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Well-Used Bus Stop Is A Muddy Hole After It Rains

August 20, 2018 Accessibility, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on Well-Used Bus Stop Is A Muddy Hole After It Rains

Usually when I go to my regular doctor I take either the #97 (Delmar) MetroBus or MetroLink to connect with the southbound #90 MetroBus at Goodfellow or Forest Park station, respectively. However, depending on the bus schedule and my appointment time I’ll take the #10 MetroBus from Olive @ 16th to the Gravois-Hampton MetroBus Transit Center, and then catch the #90 MetroBus heading northbound. The alternative takes about 15 minutes longer, but often will get me to my destination closer to my appointment time.

The #10 (Lindell-Gravois) MetroBus ends at the transfer center on the NE corner of Hampton & Gravois

But I only take the Gravois-Hampton alternate if it hasn’t rained recently. You see, the bus stop I use to catch the Northbound #90 is a muddy hole if it has rained recently.

The bus stop is where thw standing water is on this October 2014 photo.

‘The Northbound #90 bus stays on Hampton rather than pulling into the transit center. Riders getting off/on must use the grassy tree lawn.

At the bus stop looking South toward the MetroBus transit center
Looking North, note the bus stop sign is mounted very high on the poll — and facing the street. I couldn’t read the stop ID from my wheelchair.
Cropping later I could see it’s stop #3275
The tree lawn is quite wide here, you can see how the grass is well-worn.
Up close I could see a tire track likely made when it was muddy

Even dry this stop is a problem when boarding. When the bus driver puts out the ramp/lift it leaves a huge gap my chair must get up — this is because all the use has worn this spot down so it’s lower than the curb and surrounding grass. Recently I was waiting in the grass just before the stop to avoid this problem. It’s adenegrated  experience for everyone dry or wet, impossible for us wheelchair users when wet.

Metro occasionally gets grants to improve accessibility of MetroBus stops — #3275 needs to be toward the top of the list for improvement.

— Steve Patterson

 

After A Quarter Century, Still No Transit-Oriented Development At St. Louis’ Light Rail Stations

July 30, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on After A Quarter Century, Still No Transit-Oriented Development At St. Louis’ Light Rail Stations

Tomorrow is an important day for transit in St. Louis. At 10am Tuesday 7/31, 2018 a new MetroLink station will open along the original segment. The original light rail alignment opened 25 years earlier on July 31, 1993.

I was 26 and a huge supporter of rail transit, but I didn’t live or work anywhere near amy of the stations. At the time I lived in Old North St. Louis, a year later I bought a 2-family in Dutchtown. I was working in Rock Hill. MO.

MetroBus picking up riders at the Wellston MetroLink station– taking them to their final destination. The Wellston Station still lacks any transit-orioented development (TOD).

As a result of where I lived & worked, light rail wasn’t of any use to me. Switching jobs from Rock Hill to North St. Louis to Kirkwood didn’t change the lack of usefulness to me. However, I do recall a few times I’d catch the bud to take MetroLink to the airport for a rare trip.

East St Louis

It wasn’t until after moving downtown, and my February 2008 stroke a few months later, that I really began to use our public transit system on a regular basis. In the last decade I’ve traveled far more miles on MetroBus than via light rail.  Trips involving light rail almost always involve a MetroBus on one end, or both.

Crowds fill trains after fireworks on July 4th, 2012
MetroLink trains travel in a short tunnel under the historic Union Station train shed.

The St. Louis region only a little bit of heavy rail commuter lines to places like Jennings & Ferguson, Webster Groves, Kirkwood, etc. Light rail in the form of streetcars was the primary type of rail transit in the St, Louis region. A line even connoted Illinois into downtown St. Louis, coming in under Tucker Blvd.

Prior to WWII the bus began to replace streetcar lines — it was smoother and quieter than the old streetcars. The final streetcar line ended in May 1966. So when modern rail transit was being conceived in the 1980s the choices of right-of-way was limited. In 1989, as part of the work on light rail the City of St. Louis traded bridges with the Terminal Railroad Association. The TRA got ownership of the MacArthur Bridge and the city got the Eads Bridge and tunnel under downtown’s central business district.  Rail use of the Eads/tunnel ended in 1974 because then-new locomotives couldn’t navigate the bridge or tunnel. New light rail vehicles, however, would fit nicely. This was an excellent use of right-of-way and a great way to cross the Mississippi River.

Eads Bridge with the Admiral in early 1991
ABOVE: The view to the west of the Sunnen MetroLink station in Maplewood is radically different now, just bare earth.

An old freight corridor was acquired that would take the original alignment from downtown St. Louis through numerous municipalities in St. Louis County toward the airport. On opening day trains didn’t reach the airport terminals, it stopped at the Hanley Station. The main terminal was opened soon after. The East Terminal (#2) station came years later.

The only structure at North Hanley is a parking garage, added years after the station opened.

Extensions were made in St. Clair County, IL and in 2006 a Missouri extension to Shrewsbury via Clayton.

The Shrewsbury MetroLink station opened with the blue line extension on August 26, 2006.

The Blue Line to Shrewsbury was costly as many residents along the alignment wanted the trains underground rather than at grade. The line was built to continue South from Shrewsbury, but nearly 12 years later that seems like a non-starter.

In the 25 years since the original line (Red) opened, and nearly 12 years since the Shrewsbury line (Blue) opened, we’ve not seen any transit-oriented development around the stations. We’ve had some transit-adjacent development, but mostly nothing. This is because smart land use planning wasn’t implemented at each station prior to construction. Development around the Maplewood station on the Blue line has been a lot of new car dealerships.

Tomorrow morning service will begin at the new CORTEX station located between Grand and Central West End (BJC). The CORTEX district tries to market itself as pedestrian-friendly. Compared to most of the St. Louis region, it’s a pedestrian’s paradise. For this pedestrian, however, it’s a typical mediocre attempt at best. Sidewalks are narrow, surface parking lots face rail line, the original CORTEX building still lacks an ADA-compliant accessible route. Ribbon cutting for the new station begins at 10am, I’ll be there, weather permitting.

The new station can be tracked from Boyle Ave on the West, or Sarah Street on the East end, though it’s closer to Boyle. Those using Boyle from the North or South will have no problems tomorrow. Same for those using Sarah from the North. As of Thursday last week, those trying to enter/exit the station from/to South Sarah will have ro use the street.

You’d think finishing sidewalks to/from a transit station would be important, but not in St. Louis
A wide sidewalk runs along the North side of the tracks between Sarah & Boyle, looking West from Sarah Street.
An Eastbound train is seen passing by the station last week.

We’ve invested a lot in light rail, but we’ve not always been smart about it. We’ve not leveraged it to created dense walkable nodes around stations. Going back after the fact is proving just as hard, if not harder, than if it had been done 25 years ago.

— Steve Patterson

 

Proposed Rail Transit Through Downtown, An Alternative To Delmar

July 16, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Proposed Rail Transit Through Downtown, An Alternative To Delmar

Last week I promised an alternative to the proposed alignment for the proposed northside-southside light rail study. At the time I thought my alternative would work only with the Cass option, but it could work with the North Florissant alignment. First, a look at the overall plan at this point.

The overall route map

Now let’s examine the downtown inset from the upper right.

From the South the line comes North on 14th from Chouteau, East on Clark. 9th Street would be used for northbound vehicles, 10yth Street for Southbound. All would use Convention Plaza (aka Delmar) to 14th Street. Stations would be at Clark, Pine, & Washington.

Now let’s examine the downtown inset from the upper right.

Two alternatives to 14th & Cass to Parnell (Jefferson) & Natural Bridge

In 2007-2008 the plan stayed on 14th rather than go East into the Central Business District. This new alignment through the CBD is much better for transit users and visibility that transit is an option.

This is looking West at Clark from 9th. The rail line would come toward us on Clark then turn North on 9th (our right)
Now we’re looking North on 9th, the Stadium West garage is on the right
Looking North on 9th from Walnut — there’s plenty of height for the rail vehicles, overhead wires, etc
Since opening in 2009 Citygarden has unofficially closed 9th Street. Would rail be allowed but not other vehicles?
The reason they closed 9th is because they didn’t figure out how to let pedestrians using the “hallway” to know when it was safe to cross 9th
At 10th Street the “hallway” needs to be continued into the next block, along with a system of pedestrian signals.
Looking West at Convention Plaza, formerly Delmar, from 9th Street.

My question was why rush to get to 14th Street? Why not go further North on 9th/10th before heading West? It’s likely too late for a change since they plan to submit to East-West Gateway, our MPO, late next month. Still, I took a look at alternatives to Delmar to reach 14th from 9th/10th.

The next block North of Delmar is MLK Dr
St. Louis loves to give away public property, is MLK between 10th-11th is a narrow private service drive. MLK was also vacated West of 11th
Cole is a nice wide option, but West of Tucker you can see it narrows considerably.

With MLK & Cole ruled out that leaves only one other option: Cass Ave. I’ve written before about 9th & 10th through the Columbus Square neighborhood being excessively wide one-way streets — from when they served as long on/off streets for I-70. Since the bridge construction changed traffic patterns, 9th/10th are way too wide and little used. Running the rail lines on 9th/10th through the center of this neighborhood would help connect it to downtown, partially making up for the convention center (1977) and dome (1993) closing access via 6th/7th/8th.

Looking South at 9th from Cass
Commercial storefront building might become viable if served by rail transit rather than infrequent bus service.
Looking West on Cass from 9th
Looking North from Cass & Tucker. It would be nice if people driving intro St. Louis from this point saw rail transit on Cass
Lots of vacant land at this important intersection, development could be served by rail transit,,
Looking West on Cass from Tucker,
The long-vacant Cass Bank at 13h & Cass might get developed if rail t=ran down Cass
14th Street sidewalks near Cass are horrible, booked in many places or too natrrow due to encroachments like this.

I think more north city residents would be served by extending the line on 9th/19th to Cass. It could continue on Cass to Jefferson or use 13th or 14th to connect to North Florissant ,Connecting the development node at Cass & Tucker to downtown and to NGA West is important.

In the interest of full disclosure, by the end of this year my husband and I will very likely be new residents of the Columbus Square neighborhood, moving from our loft in Downtown West to a smaller place.More on that later. Still, I’ve been photographing & writing about the area for years.

It’s probably too late to consider 9th.10th to Cass, but I had to share it.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment

July 11, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment

In the recent non-scientiifc Sunday Poll readers were split on the twi competing alignments that’ll be recommended to East Wes. Planning approved a decade ago was to use 14th, North Florissant, and Natural Bridge. Since then a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood was razed for the new West headquarters of the National Geospatial Agency (NGA West), now under construction. So an alternative is to use Cars & Jefferson avenues to serve NGA West’s workforce.

The red represents North Florissant alignment, green the Cars/Jefferson alignment

Here are the results:

Q: Which of the two alternatives for the Northside light rail alignment do you prefer:

  • Unsure/no answer 9 [36%]
  • Florissant Ave 9 [36%]
  • Cass Ave 7 [28%]

The results are lower than typical weeks, and some selected Unsure/no answer because they oppose investing in additional rail transit — even though taxpayers approved taxes to build additional rail to serve North & South St. Louis.

Advantages of Florissant Ave alignment:

  • Serves 3 neighborhoods: Carr Square, St. Louis Place, & Old North St. Louis
  • Taking transit to/from Crown Candy would be easier than now
  • No 90-degree turns to slow down speeds

Advantages of Cars Ave alignment

  • Serves 2 neighborhoods: Carr Square & St. Louis Place
  • Serves more of Jeff Vanderlou neighborhood than Florissant Ave alignment
  • Serves NGA West
  • Could spur development of long-vacant Pruitt-Igoe site

It’s tough picking a favorite.  Would more NGA workers use transit if it stopped right out front? Would think significantly reduce auto traffic to/from NGA?

On Monday I’ll propose an alternative to the Case Ave alignment.

— Steve Patterson.

 

First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card

July 9, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card

In February 2014, on a trip to Chicago, I used my first contactless transit card. It took a few times to get used to it but it was far easier than paying cash and deciding if I needed ro pay up front for a 2-hour transfer. If I bought a transfer, I had to keep track of it. With a contactless card there’s no problem paying the bus fare while wearing gloves. No fumbling with bills & coins. Just tap & go. My post from February 2014: Contactless Transit Smart Cards. I’d already contacted Metro St. Louis about being a reduced fare tester.

Metro was supposed to have such a system in place in St. Louis by then, but other cities, including Chicago, experienced huge problems when launching their contactless cards.  Other delays happened tooo, but Metro has been cautiously slow.

From April:

Metro has been working on the smart card system for more than eight years.

It’s part of a $31 million project that also included replacing fareboxes on all 400 of Metro’s buses, replacing or modifying ticket vending machines and validators and technical upgrades.

Metro in 2011 had said the card system would be launched by 2013. Later the targeted launch date was changed to 2015. That also wasn’t met.
Officials blamed the delays on the complexity of integrating disparate systems on moving buses and trains and with bus fareboxes. (Post-Dispatch)

I’ve been pretty patient as the months & years passed by. In November 2015 I applied for a reduced fare Ventra card for use in Chicago. It arrived in the mail the next month, prompt9ing me to write Reduced Fare Smart Card For Chicago, Still Waiting On St. Louis.

In late 2017 I saw Metro’s now-retired Executive Director, Ray Friem, at an event at North Hanley.  He explained the many pages of problems they’ve worked through and the few that remained. One issue was different vendors for bus fareboxes  and a different one for MetroLink fare gates.

Earlier this year testing was opened up from a limited number of riders to sort of a public beta test — but still only full fare. I was getting inpatient. In March Friem promised me I’d be the first reduced fare tester. He was right, 3 months later I got my card!

Standard fare cards are blue (top), reduced fare cards are red.
The back of my husband’s full fare card includes tow card number and where to call Metro. The back of my card includes my name & photo as well as card number — only the person assigned the card can use a reduced fare card, I’ve blurred both card numbers.

I’ve now used the card 7 times — on both MetroBus and MetroLink (Light rail). My very first time using the card was on a #10 bus as I headed to an appointment with an ophthalmologist. It didn’t work. I tapped again, still didn’t work. The 3rd time it didn’t work the bus driver indicated to just wheel back to my spot so she could get going. I emailed the time, bus route, and bus numbers to the person at Metro I’d been working with for months to get this card.

I managed to board the one bus, out of 400, that had a defective reader. Since then it has worked flawlessly, including a bus to MetroLink transfer last week!  As these cards are still in testing mode, all the bells & whistles aren’t yet up & running. I can’t open an app on my phone to check transactions, balance remaining, or add funds. Can’t logon from my home computer either. I can check the by calling the number on the back of the card; I can also check the balance or add funds by visiting the Metro Store at 8th & Pine, or at a Metro ticket machine.

The Metro Store in the Arcade Bldg, as seen from the SW corner of 8th & Pine
The machines at MetroBus centers & MetroLink stations have a reader you can tap your card to add funds, passes. or just check your balance.
This day I checked my balance, $10.75 matched my spreadsheet.

A Spreadsheet? Yes, I thought this was the best way to track my use and confirm the card is working.

Because no app is available, I created a spreadsheet on my phone using Apple’s Numbers app. This allows me to track the balance of my card.

This also helps me when I’m using Metro because the time will let me know the window in which I can use again at the transfer rate — exactly 2 hours.

The other way to check the balance is to call the number on the back of the card. At first I’d call and thought something wasn’t working. Unlike Chicago, the bus data isn’t sent in instantaneously. it’s downloaded from each bus when it returns each night. The call-in system may not know my card balance at any moment because of this, but the card itself knows. Don’t think you can exceed your balance because the bus hasn’t downloaded yet — it doesn’t work that way.

I’m told in a few months myself and others can begin testing the online portion. This will allow the autoload of passes or funds. I don’t use passes, but I love the idea of having it automatically charge a credit card I have on file whenever my balance reaches a minimum threshold.

Aside from the one faulty bus reader, everything has worked fine. I’m looking forward to helping test online functions. I’m really glad I no longer need to carry a coin purse with $1 bill & quarters! As a result of the new convenience I find myself using transit more than I would have if I still had ro use cash or 2-hour passes.

— Steve Patterson

 

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This is Bill, he’s worked for ⁦‪Metro‬⁩ since 1970! Second bus I’ve ridden where he calls out bus stops and places served. Love it! #stl ... See MoreSee Less

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This is not a “Where am I?”, it’s a ‘What did it used to be?’

My doctor bought this vacant building almost 20 years ago. Before it was a medical office, what occupied the 1954 building at 2340 Hampton?
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ANSWER: AT Still University/Affinia Healthcare (aka dental school), 1500 Park. Looking east from 2nd floor.
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