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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.

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




Metro’s New Store, Still Waiting For Smart Card Fare System

March 5, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s New Store, Still Waiting For Smart Card Fare System

For many years our transit agency, Metro, operated a retail store as part of the convention center, known as America’s Center. It was connected to the visitor’s center at 7th & Washington Ave, This location was a block West of the Convention Center MetroLink station.

Entry to Metro’s old store was anonymous

In a June 2013 post entitled Metro Fails At Retailing I wrote:

I’d like to see Metro make it obvious to anyone walking, or driving, past the MetroRide store to know it is a place to buy transit passes and pick up  schedules.  As a fan of gift shops, I’d also like to see St. Louis transit-related merchandise: t-shirts, postcards, magnets, calendars, etc. I still have a puzzle of the Philly transit map I bought on vacation in 2001, but I have almost nothing for St. Louis. I’d love a toy MetroBus.

Step up your retail game Metro!

They recently moved their store to the NW corner of 8th & Pine — in the Arcade building. The space was briefly occupied by Webster University’s cafe called Gorlok Grind (March 2016June 2017)

View from the SW corner of 8th & Pine, with Westbound MetroLink stairs right out front
People walking by on the sidewalk can see in and understand
Looking North inside
Looking South inside

I have no knowledge of the old or new lease terms. Perhaps this new space will better serve Metro customers and attack some new riders. Though at a MetroLink station, it isn’t near any MetroBus routes. They might have done it, but they need a vending machine on Washington Ave to purchase passes/tickets — especially downtown trolley tickets.

What Metro really needs is the smart card system, from a July 2014 post on Metro’s blog:

The smart card is part of Metro’s new fare collection system, a more convenient, secure way to pay Metro transit fares. Instead of paper tickets or passes, the Gateway Card will contain a computer chip that stores Metro passes or cash value. The fare is automatically deducted when customers tap their card on fare equipment each time they ride.

“Much of our current fare collection equipment can be replaced with new technology to improve both our efficiencies as well as the customer experience.” said John Nations, Bi-State Development Agency/Metro President & CEO. “The Gateway Card and this new system will transform the way we do business and will bring our operations up to 21st century standards.”

The smart card system is currently being tested in preparation for next year’s rollout. Hundreds of Metro customers have volunteered to test the new system before it is rolled out to the general public. Metro will gradually phase in Gateway Cards to its customer groups until all customers have moved to smart cards.

Nearly four years later and we’re still waiting for the rollout. I get their caution, the rollout of these new systems in other cities have gone poorly.

Chicago’s 2013 rollout, for example:

CTA fare options that expired this week are back in place until the company that is being paid almost a half-billion dollars to manage the implementation of the new Ventra system fixes problems that have left thousands of customers frustrated, the president of the CTA said Wednesday.

The transit agency made the abrupt, if temporary, reversal in response to angry riders who this week overwhelmed a Ventra hotline in an effort to activate their new cards and in some cases have demanded their old, time-tested fare-payment choices back.

So until further notice, sales of magnetic stripe transit cards will continue at rail stations, and Chicago Card customers will be allowed to add value to their cards. But CTA President Forrest Claypool said Wednesday he is determined to stick to a Dec. 15 deadline to stop accepting the old fare cards on trains and buses. (Chicago Tribune)

We began regular trips to Chicago a year later, the Ventra card system has worked great for us.

  • No need to worry about having a stack of dollar bills or coins.
  • No need to worry about holding onto transfers.
  • Easily add more money to cards online or via our phones.
  • In 2015 I got a reduced-fare card for Chicago.

In Chicago it’s rare to see a person using cash to pay bus fare and boarding goes so much quicker as a result.

Last September I spoke with Metro’s Executive Director Ray Friem about these cards at a ribbon-cutting event at their North Hanley Transit Center. Friem said they’ve been working on many pages of problems getting fare systems from two different vendors to play nice with each other. Metro uses one vender for MetroBus, another at MetroLink light rail fare gates.  When we spoke on September 28, 2017 he said the problems were down to just 3 pages and he expected a rollout late in the year — 2017.

My followup email from a month ago is still unanswered. You can see the draft Gateway Card website here.

— Steve Patterson



Elevator Problems Again Ruin Arrival At Gateway Transportation Center

February 26, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Elevator Problems Again Ruin Arrival At Gateway Transportation Center

In August 2017 I called The Gateway Transportation Center (Amtrak/Greyhound) Amshack #3, writing:

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. My husband goes down the stairs to see if anyone can help.

Earlier this month we took the train to Chicago — our first since last July. Upon arrival on Wednesday February 7th I was pleased the outside door opener had finally been fixed! I didn’t use the restroom so I’m not sure out the urinal. Both elevators worked fine  — the first up to the walkway over the tracks and the one to the 1st platform.

The door opener finally worked

My renewed optimism for the station was shattered upon our return. Our train arrived about 30 minutes late — about 1am on Sunday February 11th. We’d just missed the last bus out of the adjacent Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center. We just wanted to get out to 14th Street so we could roll/walk home.

The elevator for platform 2 was out of service

But like our return in July 2017 — an elevator wasn’t working. This time it was the elevator up from the platform. I knew the way to the end of the platform, through the employee parking lot, to the employee entrance — that elevator, not working last time, worked this time.

A building less than a decade old shouldn’t continually have problems. St. Louis has low standards.

— Steve Patterson


Readers Seeking a Variety of Vehicle Types

February 7, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Readers Seeking a Variety of Vehicle Types
This 1974 photo shows my 2 brothers with my oldest niece in my dad’s 1964 Ford Econoline van on vacation at Saint Augustine FL

Vehicles have changed dramatically since first invented. The preferred family vehicle continues to change too. Currently Crossovers are on the rise as sales of passenger cars drop.

The SUV is officially king.

Three full-size pickups were still the best-selling vehicles in the United States last year. But the fourth-place spot was claimed for the first time by an SUV, not a sedan.

In 2017 the Toyota RAV4 sport ute outsold the Toyota Camry sedan, reigning car-sales champ for the last 15 years.

The compact, five-door RAV4 crossover sold 407,594 units last year — a gain of 15.7 percent — eclipsing Camry by 20,513 in sales. The midsize sedan saw an annual sales decline of 0.4 percent. Camry wasn’t even runner-up as another SUV, the Nissan Rogue, gained 22.3 percent to 403,465 units sold.

Most of the vehicles labeled as SUVs aren’t, they’re technically crossovers. What’s the difference?

For many car experts, the difference between the two is simple: A crossover is based on a car’s platform, while an SUV uses the chassis of a truck. The result is that crossovers use “unibody” architecture, meaning the body and frame are one piece, while SUVs use a “body on frame” design. In that case, the body is built separately from the frame and placed together later. 

While that definition is strictly true, it doesn’t always work in practice. For example, many shoppers refer to car-based, unibody vehicles as SUVs even though they’re crossovers by our definition. How often, for example, do you hear the Ford Explorer called an SUV? Or the Toyota Highlander? Or the Jeep Grand Cherokee? All use a car-based unibody design, despite their appearance and marketing. 

The result is that the term “SUV” is often applied to both crossovers and SUVs. In the past, that was even more common. Before, “SUV” brought up negative associations with large size and poor gas mileage. That’s when many automakers started using the term “crossover” to describe a vehicle that was “crossing over” from the practicality of an SUV to the drivability and fuel efficiency of a car. (Auto Trader)

Regardless of the tern you use, every auto manufacturer is rushing to add more models to their lineups. Sports car maker Porsche was early to capitalize on the trend to SUVs/crossovers with the 2003 Cayenne. BMW subsidiary Rolls Royce won’t call their upcoming Cullinan an SUV or Crossover — it’s a “high-sided vehicle.

The Ferrari sedan won’t happen, as sales of conventional three-box four-doors—even ones with glamorous badge—are in a slow death spiral. That leaves the Ferrari SUV, an idea no longer as outlandish as a few short years ago, what with Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini now following Bentley and Porsche into the segment.

“Ferrari will not produce an SUV competing with Porsche, Bentley, or Lamborghini,” insists Ferrari marketing boss Enrico Galliera. “An SUV can be a very fast car. But it’s not a sports car. We will remain consistent with our strategy, which is producing sports cars.”

Except … several sources have confirmed Ferrari is working on an all-road, all-wheel-drive, wagonlike vehicle with four doors that’s based on the architecture used for the GTC4Lusso. So what makes it more sports car than SUV? The laid-back driving position, apparently. (Motor Trend)

I’ve seen the 70s van craze, the 80s mini-van craze, the 90s body-on-frame SUV craze. I personally think the current unibody crossover craze will come to an end as we move toward fleet-owned autonomous electric vehicles. I could be wrong, of course. I do know for certain I’ll see lots of new crossovers/SUVs and fewer passenger cars at the Chicago Auto Show. Tomorrow & Friday are media-only days.  If something interesting comes up either day I’ll be posting it to Twitter & Facebook.

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

Q: I’d like my next vehicle to be a…

  • Convertible 2 [6.45%]
  • Coupe 4 [12.9%]
  • Crossover 4 [12.9%]
  • Hatchback 5 [16.13%]
  • Sedan 5 [16.13%]
  • Sports Car 0 [0%]
  • SUV 2 [6.45%]
  • Truck 1 [3.23%]
  • Van 4 [12.9%]
  • Wagon 2 [6.45%]
  • Unsure 0 [0%]
    n/a 2 [6.45%]

These results are very different than the overall auto market.

— Steve Patterson




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