of passengers Metro Serves.

          You’re totally wrong, but unfortunately the image captions aren’t readable. We’re working to fix that.

          • mark says:

            No I am not wrong, even assuming that someone was left off on the East side of Debaliviere and didn’t feel comfortable traveling down and across on your proposed route, they could take the elevator down and then back up on the other side of the street. Inconvenient possibly, but I have had to do this often in major cities rather than try and cross a very busy intersection. The point is that your conjecture is simply unreasonable. There is reasonable access provided at considerable expense, and at some point that should be enough. But lets address the issue of why say a wealthy disabled person should be traveling for reduced fares when so many in this country are going hungry? Shouldn’t we also have a means test for older citizens and disabled people prior to just issuing then 1/2 price passes?

          • JZ71 says:

            Discounts are a separate discussion. If you want to look at means testing, then let’s look at all discounts, including those for college students, high school students and all children 12 or younger. I’m a big believer in KISS – everyone pays the same – but every “special” group believes that they deserve their special break, and you’re going to face a political firestorm if try to touch any of them.

          • mark says:

            I don’t disagree with you, and that’s partly what I find troubling about this post. I am sure that if the city were to redo the streets in this area that they would bring them up to today’s standards as part of the process, I don’t believe that the city is unaware of these issues. But the city, like any municipality has many other more pressing issues to spend money on so advocating that someone spend money on an area that while it may possibly use some improvement, is still reasonably assessable, especially when compared to some other areas is absurd and would have the affect of damping expenditures for needed improvements elsewhere. How can Metro ever be expected to expand their infrastructure which ultimately would be good for everyone if they are constantly being nitpicked about something that isn’t even within their area of responsibility?

          • JZ71 says:

            While it technically “isn’t even within their area of responsibility” to provide an accessible path here, the fact that they are requiring people with disabilities to “prove” their need for discounts and/or special services (which I think IS a good thing to do), Metro should, at least, locate the office some place where ALL people with disabilities can access it! Yes, Steve nitpicks. Yes, this is already pretty good, Yes, directing resources here means another area likely remains neglected. While Steve’s point is “fix it”, my point is move it – this is leased space, the lease has a renewal date, it doesn’t have to be forever. There are many, many other locations (the Civic Center Transit Center, the new Grand Station, the CWE station, Clayton, North Hanley) that either already have vacant space available or have space where an office could be created fairly easily. In either case, the lease cost would go away. The problem is likely a combination of inertia and politics – if the office moves out, the space will be difficult to fill. I don’t know who owns the strip center, but it does seem a bit fishy that Metro continues to lease space while it has its own vacant spaces

          • My point isn’t to divert resources, my point is Metro signed a lease in a facility to use as their access center without considering how it would be accessed. I don’t know who made this decision or when, but I’m making them aware of the failure in their past decision.

          • JZ71 says:

            Even if they “fix” the accessible route, it still makes little sense to lease space when they have their own vacant spaces, most of which would be inherently more convenient to existing bus and rail stops. Or, do you believe that Metro should hold onto those spaces / hold out for more “everyday” retail uses since this is more of an “office” use, something that doesn’t fit your paradigm for TOD retail?

          • Metro doesn’t, to my knowledge, have a facility large enough for this office. It includes a bus to show users how lifts work so they can see how in a test setting. I’ve never seen the back area so I don’t know how many people work here. Fixing access is very likely the least expensive option. This could be part of negotiations on renewing the lease, for example.

          • JZ71 says:

            As could be fixing the automatic door “that has never worked”. Metro has leverage, with this or any other landlord. The fact that these issues have been ignored for as long as they have says more about Metro than it does about the landlord. Then, again, maybe most other members of the disabled community simply aren’t seeing the same hurdles you are?

  3. I received the following reply back from Metro’s Director of Disability Services:

    “I’d be happy to meet with you. I am very aware of the accessibility challenges in the area as I use a scooter. I use MetroLink to get to the Transit Access Center. It would be very helpful if there were curb cuts at the ends of the shopping strip by Cecil Whittaker’s and Davis Dental. The additional curb cuts would allow better access to the entire sidewalk in the strip mall as well as a safe path of travel. Please let me know when you want to meet.”

    • moe says:

      Two questions for them then: 1) do they use Metro themselves? 2) do they have to go to this office to get a permit? Those two answers will tell you a lot.

  4. moe says:

    A little off topic, not much: Just received our notice that the Ten Toes Express walking club is starting this fall. This is by Citizens for Modern Transit to increase walking, and familiarity with the transit system among other things. http://tentoes.cmt-stl.org/

  5. GMichaud says:

    Everyone should access to transit centers, it is crazy that they are not more. I’m not sure why, it isn’t like even outlets like Walgreen’s or Schnucks couldn’t supply the service. Surely there are ways to make the senior/ada discounts more generally available. As a result ADA friendly sites could be found so it doesn’t have to be a accessibility nightmare to get around.
    The idea that it may be only a minority that have an accessibility need misses the point entirely. An effective transit system must be designed for the population as a whole. This lack of concern for accessibility is mirrored in the rest of the transit system in different ways and impacts the majority of users.
    As for as trying to means test or banning the use of discounts during rush hour, it only complicates the system, if anything pricing should be more simplified.
    The problem with the transit system isn’t with senior/ada discounts, but with the poor design of the system itself.

  6. Joseph Frank says:

    I have always thought that strip center is ridiculously ugly and cheap-looking, given the location in a relatively affluent, densely-populated neighborhood adjacent to a busy MetroLink stop. Hopefully Steve’s conversations with Metro administration will lead to better access to the facility.

    As far as the conversation about discounts goes, it is possible to get a Senior discount ID card at the MetroRide store downtown and sometimes at mobile events at various senior centers. That’s a separate issue – in fact, Illinois seniors get to ride free if they have the appropriate ID card.

    But hey, I cannot complain – thanks to the generosity of my employer, I ride free as well, just have to show my work ID badge along with my annual pass. Saves me a bundle.


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