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St. Louis Rapid Transit Connector Study: First Round of Open House Meetings Scheduled March 28, April 2, and April 5

The following is a press release:


Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) announced the first round of public open houses focusing on a new St. Louis Rapid Transit Connector Study scheduled for March 28, April 2 and April 5. The study is another step toward fulfilling Metro’s long-term goal of offering efficient, competitive and attractive transit services to more residents and more places in the St. Louis region.

The study, led by the Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) and the Transportation Corridor Improvement Group, will identify two transit investment projects to move forward in pursuit of federal funding. It is anticipated at least one project will be implemented as a result of this effort.

The St. Louis Rapid Transit Connector Study is a direct result of Moving Transit Forward, the long-range transit plan that highlighted the potential of using the region’s existing network of highways and major streets to provide higher-speed, limited-stop transit services. The general transportation corridors identified by the public as significant opportunities for high-performance transit are Interstates 70, 44, 64, and 55, major streets near those highways, and Grand Boulevard in St. Louis.

“By improving the connections between people and jobs, education, and other opportunities, we can maximize the potential not only of our transportation network, but of our residents and businesses as well,” said Jessica Mefford-Miller, Metro Chief of Planning and System Development.

The study takes a data-driven approach to identify and evaluate potential projects. Final recommendations will be shaped by several objectives, including improved access to transportation that supports economic growth; expansion of access to opportunities; enhanced employer access to a broader and more diverse labor pool; reduction of traffic congestion and air pollution; and financial feasibility.

The partners leading the St. Louis Rapid Transit Connector Study will answer questions and encourage discussion at the three upcoming public meetings. The meetings will be conducted in open-house style, with the attendees invited to participate in interactive activities designed to gather community input on project goals and transit performance criteria. Residents will also learn about the range of possible options for expanding cost-effective rapid transit service in St. Louis.

The same information will be presented at each of the public open houses.

· Thursday, March 28 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. A formal presentation will be made at 5:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Located at the JC Penney Conference Center at the UMSL Campus. The meeting will be in the 1st Floor Lobby of the building located at 1 University Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63121.

· Tuesday, April 2 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. A formal presentation will be made at 5:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Located at the World Trade Center on the 10th Floor. The building is located at 121 S. Meramec Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105.

· Friday, April 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A formal presentation will be made at noon. Located at St. Louis City Hall on the 2nd Floor Hall and in the Kennedy Room. City Hall is located at 1200 Market Street St. Louis, MO 63103.

More information and futures updates on the St. Louis Rapid Connector Study can be found at www.movingtransitforward.org/stlrapidtransit.

About the Transportation Corridor Improvement Group

The St. Louis Rapid Transit Connector Study is being conducted by the Bi-State Development Agency (Metro) in partnership with the Transportation Corridor Improvement Group, a partnership between East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGCOG), St. Louis County, the City of St. Louis, and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).


A Close Look at the Proposed St. Louis Streetcar in the CBD

Much of the talk about the proposed Downtown to CWE modern streetcar line has been focused on:

  1. The use of streetcar vs bus
  2. The east-west corridor vs investment in north & south St. Louis
  3. How the proposed route mirrors the 1993 MetroLink route
  4. How to end the line in the CWE, see post from yesterday here.

All valid topics, but today I want to zoom in to look at the route in the downtown central business district (CBD).

I added the existing #99 downtown trolley to the map of the proposed streetcar route
I added the existing #99 downtown trolley (blue) to the map of the proposed streetcar route

At this point in the streetcar process it isn’t known if the #99 Downtown Trolley bus route would remain, change or be eliminated completely. The draft report does note that operational savings could be realized through the elimination of a couple of bus routes. Eliminating the #99 would mean greater walking distances for service workers using transit since the proposed streetcar route has a more compact footprint, not a good thing for them.

East of 14th Street objectives that drove decisions regarding downtown alignments included:

  • Get as close as possible to the center of the employment concentration.
  • Minimize distance, physical and psychological, to major attractions, including the Arch Grounds.
  • Reduce capital and operating costs.
  • Minimize the number of curves to reduce noise and
  • increase speed.
  • Minimize the distance between tracks on one-way pairs. (The narrowness of the downtowtreets precludes double-track operation.)
  • Eliminate impacts to MetroLink from streetcar construction.
  • Lessen traffic impacts.

Application of those principles resulted, first, in the elimination of several options. Impacts to MetroLink during construction eliminated 8th Street and Washington Avenue. Traffic impacts, as cited by the City of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Transportation, caused Broadway and 4th Street to be dropped, and the cost of extending the alignment from the downtown employment core to Memorial Drive eliminated that option.

This screening process resulted in a set of east-west streets that generally satisfied the evaluation criteria listed above. These included Chestnut, Pine, Olive and Locust Streets. North-south options were more limited and included 6th-7th Street and 9th-10th Street pairs. The former set was selected because it is closer to the heart of the downtown employment concentration and provides better proximity to major destinations. Olive Street is the logical eastbound half of an east-west one-way pair as it is a no-turn continuation of the alignment west of 14th Street. This results in a decision between Locust and Pine for the westbound segment. Locust was selected because of its centrality to the employment core, and because of its more pedestrian friendly first-floor uses, i.e., retail. Finally, the alignment south to Kiener Plaza addressed the strong desire from many stakeholders to provide direct and very visible pedestrian access to the Arch Grounds. (The plaza also provides a non-street layover point for streetcars.) In the next phase future coordination with the CityArchRiver 2015 project (draft study p14)

At Kiener Plaza a “layover point” is shown off street. This doesn’t fit with the latest concept for rebuilding Kiener Plaza. Such a change would need to be reviewed by the Gateway Mall Advisory Board, of which I’m a member.

Also not addressed is the use of 14th Street where it crosses the Gateway Mall (Market to Pine). Currently that is part of the “Civic Room” in the Master Plan. Currently 14th Street is frequently closed to traffic during major events like Taste of St. Louis and the Komen Race for the Cure. During these times the many bus routes that utilize 14th are rerouted on other streets but if 14th Street is used for the streetcar that means auto traffic may be rerouted but the streetcar needs to get through. This has major implications on the final design of the Civic Room and on event planning.

It was the relocation of the Saint Louis Law School that started all this, if Pine was used instead of Locust, that would be adjacent to the school. That said, I agree with the selection of Locust St. Yes, I live on Locust but at 16th so I won’t have a streetcar line directly in front of my building regardless.

It’s still early in the process but there’s lots to think about if this streetcar moves forward.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Split On Proposed Streetcar Route

Readers in the poll last week didn’t select any one option by a majority. The three routes presented as options, two being considered and another I’ve been advocating for years, each received a similar number of votes.

Q: My preferred route for a streetcar line is…

  1. Option 2: Olive/Lindell>Euclid>Forest Park Blvd>Taylor>Lindell 35 [29.66%]
  2. Option 1: Olive/Lindell>Taylor>Children’s Place/CWE MetroLink 31 [26.27%]
  3. New option: Olive/Lindell to Vandeventer to Delmar to Loop Trolley 29 [24.58%]
  4. None, don’t built a streetcar line 12 [10.17%]
  5. Other: 10 [8.47%
  6. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [0.85%]

The ten other answers were:

  1. Use the old Hodiamont Streetcar right of way
  2. grand blvd
  3. Olive/Lindell>Euclid>Forest Park Blvd>Vanderventerr>Lindell/Olive
  4. Street cars are a joke. They are a waste. Busses offer far more flexibility.
  5. Use the old Hodiamont street car right of way.
  6. Continue on Lindell to Debaliviere/Loop Trolley connection.
  7. Middle-upper income routes to replace cars.
  8. Link “downtown” only by s.cars: riverfrt. to Jeff Ave,, Delmar to Soulard.
  9. free, downtown loop, between Tucker & Broadway
  10. Option 1 but utilize Market and Forest park instead of Olive/Lindell

When streetcars were first installed it was a private effort by real estate developers to make it easier for buyers to reach new development:

The Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb Historic District is located within the boundaries of the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The -715-acre District is a triangular area generally bounded by the intersection of Gravois and South Jefferson Avenues at the north, South Jefferson Avenue and South Broadway Street (south of Chippewa Street) on the east, Meramec Street on the south, South Grand Boulevard on the west, and Gravois Avenue on the northwest.’ Gravois Avenue is a major arterial street and historically served as a wagon, streetcar, and vehicular transit corridor. South Jefferson Avenue also was and is a major transportation corridor. Meramec Street is a major collector street. Mixed commercial, institutional, and residential use along these major city thoroughfares visually and historically defines the survey area. (National Register nomination PDF)

Today funding streetcars in developed urban areas takes more than available right-of-way, it takes enough demand to justify the investment in infrastructure. Often this means connecting some big dots, the in between will fill in over time with proper land use controls. The problem in St. Louis is our big dots are generally east-west between downtown and Clayton.  What big dots exist north & south to guarantee ridership on a daily basis?

Grand has a few dots:

  • VA Hospital
  • Grand Center/SLU
  • Grand MetroLink
  • SLU Hospital

Okay, suppose you connect these via streetcar — that’s a mile and a half length. Not bad, but you’d still have to run the #70 (Grand) MetroBus to reach areas north and south — an additional 7.5 miles. Even my longtime preferred route of Olive/Lindell to Vandeventer to Delmar doesn’t have enough dots to get funding.

But between the Option 1 & 2 being considered I have a strong preference for #1 —  the double track on Taylor Ave option rather than the Euclid/Forest Park/Taylor loop.Establishing a double track on Taylor Ave sets up a perfect scenario for north-south expansion. Below is one concept:

Teal = Loop Trolley Blue = Proposed Streetcar Red = Possible Future Lines
Purple = Loop Trolley, Teal = #70 Grand BRT, Blue = Proposed Streetcar, Red = Possible Future Lines.  Click image to view map in Google Maps

The dots aren’t there for an initial north-south line but extending a couple of miles here and there every few years would eventually build a system. The current proposal calls for a north-south piece at 14th Street, going up to St. Louis Avenue. The double track on Taylor of Option 1 provides an ideal spot for a second north-south line further west. Expansion could happen to reach new development projects.

Yes, what I’ve shown above would take decades to construct. That’s how long-term planning works. For further reading on streetcars please see a 65-page literature review of Relationships Between Streetcars and the Built Environment.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: What is Your Preferred Route For Streetcar Line West Out of Downtown St. Louis?

Plans were presented to the public last week to built a 7-mile modern streetcar line in St. Louis that would:

  • Circulate in the downtown central business district.
  • Head west on Olive/Lindell past Midtown to the Central West End.
  • A north-south segment would connect at 14th Street & Olive, initially going north Florissant Rd to St. Louis Ave. and south to the Civic Center MetroBus Center/MetroLink light rail.
  • Open in 2016/17.
ABOVE: Artist rendering of streetcar in downtown St. Louis
Artist rendering of streetcar in downtown St. Louis

Metro is part of the planning process and this would become part of our transit system. But I know some of you still question the effectiveness of the streetcar over the bus. To be fair, here is a skeptical view that I happen to agree with.

Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, and make no other improvements, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus. (source – highly recommended)

He’s right that streetscape improvements are just as important as the mode of transit, but funding realities mean a complete makeover of 7 miles for a bus isn’t very likely. Even if it was, a streetcar is a better choice for other reasons:

Streetcar vs. Bus

Buses are excellent local and regional public transportation options, but they will do little to spur redevelopment and economic investment in Downtown LA. This is due to the inherent flexibility of bus service, as routes change regularly to accommodate varying needs; in addition, buses contribute to nerve-racking pedestrian experiences due to heavy street-level emissions and noise pollution that discourages active use of sidewalks. Streetcars do the exact opposite. They provide developers and business owners certainty that the routes will not change, and are considered preferable to buses by residents, visitors, and employees as they offer more amenities, highly reliable routes and timetables, and enhanced urban experiences.

Buses and streetcars do, however, work together to connect access points within regional transportation networks. For example, sidewalks can be designed to specifically accommodate both vehicle configurations; in return, a transit stop effectively doubles its value within a regional transportation network. (LA Streetcar)


While it’s true that streetcars require a much larger initial capital investment than buses, that capital cost is offset by significant operational savings year to year. In the long term, streetcars are more affordable as long as they are used on high ridership routes.

Streetcars have higher passenger capacity than buses (even bendy ones), which means that if there are lots of riders on your route, you can move them with fewer vehicles. Fewer vehicles means more efficient use of fuel and fewer (unionized, pensioned) drivers to pay.

Streetcar vehicles themselves are much more sturdy than buses, and last many decades longer. While buses must generally be retired and replacements purchased about every 10 years, streetcars typically last 40 years or more. For example, Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system is still using streetcar vehicles built in 1947. (Washington Post — recommended)

Even in Portland the value of streetcars have been debated, critics questioning claims of Mayor Hales:

So that brings us to the ruling. Hales said “streetcars carry more people than buses … you attract more riders who don’t ride transit now, and actually the operating costs are not any greater than the bus.” Whether these arguments make a persuasive case for the necessity and usefulness of a streetcar system is, of course, up for debate. The statement itself remains factual. While, there’s some missing context, it’s nothing significant. We rate this claim True. (PolitiFact Oregon)

For a detailed look at operating costs of streetcars vs bus click here. Labor tends to be a big factor why streetcars are cheaper to operate.

For the poll this week I want you to vote on your preferred route. I’ve included “don’t build” as an option as well as my idea of Olive to Vandeventer to Delmar: described here.

ABOVE: Blue was my original route idea, red is my variation, green is continuing on Lindell, purple is a north-south line on Vandeventer
ABOVE: Blue was my original route idea, red is my variation, green is continuing on Lindell, purple is a north-south line on Vandeventer. Click image to view post. Note: This image added to this post at 10:30am on 3/10/2013.

The poll also has the two options from the study (p17):

Option 1 includes double track on Taylor south to the CWE MetroLink
Option 1 includes double track on Taylor south to Children’s Place/CWE MetroLink
Option 2 continues to Euclid, to Forest Park Blvd to Taylor back to Lindell
Option 2 continues to Euclid, to Forest Park Blvd to Taylor back to Lindell

My views on a St. Louis streetcar are evolving, more on Wednesday March 20. The poll is in the right sidebar (mobile users need to switch to the desktop layout)

— Steve Patterson


Two Events Today: St. Louis Streetcar Open House & Free Screening of ‘ENVISIONING HOME’

1) A public open house to look at the initial plans for a modern St. Louis streetcar line will be held today from 4pm-7pm at the Moto Museum 3441 Olive. This is an open house so you can come anytime to see the materials. More information here and the draft study is here.

2) A free screening of ENVISIONING HOME: The Jean King and Richard Baron Story is tonight:

Two wildly different individuals come together in St. Louis in the tumultuous 1960s and bravely transform the world of public housing–and in the process take on poverty and racism throughout the country.

ENVISIONING HOME is a feature length documentary film exploring the dramatic world of two imaginative leaders, Jean King and Richard Baron, two agents of change in public housing. A remarkable, homegrown leader, Jean King meets Richard Baron, a legal aide-turned-visionary planner and developer during the St. Louis tenant strike in 1968-69. From that moment to the present day, they have together changed the face of inner city life in St. Louis and beyond. By inspiring resident and family empowerment while creating more humane places to live, their work invigorates the lives of residents and builds vibrant neighborhoods and communities from distressed central cities.

Drawing on Richard and Jean’s personal memories along with spontaneous conversations between the two—both in studio and along the streets and inside the homes of these new communities–we see how a dangerous, volatile moment in St. Louis public housing drew these two together into a shared passion for improving the lives of people in distressed and neglected inner city neighborhoods. Along the way, Jean and Richard forcefully remind us that despite stubborn matters of race and poverty, individuals with conviction and vision can make a difference.

Combining Richard’s unique “mixed income” approach that ends the ‘warehousing” of the poor isolated from the rest of the city, with Jean’s powerful vision of “building people for housing”—fostering job creation and better schools, child care and elder care programs in new public housing developments—their vision focuses on building new affordable housing communities grounded in safe, sustainable neighborhoods. What were once volatile, dangerous, crime-ridden areas of distressed central cities, now become an environment for turning peoples’ lives around. ENVISIONING HOME takes us into this new world of safe and productive urban communities in cities across the country (from St. Louis to Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), where we meet some of the residents and their families who have transformed their lives thanks to more humane and livable neighborhoods and an affirming sense of resident empowerment. 

ENVISIONING HOME is a powerful and revealing exploration into what happens when two people—and all those who have joined forces with them—relentlessly follow their hearts in trying to make a difference.

You can watch the trailer on YouTube and Vimeo. I’ve not seen anything except the trailer so I don’t know if it is worth seeing.

ABOVE: Image from the film with tenement in front and a housing project behind
ABOVE: Image from the film with tenement in front and a housing project behind

The screening is at 7pm in the Lee Auditorium of the Missouri History Museum. “After the film, King and Baron are joined by filmmaker Daniel Smith, Will Jordan (Executive Director, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council) and moderator Casey Nolen, KSDK and host of Nine Network’s Stay Tuned” for a panel discussion. Additional information here.

— Steve Patterson