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The Union Station MetroLink Stop Should Be Moved Under The Train Shed

St. Louis’ Union Station reopened as a “festival marketplace” in 1985 and eight years later our light rail system, MetroLink, opened. For the last 18 years the Union Station stop is basically on the other side of 18th Street. Stairs and and elevator do come up on the east edge of the old train shed, but you’d hardly describe the station as well-integrated.

ABOVE: This is the view when you come up to grade from the MetroLink platform. An open-air parking garage!
ABOVE: MetroLink trains travel through the old baggage tunnel under the historic Union Station train shed.
ABOVE: The MetroLink platform is located on the east side of 18th Street, totally exposed to the elements.

My thought is build a new platform in the tunnel with steps and elevator coming up in the middle of the train shed. Currently some riders catch buses on 18th but once the Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center is rebuilt and expanded I expect we’ll see those lines move to 14th.  Yes, the interior of the tunnel will need to be finished so it is not so creepy looking.

ABOVE: A walkway exists at the center point of the shed, coming up to grade at this point would put you very close to Hard Rock Cafe and equal distance between 18th and 20th Streets.
ABOVE: Looking east toward the current MetroLink exit
ABOVE: Looking south you’d be in line to walk to the office buildings along the south edge of the property next to I-64.
ABOVE: A decent connection that probably doesn’t get much use.

A new platform and direct access under the shed with improved pedestrian connections to main building, office buildings, 18th and 20th along with a revised parking lot could dramatically change impressions of Union Station.  A few more free-standing structures like the Hard Rock Cafe could add to the activities.  It’s been 27 years since Union Station reopened — it’s time for a major rethink of transit, train shed, and pedestrian circulation.

Please don’t suggest that Amtrak service be resumed at Union Station, I’m tired of hearing that every time I mention Union Station, train service at  the new facility works fine.

— Steve Patterson


Metro’s Disconnect With Riders, Pedestrians

On Monday August 20, 2012 the Grand MetroBus stop and Grand MetroLink stations reopened. On the overhead speakers in all stations Metro, speaking in transit jargon, announced the Grand station was open for “revenue service.” Really Metro, revenue service?

From dictionary.com:

jar·gon [jahr-guhn, -gon] noun

1. the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

2. unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.

3. any talk or writing that one does not understand.

4. pidgin.

5. language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

What’s the big deal, so they used transit agency speak? The use of technical jargon by any business shows it doesn’t know how to communicate with its customers. If they announcement had been that Grand was “open for service” nobody would’ve  thought they didn’t have to pay since they didn’t say “revenue” before service. Metro has problems relating to those of us that use transit, largely because Metro employes drive instead of use transit.

From the joint City/Metro press release:

On Saturday the ribbon cutting was held for the Grand viaduct (bridge). 

WHERE: South end (Chouteau side) of Grand Bridge.

(VIP and media parking will be available off Papin Street.)

The public is encouraged to take the #70 Grand MetroBus or MetroLink to the Grand Station. Parking at the new Grand MetroLink Station Park-Ride lot is also an option. The lot is located at Scott Avenue and Theresa Avenue at the northeast end of the bridge.

At least they mentioned transit after parking. I took transit to the event, but not the #70 MetroBus or MetroLink. I caught the #32 just two blocks east of my loft downtown and it dropped my off right at Grand & Chouteau, much closer than the MetroLink or rerouted #70.

ABOVE: The westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left, for now.

But the real problem is how Metro didn’t connect their new work to the city. I’ve already shared this concern with folks from Metro, some who were in agreement with me and others with the attitude that created the disconnect. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

ABOVE: Metro built a small parking lot for the Grand station which included a new sidewalk for the south side of Scott Ave. The other side of Scott Ave doesn’t have a sidewalk at all.
ABOVE: But Metro assumed the only folks that would walk on this sidewalk are going to their car in their parking lot. They changed the grade and didn’t bother to connect the sidewalk so that people, like myself, can cross Scott or Theresa Avenues. One Metro employee said it’s just an employee entrance at the business across the street. WTF!?! If they use transit they’ll be a pedestrian!
ABOVE: The little bit of sidewalk along Theresa next to Metro’s new parking lot is useless anyway. Why wasn’t it removed?

What is there to connect to east of here? Lots actually, including a Metro facility. I doubt those who designed the station, parking lot and sidewalk ever bothered to walk around the area before starting the design. Designers must literally put themselves in the shoes of those that’ll use what they design.

ABOVE: Businesses exist directly east of the station, Metro could’ve helped provide a place for pedestrians rather than force them into the street or walk on grass.
ABOVE: Some buildings are vacant but being so close to a major transit hub should be helpful in getting them occupied.
ABOVE: And 4/10th of a mile east is a Metro facility.

I continued on Spruce to Compton. This would be a good route for people going to the Chaifetz Arena, Harris-Stowe and Sigma-Aldrich.

I took lots of pictures and some video at the Grand viaduct/bridge ribbon cutting but I’m not going to show you those. The speakers  all talked about how great it’ll be for pedestrians. True, it’s a massive improvement as I acknowledged here. I’m just furious the most basic/obvious pedestrian connection wasn’t planned for yet again.

To Metro engineers/planners/designers: Transit users are pedestrians when arriving & leaving transit stations. We come from and go in all directions. Able bodied pedestrians take the shortest route — a straight line. This isn’t complicated stuff.

— Steve Patterson


Convention Center MetroLink Station Maintenance Neglected

Many visitors coming to St. Louis for a convention use our MetroLink light rail to get downtown from the airport. The eastbound station they’ll use to reach their hotel and America’s Center looks decent, but when they leave to return to the airport they’ll see neglected maintenance.

ABOVE: Paint and plaster missing from column at the Westbound Convention Center MetroLink Station

Overall the station looks okay but one column is highly visible and clearly in need of attention. This column has been in this sad condition for at least a few years now.  I know many other stations also need attention, largely from exposure to the elements. Would it really cost that much to patch the plaster and repaint? Maybe a flash mob could so up one day and take care of the plaster when the guard is on the platform?

Big deal you say, we’ve got bigger problems. True, we do. Perception as a failed city is one. With a little effort paid to details around our city we, and our visitors, can begin to feel better about our future.

— Steve Patterson


Ride The Forest Park Trolley Instead of Adding To Congestion

After the success of the Downtown Trolley came the bright Forest Park Trolley. Yes, I know, It’s just a standard bus that’s been wrapped in a cartoon-like trolley design.  To paraphrase Al Franken on SNL, gosh darn it, people like it.

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

Wrap a standard bus and suddenly people that otherwise wouldn’t ride a bus are boarding. It’s a good thing too because so many people going to the attractions in Forest Park want to drive their car and park. Metro reroutes the #90 (Hampton) bus on the weekends because of the traffic congestion inside the park. Let me repeat that, Metro has to reroute a bus line that normally goes through the park because it’s too congested inside the park.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend.

— Steve Patterson


St. Clair County Buses Finally Equipped With Bike Racks

August 16, 2012 Bicycling, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on St. Clair County Buses Finally Equipped With Bike Racks

In 2010 I did several posts about St. Clair County Transit District not having bike racks on their bus fleet:

I didn’t think this policy was good for a transit district.

ABOVE: Metro bus without a bike rack at 5th & Missouri in East St. Louis, IL. 2010

The St. Louis Beacon followed up on the topic and quoted St. Clair County Chairwoman Delores Lysakowski as she blamed cleaning issues for the lack of bike racks:

Lysakowski said it would be impractical for workers to remove the racks each day for cleaning. “Every time that bus goes through a wash rack, which is every night, you’re not going to stop and take a rack off and then put it back on again when it gets off of the rack,” she said.

The five-member transit district board never has allowed bike racks on buses in St. Clair County and isn’t considering changing its policy, she said. “It’s been a policy that we don’t have them so we don’t discuss it,” she said adding that the district receives few complaints about the policy. “Maybe one every five years,” she said. (St. Louis Beacon: Want to bike and ride on Metro buses in St. Clair County? Forget it)

This is why I was shocked to see bike racks on bus after bus on a recent visit to East St. Louis.

ABOVE: St. Clair County MetroBus in East St. Louis with a bike rack, August 2012
ABOVE: Another St. Clair County MetroBus with a bike rack heading east on Old Missouri Ave in East St. Louis, IL, August 2012

I began searching for confirmation, just to make sure I wasn’t  seeing a few exceptions. I searched minutes of the district for 2012 — no mention. I emailed them last week asking for an effective date and/or a copy of the press release, they’ve yet to respond. Unlike Metro, they don’t have a press release archive online.  Maybe they don’t issue press releases…

ABOVE: Notice on the scctd.org website, retrieved on 8/13/2012

One sentence on their homepage is the only confirmation of the change I was able to find.  I don’t know when this change happened, although it’s listed after the July 1, 2012 fare increase notice. I’m not sure who made the policy change, or when, but I’m very glad to see the change.

— Steve Patterson