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Lambert Airport Main Terminal MetroLink Extension Opened 17 Years Ago

June 25, 2011 Public Transit Comments Off on Lambert Airport Main Terminal MetroLink Extension Opened 17 Years Ago

When our light rail system, MetroLink, opened on July 31, 1993 it didn’t quite reach Lambert Airport, as it does today. Originally the line stopped at the Hanley Station. Eleven months later, on June 25, 1994, the 3.15 mile extension to the main terminal opened.

ABOVE: The MetroLink platform at the main terminal

The original line used existing railroad right-of-way but new structures had to be constructed to get the line over I-70 & I-170 to get to the airport. Many use MetroLink to get to/from the airport for flights or work.  In fact, MetroLink has been a success:

“More than 15 Million passengers boarded Metrolink in FY 2010.”- Metro’s 2010 Annual Report

The airport’s Terminal 2 (East) opened in May 1998 but , due to several delays, the MetroLink  station didn’t open until December 23, 1998.

– Steve Patterson


Guest Opinion: Champaign-Urbana Transit Employing Useful Technology

Contributed by Matt Heil

When it comes to planning and this blog, in particular, public transit is a hot topic. In case you were unaware, transit funding is extremely different between the two states of Illinois and Missouri. I’m originally from the St. Louis area but spent the past few years living in Champaign, IL, going to school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Even though the Champaign-Urbana region (pop.120,000) is significantly smaller than St. Louis, their public transit agency, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), is much more organized, runs more frequently and has embraced many new technologies in public transit.

Some of their technologies include: GPS tracking, hybrid buses, a multi-modal transportation hub and elongated buses.

ABOVE: Illini Union Hub, along Green St in Urbana, IL. Photo by Matt Heil

Their GPS tracking was extremely useful and, during my stint in Champaign, I used this feature almost daily but at least two-three times a week. Every bus is equipped with GPS receivers that forward real-time arrival and departure information to MTD’s website, which is accessible via-smartphone; their texting service, which every bus stop has a specific code you can text to MTD; and also high volume bus stops, which are all equipped with LED signs that post the arrival times of the next buses.

Hybrid buses were added within the last two years and incorporating hybrid technology into urban buses make quite a bit of sense. Buses mostly operate at lower speeds and make frequent stops, which are both, important for the regeneration of battery power.

Another great part of Champaign’s transit system was that the system integrated multiple hubs within the network. Most of these hubs were in and around the University of Illinois’ campus but two other important ones included Downtown Urbana and the largest one in Downtown Champaign. Illinois Terminal, located at the southeast portion of Champaign’s downtown, was built in 1999. At the time, it was a state of the art facility and continues that legacy today. Like the new Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center (Amtrak and Greyhound Station), finished in 2008; Illinois Terminal integrates intercity bus service (Greyhound and MegaBus), intracity bus (MTD=Metro) and Amtrak, all into one location and was designed as a multi-modal (intermodal) transportation hub.

ABOVE: Teal bus loading on Green St Urbana, IL. Photo by Matt Heil

As mentioned earlier, Champaign is significantly smaller than St. Louis yet their public transit works extremely better than St. Louis’. This is because Champaign’s main employer (13,000employees) and destination is the University. Additionally, the population living within a 2-mile radius of campus is quite dense. Both density and a central employment/destination hub are very crucial for maximizing public transit’s efficiency. MTD has much higher ridership on some of their routes, compared to St. Louis. To cope with higher ridership, some of the busiest routes use elongated or extended buses, which aren’t even seen on St. Louis’ busiest line: the #70 Grand Bus.

Champaign might be a sleepy college town and surrounded by cornfields but, when it comes to their public transit, Champaign can compete with some of the largest cities in the country. Some have even referred to the Champaign-Urbana area as a micro-urban area. Compared to St. Louis, Champaign built their multi-modal transportation hub almost an entire decade before St. Louis. So, we should probably expect Metro to incorporate other technologies like, extended buses and GPS tracking within the next decade too, but still lagging behind areas with less than 10% of our regional population.

- Matt Heil

Matt Heil is a native of Edwardsville, IL and current resident of St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).


Transit Changes During the Komen Race for the Cure Saturday June 11

June 10, 2011 Downtown, Events/Meetings, Public Transit Comments Off on Transit Changes During the Komen Race for the Cure Saturday June 11
ABOVE: Finish line for the 2009 Komen Race for the Cure, the Peabody (then Kiel) Opera House in the background

Thousands will gather in downtown St. Louis for the annual Komen Race for the Cure. Thousands means thousands of cars.  Public transit is an option for those coming to walk, run, volunteer or just watch.

ABOVE: alert in MetroLink trains

First the good news, Metro is operating MetroLink light rail trains on a rush schedule, from the alert:

Komen Race For the Cure Special Service- June 11, 2011


On Saturday, June 11 from 5 a.m. until noon, MetroLink will operate:

Every 15 minutes on both Red and Blue Lines

Every 7-8 minutes between the Forest Park and Fairview Heights MetroLink stations

And now the bad news, because 14th Street, Market and Olive are closed during the event nine (9) buses will be rerouted:

Hopefully those who ride these buses to get to work are aware of these reroutes.

ABOVE: The fountain at Kiener Plaza is pink in preparation for the big event

If you are coming to the event please consider taking a MetroBus or MetroLink.  Those coming from Illinois should definitely consider taking transit:

I-64 Weekend Closures:

MODOT will close all lanes of westbound I-64 from the Poplar Street Bridge to 20th Street beginning 8 am Saturday, June 10 for bridge repairs. The closure will end at noon Sunday, June 11.

Komen Race for the Cure Participants should be aware of several closures that could impact getting to the event:
• On Saturday, from 5 am to 2 pm for the Komen Race, the following ramps will be closed: the eastbound I-64 exit
ramp to Market Street/Bernard and the exit ramp to 20th Street and Chestnut and the westbound I-64 exit ramps to 21st Street and Market, and the exit ramp to the 3000 block of Market. (source)

Have a great weekend!

– Steve Patterson


St. Charles County Needs Public Transit

St. Charles County now has more people than the City of St. Louis (360,484 vs 319,294).  That population is spread out over a much larger area giving the county a low population density of 643/sq mi compared to St. Louis City which has a density of 5,158/sq mi.   St. Louis County’s population density is 1,966/sq mi.  One might conclude from these numbers that St. Charles County lacks the density to support transit.

In Illinois, St. Clair County contracts with Metro for transit service despite having a population density of only 393/sq mi (270,056). In addition to bus service, they funded and built an extension to the MetroLink light rail line.  In neighboring Madison County, the population density is a mere 366/sq mi yet they have the separate Madison County Transit (MTC MCT) system.

Again, St. Charles County has no county-wide transit service.  The City of St. Charles operates the horribly named SCAT (St. Charles Area Transit) system but that is little more than a senior shuttle service.

The St. Charles Area Transit system, otherwise known as SCAT, consists of five bus routes that provide transportation to various locations within the City of St. Charles as well as to the Metrolink North Hanley Station. Curb-to-curb service is provided for all riders, and all busses are equipped with wheelchair lifts.

All routes run Monday through Friday. Please allow 5-10 minutes leeway for each time listed. The routes and schedules are subject to change.

I have a copy of the fold out paper map showing the routes, none are online (wtf?). Yes, seniors need such systems but what about others? What about the other 294,691 St. Charles County residents that don’t live in the City of St. Charles?

In terms of its growth spurt, St. Charles may still be in its tweens.

“We’re probably kind of in the middle,” Anthony [director of community development with St. Charles County] says. The county estimates that its maximum capacity is about 640,000 people, he says, considerably more than the county’s current population of 360,484.)

With much more growth ahead, the county and cities within it have several things to consider moving forward, chiefly the very things that brought people out in the first place. (STL Beacon)

More growth with no plan to get folks from home in Wenzville to work in O’Fallon?  Part of me would like to just sit back and wait for the realities of an aging population combined with rising fuel prices to sink in to the average St. Charles County resident. But by the time that happens they will be in crisis mode. As part of our 16 county region we can’t allow such a large area fall into transportation crisis.

I’m not the first to realize St. Charles County needs a system. They created the St. Charles County Transit Authority and East-West Gateway studied the idea in 2006-07, an update to a 2001 plan.

East-West Gateway suggested that a sales-tax of 1/8 cent (or less) could support the proposed system which would, in turn, provide the local workforce with a transit option that is financially and environmentally friendly.

Polling commissioned by the Transit Authority in January 2008 and paid for by private donations did not indicate sufficient support for a sales tax for public transit. Voters opposed a bus sales tax for two main reasons:

  1. taxes are already “too high” or
  2. this particular tax would be an “unwise” use of taxes.

In addition, a large group (20%) stated they would not use the bus system or would not access it because its proposed routing is not convenient for them. (source)

Leaders in St. Charles County need to work on passing a transit tax so the Transit Authority can begin the work of setting up a transit system.

– Steve Patterson


Tornado Brings Opportunity To Make Joplin More Pedestrian-Friendly


ABOVE: Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce passing out treats in the rotunda at the Missouri Capital on April 13th

As we all know, the City of Joplin was hit hard by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011, making this the deadliest year on record. I know the historic & walkable downtown barely escaped the destruction. Much of Joplin, like most US cities, was a big ugly mess of auto-centric sprawl before the tornado.

ABOVE: View of Fazoli's from my car in the hotel parking lot. September 2010

I stayed a night in Joplin in September last year and posted about having to drive to the restaurant next door to the hotel to have dinner. This area wasn’t damaged so making it walkable will have to wait but the areas where every building was leveled is a perfect opportunity to make slight improvements as they rebuild.

Wikipedia has the most detailed account of the path of destruction I’ve found:

The tornado initially touched down just east of the Kansas state boundary near the end of 32nd Street (37.056958°N 94.588423°W) between 5:35 and 5:41 p.m. CDT (2235 and 2241 UTC) and tracked just north of due east. Surveys remain incomplete there so it is possible it may have started in Kansas and crossed the state line into Missouri.

Damage became very widespread and catastrophic as it entered residential subdivisions in southwest Joplin. In addition, St. John’s Regional Medical Center (37.060554°N 94.530938°W) in the same area was heavily damaged with many windows and the exterior walls damaged and the upper floors destroyed. Several fatalities were reported there. Virtually every house in that area near McClelland Boulevard and 26th Street was flattened, and some were blown away in the area as well. Trees sustained severe debarking, a nursing home and a church school in southwest Joplin were also flattened and several other schools were heavily damaged. Damage in this area was rated as a low-end EF4.

As the tornado tracked eastward, it intensified even more as it crossed Main Street between 20th and 26th Streets. Virtually every business along that stretch was heavily damaged or destroyed and several institutional buildings were destroyed. It tracked just south of downtown, narrowly missing it. More houses were flattened or blown away and trees continued to be debarked. Two large apartment buildings were destroyed, as well as Franklin Technology Center and Joplin High School. Fortunately, no one was in the high school at the time. It approached Range Line Road, the main commercial strip in the eastern part of Joplin, near 20th Street. Damage in this area was rated as a high-end EF4.

The tornado peaked in intensity as it crossed Range Line Road. In that corridor between about 13th and 32nd Streets (37.05528°N 94.478452°W), the damage continued to be very intense and the tornado was at its widest at this point, being nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. Some of the many destroyed buildings include a Cummins warehouse, Walmart Supercenter #59, a Home Depot store, and numerous restaurants, all of which were flattened. Heavy objects, including concrete bumpers and large trucks, were tossed a significant distance, as far as 1/8 mile (200 m) away from the parking lots along Range Line. Numerous other commercial and industrial buildings, as well as more houses, were destroyed with some flattened or blown away as the tornado tracked through southeast Joplin. Many fatalities occurred in this area. Damage in this area was rated as an EF5.

The Red Lobster I’ve been to at 32nd & Range Line is still there, although much of that area was heavily hit.  It has been estimated that anywhere from 10-25% of Joplin’s structures were leveled or damaged.  Joplin now has an opportunity to rebuild in a more connected manner, to take walkability as seriously drivability.

Here are my suggestions for Joplin as they begin:

  1. Speed up implementation of ideas from your Long Range Transportation Plan, with particular attention to bicycle & pedestrian & public transit planning.
  2. Make sure every public street has a sidewalk on both sides. Do quick corridor plans for the commercial streets where damaged occurred, look for simple changes to rebuild the buildings
  3. Require a private sidewalk from the front door of each business to each public sidewalk, this will help create a connected sidewalk network just as roads connect places for cars. Roads provide door to door connectivity, so should the sidewalk network.
  4. Eliminate minimum parking requirements for businesses. This will allow businesses to spend less money on parking lots and to possibly locate their buildings closer to the public sidewalk.
  5. Build to the sidewalk.  Many destroyed buildings were built up to the sidewalk and should be rebuilt that way. Neighboring buildings that had been allowed to push back from the sidewalk should be rebuilt up to the sidewalk.

My heart goes out to everyone in Joplin.

– Steve Patterson