Home » Public Transit » Recent Articles:

Yellow Curb Isn’t Visible Enough To Keep Motorists From Parking In Bus Stops

One of my pet peeves is blocked bus stops, people thinking they’re entitled to park in them. To be fair, many drivers who do so may just be oblivious to the fact that buses need to pull up next to the curb so some of us can board/deboard. The response of some is “call the police” or “tow them away.”  Yes, enforcement is part of the solution — but the St. Louis Police really have more important things to do. I don’t think Metro’s Police have jurisdiction on city streets.

Besides, the police can be just as guilty.

Last year A St. Louis traffic police officer parked in front of a fire hydrant and blocked the adjacent bus stop. Market at 16th.
Last year A St. Louis traffic police officer parked in front of a fire hydrant and blocked the adjacent bus stop. Market at 16th.

When you’re on the bus and need to get off at a blocked stop you can’t expect it to wait a couple of hours for a tow truck to remove the offending car, or when you need to get on the bus you don’t have time for enforcement to work. Ticketing the car still doesn’t get you on the bus.

What’s needed at some bus stops is highly visible markings so the oblivious drivers see they shouldn’t park there. Those who don’t care will potentially be more embarrassed parking in a visible bus stop than at a yellow curb. It doesn’t need to be complicated, just out of the ordinary.

Paint is cheap, by painting the pavement in addition to the curb they've made it clear this isn't for parking. Location: in front of St. Louis Police Headquarters on  Olive.
Paint is cheap, by painting the pavement in addition to the curb they’ve made it clear this isn’t for parking. Location: in front of St. Louis Police Headquarters on Olive.

I’ve said all this before, so why bring it up again? Last Tuesday morning my husband and I visited the St. Louis Zoo, we were there for four hours — great time.  I returned downtown the way I arrived, via public transit in my wheelchair. My husband drove our car, going directly to work. Leaving the Zoo’s North entrance I saw a problem as soon as I started across the street to the bus stop.

The last three vehicles are parked in the bus stop I need to get home
The last three vehicles are parked in the bus stop I need to get home
I'm now at the spot where the bus should extend the ramp to pick me up.
I’m now at the spot where the bus should extend the ramp to pick me up.

I went down to the corner to wave at the bus as it approached. It turned the corner and stopped in the street since it couldn’t get to the curb. All traffic was now stopped. I rolled in the street to reach the bus. After I paid the fare the ramp was folded back into the bus — the #3 Forest Park Trolley. I was inconvenienced, the other passengers were inconvenienced, other motorists were inconvenienced, the bus was delayed so more people were inconvenienced.

My goal is compliance, to ensure people don’t park in the bus stop. Sure, increased enforcement of tickets, booting, & towing might also keep it clear. But at what cost? First the person(s) that would be assigned to increased enforcement wouldn’t be able to serve the public elsewhere in the city or park.  Ticketing, booting,  & towing also isn’t free — and it just server to anger motorists. Yes, they parked at a yellow curb. I suspect many didn’t notice, or didn’t see any harm.

If there is paint on the pavement though, the oblivious excuse goes out the window. Adding the words “NO PARKING”, “BUS STOP, and/or “TOW AWAY ZONE” would convey the message to the driver that parking here isn’t a good idea.

The stop above is served by the #90 (Hampton) and #3 (Forest Park Trolley)

The Metro #3 Forest Park Trolley is a partnership between Forest Park Forever, Bi-State Development Agency/Metro, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and the City of St. Louis. (Forest Park Forever)

This trolley bus operates May through September, largely to mitigate the summer problem of traffic congestion within the park.

2012: People board the Forest Park Trolley to visit the park
2012: People board the Forest Park Trolley to visit the park

I’d like to see these seven partners take action so the bus can reliably be used by everyone. On Twitter I offered to ride the trolley with them so they can see which stops are problematic. I suggested the stops be painted solid so they’re not only visible to motorists but to visitors. The stops could become part of the marketing effort.

I emailed Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director Lesley Hoffarth, who replied, and said they’re working on new striping for the park now, this issue will be taken into consideration. I’m not optimistic it’ll be solved. The new striping work should be done before Fall, I’ll keep trying to influence the work before it’s done.

— Steve Patterson

 

Significantly Reducing Access Points To Public Transit Isn’t Fair, Just, or Equitable

In a guest piece in the St. Louis American 20th Ward Ald. Cara Spencer makes a passionate plea for expanding MetroLink light rail:

The St. Louis region needs a high-quality light rail system to connect Florissant/Ferguson and our densely populated South Side to Downtown and the Central Corridor. Now is the time to push for economic investment to help stabilize some of the city and county’s most vulnerable communities. We should be demanding that our local leaders prioritize North Side/South Side MetroLink expansion as imperative to making St. Louis a progressive and economically just metropolitan area.

Public transportation speaks volumes about a society. Lack of transportation is an indicator of economic injustice and is the number one deterrent to employment and community involvement across the country. (St. Louis American)

Would light rail be more “just”?  Those who don’t actually use public transit on a daily basis may think so, but the reality is the opposite.

Map currently being circulated
Map currently being circulated, click image to view larger PDF in Scribd.

The above map is from the North South MetroLink Expansion Facebook page.

Northside:

Currently to get from downtown (14th & Spruce) to Ferguson and the Florissant Valley Community College there are two options:

  1. #74 (Florissant) MetroBus is the most direct option. This takes 1 hour and 1 minute with up to 68 potential stops along the way.  That’s a long time, I’ve done it many times in the last year.
  2. MetroLink (Red) to Hanley Station plus #36 (Spanish Lake) MetroBus.  This option takes a total of 1 hour and 2 minutes. This route is 23 minutes on light rail with 10 stops, 10 minutes between modes, and 29 minutes on bus with up to 40 stops.  I’vc also done this a few times.
The two primary choices for getting from downtown to Florissant Valley CC
The two primary choices for getting from downtown to Florissant Valley CC, click image to view in Google Maps. Note that times may vary, just depends on when you depart.

The proposed light rail line would certainly cut this down to 30-45 minutes. That’s a good thing, right? Not necessarily.

Very few ride the #74 MetroBus end to end. It’s a busy bus route but people get on/off where they need to. With 68 points of access it serves the corridor well. More frequent headways would be better though.  The proposed light rail route would most certainly mean the #74 would end at a new Jennings Station MetroLink Station at Goodfellow & W. Florissant, rather than duplicate service from that point North. From Goodfellow & W. Florissant it currently takes 24 minutes to reach the community college at the end of the #74.  The light rail map floating around would instead have just 4 stops including the start & end stops! How is that just?

The proposed light rail has zero stops in the area of W. Florissant that most uses transit.
The proposed light rail has zero stops in the area of W. Florissant that most uses transit.

Sure a light rail train may be faster and be more frequent, but that’s little consolation if you’re walking a mile further in the rain to get to a limited access point. For many current riders they’d now just end up having to walk their entire trip. Unless we ran a bus on the same route as the light rail train, which kinda defeats the point of spending tens/hundreds of millions on light rail.

Southside:

A similar situation occurs along the proposed Southside route. Currently a person downtown (14th & Spruce) seeking to get to Cherokee & Jefferson using public transit has two choices, both via MetroBus: #11 & #73

How long does it take to get from 14th & Spruce to Cherokee & Jefferson on these two MetroBus routes?

  1. #73: 17 minutes, running every 30 minutes weekdays, with up to 18 points of access in that distance.
  2. #11: 16 minutes, running every 20 minutes weekdays, with up to 19 access points.

Both are pretty quick. The Southside light rail being pushed follows the #11 route exactly between these points so let’s take a closer look.  Google Maps includes the start & end stops in their 19 stop count. Here are the 17 access points in between:

  1. 14th St @ Papin SB
  2. Chouteau Ave @ 14th Street WB
  3. Chouteau Ave @ 18th Street WB
  4. Chouteau Ave @ Mississippi WB
  5. Chouteau Ave @ 22ND Street WB
  6. Jefferson Ave @ Chouteau SB
  7. Jefferson Ave @ Hickory SB
  8. Jefferson Ave @ Park SB
  9. Jefferson Ave @ 1605 S Jefferson SB
  10. Jefferson Ave @ Layfayette SB
  11. Jefferson Ave @ Russell SB
  12. Jefferson Ave @ Shenandoah SB
  13. Jefferson Ave @ Gravois SB
  14. Jefferson Ave @ Pestalozzi SB
  15. Jefferson Ave @ Arsenal SB
  16. Jefferson Ave @ Wyoming SB
  17. Jefferson Ave @ Utah SB

So how many stops would this “just” light rail make to serve the “densely populated South Side”? Five!

  1. Chouteau & Truman Parkway
  2. Jefferson & Park
  3. Jefferson & Russell
  4. Jefferson & Gravois
  5. Jefferson & Arsenal

The density isn’t concentrated at just 5 points! Only a person who doesn’t understand transit can ague that spending millions while reducing 17 access points to 5 is “fair, just and equitable.” For example, everyone who works & shops at Jefferson Commons would now have to walk further. Sorry folks, remember this is “just” as your grocery trips are longer.

Back to Ald. Spencer’s op-ed:

On the one hand, it is exciting to see renewed interest in light rail in St. Louis County. Yet on the other hand, it is alarming that the expansions mentioned did not include a north/south route, but instead focused on the Clayton-Westport, Lambert-Florissant and Shrewsbury-Butler Hill lines. These three lines fail to provide service to the region’s most densely populated areas and many communities that have the highest need. 

Northside/Southside light rail also fails to address actual needs — it would provide service for whites who are uncomfortable riding the bus with non-whites, see Race, Class, and the Stigma of Riding the Bus in America. You can have a free train running every 5 minutes 24/7 but if a person must walk a mile to reach a point of access they’re not going to use it. Stop pretending it benefits them.

Related prior post: Northside-Southside Light Rail Wouldn’t Be Good For St. Louis Neighborhoods

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Rethinking Chariton Square

In May of last year I posted about a drive-in theater that replaced a quarry, itself soon replaced by I-55 (see May 26, 1954: South Broadway Drive-In Theater Opened).

The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the 1964 theater site.
The blue lines mark the approximate outline of the 1964 theater site. Click image for map to area.

In that post I indicated I would do a followup on ideas for the tired auto-centric Chariton Square strip shopping center:

In the coming weeks I’ll take a look at the commercial development along this stretch of Broadway and share my concept for an urban redevelopment.

But I got married a week later and never got to it. Recently a friend inquired about my ideas so here they are…finally. Before I get into my solution I want to show you some of the problems I hope to solve.

THE PROBLEM

As you head sSouth on Broadway it is bounded by handsome 2-3 story brick urban buildings, but this changes after passing Gasconade St one block further South 
As you head sSouth on Broadway it is bounded by handsome 2-3 story brick urban buildings, but this changes after passing Gasconade St one block further South. The large 3-story building is owned by Ameren.
South of Gasconade the pattern changes from from the established urban pattern
South of Gasconade the pattern changes from from the established urban pattern
Chariton Square was built on the 1960s when walkability & accessibility weren't considered
Chariton Square was built on the 1960s when walkability & accessibility weren’t considered
Even once inside the site getting from building to building is difficult.
Even once inside the site getting from building to building is difficult.
More disconnect from one building to the next
More disconnect from one building to the next
Lots of hardscape creates water runoff and separates pedestrians from storefronts
Lots of hardscape creates water runoff and separates pedestrians from storefronts
The old street grid was cut off.
The old street grid was cut off.

ONE SOLUTION

Let me preface this by saying this is a rough digital napkin sketch about what I think could physically be built to replace the existing strip shopping center. The intent is to trigger people’s imagination to see this as potentially being redeveloped in a different manner than it has been for the last half century. The only other vision I’ve seen put forward was as a park-n-ride lot for a light rail line, see Northside-Southside Light Rail Wouldn’t Be Good For St. Louis Neighborhoods.

KEY:  Lt Green: existing park space Gray: new buildings  Purple: existing green space to consider developing  BLUE LINE: New public  street, extensions of existing street grid  DK GREN LINE: New common plaza
KEY:
Lt Green: existing park space
Gray: new buildings
Purple: existing green space to consider developing
BLUE LINE: New public street, extensions of existing street grid
DK GREN LINE: New common plaza
Click image to view in Google Maps

NOTES:

  1. The best streets have a similar building type across the street, which is hard to accomplish in this narrow site. The extensions of Chariton & Meramec would help create quality urban faces on opposite sides of s street.
  2. Building on the open areas (purple) would help with changing the feel of Broadway.
  3. Broadway and all newly extended streets would have parking on both sides — angled on Broadway and Piedmont Ave parallel to I-55.
  4. Narrow drive lanes and curb bulbs would allow vehicular traffic to move but also be pedestrian-friendly. Protected bike lanes are possible on Broadway.
  5. The proposed buildings wouldn’t be monolithic masses, these might be several buildings within that newly created block.   They might be separated by  pedestrian-only street parallel to Broadway & I-55, depending upon the depth of the property. They might have structured parking in the middle surrounded by habitable building on all sides.
  6. The natural slope down to the highway would help facilitate a level of parking under some/most of the new buildings.
  7. A streetcar/BRT line could loop around this project. A light rail stop could be in the center of Broadway.
  8. The site has excellent highway visibility. Some taller buildings might have good views of the Mississippi River.
Minnie Wood Park at Meramec & Broadway is a great asset to the future development potential of the area
Minnie Wood Park at Meramec & Broadway is a great asset to the future development potential of the area
This 1920 property on Broadway & Chariton could be a part of the bigger project
This 1920 property on Broadway & Chariton could be a part of the bigger project
Two gas stations where Broadway & Osceola meet might become one urban station with building in front, pumps behind.
Two gas stations where Broadway & Osceola meet might become one urban station with building in front, pumps behind.

Again, this is a rough sketch of an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. I wouldn’t expect anything to get built exactly as I’ve indicated. I would like to see residers of the 9th & 20th Wards to work on planning for the future of this area — coming up with a form-based overlay to guide what they’d like to see this become over the next 20-50 years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Dallas Opened Starter Modern Streetcar Line In April

Last month I told you about my Megabus trip to Dallas & back, see Thirty Hours on Megabus: St. Louis to Memphis to Little Rock to Dallas & Back. Today I want to tell you about one of the things I did in the week I was there: I rode their newest public transit line — it opened just two weeks before I arrived!

The modern streetcar approaching the end near Dallas Union Station.
The modern streetcar approaching the end near Dallas Union Station.
The entry is level with the sidewalk.
The entry is level with the sidewalk.
The interior is very similar to their light rail vehicles -- the center is open for standing passengers,  wheelchairs , bikes, strollers, etc
The interior is very similar to their light rail vehicles — the center is open for standing passengers, wheelchairs , bikes, strollers, etc
The streetcar in Oak Cliff turning right onto Colorado Blvd from Zang Blvd, click image to view intersection on a map
The streetcar in Oak Cliff turning right onto Colorado Blvd from Zang Blvd, click image to view intersection on a map
At the other end of the line -- at least until it's extended
At the other end of the line — at least until it’s extended

Dallas’ light rail system includes 4 lines, 62 station, a total of 90 miles (source). Our light rail, MetroLink, has two lines, 37 stations, and is 46 miles in total length (source).  But the newest rail line in Dallas isn’t more light rail — it’s a modern streetcar line connecting downtown Dallas across the Trinity River to the Oak Cliff neighborhood:

More than five years in the making, the 1.6-mile line stretches from near Union Station downtown to the intersection of Beckley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, near Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Oak Cliff.

A group of Oak Cliff leaders — including Luis Salcedo, Jason Roberts and Griggs before his council election – laid the project’s foundation as members of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority.

A $23 million federal stimulus grant in February 2010 brought the city, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the North Central Texas Council of Governments together as project partners. The city owns the line, DART will operate it and the council of governments has been the funding conduit.

An additional $3 million in stimulus money, the allocation of regional toll-road revenue and other funding covered what has become a $50 million investment, with plans for expansion. (Dallas Morning News)

See DART Streetcar. Why didn’t they just build another light rail line? Or even a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line?  A light rail line would’ve been far more expensive to build, it likely couldn’t have crossed a historic bridge over the Trinity River the way the streetcar does. It’s important to note the costs are for the initial system — over a historic viaduct crossing the now-flooding Trinity River. New extensions will be far less costly per mile.

From 2014:

Officials have spent almost a decade planning improvements to public transportation downtown. The matter became more urgent after Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light-rail system reached critical mass. That 85-mile network connects downtown to the suburbs in all directions. The trains run along downtown’s edges, but not deep into its business, government and entertainment hubs.

“The conversation came up that LRT will take care of regional transportation. But what about in and around downtown?” Manoy said.

That’s when the idea of electric streetcars started to gain momentum. Like most transportation hopes, funding didn’t match ambitions. For years, planners navigated a series of route ideas, grant applications and shifting bureaucratic priorities. (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas planners see the streetcar connecting the dots — eventually a highly visible line in the heart of their downtown — connecting light rail to the CBD and other districts.

Of course, their streetcar had its critics. From 2013:

The problem is that Dallas sprawls too much to make rail-based streetcars a feasible solution. To solve our public transportation problem, Dallas ought to stop looking at models like Portland, Oregon, and look at cities that more closely resemble Dallas, places like Bogota, Colombia. Bogota has become a darling of the new urbanism crowd in the last decade thanks to its development of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. 

Don’t be thrown by the B-word. Rather than a snaking web of indecipherable bus lines, like Dallas currently has, BRT systems use designated lanes, timed traffic lights, and painted ground areas to give pedestrians visual understanding of where routes go. BRT vehicles are faster, more comfortable, and more reliable than buses. And here’s the best part: for the cost of the Oak Cliff streetcar, Dallas could build a complete BRT system covering the entire city. 

Roberts likes the idea of a BRT system in Dallas, but he says it has to be perfect or it won’t work, pointing to Los Angeles’ BRT attempt, which hasn’t had the same impact as systems in Bogota and Ottawa, Ontario. (D Magazine)

So I got to ride it just two weeks after opening, I’ve also seen where it’ll be extended to.

The streetcar currently ends at W Colorado Blvd & N Beckley Ave, there is plenty of potential for new development.  Across the street is a hospital complex. . Click image for map.
The streetcar currently ends at W Colorado Blvd & N Beckley Ave, there is plenty of potential for new development. Across the street, to the right, is a hospital complex. . Click image for map.
Their streetcar will extend to the popular Bishop Arts District (left), click for website
Their streetcar will extend to the popular Bishop Arts District (left), click for website

The area is charming — once you get to it!

The Bishop Arts District is home to over 60 independent boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, theaters and art galleries. Located in the heart of North Oak Cliff, one of Dallas’ most unique neighborhoods. A historical shopping district full of great finds, good eats, and good ole Oak Cliff charm! The Bishop Arts District is made up of many independently-owned shops and eateries that maintain various hours. While many of the shops stay open late on the weekends to provide a fun shop, stroll, and eat environment for visitors, the Bishop Arts District is populated with many independently-owned businesses, so please contact them directly for their hours of operation. Wine Walks are held 3-4 times a year and on 1st Thursdays of a given month. (Bishop Arts District)

I took the free D-Link bus back downtown. For now the streetcar is also free, operating weekdays only. Once extended it’ll have longer hours and weekend service.

Again, Oak Cliff is very close to downtown Dallas but it’s geographically separated by the Trinity River  — in the news lately because of the flooding:

To my knowledge the streetcar line is dry, but the D-Link bus route might be impacted by road closures due to high water. The good thing about Dallas is they actually expand their transit systems, so I look forward to returning every few years to see the resulting development — if any.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Northside-Southside Light Rail Wouldn’t Be Good For St. Louis Neighborhoods

Lately I’ve been hearing people wanting the build the long-planned Northside-Southside MetroLink lines. While I’m a huge advocate of public transit, rail transit in particular, this would ultimately be a costly disaster for St. Louis’ neighborhoods.

For the Northside corridor, the preferred transit alternative was a MetroLink line running from downtown St. Louis north by using rights-of-way along several streets including 14th Street, Natural Bridge Avenue, and West Florissant Avenue into North St. Louis County. Two potential preferred alternatives were selected for the Southside corridor. One was a MetroLink extension from downtown St. Louis running south using rights-of-way within 14th Street, Chouteau Avenue, the Union Pacific Railroad track and along I-55. The other possible design was a Bus Rapid Transit system from downtown south via Market Street, Grand Boulevard, to rights-of-way alongside the Union Pacific Railroad track and Loughborough Avenue, then via I-55 to South St. Louis County. (Northside-Southside Overview)

Here’s what I think these people don’t understand:

  • This would be a completely separate system from our existing light rail — Northside-Southside would use different vehicles & track. An existing line coming from the airport, for example, wouldn’t be able to run into south city. Passengers would need to exit the older high-floor light rail vehicles at the Civic Center MetroLink station and walk to 14th Street to board the new line. Fares could be integrated, but physically separate otherwise.
  • The vehicle type used would be the same as the proposed St. Louis Streetcar.  These are modern vehicles and are an excellent choice. When used as “light rail” they operate in dedicated right-of-way (ROW) with far fewer stops so as to achieve desired speeds end to end. As streetcars they stop much more frequently, putting more people closer to a stop. The tracks can be crossed easily by pedestrians & motorists. Connectivity, not speed, is the priority.
  • The goal for Northside-Southside was to end at large park-n-ride lots and get suburbanites through “scary” city neighborhoods and into downtown as quickly as possible. Stops would be over a mile apart.
  • To achieve necessary speeds the number of conflict points between rail & autos/pedestrians would need to be greatly reduced. This is accomplished by building a median down the center of the road (Natural Bridge, Jefferson) with very few points to cross. That left turn you used to make would become impossible, as would walking across the street at all but a few points.
  • Property along the routes would need to be taken, some buildings razed. This is because creating a dedicated ROW takes lots of room — more than even our generous ROWs have to offer.This light rail ROW would act similar to a highway — dividing the neighborhoods on either side in an effort to rush people through as quickly as possible.

These are not positives for the neighborhoods, unless you live near one of the few stops it won’t be useful to residents.

We don’t have any examples of light rail in the center of a road, so we need to look elsewhere. In 2012 I visited Dallas and rode their Blue Line south in the center of Lancaster Rd.

ABOVE: One of several auto-centric strip shopping centers along the Blue line
One of several auto-centric strip shopping centers along their South Blue line, the physical design of the light rail line discourages new development, walking, etc

All of my photos are from inside the light rail car or at the stations. To understand you you need to view from outside. Short of a personal visit, you can look at Google’s Street View.

This view from Google Street View shows how traffic & pedestrians from a side street are forded to turn right. Click image to view the location on a map
This view from Google Street View shows how traffic & pedestrians from a side street are forded to turn right. Click image to view the location on a map
A 2012 photo I took of the shopping center on this corner
A 2012 photo I took of the shopping center on this corner

Light rail doesn’t appear to have spurred any development in the 18 years it has been open. The rail vehicles, however, do move at a high speed between stations. Success depends on your goals.

What the St. Louis neighborhoods North & South need is an investment in excellent localized rail transit — streetcars. Again, the vehicles are virtually identical — it is the design of the track and number of stops that make the difference. To me, the South/Jefferson County person driving downtown is likely to just stay on I-55 to reach their destination — we shouldn’t design this to persuade them to exit the highway and park in a big parking lot.

We should design & invest in infrastructure that brings the neighborhoods together, that helps local merchants.  Light rail is the wrong choice, streetcars is the best rail choice. If you’re opposed to MoDOT’s plans for Gravois you should be opposed to creating a light rail ROW in the middle of our major aerials.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe