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Can’t Decide My Preferred Metro Fare Increase Option

Nobody likes cost increases but they are a fact of life. Metro has asked transit riders to comment on three variations for increasing fares.

Options 1 and 2 maintain the current $2 (MetroBus), $2.25 (MetroLink) and $4 (Metro Call-A-Ride) cash fares without any change. Reduced cash fares for eligible seniors, children and customers with disabilities would also remain the same.

 Option 1 would increase the prices of Metro passes to more accurately reflect the number of boardings made using these passes. Monthly passes would increase from $68 to $75 ($34 to $37.50 for reduced fare); weekly passes would increase from $23.50 to $26; and the college semester pass from $145 to $155.

Option 2 retains the current cash fare but would increase the price of the 2-hour pass/transfer from $2.75 to $3 (reduced fare would increase from $1.35 to $1.50.) Option 2 would preserve a greater discount rate for the weekly, monthly, and semester passes than Option 1. Option 2 would increase weekly passes from $23.50 to $25; monthly passes would increase from $68 to $72 ($34 to $36 for reduced fare); and the college semester pass would increase from $145 to $150.

 Option 3 would implement an approximate 5 percent across-the-board increase for all fares including cash fares, passes and Metro Call-A-Ride fares.

The following chart shows what the changes look like:

ABOVE: Quick look at the 3 options, source: Metro. Click images to view larger version

This is tough because I switched to paying cash instead of buying a monthly pass. Thinking beyond myself to the typical riders using transit, what is the most fair…fare.

Option 1 those who buy weekly/monthly/semester passes are the only ones that will see an increase — 10%.With option 2 those who buy passes as well as those who uses transfers will see increases. Many, if not most, cash riders get transfers since more than one bus/train is often needed to reach their destination. Option 3 is a 5% increase across the board. This seems the most fair but riders used to paying $2.00 will now have to carry dimes since their fare will be $2.10. Same with transfers, option 2 is a simple $3.00 (up from $2.75) but option 3 is $2.85 — again a dime more.

ABOVE: Metro CEO John Nation (right) speaking to a person that came to the informational meeting on Wednesday at St. Louis City Hall

I don’t know about you but I find change annoying. I’m a “reduced fare” rider so my fare w/transfer is $1.35, I’ve finally gotten used to making sure I’ve got the 35¢ I need for my transfer. Would it be worth it to me to pay $1.50 rather than $1.40 just so I only need to worry about carrying quarters? Maybe. But I often buy (10) 2-hour passes at the MetroRide Store on Washington Ave so option 2 would be a buck cheaper than option 3 and I pay with plastic when I buy the 2-hour passes.

– Steve Patterson

 

Readers Have Mixed Views On Loop Trolley Project

Interesting results on the poll from last week:

Q: The Loop Trolley Is:

  1. flawed, but a great way to reintroduce streetcars to St. Louis streets 61 [42.66%]
  2. great, can’t wait for it to open 39 [27.27%]
  3. a massive waste of tax dollars 30 [20.98%]
  4. unsure/No Opinion 4 [2.8%]
  5. Other: 9 [6.29%]

I agree with the top answer, this is a great way to dip our toes into building more streetcar lines in the road where transit is needed, as apposed to an abandoned rail line far removed from everything.

The other answers were:

  1. visionary
  2. A Start for a Streetcar System in St. Louis
  3. a great idea that seems to get worse with each update.
  4. A tourist line
  5. Connect to CWE and METRO and its a winner
  6. Good start. Now run some up and down Grand, Kings H, Hampton, etc.
  7. Flawed, but a “way” to reintroduce streetcars to St. Louis
  8. It has a lot of technical problems that may limit ridership and expansion.
  9. I’ll give it 4 years before it is is bankrupt due to non-use/

You can read the original post and comments here.

– Steve Patterson

 

Let’s Build Around Light Rail

The title of this post is from the title for an upcoming luncheon:  CMT’s Let’s Build Around Light Rail Luncheon to be held May 8th (ticket deadline April 26th). Guest speaker Katherine Perez is billed as a “national Transit Oriented Development Expert.” Awesome!

When I saw the invitation it got me thinking; “How are we doing at building around light rail?” The original line of our St. Louis MetroLink opened on July 31, 1994 1993, almost 18 19 years ago. I decided to visit two of those original stations that had the most opportunity for new development: Wellston & Rock Road.

Wellston Station

The Wellston Station is located in the very poor St. Louis County municipality of Wellston:

Wellston was incorporated as a city in 1909; due to “government difficulties” the city was dissolved three years later, only to be reestablished in 1949. The city was named for Erastus Wells.

During the early 1900s, the Wagner Electric Company, a manufacturer of small motors for appliances and transformers, began development along Plymouth Avenue in Wellston, growing to occupy the entire block and providing 4,500 jobs during World War I. North of the Wagner site, ABEX Corporation built a steel foundry that began operation in 1923.

In 1982 ABEX moved out of its Wellston location; the next year, the Wagner Electric Company closed its doors. After closure, it took 22 years, and millions of dollars in tax credits and development grants, for the St. Louis County Economic Council to demolish five buildings and clean up 15 acres (6.1 ha) of the Wagner brownfield land along the MetroLink so that it could be made marketable as the Plymouth Industrial Park. (Wikipedia)

An industrial park isn’t the most vibrant idea around transit but when you try to develop formerly toxic industrial land your options are limited, housing isn’t possible. So how’s that going around the Wellston Station? (Aerial)

The station itself isn’t much, two platforms and “243 park and ride spaces” (Source). That’s a lot of parking!

ABOVE: Park and ride lot on Monday April 9, 2012 at 1:39pm
ABOVE: I arrived at the station via the #94 (Page) MetroBus, I got on the bus a block from my downtown loft. At Wellston Station a huge crowd waited to board the westbound bus
ABOVE: Looking east on Plymouth Ave after crossing the tracks, on the left is the MET Center

In 1994 the Metropolitan Education and Training Center opened in an existing building east of the MetroLink line at 6347 Plymouth Ave:

The MET Center is a strategic partnership created to stimulate the economic self-sufficiency of individuals living in low-income communities of the St. Louis region. The Center seeks to accomplish this mission by delivering focused, comprehensive, and accessible job training, placement, assessment, career development services and transportation services. We serve the underemployed, unemployed, and displaced workers, leading to sustainable work and a competitive regional economy. (MET Center)

Great, how do I get there? Their website says it’s “Centrally Located Near the Metro Link” but under location they offer a link to Metro’s Trip Finder but mostly they give driving directions. Wow, major TOD fail. But the low-income customers they serve know how to find MET.

ABOVE: The MET Center doesn't have any route for pedestrians arriving on foot, the facility was designed to be driven to.

So the MET Center failed to grasp the idea of orienting to transit, how about the industrial park?

In order to obtain the state’s oversight and participate in the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Brownfield Tax Credit program, the St. Louis County Economic Council enrolled the site in Missouri’s Voluntary Cleanup Program in 1997. The tax credits were sold to Ameren Corp. and Allegiant Bank, which earned the project $3.5 million. The site was also funded in part with $1.9 million by an Economic Development Administration grant for remediation and infrastructure and a County Industrial Development Authority loan. (2005 St. Louis Business Journal story)

Big bucks, must be great

ABOVE: The entrance to the Plymouth Industrial Park along Page
ABOVE: Sign marketing the Plymouth Industrial Park along Page, click image for Clark Properties website
ABOVE: The road is gated off but the sidewalk on the east side of the road is open
ABOVE: Housing adjacent to the entrance road for Plymouth Industrial
ABOVE: Nothing has been built yet, other than the closed road
ABOVE: The site plan shows three parcels. Lot C is the nearest the station but a fence prevents true TOD.
ABOVE: Existing industry across Plymouth from the MET Center does provide some employment but it's not TOD

So not much east of the Wellston MetroLink Station, let’s go west and see if that nearly vacant park and ride lot has spurred development.

… Continue Reading

 

I’m Car-Free…Again!

ABOVE: Steve Patterson in his vehicle of choice

On July 5th 2007 I was so excited that I was car-free (First Time in 25 Years, I Don’t Own A Car!), having only a 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter and a bicycle. A year later I bought a car again — I could no longer ride the scooter & bike due to a stroke (I Drove My Car Today). I had to have a car in St. Louis, right?

I felt guilty though:

So now my trick will be to see how seldom I can drive the car. I feel like a failed environmentalist selling the scooter and getting a car. As I start to buy gas I know I will quickly be reminded of just how efficient the scooter was. 

The scooter was very efficient (90+ mpg) and I did a good job of not driving my car often (5k/year).  In July 2010 I bought a monthly transit pass and began to use and learn our public transit system. After nearly two years as a regular rider I knew I was ready to ditch the car. Why you ask? To improve my standard of living!

You’re probably confused how NOT having a car will improve my standard of living, most view car ownership as increasing one’s standard of living. As a low-income person the cost of insurance, maintenance, taxes, and fuel were too much even though my car was paid for. In addition to the expenses the car’s value was dropping. The car was a burden rather than the key to freedom.

I’ll save money by not having to pay for auto insurance every six months as well as annual personal properly taxes. Based on my annual driving and MPG I’ll save about $750 a year in gas.  I’ll also be able to rent my parking space to a neighbor. I’ll be able to increase my available cash by 15%!

After the couple test drove my car they made an offer and I accepted, then it hit me — this will very likely be the last time I own a car. Ever. I’ve been driving for 29 years and all but one year I’ve owned a car, sometimes 2-3. Before when I went car-free I had the scooter and thought that yes I might have a car again but with my income and my inability to work in a paying job the only way I’d ever have a car again is if I won the lottery.

In addition to taking MetroBus I’ll be getting rides from friends and taking cabs. I’ve downloaded the Taxi Magic app to my phone and set up account with debit card. Two St. Louis taxi firms, St. Louis County & Yellow Cab and Laclede Cab Co. use this service. This will allow me to schedule and pay for a cab from my phone without having to call someone. It stores my home address and I can easily type in the other address. Even if I spend $20/month average on cab fare  I’ll still be way ahead of where I’ve been.

I’ve also, reluctantly, gotten a credit card so I can rent a car on occasion, mostly when traveling. I can’t use car sharing services like WeCar because I require a spinner knob to steer the wheel and a crossover bar to operate turn signals with only my right hand.

I understand that my situation is rather unique, I don’t have to drive 15 miles to a job five days per week. It will be a challenge to not have the convenience of a car but I’m looking forward to facing  and overcoming them.

– Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Concealed Weapons Allowed On Public Transit

The National Riffle Association is in St. Louis and outstate Missouri legislators are trying to change Missouri law to force concealed guns onto public transit. House Bill 1483 was introduced in January but it had it’s first hearing last week in the “General Laws” House committee.  The bill summary:

This bill specifies that a political subdivision in the state cannot prohibit a person with a valid concealed carry endorsement from carrying a concealed firearm onto a train or public bus.

This isn’t about preventing the City of St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Louis County, Richmond Heights or any over “political subdivision” from prohibiting concealed weapons on public transit vehicles. No, this is about preventing the Bi-State Development Corporation, the political subdivision that operates as Metro St. Louis, from prohibiting concealed guns.

ABOVE: Sign on MetroLink train, no such sign exists inside MetroBus vehicles

Metro St. Louis is the Bi-State Development Corporation is joint political subdivision of Missouri & Illinois. I personally don’t have fear using public transit but some seem so struck with fear they feel the need to carry deadly force on their person. The only guns I think should be on public  transit would be those of law enforcement:

Law enforcement officers (including reserve officers, police cadets and turnkeys) may ride whether in or out of uniform. These individuals must present an appropriate badge and identification card to the bus operator or fare inspector when boarding out of uniform. Firefighters may ride free of charge when in uniform and wearing appropriate insignia. These individuals are permitted to ride free of charge because of their ability to assist an operator with dealing with emergency situations that might occur while on the bus. Any of these individuals identified “above”, who accept free transportation are in fact, expected to assist in emergencies in return for their free transportation. (Metro FAQ)

What do you think about concealed guns on public transit? The weekly poll is in the right sidebar. Vote there and share your thoughts below.

– Steve Patterson

 

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