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Poll: Thoughts On The Loop Trolley Project

The project to build a short streetcar line on DeBalivere & Delmar is moving forward:

The Loop Trolley project, having amassed almost all the $43 million it needs, is ready to move into high gear.

Construction is expected to begin late this year, with the trolleys in operation about a year later. (STLtoday.com)

A couple of open houses were held evenly to review the project.

ABOVE: A recent Loop Trolley open house, click image for official website

Not everyone is impressed:

The proposed initial service plan is still less than stellar. It’s still proposed to run 11am to 6pm Sunday to Thursday and 11am to midnight Friday to Saturday. Trains will arrive only every 20 minutes and take 20 minutes to travel end to end. Its fares will not be integrated with Metro, separate tickets will be required. (Gateway Streets)

Initial vehicles will be restored “heritage” streetcars, at a cost of about $150,000 each, per the consultant I spoke with. The good news is now the line and maintenance facility are being designed to handle the modern Škoda streetcar in use in cities like Portland OR and Tacoma WA.  These new vehicles cost several million dollars each so the significantly cheaper old vehicles are the only in the initial budget.

ABOVE: Modern streetcar in Portland OR

Even though I love streetcars I haven’t been excited about the Loop Trolley, until now. I know the higher operating costs of the heritage cars will lead to them being replaced in time. Ideally modern cars will be part of an expansion of the line further east on Delmar. Wheelchair lifts on the heritage cars won’t be convenient but the low floor of the future modern streetcars will be great for quick entry/exit of passengers.

The poll this week seeks your thoughts on the project at this point, vote in the right sidebar. Results on Wednesday April 18th.

– Steve Patterson


Communicating How To Ride The Bus?

Metro’s website explaining how to ride MetroBus is very inadequate — all text — no images or video (live html or archived PDF). Let’s take a look at the all text page section by section:

Plan Your Trip

Use the online Trip Planner, check out the Schedules & Maps or contact Metro Transit Information at 314-231-2345 or 618-271-2345 to plan your trip on MetroBus.

Simple as that? Not exactly? You’ll be given a list of possible routes that you’ll need to sort through to see which is best for you. Some have more walking or transfers than others.

Catch the Bus

Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time. As the MetroBus vehicle approaches, signal the operator that you are wish to board the bus by standing or raising your hand.

Before boarding MetroBus, verify that the lighted sign above the windshield shows your desired route number and destination.

You’ve got to know the direction your bus will be headed to entire you are at the right stop. Many stops serve more than one route, which is why you’ve got to verify the route number on the bus.

Purchase Your MetroBus Fare

If boarding the MetroBus using a valid transfer or previously purchased ticket, give it to the MetroBus operator as you board. If using a valid Metro pass, swipe it in the fare box or present it to the MetroBus operator. 

Otherwise, purchase fare upon boarding. Exact cash is required; the fare box accepts dollar bills and coins. MetroBus operators cannot make change. If you qualify for a reduced fare, present your reduced fare identification to the MetroBus operator. If you need to connect to another MetroBus route or MetroLink, notify the operator you need a transfer.

So many unanswered questions: What’s a transfer? Previous ticket from where? What does the farebox look like? What are the fares? How do I know if I might qualify for a reduced fare?

Enjoy Your Trip

Once you have boarded, take a seat, watch for your stop and enjoy the ride. MetroBus operators will announce all major intersections.

Remember, using radios without ear plugs, smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited on all Metro Transit vehicles.

If you want to be able to hear the bus operator announce intersections you’d better pick a seat very close so you can actually hear them. Even if you do hear them it might be announced as you pass it, too late to stop. Pull the cord and get off at the next stop and walk back to wear you wanted. It’s best to know the streets and area.

Choose Your Stop

MetroBus vehicles are equipped with either cords that run along the top of the windows or vertical strips positioned between the windows. Pull the cord or press the strip to signal the MetroBus operator that your stop or destination is approaching. Depart from the front or rear door.

Mostly it’s a pull cord, wheelchair users should use the strip rather than cord because it sounds a different tone so the operator knows you need to exit so they will position the bus to permit the lift/ramp. It’s best to exit the rear door as that allows new passengers to board at the same time, you might have to ask the operator to open the rear door.

Have Any Questions?

If you have any questions about using MetroBus service, contact Metro Transit Information at 314-231-2345 from Missouri or 618-271-2345 from Illinois.

I’ve got a question, why put something many find confusing and intimidating into a text only page? Even then, why not link to other pages for information on fares and such? Better yet, why not use photos and/or videos to take some of the mystery out of riding the bus for potential new riders?

Here are a few examples from other cities:

Oklahoma City (OK)


Minneapolis-St. Paul (MN)


Stevens Point (WI)


The Stevens Point website has the same video available in Hmong and Spanish.  These examples are not massive bus systems. Metro St. Louis has a YouTube channel with 19 videos but you won’t find anything helpful like the three examples above.

Years ago when I wanted to learn how to use the bike rack on the front of the bus I was frustrated by Metro’s text-only approach so I turned to YouTube for instruction. For over four years now Madison County Transit across the river in Illinois has had a bike and bus video — narrated by my friend (and MCT employee) SJ Morrison:


My only suggestion is to not board to tell the operator you plan to load your bike. Make eye contact with the operator and load your bike while others are boarding. If you are the only person boarding at that stop it’ll be obvious to the operator you’ll be loading your bike.

I’d like to see Metro St. Louis use photographs and videos to demystify the bus riding experience. I know personally it’s very easy once you learn but before then it’s very intimidating.

 – Steve Patterson


Poll: How Expensive Must Gas Get Before You Take Transit Instead of Drive?

ABOVE: A large crowd waits to board the #70 Grand MetroBus at Union Station

The headlines are full of stories about rising gas prices & transit use:

Ridership on public transit, which is measured by number of trips taken, hit its highest level in the mid-1940s — roughly double today’s rate.

But with the widespread adoption of the automobile and America’s suburbanization in the 1950s, public transit use steadily declined until the early 1970s, when gas prices spiked following the Arab oil embargo. 2011’s ridership rate is the second highest since 1957. (CNN/Money)

The rate of transit use was double in the 1940s? Half the population used twice the transit of today!

The poll this week asks how expensive would gas have to get before you took transit. The poll is in the right sidebar, mobile users need to switch to the desktop theme to see the sidebar.

– Steve Patterson



2011: MetroBus Growth Rate Double MetroLink

Ridership on the region’s bus service (MetroBus) grew at more than twice the rate of the region’s light rail service (MetroLink), according to figures in a new report by the American Public Transportation Association. Looking at 2011 compared to 2010 the light rail service increased ridership a below average  4.62% while bus ridership increased a whooping 10.04%, way above average for the report.

APTA reported large bus systems like MetroBus in St. Louis grew by 0.4 percent nationally. Columbus, Ohio at 10.1 percent showed the strongest bus ridership growth in the nation while St. Louis at 10 percent experienced the second largest growth, and Orlando, Florida at 8.4 percent, the third strongest bus ridership growth in the nation. (Metro Press Release)


ABOVE: A large crowd waits to board the #70 Grand MetroBus at Union Station

As a result of the substantial increase the humble bus is carrying an even greater percentage of the region’s transit riders. MetroBus carried 61% of Metro’s passengers in 2010 but that increased to 62% for 2011. Conversely the light rail service dropped from 38% to 37% from 2010 to 2011, see pie charts below.

It’s no wonder since MetroBus service covers so much more of the metropolitan area. MetroBus likely has a stop near your home and work/school whereas light rail isn’t as convenient. I can catch three different MetroBus lines within a block of my house (3min) but the nearest MetroLink station is 12 minutes away! Sure the MetroLink is faster than MetroBus but when I factor in time getting to/from each mode the bus usually wins if both are a choice.

Some will point out that MetroLink has a higher farebox recovery than MetroBus (27.8% vs 19.9%; source page viii). True enough, but MetroBus covered 5.7 times as many “revenue miles” as MetroLink in FY2011 (18,198,927 vs 3,147,407; same source). Naturally bus service isn’t going to have the same farebox recovery rate given how much of the region the service covers — those routes to low density areas just aren’t as efficient as other routes. We could never afford to provide light rail service to all parts of the region now served by bus.

St. Louis bus & rail ridership was down in 2011 from what it was in 2008, but current gas prices might push ridership levels for 2012.

– Steve Patterson


Transit Union Seeks Input From Riders

Over the next two weeks The Transit Riders Union of St. Louis is hosting three “transit talks” to discuss with actual riders what we’d like to see done to improve local public transit. I’m on the steering committee. Here was our post:

In March we’re hosting a series of discussions focusing in the needs & issues of regular transit riders. Please come and tell us the areas you want your Transit Riders Union to work on improving.

We want everyone that uses Metro to join us so come as you are.

Monday March 12, 2012 (evening)

Tuesday March 20, 2012 (lunch hour)

Wednesday March 21, 2012 (evening)

Please plan to attend at least one of these discussions!

Everyone is welcome too attend and all are free. Again, we want to hear from actual transit riders.

– Steve Patterson