Home » Public Transit » Recent Articles:

Olive Street Is Streetcar Ready

Most days Olive St. is pretty much deserted even though it’s a major east-west arterial.

ABOVE: Looking eastbound on Olive from Cardinal St. at 10:52am on Thursday December 6, 2012

In each direction you have a parking lane, a bike lane, and two travel lanes. I don’t know the posted speed limit but the road design is for much higher speed. Any savvy urban cyclist will use Locust St a block north even though it lacks dedicated bike lanes because Locust is narrower and has much slower traffic.

Former director of planning Rollin Stanley had suggested a green median where you could jog down the middle of Olive St. I could never figure out why someone would want to do that.

If the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis has their way Olive St. will once again have a streetcar line. Their aggressive timeline calls for it to be operational by 2016. Great if it can happen but I’d be happy with 2020. Actually I ride the #10 MetroBus often along Olive and Lindell and I’m pretty happy with it.

Much of the potential new development along the eastern part of the route could happen between Jefferson Compton avenues. If the right land-use controls are put into place first this will be very urban a decade from now. If not, we’ll have an expensive streetcar line passing by vacant/underdeveloped land.

— Steve Patterson


Today Is Rosa Parks Day

December 1, 2012 Featured, History/Preservation, Politics/Policy, Popular Culture, Public Transit Comments Off on Today Is Rosa Parks Day

Today marks an important day in history:

ABOVE: The #10 (Gravois-Lindell) MetroBus at Gravois & Jefferson

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to December 1, 1955. That was the day when an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere. (source)

I was born less than a dozen years later, my oldest brother was 5.  I can’t imagine  the kind of trouble I’d have gotten into trying to fight racial segregation.  Or would I have thought it was the way the world worked?

— Steve Patterson


ULI’s ‘Bold Idea’ At The Grand MetroLink Station

A week ago today the Urban Land Institute (ULI) presentation by their Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) regarding transit-oriented development (TOD) at the Grand MetroLink light rail station. The real estate experts from the ULI were asked by Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) to consider short and long-term solutions.

ABOVE: Gwen Knight led the CMT/ULI Grand MetroLink presentation on November 13, 2012. Click image for info on the presentation, including a link to the slides.

The long-term section included three bold ideas that would evoke an “audible gasp”. First, look again at the Chouteau Greenway concept linking downtown to Forest Park. Second was a high speed rail station at Grand since plenty of room exists.

ABOVE: Concept from ULI presentation shows development along the bridge/viaduct as well as the Chouteau Greenway

The final bold idea generated was to move from focusing on the station which sits below grade to building above the station – a platform development at street level. Some of the merits of this type of develoopment included:

  • Place parking on first 2-3 stories, easily fitting below bridge
  • Place commercial, retail and/or residential on top of parking, level with the bridge platform
  • Embraces light rail and bus connectivity
  • Builds connection between SLU campuses
  • Enhances travel along Grand and encourages pedestrian use

Sounds familiar, oh yeah I proposed this in January 2006 when it was announced the old viaduct would be replaced: Grand Bridge Should Follow Columbus Ohio Example.

Here are a few points from nearly 7 years ago:

  • In addition to building structured parking the area could have office and condo uses to compliment the street-level retail. The office space could include high-tech bio-med facilities as part of the CORTEX plan.
  • This bridge turned retail street could serve as a needed campus hangout area for both SLU campuses. It could include a coffee house (or two) as well as a copy center like a Kinko’s.
  • With plenty of structured parking, on-street parking, bus routes and MetroLink this could be a happening spot! With land on each side of the tracks and highway we’d be building not bridges but buildings that happen to have a floor that aligns with the bridge sidewalks.
  • Before all the naysayers try to explain why we cannot be urban let me try to address a few points. The area has already been blighted and is going to be redeveloped. Building new buildings up to the existing bridge is feasible, perhaps more so than the plan to add width and medians to the current structure. Also, we can be urban and what better place to create an urban street than at a location with a MetroLink light rail stop and between two major university campuses.
ABOVE: Underused land is adjacent to the viaduct, the tracks are contained to a small area.
ABOVE: The ULI panel specifically mentioned relocating this gas company to another location so this land could be developed.
ABOVE: Looking south from a lookout point
ABOVE: At the south end the grade difference disappears.
ABOVE: One possible problem is the curb on both sides would prevent accessible entrances unless it could be cut away as needed.

If only the viaduct/bridge had been designed to facilitate development at the edges, simply by removing sections of railing. Still, as ULI’s experts how shown, it is still a viable bold idea worth considering.

— Steve Patterson


Potential Of UMSL North MetroLink Station

Yesterday I took a detailed look at Developing The North Hanley MetroLink Station, today I’ll briefly look at the next station on the line: UMSL North.

ABOVE: After leaving the train two head though the opening in the fence
ABOVE: This route is a well-worn path in the field on the opposite side of the track from the University of Missouri North Campus.

Like other stations, this has been in use for over 19 years now. The campus side of the station wasn’t designed for pedestrians and the other side has been ignored.

ABOVE: The “desire lines” are very evident despite the fact nothing new has been built oriented to transit. Click image to view in Google Maps

I’m not optimistic about how this area will get developed, when it does eventually. I’m afraid it’ll end up like other stations — very auto-centric rather than being pedestrian-centric. The potential is enormous.

— Steve Patterson


Transit-Ignored Development (TID) At Sunnen MetroLink Station

Since it opened in August 2006 I’ve only been to the Sunnen MetroLink Station a few times. If you haven’t been you are not going to recognize it.

ABOVE: The view to the west of the Sunnen MetroLink station in Maplewood is radically different now, the equipment used to clear the area was parked close on my visit last month.

Before I get into what’s happening let’s take a quick look at what it looked like before the bulldozers started working.

Nearly everything between Hanley Rd and the MetroLink line has been razed.
ABOVE: Older well-maintained apartments next to the station were great for those who liked to live near transit. June 2011
ABOVE: Another apartment complex, this one between Laclede Station Rd and MetroLink, was also razed. June 2011

You are thinking such older structures have to go in order to build a more dense transit-oriented development. True, but that is not what is being built.

ABOVE: You can now see the Sunnen station from Hanley Rd.
ABOVE: Turning to the right we see the first new building going up in the redevelopment area. What could it be?
ABOVE: A new Mini auto dealership next to a light rail station! Seriously!?!

We should not built expensive rail transit infrastructure, light rail or streetcars, through municipalities until they adopt zoning requiring new development nearby to be dense and walkable.

Can we publicly flog the Maplewood mayor and city council for this?

— Steve Patterson