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Reaching the St. Louis County Library

I was thinking of attending a meeting being held tonight (7pm-9pm) at the headquarters of the St. Louis County Library located at 1640 South Lindbergh Blvd. The meeting is a St. Louis Aerotropolis Forum sponsored by the Citizens Alliance for Missouri Patriots (a closed Facebook group) that I’m NOT a member of:

Alliance of Tea Party and Patriot Group leaders and organizers in the State of Missouri who wish to combine forces in working together for our state’s sovereignty, who adhere to and believe in our founding fathers’ constitutional principles, government fiscal responsibility, individual unalienable rights, and a free market system. CAMP does NOT represent any one political party, but only the People of Missouri.

Here is the description of the Facebook event:

Concerned about the China Hub issue to be brought before our state legislators in the upcoming special session? For those in the local St. Louis metro area or across the state, you are invited to join us in hearing our panel of speakers who will be discussing and debating this topic which will affect every citizen in Missouri.

Scheduled panelists are Audrey Spalding from Show Me Institute, and David Roland from Missouri Freedom Center.

We are currently awaiting confirmation on panel speakers from the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association who are working to bring the China Hub to St. Louis.

The forum will be held in the library auditorium starting at 7pm and ending promptly at 9pm.

Scheduled Host is Mr. Rodney White, retired businessman, local author and speaker.

Please invite your neighbors, family, and friends who are wanting to know more about this new government tax credit.

I’d like to hear this perspective,  I have three choices on how to get to the meeting:

  1. Drive my car
  2. Ask for a ride with someone else.
  3. Take public transit

Let’s look at each option.

1) Drive my car

This is the option 99% of those attending will use. But I try to use my car as little as possible, plus I have a narrow window between 6pm-9pm when I can drive to get the best insurance discount. I’d have to leave the event early if I drove to be home by 9pm.  And yes, Progressive knows exactly when I drive  because of the device I voluntarily plugged into my diagnostic port. Google Maps says the drive is 12.6 miles long and would take 18 minutes if I use I-64 or 13.7-14.2 miles (& 29-33 minutes) if I use surface streets.

2) Ask for a ride with someone else

This is a good option, one I wish more people would use rather than driving themselves. I know only one person on the attending list, but I know Ed Martin online only and I’m not sure I want to ask him or be at his mercy.

3) Take public transit

Finally my favorite option! I have two choices to reach the library via transit. The option that gets me there closest to the start time takes the longest (59 minutes) and would involve using MetroLink and two buses. The other option takes 50-56 minutes depending upon when I leave.  This is twice as long as if I drove but from my view this is time I can read, check email, observe the city, etc.

Since I’ve never been there in my power chair before I need to investigate the route in detail. The option that includes only one bus is more appealing than having to transfer from one bus to another so I looked at taking the #58 bus from the Clayton MetroLink/MetroBus station.

Seems simple enough, “walking” 3/10th of a mile is no big deal in my chair.

But when I looked at the aerial image and the street view is when problems became clear.

On the left it's not clear a sidewalk exists.

The street view shows curbs on both sides of the driveway, which means no deal.  In looking back up at the aerial it seems the near side may have been fixed, but the far sides of the drive is unknown. This route is too uncertain.

The other option is to take the #58X Express Bus to Big Bend & Kirkwood Rd then transfer to the #48 northbound on Kirkwood/Lindbergh.

I’m pretty sure the stops are not as shown, but still the area has good sidewalks, ramps and crosswalks. I just need to figure out where to board the 48. Oh, just a bit to the north.

And here we see a common problem. A large pad is provided as well as a shelter but the pad isn’t connected to the sidewalk. Suburban sidewalks are often just for show, not actual use, so having the sidewalk actually connect to points pedestrians would actually use is just radical thinking I suppose.  My chair can deal with the grade change and grass but someone using a manual chair, walker or cane might have difficulty.

The great thing is the #48 stops right in front of the library. I should be good from this point, right? Wrong!

Where the bus stops there is no pedestrian route to the entrance. Perhaps a proper pedestrian access route exists somewhere in either direction?

No pedestrian route at the north vehicle drive
And no pedestrian route at the south vehicle drive

If I were to risk my life trying either vehicle drive I still have no clue where to find a ramp to reach and accessible entrance. Even the able-bodied would take a chance if they walked in one of the driveways. Walking to the library seems as American as apple pie, but not in St. Louis County apparently.

I checked out their accessibility page:

Buildings and Bookmobiles

What physical accommodations exist for persons with physical limitations?

  • Handicapped-accessible parking
  • Ramp entrances
  • Power doors
  • Elevators
  • Accessible aisles and routes inside the buildings
  • Accessible restrooms, water fountains, and public telephones
  • Low service desks
  • Specially-designed school bookmobile with wheelchair lift

No thought is given to pedestrians at all. My example is extreme in that I’m coming from a long distance. What about someone, like a senior or a child, in Kirkwood? What is the reverse route?  Public buildings like libraries should demonstrate to others what is expected. Oh, I guess it does, they don’t expect pedestrians. But people do use these bus routes and stops and every transit rider is a pedestrian on at least one end of their trip.

St. Louis County and municipalities continue to spend money on sidewalks and ADA ramps but they fail to connect the dots! These new & improved sidewalks are mere roadside decoration  to give the appearance of walkability & accessibility.

I contacted the St. Louis County Library on the 26th about their lack of a pedestrian access route and they are tagged on the tweet of this post.

– Steve Patterson


Readers: MetroLink Light Rail was a Good Investment

This morning I’m meeting a friend at the airport so we can catch up on the ride to his downtown hotel. Sure, he could take a cab or ahotel shuttle or I could drive out there to get him, but why?

ABOVE: The MetroLink platform at the main terminal

Our light rail connection to the airport is outstanding. We’ve enjoyed the connection since 1993. When I flew to Seattle in 2009 their airport light rail wasn’t yet complete.   Flying into LaGuardia Airport in 2005 I took a bus into Manhattan, NYC’s excellent rail system didn’t reach the airport.

No doubt the airport connection helped garner so many favorable responses in the poll last week, Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?:

Q: MetroLink light rail opened 18 years ago, was it a good investment?

  1. Yes, it is an important part of our region’s transportation system. 180 [79.3%]
  2. Other answer… 19 [8.37%]
  3. No, likely cost too much given the ridership 16 [7.05%]
  4. Possibly, need data to know 10 [4.41%]
  5. unsure/no opinion 2 [0.88%]

Here are the numerous other answers:

  1. If it went faster I would easily say YES. Right now it is a VERY “nice to have”
  2. Yes, although we need more lines for it to be truly effective.
  3. Good starter line but not designed to take advantage of STL’s Urban Form
  4. Yes, but it needs more lines to make it fully functional
  5. No, because it’s taking away from the bus system.
  6. It’s a good start, we need a north south line in high density residential nabes
  7. It’s a needed part of trans. system, but need data to know if good investment
  8. Yes, but it needs to be expanded to MidAmerica to grasp the airport’s potential.
  9. ghetto link
  10. Good investment, but really need to encourage TODs to maximize investment return
  11. Overall yes but NIMBYs have strongly compromised its potential and overall worth
  12. Yes, but the subsequent failures have hurt: lack of extension down 40, etc.
  13. a good investment subsequently wasted by failure to expand to critical mass
  14. It would have been but not as it stands.
  15. No. It is too limited to be useful.
  16. Only if they build more lines
  17. Yes, but we need to do better.
  18. yes, but it still needs improvement in service hours and number of stops
  19. Without turnstiles, we have no idea how much revenue we are losing.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Light rail is one of several types of fixed rail transit, others include heavy rail and streetcars. Each has it’s place. Light rail into Illinois and to the airport was a good investment because we had the right-of-way, bridge, and tunnels to support the construction.
  • The extension further into Illinois was also a good investment as the distance is substantial, getting many cars off the roadways with minimal infrastructure since the line used existing at-grade right-of-way.
  • The extension to Shrewsbury, however, was not a good investment. Expensive tunnels and flyover bridges drove up costs enormously. The distance covered is not that great.
  • The lack of turnstiles made sense in the late 80s when the original line was being planned, ridership was unknown and the additional costs to construct a closed system would have been too much. I don’t think much revenue is lost by those who don’t pay, but not having a reloadable card option (yet) is a huge disadvantage.
  • Light rail is typically run in it’s own right-of-way so therefore it isn’t where you need it to be – in the street next to your destination.
  • Light rail doesn’t belong in street right-of-ways, that’s what a streetcar is for.
  • I see very limited need for additional light rail in the region.  An extension into Madison County Illinois would be nice.  Connecting north county via existing right-of-way from Clayton or airport area makes sense too.  Extending into south county from Shrewsbury also makes sense.
  • I oppose street running light rail going through north & south St. Louis to get county riders downtown.
  • We will never again have a streetcar system serving all neighborhoods in the city and light rail only serves a very small portion of people.  Bus service, therefore, is the main mode of transit.
  • Light rail distracts Metro and funding from bus service, which has been getting the short end of the stick for too long.

– Steve Patterson


Parking in Bus Stop Locations

Twice now in the last month I’ve departed the #10 bus on Forest Park on the east side of Euclid, in front of the Parkview Hotel (map). Both times a car has been parked in the bus stop.

ABOVE: BMW illegally parked in a bus stop on Forest Park

The first time the car was parked between the intersection and the bus stop sign, the bus had to let me off at the hotel driveway because the driver couldn’t get close enough to the curb. Tuesday the illegally parked car was further east so the bus had room to pull to the curb to let me off and pull back out into traffic.

The first time I jokingly asked the bus driver if it would be fun to push such cars out of the way, he affirmed. This time I thought of a recent news story from Europe:

Drivers who park in cycle lanes would normally worry about receiving a fine or perhaps having their vehicle towed. They probably do not expect to have their car crushed beneath the wheels of an armoured personnel carrier which has the local mayor at the controls.

But car owners in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, may be choosing their parking spaces a little more carefully after the city’s mayor, Arturas Zuokas, drove over – and wrecked – a Mercedes in a stunt to serve as a warning to anyone who thinks about parking illegally. (Source)

Here is the video:


Recently I was at another bus stop when a motorist parked in the stop where I was waiting. When she got out I asked her to move because the bus was due in minutes. On South Grabd I had to go into the FedEx store to find  the driver of a FedEx truck parked in the bus stop. He pulled out as the bus arrived.

I like and support on-street parking. When I chose to drive my car on-street parking is often the only choice I have to get me close enough to my destination I can walk there.  The road in Vilnius has zero on-street parking, no wonder they have a problem.

Anyone know where I can get a used tank?

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?

ABOVE: The elevator tower at the Convention Center MetroLink station, 6th & Washington Ave.

Eighteen years ago today St. Louis’ initial light rail line, MetroLink, opened for service:

Construction on the initial MetroLink alignment from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to the 5th & Missouri station in East St. Louis began in 1990. The portion between North Hanley and 5th & Missouri stations opened in July 31, 1993, and the line was extended westward to Lambert Airport Main station in 1994. At that time another station, East Riverfront, was opened in East St. Louis. Four years later, in 1998, the Lambert Airport East station was added. The capital cost to build the initial phase of MetroLink was $465 million. Of that amount, $348 million was supplied by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

MetroLink exceeded pre-opening ridership estimates, but the system has expanded slowly. Construction on proposed extensions has been delayed by the increasing scarcity of FTA funds. As time has passed, an ever-greater share of the costs has been borne by state and local governments. The most recent work has been entirely funded by local dollars. (Wikipedia)

The fact we had the Eads Bridge, existing tunnels under downtown, and unused railroad right-of-way, created the needed local match to get federal funding the initial project.

Since today is the 18th anniversary I thought I’d do the weekly poll question about MetroLink: was it a good investment?

– Steve Patterson


One Year Anniversary of the Downtown Trolley

ABOVE: Steve Patterson exits a Downtown Trolley at the debut on July 6, 2010. Photo by Jim Merkel, Suburban Journals

Tomorrow marks one year since the debut of the #99 Downtown Trolley, replacing the former #99 Downtown Circulator. I’ve ridden the trolley many times in the last year and ridership has steadily increased.  Even though the wrap is over an otherwise conventional bus, it and other aspects do the trick.

ABOVE: Downtown Trolley at Broadway & Market with the Old Courthouse in background

The wrap, signs, and posted route map give tourists comfort. I often see tourists looking at the map posted at stops.  I ask if they need help, which occasionally they do. Big crowds often get on/off at City Museum.

The one flaw with the trolley is it doesn’t run on Sunday. Visitors here for a weekend or perhaps arriving early for a convention don’t have the trolley to help them get around downtown to spend money. In cold, rainy, or hot & humid weather the trolley is a critical part of the downtown transportation system.

The trolley is also important to locals. Most MetroBus lines entering downtown stop at the Civic Center MetroBud Transfer Center, adjacent to the MetroLink station, at 14th & Spruce. Workers trying to get to work on Sunday must now walk rather than use the trolley the rest of the way.

Metro, the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission need to find a way to also operate the trolley on Sundays.

– Steve Patterson