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Mixed-Use Building with a Trader Joe’s Coming to Grand & Lindell Corner

NOTE: this was an April Fool’s joke, enjoy…

A proposed 6-story apartment building with a ground-floor Trader Joe’s grocery store will be announced today for the northeast corner of Grand & Lindell, temporarily the site of the Ellen Clark Sculpture Park.

ABOVE: The once vibrant urban street corner is now a passive hole in the city
This sculpture park was just a way to hold the land until the right project came along

The announcement will be made today at 4pm; speakers will include William R. Kauffman, J.D., Interim President of Saint Louis University, incoming President Fred P. Pestello, Trader Joe’s VP of real estate Brandt Sharrock, Vince Schoemehl of Grand Center, and Steve Smith of the Lawrence Group, the architects & developers of the project.

Artist rendering of proposed mixed-use building
Artist rendering of proposed mixed-use building

Excellent public transit is said to be a factor for this project moving forward now, citing the busiest MetoBus line on Grand, the #70, and the proposed St. Louis Streetcar on Lindell. Other factors include the new Whole Foods going into the ground floor of an apartment building at Euclid and Pine. Like that building, this new building will have underground parking, including some for Trader Joe’s customers.

It’ll be so nice having a Trader Joe’s so close to downtown!

— Steve Patterson

 

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

Friday Metro showed off the first of (15) 60-foot articulated buses that’ll be here by the end of summer, 5 will go into service on the busy #70 (Grand) MetroBus route on June 9th. St. Louis isn’t the only city that bought some of Ottawa’s 226 old articulated bus fleet. From March 2012:

Last week, Winnipeg Transit announced it wants to spend $1.1 million to purchase articulated buses at a discounted rate from New Flyer Industries, after Ottawa traded them in for new buses. The buses will cost $53,000 each, instead of the $625,000 they would cost brand-new.

In total, it will cost Winnipeg $2.2 million to buy and fix up the buses. (City committee in favour of buying articulated buses)

For years Metro has purchased new buses from Califiornia-based Gillig, but they still don’t offer an articulated bus. New Flyer, out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, has been offering articulated buses for years.

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.
Interior of the rebuilt bus looks like a brand-new bus.
Interior of the rebuilt bus looks like a brand-new bus.

For more information, see Metro’s articulated bus fact sheet (PDF). These new buses are the subject for the poll this week, I’d like to get your thoughts. I’ve provided a range of answers, plus I’ve also set the poll so you can enter your own if you don’t like the ones provided. The poll is in the right sidebar.  Results and my views will be posted on Wednesday April 2nd.

— Steve Patterson

 

#97 MetroBus on Locust…Temporarily

Metro’s #97 MetroBus route is commonly known as the “Delmar”, and it does go down Delmar west of Vandeventer. It also runs on McKnight, Ladue, Maryland, Central, Shaw Park, Meramec, Old Bonhomme, Vandeventer, Enright, Spring, Washington, and 14th. The route doesn’t include Locust St., but utility construction on Washington Ave meant the #94 & #97 buses had to be rerouted.  The #94 got pushed a block north to Delmar and the #97 got pushed a block south to Locust.

A #97 MetroBus heading eastbound on Locust at 16th
A #97 MetroBus heading eastbound on Locust at 16th

I took the image above right after I exited my building. I love seeing buses going up and down my street! What I haven’t seen during the last couple of month of the reroute is temporary bus stops. Bus routes have flexility that streetcar routes don’t, but that flexility comes with the responsibility to mark stops. The current alert doesn’t mention stops:

#97 Construction at Washington and 20th Street – Revision #4

DETAILS: Due to construction at Washington and 20th Street, the following reroutes will be in effect for approximately a month.

REROUTE DETAILS: #97 DELMAR

EASTBOUND: Regular route to Washington and 21st, right on 21st, left on Locust, Right on 14th to regular route.

WESTBOUND: Regular route to 14th and Locust, left on Locust, right on 21st, left on Washington to regular route.

Stops on Washington at 14th/15th, 16th, 18th, and 20th are all closed with no visible replacements. — Steve Patterson

 

Contactless Transit Smart Cards

On my first trip to Washington D.C. in August of 1990 I rode their Metro subway system. Even back then you could buy a card you’d swipe that would deduct the appropriate fare from your balance. It was quick and convenient because riders didn’t need to buy tickets each trip.  Daily riders could buy a monthly pass, but for less frequent riders this was wonderful.

Fast forward to today and technology has come a long way. Metro Saint Louis has been installing new equipment to prepare for a smart card system here.

On our recent trip to Chicago we each bought a new “Ventra” card to ride Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses:

Introducing Ventra, a convenient new payment system for the CTA and Pace that allows customers to pay for train and bus rides with the same payment methods they use for everyday purchases. Customers can easily manage their accounts online and choose from several different contactless payment methods:

  • Ventra Card: a transit + optional Debit MasterCard® that can be used for transit and everyday purchases
  • Ventra Tickets: single-ride and One-day passes
  • Personal, contactless, bank-issued credit and debit cards can be used for transit
  • Eventually, compatible smartphones

With Ventra, travel throughout the Chicago area is more convenient and efficient than ever before.

We didn’t buy them in advance, I just went in to the CVS* two blocks from our hotel. Each card cost $5 but after registering by phone or online that becomes transit credit. When purchased I added $5 to each. Spent $10/card for $10 of transit credit per card.

My online Ventra statement
My online Ventra statement

I loved being able to check my balance online and see a history of the bus routes we rode.  Like St. Louis, a one ride trip is $2, but their transfer is just 25¢ compared to $1 here. But pricing is getting off the subject…

We didn’t see anyone paying cash or swiping older reader cards, making boardings very quick. Here many customers, myself included, pay with cash. The Ventra system launched in Chicago last year, more on that shortly.

I’ve been wanting to try a smart card system for a while now but it wasn’t until we were on our last bus ride to Union Station that I felt like I got the hang of just how to tap the card in front of the sensor to get it to register. Previous rides I thought I had it but the driver would tell me to try again. Part of my problem was trouble seeing the screen from a seated position in my wheelchair. We both had trouble at first, but imagine every rider having trouble. The Ventra launch didn’t go smoothly:

 Compared to other smart transit systems, Ventra is logging a fairly negative public review. Unlike Ventra, Boston’s contactless electronic CharlieCard system faced no huge bouts of complaints upon implementation in late 2006 and early 2007. In fact, despite minor problems, customers lauded the system. (Chicago’s New Smart Cards Make Commuting Even Harder – Mashable, December 2013)

This fall, you see, after a series of delays, the city brought online a new fare payment system called “Ventra” in which customers tap “smart cards” against electronic readers at bus entrances and train station turnstiles. Only it turns out these cards are not so smart. Half the time, tap after tap after tap, the damned things don’t work, and the bus driver just exasperatedly waves you through. Although it hasn’t been as much fun for the passengers who exited the bus through the front door and discovered that, if their purses or backpacks brushed too close to the reader, they were charged twice. (Chicago’s ‘Smart Card’ Debacle and Privatisatiom – The Nation, December 2013)

Pace, suburban Chicago’s bus system which is separate from the CTA is now online with Ventra. Metra, the commuter rail system will be next. Once Metra is accepting the Ventra card, commuters using the three separate transit systems in the greater Chicago area can finally pay using the same card, rather than manage separate forms of payment for each.

In St. Louis, Metro is working with Madison County Transit on the smart card system for our region. Hopefully they’ve learned from the mistakes made in Chicago.  I don’t know if the cards used in St. Louis can do double duty as pre-paid debit cards. In Chicago’s system you can also use a contactless credit/debit card. I’ve never been offered such a card before,  but I think they’ll become more common in a few years.

Each smart card has an embedded computer chip that can hold passes and cash value. Unlike most credit cards, smart cards are not magnetic and do not require “swiping.” Equipped with antennae, the cards allow contactless communication so customers can simply wave or tap the card on the validator or farebox. Validators at MetroLink stations will respond with a green light and fareboxes on board MetroBus will beep to indicate the fare is accepted and has been deducted from the card. (Metro)

— Steve Patterson

* Full disclosure: I’m a own a few shares of CVS

 

Two Locally Preferred Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Routes Selected

In September readers picked the I-64 BRT route between downtown and Chesterfield as their favorite of four bus rapid transit (BRT) routes being studied by the Transportation Corridor Improvement Group (TCIG), which “consists of staff from Metro, EWGCOG, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and MoDOT”.

“None” was 2nd in the poll, but the next actual route favored was the West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT option. On Tuesday the TCIG recommended two locally preferred alternative routes to Metro’s Operations Committee

After careful consideration and analysis of the transportation corridors, the TCIG recommended as the locally-preferred alternative two BRT projects: I-64 between Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis, and a north-south route connecting North St. Louis County to Downtown St. Louis primarily via West Florissant Avenue and Natural Bridge Avenue.

See their report/presentation here.

The four alternative BRT routes that were being studied.
The four alternative BRT routes that were being studied, click image to view larger version.

Let’s take a closer look at the two selected routes, from Tuesday’s report:

I-64 BRT (route)

The 1-64 BRT corridor spans 23 miles between the City of Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis. It would serve a limited number of park-and-ride stations along I-64 between Chesterfield Mall and the Central West End. From the Central West End it would travel along Forest Park Avenue into Downtown St. Louis, making a loop through Downtown before ending at the Civic Center Station. As currently proposed, its service frequencies would match MetroLink, and transit prioritization strategies would be implemented along the corridor to speed transit travel.

The I-64 BRT would serve a Central Corridor that hosts 55,000 people and 115,500 jobs within one half-mile, outside of Downtown St. Louis. The addition of this high-performance service to the Metro System would provide the region’s first rail-like transit option in West St. Louis County, offering the first opportunity for all-day, single-seat service between Chesterfield and Downtown St. Louis, and reducing transfers from other areas by half. Along with reducing transfers, it would improve transit travel time within the corridor by 30%, making it a much more attractive alternative to the personal automobile. Ridership projections from EWGCOG’s regional travel demand model show a potential ridership market of 5,100 weekday riders, 2,100 (41%) of whom would be new “choice” riders. That market is projected to grow to 6,800 weekday riders by 2040.

I-64 BRT CONSUMER BENEFIT

  • End-to-end transit travel time reduced from 76 minutes to 53 minutes
  • – Compared to auto travel time of 25 minutes
  • – Offers motorists option of comfortable, affordable, productive commute
  • Corridor ridership projected to increase 357% from 1,115 to 5,100 weekday riders opening year; 6,800 in 2040
  • – 2,100 (41%) new “choice” riders opening year
  • Enhanced service
  • – BRT option provides single-seat service not currently available
  • – Reduce transfers by 50%
  • – End-to-end service available all day, rather than only peak
  • – Create additional hubs to make local bus service more efficient

This route makes a lot of sense to me. It gets a higher level of transit service on this corridor without the enormous infrastructure expense that would be required for light rail. It would run down Forest Park Ave & Boyle, running right past the proposed IKEA and connecting with the proposed new CORTEX MetroLink station. Transit time would be reduced from three times driving to twice driving. For some that’s still a non-starter, but for others it would allow them to avoid  driving/parking headaches while being able to be productive. It doesn’t need to get every driver out of their cars to be a success.

West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT (route)

The other transit project included in the LPA is an arterial-based BRT route connecting North St. Louis County to Downtown St. Louis. This service would operate out of the new North County Transit Center, running 16 miles to Downtown via West Florissant Avenue, Lucas and Hunt Road, and Natural Bridge Avenue. As currently proposed, its service frequencies would match MetroLink; stations with a high level of customer amenities would be spaced a minimum of one mile apart; and transit prioritization strategies would be implemented to speed travel.

The combined West Florissant-Natural Bridge corridor hosts 70,000 people and 18,000 jobs within a half-mile, not counting Downtown St. Louis. Supplementing the local bus network in this strong and proven transit market will give residents of North St. Louis City and near-North County their first high-performance, rail-like transit option. It will reduce transit travel time and any required transfers by half. It would also greatly improve access and travel time between some of the region’s most disadvantaged areas and major jobs centers in Downtown and the Central Corridor, particularly if paired with the I-64 BRT option. Ridership projections from EWGCOG’s travel demand model show a potential ridership market of 3,200 weekday riders, 600 (19%) of whom would be new “choice” riders.

W. FLORISSANT–NATURAL BRIDGE BRT CONSUMER BENEFIT

  • End-to-end transit travel time reduced from 85 minutes to 42 minutes
  • – Compared to auto travel time of 25 minutes
  • – Attractive amenity package offers affordable, comfortable commute
  • Corridor ridership projected to increase 23% from 2,610 to 3,200 opening year and 2040 (Natural Bridge)
  • 600 (19%) new “choice” riders
  • Enhanced service
  • BRT option supports fast single-seat ride to Downtown St. Louis
  • If paired with I-64 BRT, travel from North County to CWE and West County would require only 1 transfer between 2 high-speed routes; currently requires multiple transfers and 2-3 local routes

Unlike going to Chesterfield, reaching downtown from North St. Louis County isn’t very direct via car or transit. This will help reduce travel time for existing transit users and is expected to attract new riders. The streetscape improvements along the route will benefit everyone in the area.

Additional information

Travel speeds competitive with MetroLink

  • Avg MO MetroBus speed = 16.02 mph
  • Avg MO MetroLink speed = 25.63 mph
  • I-64 BRT speed = 26.04 mph
  • WFNB BRT speed = 25.71 mph

The report has very detailed cost projections, here’s the summary:

  • I-64 BRT: $37.9M capital; $4M net operating
  • West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT: $39.1M capital; $2.6M net operating

Additional operational revenue would be necessary for this additional service.

Next Steps

Metro’s board is expected to vote to approve these two locally preferred routes at their March 28th meeting.  If approved it goes to East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the St. Louis region. Once part of our 2040 transportation plan we can seek capital funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program.

Again, much more detail is with the report/presentation from Tuesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

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