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Proposed Rail Transit Through Downtown, An Alternative To Delmar

July 16, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Proposed Rail Transit Through Downtown, An Alternative To Delmar

Last week I promised an alternative to the proposed alignment for the proposed northside-southside light rail study. At the time I thought my alternative would work only with the Cass option, but it could work with the North Florissant alignment. First, a look at the overall plan at this point.

The overall route map

Now let’s examine the downtown inset from the upper right.

From the South the line comes North on 14th from Chouteau, East on Clark. 9th Street would be used for northbound vehicles, 10yth Street for Southbound. All would use Convention Plaza (aka Delmar) to 14th Street. Stations would be at Clark, Pine, & Washington.

Now let’s examine the downtown inset from the upper right.

Two alternatives to 14th & Cass to Parnell (Jefferson) & Natural Bridge

In 2007-2008 the plan stayed on 14th rather than go East into the Central Business District. This new alignment through the CBD is much better for transit users and visibility that transit is an option.

This is looking West at Clark from 9th. The rail line would come toward us on Clark then turn North on 9th (our right)
Now we’re looking North on 9th, the Stadium West garage is on the right
Looking North on 9th from Walnut — there’s plenty of height for the rail vehicles, overhead wires, etc
Since opening in 2009 Citygarden has unofficially closed 9th Street. Would rail be allowed but not other vehicles?
The reason they closed 9th is because they didn’t figure out how to let pedestrians using the “hallway” to know when it was safe to cross 9th
At 10th Street the “hallway” needs to be continued into the next block, along with a system of pedestrian signals.
Looking West at Convention Plaza, formerly Delmar, from 9th Street.

My question was why rush to get to 14th Street? Why not go further North on 9th/10th before heading West? It’s likely too late for a change since they plan to submit to East-West Gateway, our MPO, late next month. Still, I took a look at alternatives to Delmar to reach 14th from 9th/10th.

The next block North of Delmar is MLK Dr
St. Louis loves to give away public property, is MLK between 10th-11th is a narrow private service drive. MLK was also vacated West of 11th
Cole is a nice wide option, but West of Tucker you can see it narrows considerably.

With MLK & Cole ruled out that leaves only one other option: Cass Ave. I’ve written before about 9th & 10th through the Columbus Square neighborhood being excessively wide one-way streets — from when they served as long on/off streets for I-70. Since the bridge construction changed traffic patterns, 9th/10th are way too wide and little used. Running the rail lines on 9th/10th through the center of this neighborhood would help connect it to downtown, partially making up for the convention center (1977) and dome (1993) closing access via 6th/7th/8th.

Looking South at 9th from Cass
Commercial storefront building might become viable if served by rail transit rather than infrequent bus service.
Looking West on Cass from 9th
Looking North from Cass & Tucker. It would be nice if people driving intro St. Louis from this point saw rail transit on Cass
Lots of vacant land at this important intersection, development could be served by rail transit,,
Looking West on Cass from Tucker,
The long-vacant Cass Bank at 13h & Cass might get developed if rail t=ran down Cass
14th Street sidewalks near Cass are horrible, booked in many places or too natrrow due to encroachments like this.

I think more north city residents would be served by extending the line on 9th/19th to Cass. It could continue on Cass to Jefferson or use 13th or 14th to connect to North Florissant ,Connecting the development node at Cass & Tucker to downtown and to NGA West is important.

In the interest of full disclosure, by the end of this year my husband and I will very likely be new residents of the Columbus Square neighborhood, moving from our loft in Downtown West to a smaller place.More on that later. Still, I’ve been photographing & writing about the area for years.

It’s probably too late to consider 9th.10th to Cass, but I had to share it.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment

July 11, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment

In the recent non-scientiifc Sunday Poll readers were split on the twi competing alignments that’ll be recommended to East Wes. Planning approved a decade ago was to use 14th, North Florissant, and Natural Bridge. Since then a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood was razed for the new West headquarters of the National Geospatial Agency (NGA West), now under construction. So an alternative is to use Cars & Jefferson avenues to serve NGA West’s workforce.

The red represents North Florissant alignment, green the Cars/Jefferson alignment

Here are the results:

Q: Which of the two alternatives for the Northside light rail alignment do you prefer:

  • Unsure/no answer 9 [36%]
  • Florissant Ave 9 [36%]
  • Cass Ave 7 [28%]

The results are lower than typical weeks, and some selected Unsure/no answer because they oppose investing in additional rail transit — even though taxpayers approved taxes to build additional rail to serve North & South St. Louis.

Advantages of Florissant Ave alignment:

  • Serves 3 neighborhoods: Carr Square, St. Louis Place, & Old North St. Louis
  • Taking transit to/from Crown Candy would be easier than now
  • No 90-degree turns to slow down speeds

Advantages of Cars Ave alignment

  • Serves 2 neighborhoods: Carr Square & St. Louis Place
  • Serves more of Jeff Vanderlou neighborhood than Florissant Ave alignment
  • Serves NGA West
  • Could spur development of long-vacant Pruitt-Igoe site

It’s tough picking a favorite.  Would more NGA workers use transit if it stopped right out front? Would think significantly reduce auto traffic to/from NGA?

On Monday I’ll propose an alternative to the Case Ave alignment.

— Steve Patterson.

 

First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card

July 9, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card

In February 2014, on a trip to Chicago, I used my first contactless transit card. It took a few times to get used to it but it was far easier than paying cash and deciding if I needed ro pay up front for a 2-hour transfer. If I bought a transfer, I had to keep track of it. With a contactless card there’s no problem paying the bus fare while wearing gloves. No fumbling with bills & coins. Just tap & go. My post from February 2014: Contactless Transit Smart Cards. I’d already contacted Metro St. Louis about being a reduced fare tester.

Metro was supposed to have such a system in place in St. Louis by then, but other cities, including Chicago, experienced huge problems when launching their contactless cards.  Other delays happened tooo, but Metro has been cautiously slow.

From April:

Metro has been working on the smart card system for more than eight years.

It’s part of a $31 million project that also included replacing fareboxes on all 400 of Metro’s buses, replacing or modifying ticket vending machines and validators and technical upgrades.

Metro in 2011 had said the card system would be launched by 2013. Later the targeted launch date was changed to 2015. That also wasn’t met.
Officials blamed the delays on the complexity of integrating disparate systems on moving buses and trains and with bus fareboxes. (Post-Dispatch)

I’ve been pretty patient as the months & years passed by. In November 2015 I applied for a reduced fare Ventra card for use in Chicago. It arrived in the mail the next month, prompt9ing me to write Reduced Fare Smart Card For Chicago, Still Waiting On St. Louis.

In late 2017 I saw Metro’s now-retired Executive Director, Ray Friem, at an event at North Hanley.  He explained the many pages of problems they’ve worked through and the few that remained. One issue was different vendors for bus fareboxes  and a different one for MetroLink fare gates.

Earlier this year testing was opened up from a limited number of riders to sort of a public beta test — but still only full fare. I was getting inpatient. In March Friem promised me I’d be the first reduced fare tester. He was right, 3 months later I got my card!

Standard fare cards are blue (top), reduced fare cards are red.
The back of my husband’s full fare card includes tow card number and where to call Metro. The back of my card includes my name & photo as well as card number — only the person assigned the card can use a reduced fare card, I’ve blurred both card numbers.

I’ve now used the card 7 times — on both MetroBus and MetroLink (Light rail). My very first time using the card was on a #10 bus as I headed to an appointment with an ophthalmologist. It didn’t work. I tapped again, still didn’t work. The 3rd time it didn’t work the bus driver indicated to just wheel back to my spot so she could get going. I emailed the time, bus route, and bus numbers to the person at Metro I’d been working with for months to get this card.

I managed to board the one bus, out of 400, that had a defective reader. Since then it has worked flawlessly, including a bus to MetroLink transfer last week!  As these cards are still in testing mode, all the bells & whistles aren’t yet up & running. I can’t open an app on my phone to check transactions, balance remaining, or add funds. Can’t logon from my home computer either. I can check the by calling the number on the back of the card; I can also check the balance or add funds by visiting the Metro Store at 8th & Pine, or at a Metro ticket machine.

The Metro Store in the Arcade Bldg, as seen from the SW corner of 8th & Pine
The machines at MetroBus centers & MetroLink stations have a reader you can tap your card to add funds, passes. or just check your balance.
This day I checked my balance, $10.75 matched my spreadsheet.

A Spreadsheet? Yes, I thought this was the best way to track my use and confirm the card is working.

Because no app is available, I created a spreadsheet on my phone using Apple’s Numbers app. This allows me to track the balance of my card.

This also helps me when I’m using Metro because the time will let me know the window in which I can use again at the transfer rate — exactly 2 hours.

The other way to check the balance is to call the number on the back of the card. At first I’d call and thought something wasn’t working. Unlike Chicago, the bus data isn’t sent in instantaneously. it’s downloaded from each bus when it returns each night. The call-in system may not know my card balance at any moment because of this, but the card itself knows. Don’t think you can exceed your balance because the bus hasn’t downloaded yet — it doesn’t work that way.

I’m told in a few months myself and others can begin testing the online portion. This will allow the autoload of passes or funds. I don’t use passes, but I love the idea of having it automatically charge a credit card I have on file whenever my balance reaches a minimum threshold.

Aside from the one faulty bus reader, everything has worked fine. I’m looking forward to helping test online functions. I’m really glad I no longer need to carry a coin purse with $1 bill & quarters! As a result of the new convenience I find myself using transit more than I would have if I still had ro use cash or 2-hour passes.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Which Northside Light Rail Alternative Alignment Is Your Favorite?

July 8, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Which Northside Light Rail Alternative Alignment Is Your Favorite?
Please vote below

Today’sSunday Poll is a little different than most, instead of agreeing or disagreeing with a statement you’ll be asked your favorite of two alternative routes for the Northside alignment of  proposed new light rail line.

Below is the email I received last week: about the Northside-Southside light rail project:

After a year and a half of data analysis, study and public feedback from over 60 presentations, meetings and open houses, the Northside-Southside Study team is releasing our recommended first phase project alignment for the City of St. Louis. We knew the best route for Northside-Southside should align with community investment strategies, serve area neighborhoods and residents, and provide pedestrian access to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) West campus.

Thus, the study team is recommending to the Board of East-West Gateway Council of Governments, our metropolitan planning organization, a $667 million street-running light rail investment that would run from Chippewa Boulevard in the South through downtown to Grand Boulevard in the North via one of the two North St. Louis alignment options. See map below.

  • The first phase would:Serve approximately47,000 people;
  • Carry an estimated 9,200 transit riders per day(4,200 of which are transit-dependent riders);
  • Access 65,000 jobs within a half-mile of the route; and
  • Spur possibly millions of dollars in economic development throughout our neighborhoods.

The North St. Louis Alignment
From public feedback gathered during the study, we knew any Northside-Southside route should align with community investment strategies and serve area neighborhoods and residents. Additionally on the Northside, the route should provide pedestrian access to the NGA West campus.

Both the Florissant Avenue and the newly proposed Cass Avenue routes align with community investment strategies, including the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. These options also serve the pedestrian entrances to the new NGA West campus, Carr Square and Old North neighborhoods. Although both options fulfill project needs and provide access to jobs, redevelopment and neighborhoods, the final north St. Louis route will be chosen during the next project phase, following additional technical work and community input. The map below shows the two Northside alignment options.

East-West Gateway Council of Governments Board to Receive Final Project Recommendation Later This Summer
The study team will submit its final project recommendation to the East-West Gateway Board at its August 29th board meeting. The next step is to secure funding for an environmental study and project development, expected to take place during the environmental review process. At this time, a preferred alignment through North St. Louis will be chosen.

Overall, we have seen and heard great community support for this project. We know it will transform the City of St. Louis and St. Louis’ regional public transit system.

So the study team is recommending two a;ltermatoves North of downtown. Lots of pros & cons to each. The number of stations is the same for each. Either way Carr Square and what’s left of St. Louis Place neighborhood are served by either. So think about it and vote in the poll below.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight..

Wednesday I’ll share the results, what I see as the pros & cons of each, and if I’ve made up my mind — my preferred alternative.

— Steve Patterson

 

Nearly a Quarter of St. Louis Households Underserved by Transit

March 19, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Nearly a Quarter of St. Louis Households Underserved by Transit

Last month Streetsblog USA had a post that caught my attention:

Where should your city aim to add transit service? The places where more buses and trains will be most useful are areas where lots of people live or work, but there’s not enough service to meet the demand.

new data tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology helps pinpoint these locations in cities around the U.S. The “Gap Finder” — an extension of CNT’s All Transit database — overlays demographic data and transit schedule information on maps that highlight where more people would ride transit if service levels were higher.

The transit gaps mapped by CNT are not to be confused with “transit deserts” — areas with no transit at all. Areas with some transit service may still not have nearly enough to adequately serve the people who live or work there, while areas without any service may be so spread out that fixed-route transit won’t do much good. (Streetsblog USA)

They used three cities as examples: Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City — all had lots of underserved households — their maps were covered in red.

I wanted to see how St. Louis fared on AllTransit’s Gap Finder:

The following quote explains.

TRANSIT GAPS
On the map above, any orange and red areas show transit markets where households are underserved by transit and would benefit from improvements. Blue areas indicate where the transit market strength is already met by a minimum benchmark of adequate transit service and white areas show where the market strength for transit service is low enough that adding transit would not represent an improvement. The pie chart shows the percentage of those households underserved by transit grouped by market strength.

Note: The market is not the same as demand. The gap results from a comparison of current service to the standard or average transit service in similar neighborhoods – not the best and not the worst service, but average.

Why Are There Transit Gaps?

Transit gaps exist wherever there is a mismatch between the strength of a transit market and the quality of transit service available to the households of that community. 

Calculating the Strength of Transit Markets

AllTransitTM defines the strength of a transit market by comparing a wide range of neighborhood characteristics to current transit service available in transit served areas with similar neighborhood characteristics.

I show the pie chart below, but first I want to get in closer.

Now we can see underserved areas.

Soi now what? How do we improve?

Reducing the average wait time for transit by 17 minutes for the underserved neighborhoods in St. Louis, MO would provide enough service improvement to meet minimum standards expected of the transit market in those areas.

Here’s more:

Every location and transit agency is unique, but generally one solution would be to increase the frequency of transit service along the existing (on average) 6 routes or adding new routes. Adding 7 rides per hourwould, on average, close the gap for the underserved areas in St. Louis, MO.

The measure of transit service is driven by the frequency of service, the distance to all transit stops, and the access to jobs on transit. For underserved areas in St. Louis, MO, increasing the average frequency of service from 8 to 15 total trips/hour would change the average transit service in underserved areas from 39 to 44 (out of 100).

The following summarizes headway & frequency goals:

I did not try to find flaws in their methodology. The purpose of this post us to inform others about this new tool and hopefully it’ll lead to improved service in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

 

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