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Two Locally Preferred Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Routes Selected

In September readers picked the I-64 BRT route between downtown and Chesterfield as their favorite of four bus rapid transit (BRT) routes being studied by the Transportation Corridor Improvement Group (TCIG), which “consists of staff from Metro, EWGCOG, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and MoDOT”.

“None” was 2nd in the poll, but the next actual route favored was the West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT option. On Tuesday the TCIG recommended two locally preferred alternative routes to Metro’s Operations Committee

After careful consideration and analysis of the transportation corridors, the TCIG recommended as the locally-preferred alternative two BRT projects: I-64 between Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis, and a north-south route connecting North St. Louis County to Downtown St. Louis primarily via West Florissant Avenue and Natural Bridge Avenue.

See their report/presentation here.

The four alternative BRT routes that were being studied.
The four alternative BRT routes that were being studied, click image to view larger version.

Let’s take a closer look at the two selected routes, from Tuesday’s report:

I-64 BRT (route)

The 1-64 BRT corridor spans 23 miles between the City of Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis. It would serve a limited number of park-and-ride stations along I-64 between Chesterfield Mall and the Central West End. From the Central West End it would travel along Forest Park Avenue into Downtown St. Louis, making a loop through Downtown before ending at the Civic Center Station. As currently proposed, its service frequencies would match MetroLink, and transit prioritization strategies would be implemented along the corridor to speed transit travel.

The I-64 BRT would serve a Central Corridor that hosts 55,000 people and 115,500 jobs within one half-mile, outside of Downtown St. Louis. The addition of this high-performance service to the Metro System would provide the region’s first rail-like transit option in West St. Louis County, offering the first opportunity for all-day, single-seat service between Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis, and reducing transfers from other areas by half. Along with reducing transfers, it would improve transit travel time within the corridor by 30%, making it a much more attractive alternative to the personal automobile. Ridership projections from EWGCOG’s regional travel demand model show a potential ridership market of 5,100 weekday riders, 2,100 (41%) of whom would be new “choice” riders. That market is projected to grow to 6,800 weekday riders by 2040.

I-64 BRT CONSUMER BENEFIT

  • End-to-end transit travel time reduced from 76 minutes to 53 minutes
  • – Compared to auto travel time of 25 minutes
  • – Offers motorists option of comfortable, affordable, productive commute
  • Corridor ridership projected to increase 357% from 1,115 to 5,100 weekday riders opening year; 6,800 in 2040
  • – 2,100 (41%) new “choice” riders opening year
  • Enhanced service
  • – BRT option provides single-seat service not currently available
  • – Reduce transfers by 50%
  • – End-to-end service available all day, rather than only peak
  • – Create additional hubs to make local bus service more efficient

This route makes a lot of sense to me. It gets a higher level of transit service on this corridor without the enormous infrastructure expense that would be required for light rail. It would run down Forest Park Ave & Boyle, running right past the proposed IKEA and connecting with the proposed new CORTEX MetroLink station. Transit time would be reduced from three times driving to twice driving. For some that’s still a non-starter, but for others it would allow them to avoid  driving/parking headaches while being able to be productive. It doesn’t need to get every driver out of their cars to be a success.

West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT (route)

The other transit project included in the LPA is an arterial-based BRT route connecting North St. Louis County to Downtown St. Louis. This service would operate out of the new North County Transit Center, running 16 miles to Downtown via West Florissant Avenue, Lucas and Hunt Road, and Natural Bridge Avenue. As currently proposed, its service frequencies would match MetroLink; stations with a high level of customer amenities would be spaced a minimum of one mile apart; and transit prioritization strategies would be implemented to speed travel.

The combined West Florissant-Natural Bridge corridor hosts 70,000 people and 18,000 jobs within a half-mile, not counting Downtown St. Louis. Supplementing the local bus network in this strong and proven transit market will give residents of North St. Louis City and near-North County their first high-performance, rail-like transit option. It will reduce transit travel time and any required transfers by half. It would also greatly improve access and travel time between some of the region’s most disadvantaged areas and major jobs centers in Downtown and the Central Corridor, particularly if paired with the I-64 BRT option. Ridership projections from EWGCOG’s travel demand model show a potential ridership market of 3,200 weekday riders, 600 (19%) of whom would be new “choice” riders.

W. FLORISSANT–NATURAL BRIDGE BRT CONSUMER BENEFIT

  • End-to-end transit travel time reduced from 85 minutes to 42 minutes
  • – Compared to auto travel time of 25 minutes
  • – Attractive amenity package offers affordable, comfortable commute
  • Corridor ridership projected to increase 23% from 2,610 to 3,200 opening year and 2040 (Natural Bridge)
  • 600 (19%) new “choice” riders
  • Enhanced service
  • BRT option supports fast single-seat ride to Downtown St. Louis
  • If paired with I-64 BRT, travel from North County to CWE and West County would require only 1 transfer between 2 high-speed routes; currently requires multiple transfers and 2-3 local routes

Unlike going to Chesterfield, reaching downtown from North St. Louis County isn’t very direct via car or transit. This will help reduce travel time for existing transit users and is expected to attract new riders. The streetscape improvements along the route will benefit everyone in the area.

Additional information

Travel speeds competitive with MetroLink

  • Avg MO MetroBus speed = 16.02 mph
  • Avg MO MetroLink speed = 25.63 mph
  • I-64 BRT speed = 26.04 mph
  • WFNB BRT speed = 25.71 mph

The report has very detailed cost projections, here’s the summary:

  • I-64 BRT: $37.9M capital; $4M net operating
  • West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT: $39.1M capital; $2.6M net operating

Additional operational revenue would be necessary for this additional service.

Next Steps

Metro’s board is expected to vote to approve these two locally preferred routes at their March 28th meeting.  If approved it goes to East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the St. Louis region. Once part of our 2040 transportation plan we can seek capital funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program.

Again, much more detail is with the report/presentation from Tuesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Indoor Mall No Longer Retail King

In the St. Louis region a number of once bustling malls are gone or are on life support, let’s take a look at some examples.

St. Louis Centre

In the 1980s St. Louis Centre was a briefly-popular mall downtown, now it’s a parking garage with sidewalk-facing retail.

St. Louis Centre, April 2006
St. Louis Centre, April 2006
Top level of the MX Garage, August 2012.
Top level of the MX Garage, August 2012.

Union Station

Union Station came online at the same time, but the retail aspect faded after a few years.  The new owner plans to use the former retail area for meeting/convention space.

The midway was once lined with shops
The midway was once lined with shops

Jamestown Mall

Jamestown Mall in North County is still open, though it was closed twice this winter due to low indoor temperature.

After nearly a three-week closure, Jamestown Mall reopened on Friday.

The mall was shut down on December 20 because parts of the building were not properly heated.

The closure did not affect Macy’s, Sears Tire and Auto Center, JC Penney or Dillard’s. (Fox2)

This mall has been on life support for years, in 2011 there was talk of razing most of the mall and building a New Urbanist village on the site.

Most of the food court is closed, only four stalls still operate, 2011
Most of the food court is closed, only four stalls still operate, 2011

Northwest Plaza

Originally built as an outdoor mall, enclosed later, finally closed and is being replaced:

The crowds and stores were long gone. Northwest Plaza, once billed as the world’s largest shopping center, stood decaying at one of the busiest intersections in metro St. Louis, done in by new malls in more upscale areas.

Brothers Robert and P. David Glarner announced plans to buy the mall at Lindbergh Boulevard and St. Charles Rock Road and began seeking tax money for most of the redevelopment costs — nearly $50 million. (stltoday)

The site will be known as The Crossings at Northwest.

Demolition of Northwest Plaza, September 2013
Demolition of Northwest Plaza, September 2013

River Roads Mall

River Roads Mall was razed but only the edges of the site have seen new development. See Former River Roads Mall Site Vacant, the Few New Buildings Aren’t Pedestrian Friendly

The mall was located far from Jennings Station & Halls Ferry, not designed to welcome pedestrian shoppers
The mall was located far from Jennings Station & Halls Ferry, not designed to welcome pedestrian shoppers

Crestwood Mall

Crestwood Mall, later renamed Crestwood Court, closed in July 2013:

It’s been more than a year since Chicago-based developer Centrum Partners LLC introduced plans to convert the dilapidated Crestwood Court mall into an entertainment plaza.

A couple of barricades and piecemeal auctions of mall fixtures have been the only sign of activity in Centrum’s $121.3 million redevelopment plan. That changes tonight, when the St. Louis area’s oldest mall officially closes its doors to the public for the last time. (stltoday)

As far as I know redevelopment plans have stalled. For a few years the mall spaces were leased for local artists at little to no rent.

West County Center

This mall opened in 1969, blighted & razed in 2001, reopened in 2002. Since then a department store was razed and a new outdoor-focused entry was built that includes restaurants and a bookstore. Inside the original high standards from 2002 have been lowered.

And my childhood mall in Oklahoma City:

Forty years ago today Crossroads Mall opened not far from my house, it was the largest mall in Oklahoma.

A Crossroads Mall  entrance, August 2009
A Crossroads Mall entrance, August 2009

When I visited in August 2009 all four anchor department stores had closed and many interior spaces were vacant. In 2010 NPR’s All Things Considered did a story on the mall, using my image with permission. See Why The Fed Owns A Mall In Oklahoma City.

At the time I thought Crossroads was dead. Crossroads was sold and the new owners have renamed it Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads. Their concept is a focus on the hispanic population:

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (April 25, 2013) – Something big is happening at Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City, and it may not be what you think. When new owners, Raptor Properties bought the mall in late 2011, the most likely scenario was complete demolition. Luckily for Oklahoma, this original plan has taken a complete 180, and Raptor has partnered with The Legaspi Company to convert Crossroads Mall into Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads.

The change in paradigm will not attempt to resuscitate this mall into its original form, but rather re-imagine a new vision to take advantage of changing demographics. The partnership has unveiled its new plans to convert Crossroads Mall into the nation’s newest Hispanic cultural and commercial center. This has been a successful model, now seen all over the United States in such markets as Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Fort Worth with similar properties.

The driving force behind many of these successful implementations has been California-based realty firm, The Legaspi Company. Raptor Properties has brought that experience and success to Oklahoma by partnering with this firm to oversee the implementation here in Oklahoma City.

Instead of relying on big department stores as the driving force behind traffic, the establishment of a cultural center with weekly programming now becomes one of the first building blocks in bringing families back to the property. This is good news to many cultural and arts organizations constantly struggling to find ways to deliver these types of programs to an under-served population. It is also good news to the Hispanic community seeking opportunities to teach their children more about their cultural heritage. Pilot events since last August have already resulted in a positive response. Each event has produced an average of 2-3 thousand patrons.

Sunday, March 31st, was no exception as the building will be hosted a 10,000-egg Easter Hunt for Hispanic families. The event sponsored by Homeland and Tyler Media was host to over 5000 people. That date also marked the official start of weekly cultural programming, featuring the state’s largest mariachi, Mariachi Orgullo de America.

On March 27th, Raptor announced the acquisition of the building that previously held Dillard’s to house a key element of this new model, the Mercardo. The Mercardo will be a 200+ vendor marketplace designed to serve as a business incubator, offering accessible retail space to a wide variety of products and services.

Other elements that will make the center a new home for Hispanic families will include many commodities focused on the comfort and entertainment of the oldest to the youngest members of these families. Such commodities include increased restroom capacity, increased soft seating including lounges, more restaurants, more play areas and kid’s activities, community services, a health services, financial services, and other non-traditional offerings that would seem out of place in mainstream malls.

Plans unveiled yesterday included architectural rendering of new entrances, a performing arts center, the retail business incubator, and other proposed uses. The hope is that Plaza Mayor will join the list of successful implementations throughout the country, and it is well on its way with 15 new contracts signed since the end of March, and increasing interest from additional national tenants.

From what I’ve seen online this strategy is working. I hope to see in person on a future visit to Oklahoma City.

— Steve Patterson

 

My Memories of the 2008 Kirkwood City Hall Shooting

Six years ago today a tragic shooting took place in the Kirkwood City Hall during a city council meeting:

After storming the meeting and killing five people Thursday night, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton was fatally shot by law enforcers. Friends and relatives said he had a long-standing feud with the city, and he had lost a federal free-speech lawsuit against the St. Louis suburb just 10 days earlier. At earlier meetings, he said he had received 150 tickets against his business. (CBS News)

Mayor Mike Swoboda was severely injured, he died 7 months later:

Mr. Swoboda’s health deteriorated following a fall he took in early May, according to his son. He also had cancer. Mr. Swoboda was moved to a hospice on the campus of St. Anthony’s Medical Center on the Tuesday prior to his death. (Webster-Kirkwood Times)

I don’t remember news of the shooting because I was in the intensive care unit at Saint Louis University Hospital, my doctors had put me into a drug-induced coma on the 2nd, after my stroke the day before.  I first learned of the shooting when I transferred to SSM Rehab at St. Mary’s on February 25th. At this same time the news was reporting Swoboda would be transferred to a rehab hospital, like the brain injury unit where I’d just arrived.

I spent nearly a month at the brain injury rehab unit at SSM/St. Mary's
I spent nearly a month at the brain injury rehab unit at SSM/St. Mary’s

Swoboda ended up being treated for his brain injury at another facility.  Not all patients in therapy had brain injuries, some had been in car accidents, had limbs amputated as a result of diabetes, etc.

I thought of the Kirkwood shooting when I recently read last month about Castle Rock, CO now allowing guns to be openly carried into public buildings & parks:

The Castle Rock Town Council heard several hours of public comment on Tuesday concerning the repeal of the firearm open-carry ban before its vote of approval.

According to the Denver Post, Town Manager Mark Stevens favored repealing the ban. A majority of the police department and town staff were opposed to the repeal. (Source)

A good way to discourage public participation.

 — Steve Patterson

 

Vikings Metrodome Demolition Got Me Thinking About The St. Louis Rams & The Edward Jones Dome

ejdomebroadway
The Edward Jones Dome at Broadway & Cole in downtown St. Louis

This past weekend you no doubt saw video of the Minnesota Vikings’ 1982 Metrodome roof being deflated to make way for a replacement stadium. This got me thinking about our own St. Louis Rams and the Edward Jones Dome. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) rejected the last Rams proposal, then lost in arbitration:

By declining to carry out that proposal, the commission granted the Rams stadium free agency starting in 2015.

Owner Stan Kroenke has the leverage to start negotiating a new stadium deal here or elsewhere. The Rams could operate amid uncertainty for years to come. (stltoday)

I have no doubt in my mind that Kroenke will opt out of the lease and begin trying to fund a build a new home for the team. He’ll extend his hand locally to see if it gets filled with money, or gets slapped down. He’ll threaten to relocate if we don’t help fund the new stadium, standard operating procedure in the NFL:

In Minnesota, the Vikings wanted a new stadium, and were vaguely threatening to decamp to another state if they didn’t get it. The Minnesota legislature, facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, extracted $506 million from taxpayers as a gift to the team, covering roughly half the cost of the new facility. Some legislators argued that the Vikings should reveal their finances: privately held, the team is not required to disclose operating data, despite the public subsidies it receives. In the end, the Minnesota legislature folded, giving away public money without the Vikings’ disclosing information in return. The team’s principal owner, Zygmunt Wilf, had a 2011 net worth estimated at $322 million; with the new stadium deal, the Vikings’ value rose about $200 million, by Forbes’s estimate, further enriching Wilf and his family. They will make a token annual payment of $13 million to use the stadium, keeping the lion’s share of all NFL ticket, concession, parking, and, most important, television revenues. (How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers)

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: if we continue to have an NFL team, a new stadium should be in a more spacious area.  One site continues to come to mind:

The site of the former Chrysler plant in Fenton MO (St. Louis County) is big enough
The 280+ acre site of the former Chrysler plant in Fenton MO (St. Louis County) is big enough, well located

In fact, a new stadium would only need part of the site.

The biggest thing after funding any project is where you are going to place your new giant building. Every city has ideal sites for these over-65-acre—or three million square feet—stadiums.

There is no correct answer for the best place to put one of these bad boys. Honestly, it’s easiest to work with the city and figure out the most cost-effective site. Using Dallas as an example, they went through three different municipalities before they finally decided on a site in Arlington.

The idea behind picking a site is making sure it will be big enough for a new stadium. That means over 80 acres of undisturbed and non-requisitioned land—meaning no wetlands, no rivers, no easements, and no eminent domain issues.

The Cowboys decided on a site that is in that 80-acre range, and they finally got their stadium finished after over a decade of issues. They likely had to fight easements and eminent domain issues while they created the site.

Sometimes roads even have to be moved in the middle of a city and, in some cases, historic landmarks may be threatened. It’s definitely an issue the Falcons are facing with their site selection, as they may have to buy out a pair of churches that have been in Atlanta for years. (Designing the Perfect NFL Stadium)

With 280 acres available there’d be plenty of room for hotels, restaurants, retail, etc to be constructed. Being adjacent to I-44 these other businesses could hopefully survive off-season. I think local taxpayers will end up paying part of the cost of a new stadium, I just hope our leaders don’t get taken to the cleaners.

I see the Rams playing at the Edward Jones Dome through at least the 2018 season.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Boulevard Piled Snow on Sidewalk, Blocking ADA Ramp (UPDATED)

Yesterday I decided to use a gift card I had for Crate & Barrel. We’d had warmer weather and rain to help clear away the snow. Unfortunately I encountered a problem as I approached The Boulevard.

As I got to The Boulevard I found a pile of snow blocking the wheelchair ramp.
As I got to The Boulevard I found a massive pile of snow blocking the wheelchair ramp. 3:42pm on Monday January 13, 2014. High temp yesterday was 55 degrees.
I had to turn around and go back to the MetroLink station to cross to the other side.
I had to turn around and go back to the MetroLink station to cross to the other side.
I briefly thought I wouldn't be ab;e to get through, but I could.
I briefly thought I wouldn’t be ab;e to get through, I crossed mid-block. Crate & Barrel is on the left.
After I made my purchase I got a pc of the other side of the snow pile blocking the most direct route.
After I made my purchase I got a pc of the other side of the snow pile blocking the most direct route.

The Boulevard is owned by developer Pace Properties. Here’s how they market the development:

In the heart of St. Louis is a lifestyle destination unlike any other. The Boulevard – Saint Louis is a vibrant village with a unique blend of upscale retail, fine dining, and luxury residences. Home to retailers and restaurants such as Soft Surroundings, Loft, Crate & Barrel, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Maggiano’s Little Italy, The Boulevard is the premier lifestyle development in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Take a stroll down the shops of Main Street and sit back and relax on the patio of our restaurants. (The Boulevard)

“Vibrant village” huh? Right…. I shouldn’t be surprised since their “visit us” page gives driving directions, no mention of public transit.

As I was checking out at Crate & Barrel the clerk asked me how may day was going, I said “Great, but I had a hard time getting here.” I showed her the first picture above. She was shocked so she called the store manager over. I showed the manager the same picture and she said she’d talk to Pace Properties.

Pace Properties wants to develop the SE corner of Forest Park & Vandeventer, they’re calling it Midtown Station.  Pace is the broker for IKEA’s proposed St. Louis store and they’re connected to the ADA-challenged Fields Foods development.  I’m not impressed with Pace Properties.

UPDATE: Response from Pace Properties received 1/14/14 @ 2:45pm:

Steve:

As property manager of The Boulevard Saint Louis, I am sorry to hear about your recent experience. Pace Properties takes accessibility issues very seriously. For example, at the Brentwood Square Shopping Center we recently did a large, and costly, project overlaying the parking lot and replacing the handicap ramps in front of each store to ensure that we had ADA compliant paths. Unfortunately, the mound of snow that restricted your path adjacent to The Boulevard was pushed there by the county when they were clearing Galleria Parkway. We do not have any surfaces in that vicinity that would necessitate snow clearing due to the covered garage – with the exception of the small entrance/exit to the garage and the sidewalk. I have spoken with our snow removal vendor and they have been instructed to clear future obstructions from the ADA accessible ramp.

Thanks for contacting us regarding this issue. We appreciate visitor feedback and hope that we can make your next visit a more enjoyable experience.

Thanks,

Joshua

— Steve Patterson

 

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