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Civic Center Transit Center Sans Trees, Awaiting Redo

In late March the Civic Center Transit Center, serving MetroBus and MetroLink, got a visually shocking change: all the trees were cut down. Take a look:

In October 2011 many brown areas could be spotted on the evergreen trees
In October 2011 many brown areas could be spotted on the “evergreen” trees
Aerial from Apple Maps, click image to view location in Google Maps
Aerial from Apple Maps, click image to view location in Google Maps
In March 2014 all the frees were cut down
In March 2014 all the trees were cut down
Looking north toward the Scottrade Center at 14th & Clark
Looking north toward the Scottrade Center at 14th & Clark, noticed the bare dirt
For years transit riders wore paths going from bus & light rail
For years transit riders wore paths going from bus & light rail in a more direct pattern than the paved routes provided
The official route from 14th to the MetroLink platform involves steps or two switchback ramps
The official route from 14th to the MetroLink platform involves steps or two switchback ramps
Back up at Clark we have an useless plaza
Back up at Clark we have an useless plaza
The plaza to MetroLink connection is direct. October 2011 photo
The plaza to MetroLink connection is direct. October 2011 photo before the trees on the left were cut down
Numerous bus lines stop on 14th street, the sidewalk  gets very crowded during busy times
Numerous bus lines stop on 14th street, the sidewalk gets very crowded during busy times
The ramps/crosswalk to the main MetroBus area is too narrow during peak times each day
The ramps/crosswalk to the main MetroBus area is too narrow during peak times each day
A portable trailer has sat here for years
A tacky trailer on blocks has sat here for years
Looking south toward the double-loaded aisle
Looking south toward the double-loaded aisle
The #99 Downtown Trolley parks on 14th because no room exists in the center. The able-bodied can easily make the walk across the curbs but the rest of us have to return to near Spruce St to get where we can cross
The #99 Downtown Trolley parks on 14th because no room exists in the center. The able-bodied can easily make the walk across the curbs but the rest of us have to return to near Spruce St to get where we can cross

The reason the trees were cut down was to clear the site for the construction of a larger MetroBus area, so more can pull into the center rather than stay on 14th. Metro has talked about this for a number of years, but the process is moving forward now.  On Monday I inquired with Metro about plans, yesterday they posted information on their blog, see Metro Moves Forward With New Transit Projects, and sent me the text that will appear on the project page shortly:

Civic Center Transit Center Expansion

The Civic Center Transit Center is one of Metro’s busiest transit hubs and it presently lacks the space needed to adequately serve the number of MetroBus routes converging at this location. The location at 14th and Spruce Streets in Downtown St. Louis is served by MetroLink, 18 MetroBus routes and Metro Call-A-Ride service.

Metro secured federal funding to redesign the Civic Center Transit Center to more effectively accommodate more buses and to provide greater customer safety, convenience and comfort.

The expansion will include:

  • 18 MetroBus bays
  • 2 Call-A-Ride bays
  • Space for 60-foot articulated buses
  • Construction of a new building with
    • An indoor, climate-controlled waiting area
    • Public restrooms
    • Digital messaging boards
    • A security sub-station
    • Concessions

The design contract for the project was awarded to Arcturis Inc. on October 2013. The project is scheduled to be completed by next fall with construction expected to begin late summer or fall 2014.

To redesign the property for the expansion, it was necessary to cut down the bald cypress and oak trees. The trees were removed prior to April 1 so as not to affect migratory birds. Metro will plant the same number of trees at another location or make a donation to a local forestry project.

Here’s the proposed site plan:

Click image to view larger version on Scribd
Click image to view larger version on Scribd

This changes the flow for buses and pedestrians, after I’ve had a chance to absorb the proposed design I’ll share my thoughts in a separate post.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Prefer Public Transit Over Car Sharing & Taxicabs

Ford Transit Connect Taxi
Ford Transit Connect Taxi at the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show

In the poll last week I was trying to see if there was a preference among readers for an app-based service (CARmil, Lyft, Uber, etc) vs local taxicab. Just before posting the poll I changed the options, adding public transit to the mix. I very quickly regretted the change but it was too late.

Q: Next time you need to get from A to B (not in your own car), which type of service would you use?

  1. Public transit 42 [56%]
  2. App-based service (CARmil, Lyft, Uber, etc) 12 [16%]
  3. Unsure/no answer 12 [16%]
  4. Local taxicab company 9 [12%]

The app-based services did come out slightly ahead of taxicabs, but based on the totals I don’t think we can draw any conclusions.  I do have some thoughts on the topic though. While a few taxicab  companies have their own apps or are part of Taxi Magic, they’re boring by comparison. The local apps don’t simplify the payment process at your destination, one taxicab company we took last year handed us a credit card receipt to sign after swiping our card on their reader up front. Really? The other we took last year had credit card machines in the back and no paper receipt to sign, but we still had to get our card out. I used Taxi Magic once last year, which only required me to use the app on mu phone, but the driver made a big deal out of it.

In fact many drivers don’t like credit cards at all; companies take a bigger cut, are slow to pay, or something. Sorry, I’m the customer and I rarely carry more than $5 in cash.  I know a few former & current taxicab drivers, I support them in earning a living. But industries that don’t adapt to change will die off.

With the app startups I do worry about issues of riding with an unknown person using their personal vehicle.  I wonder how a whimsical taxicab company would do in St. Louis, shake up the establishment or struggle among the big players?

— Steve Patterson

 

A Look at the Riverview Transit Center

I recently changed buses at the Riverview Transit Center (map) on my way to visit the Lewis & Clark Library and Tower, my first time at this MetroBus Transit Center. I took the #40 (Broadway) from downtown, then caught the #27 (North County Connector) to finish my journey. I’ve changed buses at several transit centers, this is the best I’ve experienced in St. Louis.

The double-loaded aisle is covered
The double-loaded aisle is covered
riverviewtc2
Bus bays are marked overhead
riverviewtc3
The Transit Center has a building with convenience store and public restrooms
Diagram of the Riverview Transit Center, click image to view original via Metro
Diagram of the Riverview Transit Center, click image to view original via Metro

With the notable exception of the restroom, bus riders still aren’t treated as well as light rail riders. The light rail platforms have heaters to keep passengers warm waiting for the next train and all platforms are non-smoking. It would be nice to use public transit without being assaulted by cigarette smoke. Next week I’ll take a look at the Civic Center Transit Center.

— Steve Patterson

 

Metro Resumes Forest Park Trolley Service Today

May 3, 2014 Featured, Parks, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro Resumes Forest Park Trolley Service Today

As summer approaches that means vehicle traffic in Forest Park increases, especially on the weekends. Parking is limited, traffic moves slowly, exhaust pollution increases. If only there was a better way to get to the outstanding institutions in the park!

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

The press release explains the best way to navigate the park other than as a pedestrian or cyclist:

The Metro Forest Park Trolley will return to Forest Park on Saturday, May 3, giving individuals visiting Forest Park a convenient method of navigating the Park, in addition to assisting to alleviate Park congestion.

The Metro Forest Park Trolley Service (MetroBus route #3) will operate daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from May 3 through September 28 with summer hours of 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. It will connect all Park attractions, as well as the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Station. Adult Trolley fares are $2 per adult. Children 5-12, seniors and disabled passengers ride for $1. A valid Metro Reduced Fare permit is required for the Senior and Disabled discount. Kids 4 and under ride free. Two convenient Park N’ Ride options are available for visitors: the Twin Parking Lots across from the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center and the Upper Muny Parking Lot. From these lots, visitors can hop aboard the Forest Park Trolley for a lift to their desired attraction.

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.

#3 Forest Park Trolley Hours and Timing:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, May 3 through September 28. Weekday service will be every 20 minutes and every 15 minutes on weekends.
Extended summer hours, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day (Saturday, May 24 – Monday, September 1.)
During Friday, Saturday and Sunday Trolley operating hours, the #90 Hampton MetroBus will reroute outside the Park. This will improve the on-time performance of the #90 Hampton and reduce the number of MetroBus vehicles in Forest Park. Contact Metro transit regarding the #90 Hampton schedule at 314-231-2345 or 618-271-2345.

Forest Park Trolley Rider Tips:
Fare is purchased on-board the Trolley, exact change required (paper or coin). Each Trolley ticket allows unlimited on & off privileges for the day the fare is purchased.
Metro Day, Weekly and Monthly Passes are acceptable fares for the Forest Park Trolley. Day passes are available for purchase at Metro Ticket Machines located at all MetroLink stations.
Trolley Head Signs – #3 Forest Park Trolley vehicles coming from the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station are identified as Southbound – To Science Center. Forest Park Trolley vehicles heading toward MetroLink are identified as Northbound – To Forest Park MetroLink Station.
The #3 Forest Park Trolley is fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

Information on Obtaining Senior Reduced Fare Permits
Seniors (age 65 and older) and the disabled can ride MetroBus and MetroLink at a reduced rate. Qualifying individuals must complete the following:
Apply in person at the MetroStore – 701 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101 – or at one of Metro’s mobile registration events. MetroStore hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Show a government issued picture identification card verifying age (age 65 and older) Acceptable forms of identification include a state vehicle driver’s license, state ID, passport or alien registration card.

Additional Traffic Support for Forest Park
While the #3 Forest Park Trolley will have a meaningful impact on alleviating traffic in the Park this summer, a Traffic Relief Route will again be implemented as an additional measure on especially busy days. When traffic congestion is particularly heavy at Forest Park’s popular Hampton entrance, the Park Rangers will put this Relief Route in motion. This effort is done in coordination with MoDOT as a means to reduce backups and closures on Interstate 64 at Hampton Avenue. To prevent traffic back-ups and highway closures, the Traffic Relief Route will direct drivers from Hampton on a circular path through the Park, past many available parking lots at the Upper Muny, the Visitor Center and ultimately along Government Drive and Saint Louis Zoo. After parking, visitors may then hop on the Trolley to reach their destination and navigate Forest Park.

Helpful Websites
www.metrostlouis.org/forestparktrolley
www.forestparkforever.org/navigation

So if you’re planning a trip to Forest Park please consider using the #3 Forest Park Trolley, or #90 Hampton. You can view the Forest Park Trolley map here (PDF).

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Metro’s Decision to Buy 15 Reconditioned Articulated Buses Green & Frugal

In the poll last week readers were supportive of Metro’s decision to buy used articulated buses and have them completely reconditioned. Starting in June five will replace five of the twelve regular 40 foot buses on the #70 (Grand) MetroBus route, by the end of summer all 12 will be these 60 foot articulated buses. These offer more seats, more standing room, and two exit doors.

The first of 15 articulated buses, basically a 30ft bus with a 30ft trailer.
The first of 15 articulated buses, basically a 30ft bus with a 30ft trailer.

Here are the poll results:

Q: Metro’s 60ft articulated buses are completely rebuilt 2004 New Flyer models from Ottawa, costing $430k/ea vs $825k/ea new, reaction?

  1. Excellent, very green & frugal decision. 43 [55.13%]
  2. June can’t come soon enough! 12 [15.38%]
  3. Other: 7 [8.97%]
    1. Cool, Canadian hand-me-downs
    2. Focus on revenue making deals to increase discretionary funds for the city
    3. Should have scheduled 2x as many busses on the route
    4. Can’t imagine how it can make our turns.
    5. Streetcar would be ideal
    6. Depends on whether it’s a complete rebuild or just cosmetics
    7. Try it out
  4. Really, Canadian hand-me-downs? 5 [6.41%]
  5. Rebuilt or new, too big to run on Grand 4 [5.13%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 4 [5.13%]
  7. St. Louis will need to do a better job clearing snow along the route. 3 [3.85%]

Let me address some of the “other” responses. Metro got a federal grant to buy buses, running 24 rather than 12 on the route would double the operating costs (labor, fuel, maintenance) which isn’t something the grant covered. If Missouri had higher fuel taxes with part going toward transit agencies then increasing the frequency might be an option. The articulated buses are actually easier to turn than the regular 40 foot buses. Why? These are 30 foot buses with a 30 foot trailer. Drivers will get new training but I don’t think we’ll see any major issues since the #70 route is mostly a straight line up and down Grand. That said, in snow they might experience issues. I love streetcars but Grand doesn’t have the density at the ends to justify the capital expense.

I agree with the readers — this was an excellent decision and June can’t come soon enough.

Now I’d like to highlight a couple of other recent procurement decisions that appear to also be wise choices. Wheels & side glass.

Our buses have had painted steel wheels for years, but they are labor intensive to maintain
Our buses have had painted steel wheels for years, but they are labor intensive to maintain
The newest order of 40ft Gillig buses and the 15 rebuilt articulated buses all have aluminum wheels. More expensive upfront but cheaper in the long run because of reduced maintenance costs.
The newest order of 40ft Gillig buses and the 15 rebuilt articulated buses all have aluminum wheels. More expensive upfront but cheaper in the long run because of reduced maintenance costs.
Our buses have always had exposed metal frames, the articulated buses still do because they are rebuilt. New 2014 Gillig buses have flush side glass which looks so much nicer.
Our buses have always had exposed metal frames, the articulated buses still do because they are rebuilt. New 2014 Gillig buses have flush side glass which looks so much nicer.
Aesthetics aside, a flush glass window can quickly be replaced by one person. The exposed frame glass we have had requires two people, costing more.
Aesthetics aside, a flush glass window can quickly be replaced by one person. The exposed frame glass we have had requires two people, costing more.

It looks like Metro is making very wise decisions, always looking to reduce maintenance costs. These efforts have been noticed by the industry:

The results of the program have been significant. In 2002, Metro’s bus group achieved 10,124 miles between breakdowns compared with 21,827 miles between breakdowns in 2009 – a 115-percent improvement. (Source: Top-Notch Vehicle Maintenance Programs Help Transit Agencies Excel

So thank you to the staff at Metro for sweating the details on maintenance schedules, fretting over specifications for purchasing buses.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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