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Bus Stop Design In The St. Louis Region De-Prioritizes Transit

September 25, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit Comments Off on Bus Stop Design In The St. Louis Region De-Prioritizes Transit

Last month I posted about how St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), this is the first example: bus stops.

Transit is returning to its central place in the life of cities. With more people using buses, streetcars, and light rail than ever before, our street design paradigm is shifting to give transit the space it deserves. People are choosing to live, work, and play in walkable neighborhoods, and cities are prioritizing highly productive modes like transit as the key to efficient, sustainable mobility for growing urban populations. Transit agencies and street departments are working together to create streets that not only keep buses and streetcars moving, but are great places to be. Cities are extending light rail systems, investing in streetcar lines, and creating new rapid bus lines at a stunning pace, with ridership growing even faster in city centers. Transit agencies are rethinking their networks to serve neighborhoods at a high level all day, not just at commute times, while bike share and active transportation networks make it even easier to not only reduce driving, but to avoid the expense of owning a car.  (NACTO: Transit Street Design Introduction) 

Some of NACTO’s principles:

On streets of every size and context, design can directly improve transit travel time, reliability, and capacity. Major projects like dedicated transitways can substantially increase transit speeds and the total person capacity of a street. On smaller streets, fine-grained improvements like bus bulbs and signal timing combine to transform the way the street works.  (NACTO: Transit Street Principles)

Transit streets are built around safe, low-stress, and complete pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. Transit riders are active users of the street, relying on comfortable sidewalks and bikeways—and orderly motor vehicle traffic moving at safe speeds. Intuitive travel paths and frequent opportunities to cross the street make it easy and safe for people to get to transit stops, and are essential to building ridership.

Factors like presence of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, mixed land uses, and transit stop amenities have all shown significant positive correlations with transit ridership. However, the most significant indicator to ridership is transit level of service—transit frequency, transit alternatives, and route density—at a given stop location. (NACTO: Transit Street Principles)

On stops…

Use boarding islands and bulbs to allow transit vehicles to stop in their moving lane. Buses have long been expected to pull out of traffic to the curb, but this practice de-prioritizes transit, sometimes significantly on mixed-traffic streets. In-lane stops eliminate that delay, and provide an opportunity for near-level or level boarding. They also create shorter, safer pedestrian crossings, provide more walking space on the sidewalk, and make the street more predictable by sorting out bike-bus conflicts at stops. (NACTO: Transit Station & Stop Principles)

Sr. Louis, naturally, makes buses pull out of traffic rather than stay in the travel lane, as recommended. A problem I see often is people parking in the pull-out bus stop, from the archives:

MetroBus stop on the north side of Market Street filled with parked cars.
Cars on the north side of this 14th Street bus stop made it impossible for buses to pull up to the curb
Car parked in a bus stop on Forest Park
A St. Louis police car parked in front of a fire hydrant in a bus stop at 16th & Market.

More on the benefits of in-line stops:

By allowing buses to move in a straight line, in-lane stops eliminate both pull-out time and traffic re-entry time, a source of delay and unreliable service. In-lane stops are especially valuable on streets operating at or near vehicle capacity, or on streets with long signal cycles, in which transit vehicles may experience long re-entry delays while waiting for traffic to clear. (NACTO: Stop Placement & Intersection Configuration)

And the negatives of requiring buses to pull-out of the travel lane:

Where buses are required to pull from traffic to make stops, longer bus zones are needed to accommodate transitions to and from traffic.

Short transition distances add delay to transit service and require sharper transitions to the curb, wearing transit vehicles and infrastructure more quickly.

Enforcement is required to keep pull-out stops clear; vehicles standing or parking in the stop zone constrain the operator’s ability to pull completely to the platform.

Longer stops ease transitions into and out of stops, but require more curb length, reducing curbside parking spots.
At high-volume boarding locations, longer stops can be used to distribute queuing riders along the sidewalk and to ease pedestrian congestion.

The design of the humble bus stop can prioritize or de-prioritize transit. For decades the entree St. Louis region has de-prioritized transit use through the design of streets in the the public right-of-way.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

August 14, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

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A look back at the original Civic Center MetroBus Center. The block North of Spruce had many trees.

In October 2011 many brown areas could be spotted on the evergreen trees
To prep for a new Civic Center bus transfer facility, all the trees were cut down. The Feds will require Metro to plant new trees
The official route from 14th to the MetroLink platform involves steps or two switchback ramps

The new design is substantially different, it has 3 times as many bus bays. First we have to get to it. For both the ribbon cutting (8/10) and open house (8/11) I arrived from the North on the West side of 14th Street (next to Peabody Opera/Scottrade Center). Both times I had to take a detour, hopefully this morning this is open.

AS I arrived for the open house I saw Fredbird walking on 14th because the sidewalk at the corner was closed.
Moments later Fredbird made it around the corner
Later I made it around to the other side, it appears done so hopefully the fencing is pulled back today. The North plaza area, left, is still being finished.
To accèss Civic Center I usd ri go West along Clark, almost to 16th. I couldn’t get to 14th & Spruce because the sidewalks don’t connect on the East side of 14th, which surprised some Metro officials.
On Thursday holes were being dug for a new fence along Clark.
Since opening in 1993 this sidewalk has been too narrow. now the added fence is close leaving no room for people to step side on the South
Heading up the West ramp to the building
Looking back to where I’d been.
Once the corner st 14th & Clark is open pedestrians will use a 14th Street sidewalk not filled with bus stops. Trees will be planted, providing separation from the traffic lane.
Those pedestrians who approach from the South will likely take a shortcut, those of us in mobility devices don’t have that option because bio ramp is provided on the South end
There are several very long crosswalks, the able-bodied will take less risky short-cuts
Some will enter any 14th & Spruce, facing the new building. The MetroLink platform ids beyond, with Amshack 3 beyond that.
Inside the building are restrooms, concessions, security, etc
Each bank of seating has an outlet, carry your phone charger
Like North County TC, the bathrooms don’t have doors . Great for those of us who use a mobility device
From the building you can look down at the MetroLink platform
View of the building from the platform
View north from the steps next to the building
Trees, plants, and art will be installed at the North this full .

At the ribbon cutting on Thursday Metro Transit Exec Dir Ray Friem was adamant Civic Center would open allowing smoking, like their other bus centers. I argued this was the perfect time to make Civic Center smoke-free. Metro staff told me their inconsistent policy of no-smoking on train platforms but smoking at bus shelters on their private property had been the subject of many internal debates over the years. Friem said Metro would go smoke0-free, he just didn’t know how or when.  I rallied others to talk to Friem. It worked.

Metro has announced Civic Center is opening smoke-free, other bus transit centers will go smoke0-free  next month. Finally I can change buses at a transit center without having my eyes water or throat close because of smokers around me.

Four bus routes are being split up:

  • The #30 is being split into the #19 St. Louis Ave and #30 Arsenal
  • The #32 M.L. King-Chouteau is being split into the #31 Chouteau and #32 M.L. King.
  • The #40 Broadway route becomes the #20 S. Broadway and #40 N. Broadway  — yes, both are being routes through Civic Center.
  • The #99 Downtown Trolley is having a West portion split off into the #96 Market Street Shuttle.

You can read all the changes here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Metro Right To Highlight County Police Covering Cameras

August 2, 2017 Crime, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Readers: Metro Right To Highlight County Police Covering Cameras
North Hanley parking garage

In the recent Sunday Poll nearly seventy percent of those who voted don’t by the statement frim St. Louis County police chief Belmer.

Q: Agree or disagree: Media coverage of County police @ MetroLink is a ploy by Metro to get police powers.

  • Strongly agree 1 [2.78%]
  • Agree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat agree 4 [11.11%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.78%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Disagree 9 [25%]
  • Strongly disagree 12 [33.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [11.11%]

I do think Metro would like to its own police force, I also think the officers caught spending hours in a substation, rather than be out on platforms, need to face discipline. Belmer too.

What I’m not sure of is of Metro should have police powers. The security guards on platforms and in trains are pretty useless, an argument for them getting police power. On the other hand, abuse of power can come with police powers. The St. Louis region is already highly fragmented. Missouri & Illinois granting Metro, aka Bi-State Development, police powers increases fragmentation.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: What’s Up With St. County Police & Metro?

July 30, 2017 Public Transit, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: What’s Up With St. County Police & Metro?

A week ago we learned about St. Louis County police officers covering the camera at a MetroLink substation.

A federal Homeland Security law enforcement officer was assigned to Metro transit patrol as part of a beefed-up security plan for the busy Fourth of July weekend.

He didn’t like what he saw.

Late in the afternoon on July 4, the officer walked into the North Hanley MetroLink substation to find 12 St. Louis County police officers milling about. A resulting Metro check of video footage determined that not only were county police officers loitering in the North Hanley security office instead of patrolling trains or platforms, at one point they covered the security camera with an envelope and tape. (Post-Dispatch)

Horrible, right? Consider the other side’s position:

The statement released Sunday by county police Chief Jon Belmar and spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire implies the allegations are the result of “politics and infighting.” The statement says the security camera at North Hanley MetroLink substation, which documented at least eight instances since 2015 of police covering up its lens, is improperly placed in a “private room.”

“A limited number of carefully selected images from over a two-and-a-half-year period that were pulled from an improperly-placed surveillance camera in a 12×14 private room appeared with the article,” McGuire wrote. “This room is used to monitor security cameras, hold briefings and complete report writing. It is also the only room officers have to take breaks from work and weather as well as change clothes and equipment at the end of a shift.” (Post-Dispatch)

As part of the Post-Dispatch series, apparently the County wants to remove accountability from their contract with Metro, with Metro head John Nations and St. Louis County Police chief Belmar disagreeing on matters for a couple of years now, hence Belmar’s “politics and infighting” comment.

Which brings us to today’s poll:

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

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

 

 

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“At the end of the day, there’s no legislation, there’s no list of demands, there’s no report that’s going to give the police an understanding that they have to stop killing us. We can change the courts, we can change these different things, but we need to change the culture of the police department and stop hiring certain officers. We can talk about training all day, but training doesn’t fix how you look at me as a man or a human being. No matter if you look at a report or you don’t, if you pass legislation or you don’t, if we have a list of demands or not, one thing we will get them to understand is that they will stop killing us no matter what that looks like.”

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