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Opinion: Turnstiles Are For Fare Collection, Not Public Safety

April 19, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Opinion: Turnstiles Are For Fare Collection, Not Public Safety

Many, including regional elected officials, letters to the editor, and others, are pushing the idea of turnstiles as a way to increase public safety on our MetroLink light rail system. Incredibly ill-informed because turnstiles, physical & virtual, are meant to combat fare-evasion.

Heavy rail systems like Chicago’s EL, the NYC subway, and DC’s Metro, have long had turnstiles to address fare evasion.They still have crime issues on trains & platforms. Turnstiles do not prevent crime.

CTA’s Brown line train at the Chicago Ave station, February 2017

Light rail systems, like ours, have been proof-0f-payment systems. This significantly reduced initial costs and making the system more welcoming. Some closed systems are even removing their turnstiles to increase ridership:

By nixing fare gates, public transit agencies emphasize ease of access over making every last rider pay. Europe got into “proof of payment” systems—where wandering personnel request evidence you paid your way—in the 1960s. They made it to American shores, mostly in light rail systems, by the 1990s.

Now, 21st century tech is making it easier than ever to blow up the turnstile. Modernized, cash-free fare payment methods—like reloadable tap-and-go cards, or apps that let riders use smartphones to get tickets, Apple Pay-style—speed up boarding. Passengers don’t have to struggle past fare gates. They can board through any door, instead of pushing through a bus’s front entrance to pay the driver.

The result: Faster vehicles, less crowding, and thus more frequent service, leading (hopefully) to more riders overall.  (Wired: Ignoring Fare Evaders Can Make Mass Transit Faster—And Richer)

Here Metro St. Louis has been updating stations with a high tech fare gate that will hopefully be ready soon.

In relative terms, the installation of turnstiles has a fixed investment cost, so the price increases linearly based on the number of stations in a system, not based on the number of riders or the length of a route. As a result, it makes more sense to install them in cities where each transit station handles a high number of users. (The Transport Politic: Are Turnstiles Worth Their Cost?)

The source above lists a number of cities and the cost to add turnstiles. In 2009 they estimated it would take St. Louis & Portland OR 45 years to break even on turnstiles, Charlotte NC was the only one higher at 50 years. The 2009 cost was $1.25 million per station — roughly $1.4 million per station in current dollars. With 37 stations in the system that’s $52 million!  Entering & exiting the system would be more cumbersome for everyone — some paying riders would very likely stop riding. Many of the 4% that currently evade fares would struggle to get to work.

Turnstiles do not prevent crime, from May 2015:

The leading crime on the CTA, theft, was down 38 percent, from 514 thefts reported in the first four months of 2014 to 320 thefts during the same period this year. The decline comes on the heels of a 26 percent drop during all of 2014 compared with 2013, the Police Department reported. Last year saw the fewest serious crimes in the previous four years, according to police statistics.

Robberies, the second most common crime on CTA property, declined 20 percent through April of this year, to 92 reported incidents from 115 for the same time a year ago, police data show.

The data so far this year indicate on average four serious crimes a day on the CTA, which provides 1.6 million rides each weekday. (Chicago Tribune: Safety tips for riders as summer kicks transit crime into high gear)

From July 2016:

Some CTA riders are concerned after a recent spike in crime. Police issued a community alert warning of two men robbing people at gunpoint on CTA trains and at CTA stations. Surveillance photos of the suspects were released overnight. Police are also investigating a stabbing.

Police said the men showed a black handgun and used pepper spray on their victims. After taking their cell phones, wallets and cash, police said the suspects exited the train at the next stop or jumped over turnstiles as they ran from the stop. (ABC7 Chicago: CTA RIDERS ON ALERT AFTER RECENT ARMED ROBBERIES, STABBING)

Turnstiles do not prevent crime, from NYC:

A disgruntled straphanger waved a gun at an MTA worker because he was upset over service disruptions, cops said.

The irate passenger confronted the 44-year-old worker just before 12 p.m. Monday on a Brooklyn-bound A train, police said. (Fox News: Angry NYC subway rider pulls gun on worker over bad service)

Turnstiles do not prevent crime.

Metro’s planned 2015 fare gate system was to help reduce fare evasion:

When we roll out smart card technology next year, the lights on ticket validating machines will let you know if your Gateway Card has enough money stored on it to take Metro. In the future, if your smart card is not valid for travel, the light will flash red. The lights are being turned on for testing on the MetroLink system.

The Gateway Card will offer a more convenient, secure way for you 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 you tap your card on fare equipment each time you ride. (NextStop Blog: MetroLink Ticket Validator Machines Lighting Up)

Turnstiles physical & otherwise do not prevent crime. Their goal is to increase fare recovery without reducing ridership in the process. That’s it.

Sadly just over half of those who voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll have bought into the notion that turnstiles can reduce crime:

Q: Agree or disagree: Adding turnstiles at MetroLink light rail stations will greatly improve public safety.

  • Strongly agree 9 [13.04%]
  • Agree 8 [11.59%]
  • Somewhat agree 19 [27.54%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [2.9%]
  • Somewhat disagree 6 [8.7%]
  • Disagree 12 [17.39%]
  • Strongly disagree 12 [17.39%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.45%]

Please don’t be fooled by the turnstile magic bullet.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Would Turnstiles Improve Safety On MetroLink?

April 16, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Would Turnstiles Improve Safety On MetroLink?
Please vote below

After two recent fatal shootings regional officials are looking for solutions:

After meeting privately for more than an hour Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said they have a framework to improve security along the light-rail line that connects the three counties.

The announcement comes after two fatal shootings on MetroLink last month. At a news conference after the closed door meeting, officials offered few details other than to say physical barriers, such as turnstiles, were needed. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Today’s poll question is about turnstiles & public safety:

The poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Large Turnout For Tuesday’s General Election

April 7, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy, Public Transit, Taxes Comments Off on Large Turnout For Tuesday’s General Election

Tuesday’s general election had the highest turnout of any April general in the City of St. Louis for the last decade!

Voter turnout was twice as high for this city general election than four years ago, the last time the mayor’s race was on the ballot. Voter turnout was 30 percent, or about 59,000 voters, while in 2013 turnout was 12.5 percent of voters. (Post-Dispatch)

Must have been the propositions on the ballot because the races for Mayor, Comptroller and half the Board of Aldermen, weren’t competitive at all — the Democratic nominee won by wide margins in every race. Nobody should be surprised.

Signs & campaign workers outside Central Library on Tuesday.

St. Louis continues wasting money every two years by holding a partisan primary followed a month later by the general election. This gives the illusion that different political parties matter in St. Louis. They don’t.

Proponents of nonpartisan ballots suggest that:

  • Political parties are irrelevant to providing services.
  • Cooperation between elected officials belonging to different parties is more likely.

Proponents for partisan elections argue that:

  • The absence of party labels confuses voters; a voter who must choose from among a group of candidates whom she knows nothing about will have no meaningful basis in casting a ballot.
  • In the absence of a party ballot, voters will turn to whatever cue is available, which often turns out to be the ethnicity of a candidate’s name.
  • Non-partisanship tends to produce elected officials more representative of the upper socioeconomic strata than of the general populace and aggravates the class bias in voting turnout, because in true non-partisan systems there are no organizations of local party workers to bring lower-class citizens to the polls on election day. (League of Cities)

If voters only look to see who the ward committee endorsed in the primary or for the “D” in general it explains a lot about the state of St. Louis. We need educated voters who know the issues and candidates!

REJECTED BY VOTERS:

PROPOSITION A AMENDMENT TO THE CITY CHARTER (Proposed by Initiative Petition)

A proposed ordinance submitting to the registered voters of the City of St. Louis an amendment to Article XV of the City Charter repealing Sections 4 and 5 and enacting in lieu thereof four new sections, Sections 4, 4a, 4b and 5, the purpose of which is to abolish the Office of Recorder of Deeds and consolidate the functions of that office with that of the Assessor, and place any realized cost savings in a special fund known as “the police body-worn camera fund” dedicated to the purchase and use of police body-worn cameras by the city Metropolitan Police Department subject to appropriation from the fund by the Board of Aldermen for the express purpose of the fund (the full text of which is available at all polling places).

PROPOSITION B AMENDMENT TO THE CITY CHARTER (Proposed by Initiative Petition)

A proposed ordinance submitting to the registered voters of the City of St. Louis an amendment to Article II of the City Charter repealing Sections 1, 2 and 3 and enacting in lieu thereof four new Sections 1, 1(a), 2 and 3, the purpose of which is to move the Primary Municipal Election date from March to August and the General Municipal Election date from April to November in even-numbered years, commencing in 2020 and continuing every two years thereafter, and providing for a transition to accomplish those changes (the full text of which is available at all polling places).

PROPOSITION 2 (Proposed by Ordinance)

Shall the use tax paid by businesses on out-of-state purchases and derived from the one half of one percent increased use tax, which corresponds to approval and levy of an Economic Development Sales Tax in the City of St. Louis, be used for the purposes of minority job training and business development programs, and a portion of construction costs, but not construction cost overruns, of a multipurpose stadium for soccer, local amateur sports, concerts and community events? A use tax is the equivalent of a sales tax on purchases from out-of-state sellers by in-state buyers and on certain taxable business transactions for which a sales tax is not levied. No taxpayer is subject to a sales tax and a use tax on the same transaction. The City shall be required to make available to the public an audited comprehensive financial report detailing the management and use of the portion of the funds each year.

PROPOSITION NS BOND ISSUE ORDINANCE (Proposed by Initiative Petition)

A proposition submitting to the registered voters of the City of St. Louis a proposed Ordinance authorizing and directing the issuance of general obligation bonds of The City of St. Louis, Missouri, not to exceed $40,000,000 principal amount in aggregate (of which no more than $6,000,000 in principal amount shall be issued annually) for the purpose of stabilizing, as limited by the Ordinance, residential properties owned by public entities, as described in the Ordinance, and authorizing the execution of an agreement relating to the expenditure of the sale proceeds of such bonds (the full text of which is available at all polling places).

APPROIVED BY VOTERS:

PROPOSITION C AMENDMENT TO THE CITY CHARTER (Proposed by Ordinance)

Shall Section 4 of Article XVIII of the Charter of the City of St. Louis be amended to add paragraph (f), which provides for the enactment of an ordinance establishing a residents’ preference to residents of the City of St. Louis upon successfully passing a civil service examination for civil service positions with the City?

Section 4. Ordinances to be enacted – The mayor and aldermen shall provide, by ordinance: (f) City Residents’ Preference. For a preference to be granted to residents of the City of St. Louis who successfully pass an examination for a civil service position.

PROPOSITION 1 (Proposed by Ordinance)

Shall the City of St. Louis impose a sales tax at a rate of one half of one percent for economic development purposes including (1) North/South Metrolink, (2) neighborhood revitalization, (3) workforce development; (4) public safety, and (5) to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, with annual public audits?

Old buildings will continue to deteriorate, the big hole in the urban fabric will remain West of Union Station. But as early as 2026 an 8-mile light rail North-South line will be running.

Francis Slay has been mayor for 16 of my nearly 27 years in St. Louis — hopefully Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson will be able to move the city in a positive direction.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Will The Loop Trolley Be A Successes or Failure?

March 19, 2017 Featured, Public Transit, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Will The Loop Trolley Be A Successes or Failure?
Please vote below

Testing of car 001 will begin soon on the Loop Trolley project — a 2.2 mile vintage streetcar line. Initially the car will be pulled by a truck to test tolerances , followed by powering up the overhead wires so it can run on its own.

Few projects have been so controversial:

Supporters say the trolley will bring in visitors and be a boon for businesses. They also say the trolley is being built for significantly less than streetcar lines in other cities, even though it surpassed its initial $43 million estimate, in part because of street paving and landscaping costs.

“The fixed-track nature does attract investment,” Edwards said, citing as an example a new 14-story, $66 million apartment building in the Loop at 6105 Delmar Boulevard, where the trolley will run.

Critics say that the trolley duplicates current mass transit — a MetroLink line runs between the Forest Park and Delmar stations — and that the project’s cost is too high. Businesses were hurt by construction, spurring a forgivable loans program.

Trolley opponents filed in 2015 a lawsuit in St. Louis County Circuit Court seeking to block the trolley. The suit contends the trolley will go beyond its authorized boundaries. No ruling has been issued. (Post-Dispatch)

Since the project is nearing the ribbon cutting I thought it would be good to see where readers side:

The poll will close at 8pm, I’ll share my thoughts on Wednesday. This poll will be monitored for the 12-hour duration — if it appears a campaign is underway to sway the results either way it’ll be shut down early.

— Steve Patterson

 

Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

January 9, 2017 Featured, Metro East, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

Back in September 2016, on the 20th,  I received a press release from our transit agency Metro — aka Bi-State Development:

SWANSEA, IL, SEPT. 20, 2016…  Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA), in partnership with Bywater Development Group and Bi-State Development (BSD), is pleased to announce a new, $10.5 million development that will bring senior apartment living adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station in Swansea, Ill. The transit-oriented development (TOD) project, which will be developed by SWIDA and Bywater, was approved by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) in Chicago on September 16. 

This new development, called Metro Landing of Swansea, will feature a handsome three-story building with 62 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for older adults seeking an independent lifestyle. Located adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station, residents will have car-free transportation options via MetroLink and MetroBus to conveniently access restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers, and medical facilities around the bi-state region. The Swansea Station is located on the Metro East Park and Recreation District BikeLink trail system, so seniors will be able to utilize the trail for exercise and recreation.

This development would not have occurred without the collaboration of a number of groups including IHDA, the St. Clair County Transit District and the Village of Swansea.  The Village has been a vital asset in the predevelopment planning process.  “It is truly an example of how public and private partnerships can lead to an important community investment,” James Nations, SWIDA’s Chairman said. “This is an excellent opportunity for SWIDA and Bywater Development Group to contribute to active senior housing as this segment of the population continues to grow.” The SWIDA Board of Directors is seeking other markets in the region in need of comparable developments.

Mike Lundy, Executive Director of SWIDA said, “It has been great working with Bi-State Development. We are very pleased with the new senior housing development and worked extremely hard to move this development forward.”

“This new development to be positioned next to the Swansea MetroLink Station reflects other successful transit-oriented projects in our area, and is a testament to the positive benefits the Metro transit system brings to the region,” said John Nations, President and CEO of Bi- State Development (BSD). BSD operates the metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region. 

“Metro Landing of Swansea is reflective of a very strong and effective public/private partnership and stands to serve as a model for transit oriented senior housing. It will create both a positive impact on the community and an ideal living environment for its residents.  Our organization is highly honored to be a part of this collective effort,” said Aaron Burnett, President of Bywater Development Group.

Metro Landing of Swansea is scheduled for construction commencement in the summer of 2017 with full completion by late summer of 2018. 

 

About SWIDA

The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority is a special-purpose, municipal corporation and local governmental unit whose purpose is to promote and enhance economic development within the counties of Bond, Clinton, Madison and St. Clair Ill. To learn more, visit www.swida.org. 

About Bi-State Development

Bi-State Development (BSD) operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the region’s freight district, and the Bi-State Development Research Institute. BSD is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; 391 MetroBus vehicle fleet that serves 77 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 120 vans. BSD owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. 

Within 90 minutes of receiving the press release I emailed Mike Lundy of SWIDA and Aaron Burnett of Bywater Development volunteering to help with accessibility, pedestrian issues, etc. I wanted to make sure they avoided common problems I’ve found throughout the region.Unfortunately, I’ve yet to hear back from either.

The stories online that day from the Post-Dispatch & other media outlets was a rephrasing of the press release along with the image provided.  Rather than do the same as others, I visited the Swansea MetroLink station and surrounding area a few days later  — on the morning of September 23rd. I was in the area nearly 2 hours — taking 158 photos in that time.

Go back up and read the press release again, you’ll see buzz words/phrases like ‘car-free’, ‘transit-oriented senior housing’, and ‘ideal living environment.’ Yeah…not so much.

The main thing these independent seniors will be buying is groceries. The nearest grocery store is al Aldi about a half a mile walk to the South, a Schnucks just over a half mile to the North. Before we go to the grocery stores let’s take a look at the station.

From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot -- another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot — another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left

Let’s go to the Aldi first since it is slightly closer and we’re almost out to the main road, IL-159/N. Illinois St.

Looking back from near the main road.
Looking back from near the main road.
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Getting closer
Getting closer
At this point you're dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.
At this point you’re dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.

Let’s return to the station entrance and go North to try to access the Schnucks. Though the Schnucks is also on the West side of IL-159, there’s no sidewalk so we must cross to the West to head North.

Not exactly friendly
Not exactly friendly
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices -- not reachable as a pedestrian though
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices — not reachable as a pedestrian though
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald's
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald’s
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There's no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There’s no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.

Seniors living here might not be able to carry a bag or two of groceries, so an inexpensive folding shopping cart is a good option. But traversing parking lots are dangerous and trying to get the cart up & over many curbs is a challenge at any age/ability. My experience confirms the WalkScore of 33 out of 100 for the MetroLink light rail station — car dependent.

Metro and its partners want everyone to believe seniors will be able to live here car-free. I realize pedestrian-friendly development doesn’t happen around transit immediacy — it takes time. This station has only been open since…May 5th…2001 — over 15 years!

— Steve Patterson

 

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