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Have you ever ridden a municipal bus?

In the last week it came to my attention that I know many people, including some supporting Proposition A, have never once ridden a city bus.  That was me well into my 30s. So my poll this week is trying to see if readers here have actually ridden a bus or not. The poll is in the right column.

I’m still no daily rider but I’ve ridden the bus in several cities so I feel I know enough to give a general overview.  Hopefully more experienced riders will add their tips in the comments below. The route number for the bus is show at the top and on the sides, #13 in the above example.  Where you have more than one bus using the same stop this is helpful so you get on the correct bus.  All our buses here have bike racks on the front. I was very nervous the first time I went to place my bike on the rack.

In these examples the rack is folded up since it is not in use.  Loading your bike just requires you to pull down the rack so you can load your bike.  Each rack will hold two bikes in opposite directions from each other. The rack has trays for the wheels and a bar to hold it securely in place.  For more information see Metro’s Bike-N-Ride FAQ page.

Regular adult fares are $2.00 and $2.75 with a transfer valid for a connecting bus.  Bus drivers do not give change so if you use three singles to buy a pass w/transfer you will not get any change. Unlike our light rail where you buy a ticket and just walk on, with a bus you pay as you enter.  The fare box accepts bills and coins.  Riders with passes just swipe their pass as they enter. See the Metro Fare Chart for all the details.

Riders are asked to exit the set of doors that are midway toward the back.  That allows new passengers to begin entering the bus.   Unlike our light rail, or commuter rail/subways in other cities, a bus doesn’t automatically stop at every stop.  A pull cord runs along each side of the interior of the bus.  You pull the cord to alert the driver you wish to stop at the next stop.

If you are among those that has never ridden a municipal bus I encourage you to do so.  I still prefer modern streetcars but the bus has a place in most transit systems.

– Steve Patterson


Parking shortage downtown; a bike parking shortage

February 22, 2010 Bicycling, Downtown, Parking 5 Comments
ABOVE: Bike locked to tree at Gateway One 2/18/2010
ABOVE: Bike locked to tree at Gateway One 2/18/2010

Last Thursday I spotted a bike in front of the Gateway One building (701 Market).  The bike was chained to a tree.  With the exception of Washington Ave (West of 9th) and a few other spots, downtown St. Louis has no places to park bikes. Considerable effort goes into creating bike trails, paths & lanes yet places to secure bikes once the user has arrived don’t receive attention.  We’ve lost far too many buildings to create surface & structured parking for an increasing number of automobiles.

The public rights-of-way can accommodate both bike parking and more automobile parking. We need to freeze the creation of new spaces for autos on private land and focus on using the public streets (road + sidewalks) to provide bike parking throughout the central business district.

– Steve Patterson


Tour of Missouri Worth the Expense?

Budgets are tight at all levels of government.  Monday I was part of an estimated 75,000 spectators along the 7.5 mile route of stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri:

Start/Finish line at 7th & Market, St. Louis

The tour came close to not happening this year.  The tour, in its 3rd year, is a project of Republican Lt Governor Peter Kinder.  Governor Jay Nixon wanted to cut the tour to help balance the state budget:

Gov. Jay Nixon has made public the specifics of $60 million in budget cuts he had previously announced in June.

The Department of Social Services took the biggest hit at $16 million.

In June, Nixon vetoed $105 million in spending as he looked to balance a state budget suffering from declining revenue in the wake of the recession. He also held back $325 million in spending on other projects, and directed his department heads to propose additional cuts totalling $60 million.

An early memo suggesting money for the Tour of Missouri be cut touched off a storm of controversy over the proposed cuts. The money for the Tour was saved. So, too, were some of the proposed cuts to the state Water Patrol that would have left parts of the Missouri River and Mississippi river without enforcement coverage.  (Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 08.20.2009)

I’ve yet to find the cost to the state or the estimated benefits to local governments and the state.

Like the folks hanging out at Citygarden watching the race, above, I really enjoy the tour each year.  But does the tour make fiscal sense?  The prior two years the tour ended in St. Louis.  This year St. Louis was the location of the first stage of the week-long race across the state. Competitors, crew and even TV announcers were hear from all over the world.  Amateur racers in town for the Gateway Cup finished on Monday just before the pros got started.  The synergy  was great.  But that alone doesn’t justify the cost to taxpayers.

All states have a tourism budget.  Some run TV ads in neighboring states to attract nearby visitors.  All seem to have free state maps available. Seldom can you see and feel the direct benefit of a tourism expenditure.  Hopefully in the coming 6-12 months we’ll see some discussion at the state level about any return on our continued investment in the Tour of Missouri.  My suspicion is the partisan battle is mostly centered on the fact the tour is a project of a Republican and a Democrat now occupies the Governor’s Mansion.  It the situation were reversed we’d probably see Republicans opposing the same tour if championed by a Democrat.

– Steve Patterson


A Weekend of Bicycle Racing in St. Louis

Last Saturday night thousands of casual bike riders were on the roads after Midnight (Sunday morning) for the 46th Annual Moonlight Ramble:

Riders assembled on Market Street at 15th just before midnight on 8/29/09.
Riders assembled on Market Street at 15th just before midnight on 8/29/09.

Starting tonight and continuing through Monday racing cyclists take over the streets.   The annual Gateway Cup is 4 days of racing that attracts riders from across the country to compete for cash & prizes.  They always put on a good show.  Monday is the start of the Tour of Missouri, a pro-level bike race.  The first stage will take place in St. Louis Monday.

Here are the details for interested spectators:

Friday 9/4/09:

The nighttime start to the weekend.  Lights are set up on the four corners around Lafayette Park for the Tour de Lafayette.

Join the Lafayette Square neighborhood and business district for a Friday night festival  celebrating an evening of racing under the lights! Lafayette Square is known as one of the country’s best preserved examples of Victorian “Painted Lady” architecture dating from the 1870’s and 1880’s.  It is also St. Louis’s oldest historic district. The neighborhood (and tonight’s race course) surrounds the first public park in the city of St.  Louis as well as one of the first public parks west of the Mississippi.  The neighborhood took a hit during the Great Depression and after WWII,  but thanks to the restoration efforts of a determined group of urban pioneers,  Lafayette Square saw a renaissance starting in the early 1970’s. Today it is  one of the crown jewels of St. Louis, with condo and loft developments as well  as a business district blossoming with restaurants boutiques and art galleries. Enjoy!

Bring a lawn chair and pick your corner and enjoy the neighborhood as the riders speed by or enjoy food and beverage from the many vendors.  Parking is tight so carpooling, biking or taking transit (Union Station MetroLink) is advised.

Saturday 9/5/09:

A first this year, racing around Francis Park in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood.

The St. Louis Hills Francis Park Criterium For the first time the historic St. Louis Hills neighborhood is host to the second leg of the Gateway Cup! Francis Park, named after David Rowland Francis- President of the Lousiana Purchase Exposition in 1889, is know for its wide, tree lined streets and for having beautiful churches on every corner. Today the St. Louis Hills neighborhood showcases gingerbread bungalows, stately homes and some of the tidiest landscaping in St. Louis. Home to St. Louis cultural and iconic Ted Drewes- our homegrown ice cream oasis. We hope you enjoy the new and improved race course selection for this second stop of the Gateway Cup!

Please join us for bands and a post race par-tay just behind the finish line in Francis Park. Featuring local band Ship of Fools during the day and followed by local hero Steve Ewing of the Urge, one of St. Louis most revered musical acts. We encourage everyone to stay until 8:00pm before heading to the Tour of Missouri Women’s Soiree event later in the evening.

Should be a fun day around a wonderful park in a beautiful neighborhood.  First race 11am, last race starts at 4:30pm.

Sunday 9/6/09:

No park to race around.  Even better are is the dense neighborhood known as The Hill.

The Hill is proud to once again host the longest standing bike race in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area – the Giro Della Montagna – the third stop of the 2009 Gateway Cup!

The Hill boasts the finest Italian restaurants anywhere. It is the boyhood home of such baseball legends as Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. It is a neighborhood that acts as a model for community as generations of families continue to maintain their residence creating a close-knit feel. The neighborhood was settled by Italian immigrants starting in the late 19th Century. The anchor for the community continues to be St. Ambrose Catholic Church, the Start/Finish site for today’s race. The Italian heritage continues to thrive with the Hill’s variety of Italian restaurants, bakeries, taverns, groceries, community organizations, and social clubs. One of these such clubs, the Bocce Club, hosts the traditional pasta dinner for the cyclists Sunday evening after the completion of the last race of the day. Giro Pasta Dinner, Sunday, September 6th 4:00-8:00 pm, St Louis Bocce Club 2210 Marconi @ Bischoff on race course. Menu includes all the Pasta you can eat, plus 2 meatballs, salad, Italian Bread, and dessert. $7 adults/$4 children. Tickets available at the door.

First race at 12:15pm, last starts at 5:50pm.

Monday 9/7/09:

Labor Day will be a busy one downtown with both the Tour of Missouri Criterium finishing the Gateway Cup series plus the start of the Tour of Missouri.  The Criterium’s first race starts at 7am with Pro 1 & 2 starting at 10am.  At 1pm is the start of Stage 1 of the Tour of Missouri.  Both can be viewed from Citygarden on Market Street. The Tour of Missouri stage extends into Soulard & Lafayette Square so plenty of places to watch the race go by exist.

Parking will be scarce so if possible use MetroLink, or your own bike, to get downtown.

The routes all four days use city streets, which will be closed to traffic.  It is possible to cross the route on foot but not by car.  When crossing on foot look for the volunteers which will help you cross safely.

If you haven’t been to Lafayette Square, St. Louis Hills, The Hill or downtown in a while this is a good excuse to do so.   Hopefully the rain will come at times the riders are not competing. Have a great weekend and Labor Day!

– Steve Patterson


Bike Station Needed Downtown

August 6, 2009 Bicycling, Downtown 21 Comments

Brian Spellecy of the blog, Downtown St. Louis Business, recently emailed me about bike stations.  He was thinking about one for St. Louis and it got me thinking about one again.

Nearly four years ago on October 14th, 2005 I did a post (Four Flavors for the St. Louis Riverfront) reviewing the four riverfront proposals and their inclusion of a bike station:

All four proposals include a bike station near the Poplar Street Bridge, well under it. The design team showed a picture of the new bike station at Chicago’s Millennium Park as an example. I’ve been to Chicago’s bike station and it is an awesome facility complete with a bike rental area, indoor bike parking, a bike repair shop and a locker rooms complete with showers. Many cities are building bike stations to encourage bike commuting — giving cyclists a way to shower and change clothes before heading into the office. Chicago’s Millennium Park bike station has been criticized as being too far away from their business district. Chicago’s will seem downright close compared to us having a bike station under the PSB.

St. Louis needs a good bike station but the riverfront is not the right location. Somewhere in or near the Central Business District makes the most sense. Who is going to bike to work and then shower and then walk a mile or so to the office? Nobody. Good locations for a bike station do exist — one of the vacant blocks of the failed Gateway Mall or even the location of the pocket park on the Old Post Office Square.

The plaza is already built across from the Old Post Office and it lacks even a bike rack.  Scratch that location off the list.  Two blocks of the Gateway Mall are now the wonderful Citygarden.  Two more blocks off the list of potential sites.

Remaining would be on or under part of the two city blocks that contain Kiener Plaza & the Morton May Amphitheater.  This would be an excellent spot for offering bike rentals as well as food & drink sales via a connected kiosk.

Another is under the block containing the ‘Twain’ sculpture by Richard Serra, immediately west of Citygarden.  Like Chicago’s Bike Station in Millennium Park, our station could be underground with a simple glass structure above grade.  This would add a new level of activity to that block without competing visually with the Twain sculpture.

Of course a bike station can be fitted into an existing structure as well.  A bike station provides secure bike parking, lockers, showers and often bike repair services.  The idea is to provide a place where workers can bike downtown, shower & change for work. We have a number of buildings with vacant ground floor space that might be well suited for such a role.

The ones I know of are not owned by the municipality — rather they are part of a not-for-profit organization.  Some cities likely help out such as getting the facility built and then leasing it to a group that manages the day to day operations.

Ideally we’d determine the center point of the greatest concentration of downtown workers and locate the bike station at that point.

If we want more cyclists/fewer cars downtown providing a bike station is a step in the right direction. A great facility could be viewed by businesses as a bonus to their workers — a reason to stay downtown or to relocate downtown.

– Steve Patterson