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Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

December 24, 2020 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in.

You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses have improved emissions and a much smaller turning radius than other buses in the fleet, making them more flexible in the types of service they can provide and in the locations where they can better operate.

The new paint scheme will only be applied to new vehicles being added to the Metro fleet as they replace older trains, buses and vans that are being retired out of service. All of these updates are part of the normal maintenance and replacement cycle for transit vehicles, signs and materials, and no additional funds are being used or needed to make these changes.

It took a while but I think most vehicles have now received the new design. Train vehicles haven’t actually been replaced, but individual cars gets updated and the livery changes from the standard to advertising, etc. Buses also get a change of livery based on advertising wraps.

The new blue design in July 2020
New blue design last month

MetroLink trains & buses have been white for decades.

The old blue & red design on a white background, 2014.
The old blue & red on a white background on August 26, 2006 — the opening of the Shrewsbury line.

I’ve been here 30 years and I couldn’t think of a different color scheme, but a friend reminded me prior to the 2003 Bi-State to Metro change to blue & red on white they had a red/orange/yellow scheme.

Red, orange, & yellow strip on white background. 1996 photo by Ron Walker.

I personally love the new design. The bold blue design stands out, at least for now. In time it’ll get old and tired. It’s refreshing to no longer have the white background. I’ve seen the new blue design on buses, but haven’t gotten a photo yet.

— Steve Patterson

 

Broadway and 4th Street Need To Become Two-Way Again

August 24, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Broadway and 4th Street Need To Become Two-Way Again

Last week, in response to a death as a result of late night racing downtown, St. Louis put up temporary barriers in various places, including blocking all traffic across the Eads Bridge.

In addition to the bridge, the city also closed a section of Washington Avenue from Tucker Boulevard to 14th Street with barricades this week. Barriers also narrow traffic in stretches of 4th Street, Broadway and Market Street.
 
“These are temporary changes,” Krewson said Friday. “This isn’t something that we expect to be there forever.”

Krewson said downtown streets are built to hold a much larger volume of traffic than the city sees in an average day, and with fewer people working downtown because of COVID-19, the streets are even less crowded. (Post-Dispatch)

The last paragraph, quoted above, is an admission our streets are too wide. Previously when anyone argued the 4th Street/Broadway couplet (one-way in opposite directions) should be returned to two-way traffic the claim was always they needed to remain one-way due to traffic volume.

Southbound cars on Broadway at the Cole Street light. Three very wide lanes.
When the light turns green Broadway widens to five total lanes. The two outside lanes are no-parking, except for rare times when tickets are being sold at the Dome.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic the volume on 4th/Broadway couldn’t justify the one-way couplet. It’s past time for the decades-long experiment on our streets to end. The sole purpose of originally converting these streets to one-way decades ago was to quickly move cars into downtown offices in the morning, and then vacate them in the afternoon — just before the sidewalks were rolled up each night. Part of the engineer’s disastrous effort also included banning on-street parking — that slows down the flow of vehicles. This is exactly the opposite of how you build a user-friendly downtown.

Now, approaching Convention Plaza (Delmar), the vehicles that raced from the light form a single-file line.

Looking back North from Convention Plaza (Delmar)

Walk Broadway from Cole Street to I-64 and see how it feels being next to one-way traffic for over a mile. You’ll see in places the street has 5 very wide lanes that encourage high speeds. Even with the barricades at points, drivers coming off I-44 onto southbound Broadway at Cole street they reach high speeds to get into single file formation at Convention Plaza (aka Delmar).

The prior week a vehicle knocked over a bollard on the Southwest corner of Broadway & Washington Ave.
And then crashed through this temporary wall.

Changing 4th/Broadway back to two-way traffic is only part of the needed solution. Traffic signals must be timed so that a person taking off from a red light doesn’t encounter another red light just a block or two down the street. Our signal timing often encourages people to speed to make it through the next two or three lights. Lane width also matters — the wider the lanes the faster the traffic.

This isn’t the St. Louis of 1950, we need to reverse decisions made by people born in the late 19th century.

— Steve Patterson

 

Speed Limit on Tucker Blvd is 35mph, but 7/10th of a Mile is 30mph

March 16, 2020 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Speed Limit on Tucker Blvd is 35mph, but 7/10th of a Mile is 30mph

I’ve written before about using the adaptive cruise control on our 2015 Hyundai (see Inching Toward Autonomous Vehicles, Learning to Use & Trust New Technology). I use the system if I’m going over 20mph.  I like to set the cruise speed based on the posted speed limit.

Thankfully both the Hyundai map screen and, if using instead, the Apple CarPlay map screen, display the speed for the road I’m on.  The accuracy is amazing, even when the speed limit changes. For example, driving to Springfield IL the highway limit can be 55, 60, 65, or 70 depending upon location. The screens change just as the limit changes.

This has helped me notice the different speed limits on Tucker Boulevard. The entire length it’s 35mph — except a few blocks are 30mph. Driving to Target from the Columbus Square neighborhood I head south on Tucker from O’Fallon Street and set the cruise to 35mph. After crossing Chouteau Ave. the limit drops from 35 to 30.  After Lafayette Ave, 7/10ths of mile later, the speed goes back to 35mph.

Heading northbound on Tucker at Lafayette is a sign indicating the speed just dropped from 35mph to 30mph. After Chouteau it returns to 35mph
Gravois, which becomes Tucker has a 35mph speed limit.

I get why it’s 30mph in this area — it’s residential. Plus a recreational center is located at Tucker & Park. Other drivers, it seems, don’t realize the speed has dropped. They tailgate me, or change lanes to pass me like I’m going 5mph.

My observation is most drivers don’t adjust their speed in this section of Tucker that’s just over a half mile long.  If I had one of those speed guns I’d collect real data. My guess is most drivers exceed 40mph.  The design of the roadway (lane width, etc) is no different on Tucker or even on Gravois.

I like the idea of 30mph in this section, I’d just like to see it to designed to encourage slower speed. Perhaps just something to let drivers know this 7/10th of a mile is different.  If I felt like doing math I’d figure out how many more seconds this 7/10th of a mile would take at 30mph, 35mph, and 40mph.

The intention is good, but I think the execution needs improvement.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Hyperloop Project Impossible Without Eminent Domain

February 12, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Hyperloop Project Impossible Without Eminent Domain

Legislators in Jefferson City have given initial approval to the idea of a Hyperloop connecting St. Louis to Kansas City. However, an amendment bans the use of eminent domain. (Source).

An experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Before going any further, here are some definitions:

  • Hyperloop:  A proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. Hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient, thereby drastically reducing travel times over medium-range distances. (Wikipedia)
  • Eminent Domain: Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.  (Wex Law Dictionary)

Although the proposed project would largely follow the existing I-70 right-of-way, there might be bits of land needed here and there over such a long distance. An outright ban on the use of eminent domain will kill the project.

Still trying to decide if that’s a good or bad thing — I’m still not sold on the idea being feasible. If it does get built I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see the ribbon cutting.

Another view of the experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Here are the non-scientific results of the recent Sunday Poll: 

Q: Agree or disagree: A Hyperloop system can be built connecting St. Louis with Kansas City without using eminent domain.

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 1 [5.26%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [15.79%]
  • Disagree: 7 [36.84%]
  • Strongly disagree: 8 [42.11%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Rather than have a ban they should have limited criteria for the use of eminent domain. Experts could help draft criteria so property owners adjacent to I-70 ROW could be reassured that huge swaths of their land won’t be taken away.

Otherwise the project is impossible, we shouldn’t even fund a test section.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Can A STL-KC Hyperloop Get Built Without The Use Of Eminent Domain?

February 9, 2020 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Can A STL-KC Hyperloop Get Built Without The Use Of Eminent Domain?
Please vote below

The idea of a high speed tube transportation system connecting St. Louis to Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas) was back in the news recently after getting initial approval the Missouri House:

Although the long-term goal is to connect St. Louis and Kansas City with a pneumatic tube people mover that could transport passengers across the state in 30 minutes, a recent study commissioned by House Speaker Elijah Haahr recommends the state should first build a 15-mile track to test the feasibility of the concept.

The report put the price tag on the test track at $300 million to $500 million. The cost to build a track linking St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City is estimated at $10.4 billion.

Before lawmakers gave their approval, however, Fitzwater proposed an amendment that would ban eminent domain for tube transport systems. (Post-Dispatch)

For those unfamiliar with the term eminent domain

Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners. (Wex legal dictionary)

My one and only Hyperloop poll was in October 2018, and readers were split on Missouri being able to afford such a massive project.

Today’s poll is about the amendment banning the use of eminent domain added to the Hyperloop bill.

As always, today’s poll will close at 8pm. On Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts on Hyperloop and eminent domain.

— Steve Patterson

 

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