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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


MetroBus & MetroLink: Separate And Unequal

December 12, 2011 Featured, Public Transit 46 Comments

Winter weather is here but not to worry, Metro will keep you warm.

ABOVE: MetroLink platforms have heaters to keep passengers warm while waiting for trains

Unless you are like most transit riders and you take MetroBus. I’ve not inspected all the MetroBus Transit Centers but I know the Civic Center Transit Center doesn’t have any heaters, yet all MetroLink platforms do!

ABOVE: Shelter at Civic Center without heaters

A Metro blog post in October titled It’s Getting Cold Outside: Platform Heaters Now on All Outdoor MetroLink Stations explains the heaters:

Is it us, or is it getting colder outside? Not too cold for baseball fans though! All outdoor MetroLink Stations are now fitted with platform heaters, but it’s important to remember that in order to conserve energy, the heaters operate under the following conditions:

  •  Only during regular scheduled service (4:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.)
  • Only if the temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Only for 15 minutes each time the button is pushed.

All platform heaters now have decals on them with information about how and when they can be turned on.

Uh, it’s cold at MetroBus Centers as well. Metro treats rail and bus riders differently and in the winter this is painfully obvious…oh the pain is frostbite.  Most exterior MetroLink platforms are in a depressed rail right-of-way somewhat naturally sheltered from the cold wind, but most MetroBus Transit Centers are at grade and fully exposed to cold winds.

This inequity is new too:

Metro’s partners in Illinois at the St. Clair County Transit District determined that MetroLink passengers need to stay toasty while waiting for MetroLink. In 2009, Metro finished installing platform heaters at all Illinois MetroLink stations, thanks to funding from St. Clair County Transit District. These heaters are passenger-controlled, ceiling-mounted heaters that Metro installed along with a wind shelter on the MetroLink platforms. They run on a timer, so they turn off after 15 minutes, to save energy. The heaters are also set so that they don’t come on at all if the temperature is above fifty degrees. This initiative was so popular, Metro decided to extend it to Missouri stations as well.

Beginning in February 2010, Metro began turning on new platform heaters at several Missouri MetroLink stations, including: North Hanley, Delmar Loop, Clayton, Shrewsbury, Civic Center, and Central West End. All other Missouri MetroLink stations are slated to get heaters, excluding the underground stations (such as the 8th & Pine station downtown – passengers are already sheltered and those stations don’t get as cold), and the two airport stations.

The project necessarily includes an evaluation of the power needed at each station, and in some cases updating equipment to move extra power into the station. The stations chosen for the first round of installation in Missouri are some of the busiest stations, but also the easiest to upgrade. The Grand Station heaters will be placed as a part of the station redesign in 2011, in conjunction with the construction of a new transit plaza underneath the new Grand Avenue bridge that the City of St. Louis will build.

Metro is working to complete all remaining stations -with the exception of the tunnel stations, two airport stations, and Grand – by the end of 2010. (source)

I don’t even know the total number of MetroBus Transit Centers, they aren’t listed online — at least not that I can find. Metro needs to put a plan in place to rectify this inequality.

– Steve Patterson


TOD Needed at Civic Center Transit Center

Transit-oriented development is a great concept:

A transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. (Wikipedia)

In St. Louis, TOD is just a dream.

ABOVE: People selling soda & snacks to transit riders at 14th & Spruce.

We have a great need for retail around transit hubs but the design of these spaces doesn’t provide space for small businesses serving the public using transit. The number of people that pass through the Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center and MetroLink Station each day is a large number. This is the ideal space for commerce to take place. As I noticed one day, it does.

The number of riders won’t support a Walmart but a small snack shop makes sense. Even just a kiosk or two would work — the rent has to be low. Something that would allow a person to get a quick bite and water between buses/trains. Put the existing space to use.

ABOVE: Looking east toward Civic Center from 16th & Clark (click for map)

In addition to kiosks at 14th & Spruce we need to build over the light rail lines on both sides of the 16th Street bridge. From 16th to the curve at approximately 15th and from 16th to 18th (Union Station MetroLink).

ABOVE: Looking west toward the Union Station MetroLink Station from 16th & Clark

Ground floor spaces could be small retail shops and offices while upper floors could be offices and affordable workforce housing. East of 16th you might have a restaurant or two catering to the Scottrade Center/Blues hockey & The Peabody Opera House.  Yes, this creates a long tunnel which requires expensive exhaust equipment but the value of the habitable space created would make it a worthwhile investment. Clark Ave desperately needs something to make the walk from 18th to 14th interesting.

Metro is looking to expand the MetroBus transit center because they feel the existing one isn’t big enough to handle all the buses. Now is the time to think about creating more than just a place to change transit  modes.

– Steve Patterson



Winning Transit Photo

October 29, 2011 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Winning Transit Photo

Congrats to the St. Louis Cardinals — 2011 MLB World Champs!

I’ve been submitting photos each month in CMT’s transit photo contest and finally I won. The prize each month is a transit pass.

ABOVE: Stadium MetroLink Station as seen from Busch Stadium a few years ago.

The pass is useful for us regular riders but also a great way to try out transit for a month. The November event is on Facebook here.

– Steve Patterson