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St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

August 18, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

Last month I wrote about a new book, an excellent design guide, see Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. I loved it so much I asked the publisher to send me the rest pf the hardcover guides: Transit Street, Urban Bikeway, and Global Street. All information in the printed guide books is available for free online.

There are some here trying to get the City of St. Louis to become a member city of the National Association of Transportation Officials (NATCO). Who you ask?

NACTO’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life.

We do this by:

  • Communicating a bold vision for 21st century urban mobility and building strong leadership capacity among city transportation officials.
  • Empowering a coalition of cities to lead the way on transportation policy at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Raising the state of the practice for street design that prioritizes people walking, biking, and taking transit.

Here’s their intro video:

Since St. Louis, and the region by extension, does the opposite of what NACTO recommends, we could benefit greatly if the city joined — and followed their lead. But I doubt the traffic engineers in the Streets Dept and the like-minded engineers at the Board of Public Service are willing to change the way things have always been done.

Peer cities like Indianapolis, Memphis, and Nashville are affiliate members. Click image for their member cities page

Again, see various departments fighting NACTO’s recommendations. In the coming months I plan posts showing the NACTO way vs the St. Louis way.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

August 14, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

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A look back at the original Civic Center MetroBus Center. The block North of Spruce had many trees.

In October 2011 many brown areas could be spotted on the evergreen trees
To prep for a new Civic Center bus transfer facility, all the trees were cut down. The Feds will require Metro to plant new trees
The official route from 14th to the MetroLink platform involves steps or two switchback ramps

The new design is substantially different, it has 3 times as many bus bays. First we have to get to it. For both the ribbon cutting (8/10) and open house (8/11) I arrived from the North on the West side of 14th Street (next to Peabody Opera/Scottrade Center). Both times I had to take a detour, hopefully this morning this is open.

AS I arrived for the open house I saw Fredbird walking on 14th because the sidewalk at the corner was closed.
Moments later Fredbird made it around the corner
Later I made it around to the other side, it appears done so hopefully the fencing is pulled back today. The North plaza area, left, is still being finished.
To accèss Civic Center I usd ri go West along Clark, almost to 16th. I couldn’t get to 14th & Spruce because the sidewalks don’t connect on the East side of 14th, which surprised some Metro officials.
On Thursday holes were being dug for a new fence along Clark.
Since opening in 1993 this sidewalk has been too narrow. now the added fence is close leaving no room for people to step side on the South
Heading up the West ramp to the building
Looking back to where I’d been.
Once the corner st 14th & Clark is open pedestrians will use a 14th Street sidewalk not filled with bus stops. Trees will be planted, providing separation from the traffic lane.
Those pedestrians who approach from the South will likely take a shortcut, those of us in mobility devices don’t have that option because bio ramp is provided on the South end
There are several very long crosswalks, the able-bodied will take less risky short-cuts
Some will enter any 14th & Spruce, facing the new building. The MetroLink platform ids beyond, with Amshack 3 beyond that.
Inside the building are restrooms, concessions, security, etc
Each bank of seating has an outlet, carry your phone charger
Like North County TC, the bathrooms don’t have doors . Great for those of us who use a mobility device
From the building you can look down at the MetroLink platform
View of the building from the platform
View north from the steps next to the building
Trees, plants, and art will be installed at the North this full .

At the ribbon cutting on Thursday Metro Transit Exec Dir Ray Friem was adamant Civic Center would open allowing smoking, like their other bus centers. I argued this was the perfect time to make Civic Center smoke-free. Metro staff told me their inconsistent policy of no-smoking on train platforms but smoking at bus shelters on their private property had been the subject of many internal debates over the years. Friem said Metro would go smoke0-free, he just didn’t know how or when.  I rallied others to talk to Friem. It worked.

Metro has announced Civic Center is opening smoke-free, other bus transit centers will go smoke0-free  next month. Finally I can change buses at a transit center without having my eyes water or throat close because of smokers around me.

Four bus routes are being split up:

  • The #30 is being split into the #19 St. Louis Ave and #30 Arsenal
  • The #32 M.L. King-Chouteau is being split into the #31 Chouteau and #32 M.L. King.
  • The #40 Broadway route becomes the #20 S. Broadway and #40 N. Broadway  — yes, both are being routes through Civic Center.
  • The #99 Downtown Trolley is having a West portion split off into the #96 Market Street Shuttle.

You can read all the changes here.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Gateway Transportation Center Is Now Amshack #3

August 7, 2017 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on The Gateway Transportation Center Is Now Amshack #3

St. Louis’ first Union Station opened in 1875. but proved too small very quickly. The significantly larger Union Station we know at 18th & Market opened 19 years later on September 1, 1894.

The beauty of Carl Milles’ work with Union Station in the background
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station

The busy days of Union Station lasted through WWII, but then saw declines.

As airliners became the preferred mode of long-distance travel and railroad passenger services declined in the 1950s and 1960s, the massive station became obsolete and too expensive to maintain for its original purpose. With the takeover of national rail passenger service by Amtrak in 1971, passenger train service to St. Louis was reduced to only three trains a day. Amtrak stopped using Union Station on October 31, 1978; the six trains daily did not justify such a large facility. The last to leave Union Station was a Chicago-bound Inter-American. Passenger service shifted to an “Amshack” one block east, now the site of the Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center. (Wikipedia)

Ticket sales stopped inside the main building for a while, moving to a temporary building under the big train shed. But in 1978 service was moved to the first of two buildings commonly known as “amshack”. The first was a glorified portable building. complete with T1-11 siding.   The 2nd Amshack was of concrete block, opened in December 2004, still exists.

Amtrak service is in the Gateway Transportation Center, just East of Amshack #2, now used by Amtrak workers.

The Gateway Transportation Center is the City of St. Louis’ state of-the-art multimodal transportation hub. It is conveniently located in the heart of downtown St. Louis where Amtrak passenger train, Greyhound bus, and Metro light rail and bus service converge. This new facility provides passengers with a clean, safe, and friendly transportation center featuring 24-hour operations staff and security. (St. Louis Comptroller)

I was there on November 21, 2008 when St, Louis opened the new Gateway Transpiration Center with Amtrak & Greyhound bus. Megabus is a recent addition.

Comptroller Darlene Green speaking at the opening fNovember 21, 2008

Since opening, I’ve used all three  — Megabus, Greyhound, and Amtrak. In the last 5 years I’ve had at least a dozen round trips from this facility. Most recently returning on Amtrak from Chicago on July 30th.

The Gateway Transportation Center is now, in my opinion, Amshack #3. It’s an embarrassing dump.

The opener hasn’t worked on the East doors for years, May 2012 photo
Also in May 2012 two of three urinals weren’t working.

For at least 5 years the opener to the outside door leading from Civic Center MetroLink station hasn’t worked. Same with a urinal in the main men’s room. Our train from Chicago arrived about 15 minutes early on Sunday July 30th . The up escalator from the platform wasn’t working so everyone had to use the elevator up. Once over the tracks we needed to get down to the main station. The down escalators and elevator weren’t working — stairs were the only option. There were families with small children and I’m in my wheelchair. Mu husband goes down the stairs to see if anyone can help.

Sign on the only accessible way to/from trains indicating out of service. It worked two days earlier.

I knew a ramp existed at the East end of the platform, used ro drive golf carts up to assist those who can’t walk the distance. I make it to the employee parking lot but the elevator I need to get up to the station is the same one I couldn’t use to get down. The only option was to “drive” my wheelchair out of the parking lot, through the gate, to the street.

In June of this years one urinal wasn’t working,

Though Amtrak is just a tenant, it would’ve been nice had they told me the elevator was broken as they got me off the train. I want to know why something is always broken at the Gateway Transportation Center. Is the Comptroller’s office incapable of managing the building? Is proper maintenance beyond debt and rent?

For many travelers this is their first experience in St. Louis. Welcome.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Metro Right To Highlight County Police Covering Cameras

August 2, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Readers: Metro Right To Highlight County Police Covering Cameras
North Hanley parking garage

In the recent Sunday Poll nearly seventy percent of those who voted don’t by the statement frim St. Louis County police chief Belmer.

Q: Agree or disagree: Media coverage of County police @ MetroLink is a ploy by Metro to get police powers.

  • Strongly agree 1 [2.78%]
  • Agree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [11.11%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Disagree 9 [25%]
  • Strongly disagree 12 [33.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [11.11%]

I do think Metro would like to its own police force, I also think the officers caught spending hours in a substation, rather than be out on platforms, need to face discipline. Belmer too.

What I’m not sure of is of Metro should have police powers. The security guards on platforms and in trains are pretty useless, an argument for them getting police power. On the other hand, abuse of power can come with police powers. The St. Louis region is already highly fragmented. Missouri & Illinois granting Metro, aka Bi-State Development, police powers increases fragmentation.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: What’s Up With St. County Police & Metro?

July 30, 2017 Public Transit, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: What’s Up With St. County Police & Metro?

A week ago we learned about St. Louis County police officers covering the camera at a MetroLink substation.

A federal Homeland Security law enforcement officer was assigned to Metro transit patrol as part of a beefed-up security plan for the busy Fourth of July weekend.

He didn’t like what he saw.

Late in the afternoon on July 4, the officer walked into the North Hanley MetroLink substation to find 12 St. Louis County police officers milling about. A resulting Metro check of video footage determined that not only were county police officers loitering in the North Hanley security office instead of patrolling trains or platforms, at one point they covered the security camera with an envelope and tape. (Post-Dispatch)

Horrible, right? Consider the other side’s position:

The statement released Sunday by county police Chief Jon Belmar and spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire implies the allegations are the result of “politics and infighting.” The statement says the security camera at North Hanley MetroLink substation, which documented at least eight instances since 2015 of police covering up its lens, is improperly placed in a “private room.”

“A limited number of carefully selected images from over a two-and-a-half-year period that were pulled from an improperly-placed surveillance camera in a 12×14 private room appeared with the article,” McGuire wrote. “This room is used to monitor security cameras, hold briefings and complete report writing. It is also the only room officers have to take breaks from work and weather as well as change clothes and equipment at the end of a shift.” (Post-Dispatch)

As part of the Post-Dispatch series, apparently the County wants to remove accountability from their contract with Metro, with Metro head John Nations and St. Louis County Police chief Belmar disagreeing on matters for a couple of years now, hence Belmar’s “politics and infighting” comment.

Which brings us to today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

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