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Poll: Which two of the four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes would you like to see planners seek federal funding

September 15, 2013 Featured, Public Transit, STL Region, Sunday Poll 11 Comments

Last week regional transportation planners presented four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) being considered. Soon two will be picked to submit for federal funding.

Four alternative BRT routes, click image to view larger version
Four alternative BRT routes, click image to view larger version

I attended the presentation at City Hall and participated in the audience voting using hand held devices. They asked a couple of questions to help them in their decision. To keep things simple I’m just asking which two of the four BRT routes should move forward with a request for federal funding.

From MovingTransitForward.org:

These four potential BRT routes are options for improving transit connections between St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis. One of the study’s main goals is to address the need for quick, direct travel from neighborhoods north and south of Downtown St. Louis to employers located in north and west St. Louis County. The “Central Corridor” stretching from Downtown St. Louis to the Central West End and Clayton still holds the region’s largest concentration of jobs, but the largest job growth is occurring in places like Chesterfield, Earth City, and St. Charles – areas easily accessible by highway, but currently not by public transit. The type of BRT service currently being studied is intended to expand access and improve travel time to those job opportunities – of particular importance to reverse commuters traveling to major job centers in suburban areas – while also providing a premium transit alternative for car commuters. The Rapid Transit Connector Study will identify candidates for Metro’s first two BRT routes; Metro will continue to work with the region to identify future BRT routes. Other transit options identified in Moving Transit Forward, such as expansions of the MetroLink System, are intended to meet other long-term goals such as strengthening neighborhoods and encouraging transit-oriented development.
Alternatives analysis involves evaluating the performance of each alternative along parameters including ridership, expanded access to key destinations, travel time savings, and land use benefits. These technical outcomes will be combined with public input to identify the two potential projects most likely to meet project goals, benefit the region, and successfully compete for federal funding.

One final meeting will be held this Tuesday:

September 17, 2013
5:30-7:30 p.m., open house with presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Chesterfield City Hall, Council Chambers
690 Chesterfield Pkwy W.
Chesterfield, MO 63017

The downtown inset can be viewed here.

You may not like any of the four, however, I’ve not allowed any custom answers so you can’t suggest any other routes. These four need to be narrowed to two. I did provide “none” as an option as well as “unsure/no answer.” The poll is in the right sidebar (desktop layout).

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I voted “none” because none does a great job of either creating a new, “lightweight” version of a needed light rail route or in providing new service to help suburb-to-suburb commuters. They each offer possibilities, but they each contain major flaws, as well:

    I-64: Provides new service west of Brentwood, replicates existing light rail east of Brentwood. Would make more sense and serve more commuters if the alignment were either Olive or Manchester – between I-270 and Brentwood, along I-64, there are no destinations and little demand, between Chesterfield and I-270, creating stops and getting on and off the highway will be “problematic”, at best.

    Page Avenue: Biggest population base it would serve would be commuters from St. Charles County, using the Page Avenue Extension. East of Lindbergh, there are few major employment centers, and east of Wellston, replicates existing rail service. A better alternative would be an express bus route (no intermediate stops) between West Port and the Wellston Metrolink Station.

    West Florissant/Natural Bridge: Not connecting to one of the UMSL stations is its biggest (and fatal) flaw.

    Halls Ferry/Riverview: The North Broadway alignment south of Bellefontaine Cemetery does a poor job of serving either major employment centers or many residents. Would be much more effective if it followed Goodfellow to the Forest Park station instead of going downtown.

    This is probably not PC, but focusing on improving existing bus routes (to “BRT levels”) in north city and north county will do little to change the perception of public transit in the region, nor will it do much to help residents living in the poorer parts of our community to access jobs in more affluent areas. We already serve downtown and Clayton, from both north and south county, with both Metrolink and local bus service. We already have several Transit Centers in north and west county, each served by multiple local bus routes (for that “last mile”, to both home and work). What’s truly missing is fast, frequent service between these established nodes. The best alternative would be to connect the end points of all four proposals with a new cross-county BRT route. Start at the North County Transit Center, go to the North Hanley Metrolink station, continue on to Westport Plaza, then down Ballas to the Transit Center at I-64. From there, provide express bus service (not BRT) out to Chesterfield Mall and the big boxes and outlet malls out on the flats.

    • moe says:

      Very true. These seem to be favoring the political players and not the riders or potential riders, except for the N/S route (let’s toss them a bone). To me, this is just throwing mud on a wall and seeing which sticks. There is no area wide, in-depth plan and never has been. Everything done to date has been piece meal, done at the whims of whoever is in power at the time. And this is where my conservative side comes in…..like in the past, just because there is money ‘out there’ doesn’t mean we have to grab all we can and spend it before some other city does. Heck, we can’t even get a 2 mile trolley completely planned properly and so the Feds are ready to pull the plug and yet we want more and more and bigger and bigger nevermind taking care of and improving what we have .

    • dempster holland says:

      Some very good observations. What is most striking about the proposals is their lack of
      coordination with light rail, as the comment notes. The only possible bus rapid route would be
      the one from Bellefontaine neighbors, since that will likely never have a light rail route. All of
      the others, as have been noted, duplicate light rail. I still beleive that the whole bus rapid idea
      is a conservative attempt to replace light rail (on the national level) and a local attempt to
      divert attention from the failure to develop any new light rail routes despite the public beleif
      in 2010 when the new sales tax was passed.

      • FYI: The first BRT system was in Brazil in 1974. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_rapid_transit

      • JZ71 says:

        I have no problem with BRT a potential substitute for light rail – I’m a big believer in defining the problem before trying to come up with a solution. I don’t care if it’s heavy rail, light rail, a streetcar, BRT, an express bus, a local, an aerial tramway, a stagecoach or a pedicab – use whatever works best to solve the problem and provide the best service as economically as possible. The problem I see with too many discussions about transit around St. Louis is that, in an effort to come up with something “better”, we focus way too much on technology and/or the type of vehicle and not nearly enough, literally, connecting the dots. Public transit’s primary role is to move people, not to just spend money on random projects that manage to win the endorsement of certain politicians and politically-connected interests . . . .

        • dempster holland says:

          Light rail is an attempt to mitigate what is probably the most common ob=
          jection to public transit: the length of trip time. It does this only if it
          has its own right of way. Since in St Louis subways or elevated are either
          too expensive or undesireable, this leaves only rr rights of way as the only
          feasible vehicle. Bus rapid can use expressways for speed, but we already
          have express buses, which are sometimes called rapid buses. If we fully
          build out light rail as planned, then it, together with existing or expanded ex=
          press buses using highways, will provide the framework for a more efficient
          and time saving public transit system. While some cities may use bus rapid in
          a non-expressway mode, such as on majpr streets with heavy bus use, that
          is not found in st louis with possible exception of Grand ave, and even there it
          still is no different than express buses and still subjectr to delays from cross
          traffic I cannot cover all the aspects of this topic, but you should be aware that
          bus rapid was basically pushed by conservatives at the dept of transportation
          while Bush was in office, and is a favorite topic of conservantive transit
          writers==not proof in itself it is wrong, but should make you skeptical of its
          claims Basically, light rail can provide a rapid trip at a relatively low labor
          cost per passenger mile.

          • See http://www.movingtransitforward.org/stlrapidtransit/pdfs/service_comparison_chart.pdf for differences between Bus Rapid Transit, Express Bus, & Priority Bus

          • JZ71 says:

            Dedicated right of way makes any technology work more efficiently – it doesn’t matter if it’s BRT, light rail, streetcars or plain old local buses. Yes, around here, light rail runs exclusively in dedicated rights of way. In other cities (San Diego, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Denver), light rail operates partially on city streets, much like streetcars, with the same limitations on speed. Similarly, in some cities (Pittsburgh, Seattle, Denver), buses operate partially on dedicated rights of way, with significant improvements in efficiency. The other relatively-recent challenge for implementing rail transit is that established railways are much less willing to share their existing rights of way with public transit than they once were, indirectly increasing right of way acquisition costs. Like anything else, the added cost of building a dedicated right of way needs to be weighed against the projected increase, if any, in the number of passengers using the route.

            In theory, both light rail and BRT can reduce labor costs on a per passenger mile basis, but this all depends on maximizing usage – whatever you put out there needs to be relatively full on every trip. Operating a large vehicle with few passengers actually costs more than running a smaller vehicle for the same passenger load. High usage is directly dependent on high density, at both ends of the trip. Otherwise, the tradeoff between the time it takes to fill the vehicle can easily negate any theoretical gains in efficiency, since most people will only wait for a limited time before they think about driving. For example, if we had larger stations, we could run 4-car trains on Metrolink, half as frequently, instead of being limited to the 2-car trains and schedules we now use. But if we ran half as often, we could easily lose 10%-20% of our current riders – a 10-minute wait is no big deal, a 20-minute wait gets to be an issue, and a 40-minute wait becomes a real obstacle. More capacity is not always the best answer; more frequency, even if it requires using smaller vehicles and more operators, is almost always the better answer.

    • JZ, you mention that stops along I-64 between I-270 and Chesterfield would be problematic. In maps only visible at the public meetings, Metro seems to have solved that issue by including only a single stop at Maryville in the 6+ mile distance between the Ballas Transit Center and Chesterfield Mall.

      • JZ71 says:

        Then, is this still BRT or is it an express bus route with one intermediate stop? Will the bus be operating in general traffic (generally stop-and go during peak times) or in a new, dedicated lane? If it’s a dedicated lane, will it have dedicated exit ramps, as well? Where will the stops be located, once the bus gets off the freeway? (There’s a direct correlation between easy-on, easy-off and a long walk to any employment centers or circulator buses, along with the opposite.) Will there be a large park-and-ride lot at 141? (There should be!) Or, to look at it another way, would we be OK if Metrolink, on the Blue Line, had just one stop in Clayton, between Shrewsbury and the Forest Park Station / merge with the Red Line?! John Nations may still have Chesterfield in his heart and as a goal, but there are bigger needs than in building a lot of infrastructure to run one fancy express bus line for minimum-wage workers from the Ballas Transit Center out there!

      • Eric says:

        That’s not a solution, it’s a band-aid. Why run a BRT route by your job centers if you’re not going to stop at them?


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