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More Frequent Bus Service Should Begin Next Year

April 23, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on More Frequent Bus Service Should Begin Next Year

A year from now transit service in St. Louis City & County will likely be different than it is today. Metro, AKA Bi-State, has held informational meetings and hearings on their new plan they call Metro Reimagined. Light rail (MetroLink) will be largely the same, the plan focuses on the bus system. Wheeled (non para-transit) transit will be divided into four categories:

  • Enhanced Frequent: MetroBus routes with 15-minute or better service from morning to evening hours
  • Local: 30-minute service from morning to evening hours on most MetroBus routes
  • Commute Express: Regional service connecting Park & Ride lots to key employment destinations
  • Community Mobility Zones: Service areas using smaller vehicles, vanpools or shuttles, or mobility on-demand options

Right now only the #70 Grand is considered “enhanced frequent.”  Here are the routes that could see improvements to frequency:

  • 4 Natural Bridge
  • 10 Gravois-Lindell
  • 16 Metro City Limits
  • 61 Chambers Rd
  • 70 Grand
  • 73 Broadway-Carondelet
  • 74 Florissant
  • 90 Hampton
  • 94 Page
  • 95 Kingshighway

The 73 isn’t the current 73 — it has been straightened out to improve efficiency. This less circuitous route means this line will not go down all the side streets it currently does.

The other big change comes to niche areas — called Community Mobility Zones, The colorful wrap on the 99 Downtown Trolley buses, shown below, has already been removed. These full length low-floor buses weren’t being driven as many miles as others in the fleet.

In 2014 new buses replaced the ones used since 2010

Most of the routes I use will get increased frequency, but I’m concerned about the wheelchair accessibility of whatever will replace the 99 Downtown Trolley. When that route began it used short high-floor buses, but later switched to full-length low-floor buses. A ramp is better than a lift — I was stuck on a malfunctioning lift once. But many smaller vehicles have a high floor which means a lift, increased boarding time, and may require securements due to a higher center of gravity.  The convenient downtown circulator I use may not be so convenient anymore.

— Steve Patterson

 

We Bought a Newer Car With Lots of Technology

April 9, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on We Bought a Newer Car With Lots of Technology
The 2007 Honda Civic EX we bought in April 2014.

Last month my husband David and I bought a newer used car to replace the 2007 Civic EX we bought four years ago, see No Longer Car-Free.  This is my 15th car in the 35 years I’ve been driving. I’ve seen a lot of new automotive technology be introduced end become mainstream.

I took my drivers exam in 1983 in my mom’s 1974 Dodge Dart. It had manual windows, door locks. I don’t think it even had a right side mirror. It was 9 years old but it seemed ancient. At 15 I bought a 1974 Mustang II  — sold it before I turned 16. After I got my license I began driving my brother’s 1971 Dodge Demon — nothing like today’s Demon.

Here’s a summary of when I got new automotive technology

  • 1983: power seat & moonroof in a 1975 Mercury Monarch
  • 1984: power windows, flip up sunroof in a 1979 Ford Fairmont Futura
  • 1986: manual transmission, front wheel drive in a 1984 Dodge Colt (Mitsubishi)
  • 1993: central locking, manual steel sunroof, turbo, 4 wheel disc brakes, fuel injection in a 1987 Volvo 740 Turbo
  • 1998: Side marker  turn signals on two 1986 Saab 900S — one S 4-door and one Turbo 3-door
  • 2000: ABS brakes, airbags, remote locks in a 2000 VW Golf
  • 2004: All wheel drive in a 1999 Audi A4 Avant

There were many more cars, but they didn’t offer any new technology that I hadn’t had before. Basically new cars have added one or two new things. Last month we got lots of new tech all at once.

Our newish car in front of Broadway Oyster Bar

Our 2015 Sonata is the top trim level — Limited — with both optional packages: tech & ultimate. The only option ours doesn’t have is a more powerful turbo engine.

We first saw this car at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. The primary feature we wanted was memory seat & mirrors.  Since we share one car we’ve spent the last 4 years adjusting the driver’s seat and both mirrors each time we get into the car after the other drove it.  Competition like the top level Accord has had a memory seat since 2013, but no memory mirrors even in 2018 models.  The Camry still doesn’t have either.

David has experienced many of these before via Enterprise CarShare and rental cars. For me, these are very new:

  • Proximity “key” allows me to open car doors without removing the fob from my pocket. Approaching the locked trunk and waiting a few seconds will open the trunk lid. Some cars require you to wave a foot under the back of the car — I couldn’t physically do that. Inside the fob stays in my pocket. This lets me use my one good hand to worry about my cane.
  • On a related note, when you press the off button the seat moves back to give you more room to exit — very helpful for me.
  • Still adjusting to the back up camera and how the rear view mirrors tilt down while in reverse.
  • The rear cross traffic alert is helpful when backing out of parking spaces. It detects vehicles and pedestrians.
  • The blind spot detection warning is amazing. Whenever a vehicle is in a blind spot an orange light displays on the appropriate side mirror. If you signal to get into a lane with someone in the blind spot the car beeps at you. Last year we test drove a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L with Lane Watch. We weren’t impressed with Honda’s blind spot system — nothing on the left and for the right you don’t look at the right mirror — you look at the center screen to see if there’s a car. Huh?
  • Lane departure warning is good on well marked roads when it’s dry out.
  • Front collision warning will beep at you to stop before hitting something in front of you. David says it went off when a car changed lanes right in front of the car in front of him. Impressive. What baffles mw is Hyundai didn’t include emergency braking in case the driver doesn’t hit the brakes in time — this was added the next year.
  • I used the adaptive cruise control for the first time yesterday — driving to/from St. Charles, Remarkable.  While using the cruise control it van automatically stop the car, so I’m told.

For more on my first time driving this car see a feature on Curbed.

The amount of new tech is a bit overwhelming. The list above isn’t complete, there is more. As I get more miles behind the wheel I’ll post addition thoughts. I’ll also compare the car to competition and tech offered from other manufacturers. In addition to lacking emergency braking, I wish it had start/stop technology. The hybrid version of the current generation Sonata didn’t come out until the next year, 2016. When we replace this car in about 5 years I hope to get a plug-in hybrid.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Bike/Pedestrian/Smoke-Free Advocate Martin Pion (1936-2018)

March 30, 2018 Bicycling, Featured, Smoke Free, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Bike/Pedestrian/Smoke-Free Advocate Martin Pion (1936-2018)
Martin Pion’s Facebook profile pic

This week St. Louis lost a great advocate, visitation was last night.

Martin Pion, 81, passed away on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at his home.
Dear husband of Joyce Pion; dear father of Jerome (Sarah) Pion; Loving grandfather of David and Katie Pion; beloved uncle of Nicola (Kim) Teoh, Stephan (Jenny) Williams and Karen (Stacey) Williams dear great uncle to James and Andrew.
Martin and his family came from England in 1977. He loved the environment, bicycling and was a founding member and president of GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution).
Memorial visitation will be Thursday, March 29, 4-7pm at HUTCHENS Mortuary, 675 Graham Rd, Florissant.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to charity of choice. (Hutchins)

Martin and I shared many interests including bicycling and smoke-free environments. Though we didn’t always agree, our disagreements were some of our best conversations. More often, we did agree — because of our shared beliefs we both supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary.

I first met Marin in the late 90s when I took his Road 1 bicycling course — he was the only instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists teaching in the region. Later, while we were both serving as board members of the now-defunct St. Louis Bicycle Federation, he got me and other board members to also become certified instructors.

Martin in Ferguson, 2012

Even after my 2008 stroke he pushed me to not give up on cycling. I went to their home in Ferguson where he filmed me riding one of his English trikes.

Martin helped get me on the trike then used my iPhone to record the video. Afterwards, to get me off the trike, he had to tip me over onto a bed of ivy them help me up. We determined it would take a trike made from a bike with a very low cross bar to work for me.

We also spent many hours discussing technology and blogging. I got him to move from a static website to a WordPress blog — see ThinkBicycling!

Martin invested in cameras and posted numerous videos to YouTube and Vimeo. Martin was a huge advocate of bicycling within traffic, not being pushed off into inadequate bike lanes. Both videos below feature mutual friend Karen Karabell.

And a look at the protected bike lane on Chestnut.

It’s so great to hear Martin’s soft voice. Here’s how he described himself on Vimeo:

Scientist, majoring in Physics & Math., with environmental interests and sustainability, including promoting smoke-free air and proficient on-road bicycle transportation.

You’ll be missed friend.

— Steve Patterson

 

Nearly a Quarter of St. Louis Households Underserved by Transit

March 19, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Nearly a Quarter of St. Louis Households Underserved by Transit

Last month Streetsblog USA had a post that caught my attention:

Where should your city aim to add transit service? The places where more buses and trains will be most useful are areas where lots of people live or work, but there’s not enough service to meet the demand.

new data tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology helps pinpoint these locations in cities around the U.S. The “Gap Finder” — an extension of CNT’s All Transit database — overlays demographic data and transit schedule information on maps that highlight where more people would ride transit if service levels were higher.

The transit gaps mapped by CNT are not to be confused with “transit deserts” — areas with no transit at all. Areas with some transit service may still not have nearly enough to adequately serve the people who live or work there, while areas without any service may be so spread out that fixed-route transit won’t do much good. (Streetsblog USA)

They used three cities as examples: Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City — all had lots of underserved households — their maps were covered in red.

I wanted to see how St. Louis fared on AllTransit’s Gap Finder:

The following quote explains.

TRANSIT GAPS
On the map above, any orange and red areas show transit markets where households are underserved by transit and would benefit from improvements. Blue areas indicate where the transit market strength is already met by a minimum benchmark of adequate transit service and white areas show where the market strength for transit service is low enough that adding transit would not represent an improvement. The pie chart shows the percentage of those households underserved by transit grouped by market strength.

Note: The market is not the same as demand. The gap results from a comparison of current service to the standard or average transit service in similar neighborhoods – not the best and not the worst service, but average.

Why Are There Transit Gaps?

Transit gaps exist wherever there is a mismatch between the strength of a transit market and the quality of transit service available to the households of that community. 

Calculating the Strength of Transit Markets

AllTransitTM defines the strength of a transit market by comparing a wide range of neighborhood characteristics to current transit service available in transit served areas with similar neighborhood characteristics.

I show the pie chart below, but first I want to get in closer.

Now we can see underserved areas.

Soi now what? How do we improve?

Reducing the average wait time for transit by 17 minutes for the underserved neighborhoods in St. Louis, MO would provide enough service improvement to meet minimum standards expected of the transit market in those areas.

Here’s more:

Every location and transit agency is unique, but generally one solution would be to increase the frequency of transit service along the existing (on average) 6 routes or adding new routes. Adding 7 rides per hourwould, on average, close the gap for the underserved areas in St. Louis, MO.

The measure of transit service is driven by the frequency of service, the distance to all transit stops, and the access to jobs on transit. For underserved areas in St. Louis, MO, increasing the average frequency of service from 8 to 15 total trips/hour would change the average transit service in underserved areas from 39 to 44 (out of 100).

The following summarizes headway & frequency goals:

I did not try to find flaws in their methodology. The purpose of this post us to inform others about this new tool and hopefully it’ll lead to improved service in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared, and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future

March 12, 2018 Books, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on New Book — Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared, and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future

There’s major change going on in transportation today — it is still undetermined if this change is a good thing. A new book from Island Press discusses the pros and cons:

For the first time in half a century, real transformative innovations are coming to our world of passenger transportation. The convergence of new shared mobility services with automated and electric vehicles promises to significantly reshape our lives and communities for the better—or for the worse.

The dream scenario could bring huge public and private benefits, including more transportation choices, greater affordability and accessibility, and healthier, more livable cities, along with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The nightmare scenario could bring more urban sprawl, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and unhealthy cities and individuals.

In Three Revolutions, transportation expert Dan Sperling, along with seven other leaders in the field, share research–based insights on potential public benefits and impacts of the three transportation revolutions. They describe innovative ideas and partnerships, and explore the role government policy can play in steering the new transportation paradigm toward the public interest—toward our dream scenario of social equity, environmental sustainability, and urban livability.

Many factors will influence these revolutions—including the willingness of travelers to share rides and eschew car ownership; continuing reductions in battery, fuel cell, and automation costs; and the adaptiveness of companies. But one of the most important factors is policy.

Three Revolutions offers policy recommendations and provides insight and knowledge that could lead to wiser choices by all. With this book, Sperling and his collaborators hope to steer these revolutions toward the public interest and a better quality of life for everyone. (Island Press)

Here’s the main chapters so you can see the topics addressed:

Chapter 1. Will the Transportation Revolutions Improve Our Lives—or Make Them Worse? \ Daniel Sperling, Susan Pike, and Robin Chase
Chapter 2. Electric Vehicles: Approaching the Tipping Point \ Daniel Sperling
Chapter 3. Shared Mobility: The Potential of Ride Hailing and Pooling \ Susan Shaheen
Chapter 4. Vehicle Automation: Our Best Shot at a Transportation Do-Over? \ Daniel Sperling, Ellen van der Meer, and Susan Pike
Chapter 5. Upgrading Transit for the Twenty-First Century \ Steven E. Polzin and Daniel Sperling
Chapter 6. Bridging the Gap Between Mobility Haves and Have-Nots \ Anne Brown and Brian D. Taylor
Chapter 7. Remaking the Auto Industry \ Levi Tillemann
Chapter 8. The Dark Horse: Will China Win the Electric, Automated, Shared Mobility Race? \ Michael J. Dunne

You can preview selected pages on Google Books.

This book isn’t a utopian fantasy about how transportation will be. Instead it’s a very grounded review of problems we’ll face as technology forces change — and how we might navigate it. You can buy it directly from Island Press, Left Bank Books, Amazon (additional preview), or other retailers.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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