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Grand Ave MetroLink Station Taking Shape

The new Grand Ave Viaduct is moving along, it’ll open later this  year to vehicles first and then to MetroBus and MetroLink.

ABOVE: Feb 2010 drawing of the Scott Ave Transit Plaza being built now under the new Grand Ave Viaduct. Click image for source.

Originally I saw the graphics  pointing toward the platform and incorrectly assumed pedestrians would be able to cross Scott Ave and the westbound track at the center point under the new bridge, but the access point is the sidewalk to the west which I don’t think will offer much protection from rain.

ABOVE: Fence to keep people away from tracks is already in place
ABOVE: Sidewalk with track crossing is already poured

Two tracks are located between the platform and Scott Ave — the westbound MetroLink and an additional track I thought was going to be removed. It’s unclear how pedestrians will get from the grade-level crossing up to platform height.

Before those transferring to/from the #70 (Grand) MetroBus & MetroLink had a flight of stairs or elevator ride. Now they’ll have to cross a plaza, Scott Ave and one or two tracks.  We shall see when it opens if this is an improvement or a fail.

– Steve Patterson

 

New Low-Floor Buses Make Boarding Easy

More of Metro’s new low-floor buses from California transit bus manufacturer GILLIG are on the routes I ride regularly. Eighteen months ago I was lucky to see one and now about half my bus trips are on a new bus. The old buses are worn out, used long after the expected lifespan. Any new bus would be an improvement over the old but the lower floor makes boarding and unboarding easier and faster for everyone — especially those of us using power chairs.

ABOVE: Interior of Metro's new low-floor buses from Gillig

The old high-floor buses had a mechanical lift to bring us up to the right height. One winter I spent 45 minutes stuck on a lift when it malfunctioned, not fun.  The low-floor bus has a piece of the floor that hinges out to provide a ramp. The operation is faster than the old lifts and it can be operated manually in case of a mechanical failure. The lack of steps is great for others not using mobility devices.

Not all are pleased though, Metro says these seat 39 compared to 43 on the older “Phantom” bus. Metro hasn’t provided me with seating diagrams I requested a couple of weeks ago so I cannot verify their numbers.

I’ll just keep enjoying these new buses and hope service improves on many routes to address overcrowding.

– Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Concealed Guns On Public Transit Is A Bad Idea

Nearly two-thirds of readers thought concealed guns on public transit was a bad idea. The original post, Poll: Concealed Weapons Allowed On Public Transit, has great comments on the topic.

The pro-conceraled gun argument goes something like this:

“I rarely ride transit but when I do I’m scared beyond belief about what might happen to me while waiting or en route. If a dark person tries something funny I want to be a hero with my gun.”

Ok, my characterization is a bit unfair but these folks sound like they’re frightened by their own shadow. They might be well trained to use their gun on a paper target in a controlled setting but I’m transit dependent and I can assure you the bus and train are not a shooting range. They cite a drop in crime in areas where concealed  guns are allowed on transit but fail to mention the similar drop in crime in other places where concealed guns aren’t allowed on transit. I’ve yet to see one independent scientific study that says conclusively that concealed guns results in a drop in crime.

The total vote count was higher than usual (160) but the percentages stayed consistent throughout the week so I don’t think any side tried to alter the results with a campaign:

Q: Concealed guns on public transit is:

  1. A bad idea 102 [62.96%]
  2. A good idea 46 [28.4%]
  3. Neither a good or bad idea 10 [6.17%]
  4. Other: 3 [1.85%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [0.62%]

The other answers were:

  1. Are you serious? Could we be any more uncivilized?
  2. Already happening.
  3. already happening & will continue no matter what the laws are

Drinking alcohol is legal and people drink & drive, we should make that legal by the logic of these last two. The pro-gun lobby (NRA) seems to think they should be able to carry their guns anywhere and everywhere. In 2008 the US Supreme Court declared Washington D.C.’s gun law unconstitutional but conservative Justice Antonin Scolia wrote in the majority opinion:

There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment ’s right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 553 U. S. ___ (2008). Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose. Before turning to limitations upon the individual right, however, we must determine whether the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment comports with our interpretation of the operative clause. (District of Columbia v Heller

In other words, keeping a loaded gun in your own home is protected by the constitution. That doesn’t automatically extend to everywhere outside your home. Legislators that responded to my email on this subject tell me the bill to make concealed guns on public transit in Missouri legal won’t make it out of committee…this year.

– Steve Patterson

 

Emerson Park MetroLink Station East St. Louis, Illinois

Yesterday I posted about the challenge of bringing back the area around the 5th & Missouri Station in downtown East St. Louis.Today I’m focusing on the next station to the east on the light rail line: Emerson Park.

Construction on the St. Clair County MetroLink extension from the 5th & Missouri station to the College station in Belleville began in 1998 and opened in May 2001. The extension added eight new stations and seven park-ride lots. The total project cost was $339.2 million, with the FTA and St. Clair County Transit District sharing the burden at 72% ($243.9 million) and 28% ($95.2 million), respectively. Local funding was provided by the St. Clair County Transit District as a result of a 1/2 cent sales tax passed in November 1993.

May 5th marks the 11th anniversary of the Emerson Park station and the area has seen considerable positive change, but planning mistakes were made.

The Good:

New housing, lots of it, has been built and more is under construction now. From last year:

Today marked the groundbreaking of a $17 million development in East St. Louis adjacent to the Emerson Park MetroLink Station, Jazz @ Walter Circle. The $17 million development is a public-private partnership between the East St. Louis Housing Authority (ESLHA), Hampton Roads Ventures and Dudley Ventures, and is the first in the nation to combine public housing development funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with New Market Tax Credits. (NextStopSTL)

This station has seen a steady flow of new construction over the last 11 years.

ABOVE: NW corner of Bowman Ave & N 15th St on April 27, 2007, click image for aerial in Google Maps
ABOVE: The same corner 5 years later on April 19, 2012 with Jazz @ Walter Circle under construction. Click image for more information on this project
ABOVE: Central City Apartments across Bowman Ave from the Emerson Park Station in April 2007
ABOVE': A typical street in the Parsons Place development just notheast of the Emerson Park Station, April 2007
ABOVE: Park in the center of the Parsons Place development

I’m thrilled with how much has been built in the last decade around the Emerson Park Station. The new senior housing over storefronts will be outstanding for this neighborhood.

The Bad:

As you might expect, mistakes have been made in the past and that continues. Where to begin? Parking is a good place, this station has three parking lots with a total of 816 parking spaces! This is the 2nd highest number of spaces at Illinois MetroLink stations, Fairview Heights has the highest with 853 spaces. The parking is divided among three lots — the main lot and two overflow lots.

ABOVE: 816 parking spaces divided among three parking lots, click image to view aerial in Google Maps

The lot to the far right should go away immediately or at least be significantly reduced in size, it serves as a barrier between the new housing to the east of the station. I first noticed the disconnect when I drove there and walked around in April 2007 before I was disabled.

ABOVE: At the end of Parsons Ave looking across the parking lot at the Emerson Park station. Why doesn't the sidewalk continue? April 2007
ABOVE: Same location as viewed from the opposite side, not friendly to pedestrians, difficult pushing a stroller and impossible in a wheelchair. April 2007
ABOVE: Looking toward Parsons Place after leaving the Emerson Park Station. Not exactly inviting. April 2007
ABOVE: The walkway leaving the station is nice and wide but a newly built crosswalk across N 15th is off to the left rather than a direct line. April 2012
ABOVE: In April 2007 the connection was more direct, but the crosswalk and curb ramp was still indirect
ABOVE: Now the amount of concrete is greater and a new pedestrian bridge takes pedestrians over the interstate. Bleak! Shade trees and seating would have been nice here.

In 2007 this east overflow parking lot had a few cars but on my recent visit it had none. Even if it’s 100% full on days the Cardinals play at home it shouldn’t be allowed to separate the nice newer housing from transit. Huge fail. Who’s fault? No clue, but nobody figured out that a continuous sidewalk would figuratively and literally connect housing to the station.

… Continue Reading

 

5th & Missouri MetroLink Station East St. Louis, Illinois

I like East Louis, Illinois. Yes, it has been hit hard by abandonment but, oddly enough, that’s part of it’s appeal. There’s so much to be done!

East St. Louis is a city in St. Clair County, Illinois, United States, directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri in the Metro-East region of Southern Illinois. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 27,006, less than one-third of its peak of 82,366 in 1950. Like many larger industrial cities, it has been severely affected by loss of jobs in the restructuring of the railroad industry and de-industrialization of the Rust Belt in the second half of the 20th century. In 1950 East St. Louis was the 4th largest city in Illinois. (Wikipedia)

Last week I visited the 5th & Missouri MetroLink Station twice (Monday & Thursday). Thursday was for the grand opening of Legends Restaurant & Sports Bar just a half block from the station. I’d met Mayor Alvin Parks before but I was a bit starstruck by Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

So now they’ve got a nice restaurant in downtown East st. Louis, there might be others but not that I’ve seen. Still, the most common elements around the light rail station are parking, vacant buildings and vacant land. Tomorrow I’ll post about the amazing development that’s taken place around the next station east, Emerson Park, but today is about the 5th &  Missouri Station area.

ABOVE:Aerial view of station, the arrow marks the entrance. Click to view in Google Maps

The station opened as part of the original MetroLink line on July 31, 1993, it was the east end of the line. “The station features 322 Park-Ride spaces, including 25 long term spaces.” (Wikipedia). Numerous bus routes serving St. Clair & Madison counties stop at the station.

Access to the platform is via a single point. 5th & Missouri is the intersection at the top of the above map so I’m not exactly sure how that intersection was picked as the name for the station. The railroad right-of-way that was used is equal distance between 5th & 6th, with the entry point facing 6th. The entry to the station is also halfway between Route 15 (Broadway) on the bottom left and Missouri Ave, upper right.

ABOVE: Looking east from the platform
ABOVE: Looking west from the station across the park-and-ride lot
ABOVE: Looking west from the MetroLink platform past N 5th St. to buildings along Collinsville Ave.
ABOVE: Rotating at bit to the right the tall building you see is the Spivey Building at the literal 5th & Missouri.
ABOVE: Looking north on N 5th St toward Missouri Ave
ABOVE: Looking east on Missouri Ave just north of the station. Legends restaurant has the striped awnings on the left

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks and City Manager Deletra Hudson mentioned a downtown plan but I haven’t received a copy after making personal and email requests. Who knows if it’s any good or realistic?  The problems are serious, some beyond their control.

In August 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced its conclusion that the levees protecting a large area in Southwestern Illinois from flooding no longer meet the agency’s requirements. The result of FEMA’s conclusion is to change Southwestern Illinois’ flood insurance designation as part of its national Flood Map modernization process. FEMA’s actions would classify much of St. Louis’ Metro East as subject to flooding as if the levee system did not exist at all. This conclusion was based on a finding by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that the agency had “reduced confidence” that the 74-mile levee system could protect against a flood that has a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any single year (commonly referred to as a 100-year flood or a base flood) without the need for flood fighting. As a result, the American Bottom, an area of 174 square miles in Southwestern Illinois that is home to 156,000 people, 4,000 businesses and 56,000 jobs in 25 communities in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, would be declared a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), with dire consequences for our region’s economy. While we continue to dispute FEMA’s conclusion, we must take immediate steps to demonstrate that we can meet FEMA’s standards for flood protection. (The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council)

I’m rooting for a comeback in East St. Louis, but the odds are good. Tomorrow I’ll show you a reason to bet on East St. Louis’ success.

– Steve Patterson

 

 

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