Home » Public Transit » Recent Articles:

My Transit Presentation at the Southwest Garden Neighborhood Meeting

transit routes swgna

Last night I spoke at the Southwest Garden Neighborhood meeting on the subject of transit.  My presentation was billed on the agenda as “Everything you wanted to know about using public transit but were afraid to ask.”  Not sure I lived up to that but here is what I presented:

  • Transit is not just light rail, buses are the main component of the system
  • Folks who’ve never ridden transit seem willing to try rail, but not buses
  • Route and stops are easy to understand on rail, harder with buses
  • Buses will get you more places, and closer to your start & end locations
  • Bus fare is $2, a transfer is 75¢ extra
  • Passes can be purchased for 2 hours ($2.75) , one day ($7.50), weekly ($23.50) and monthly ($68.00)
  • Seniors and the disabled can get a discount.  A special ID must be obtained from Metro.
  • Passes are valid on buses in St. Clair & Madison Counties in Illinois.
  • Wait for any passengers exiting the front door before boarding, exit the rear door when possible.  Note the rear steps are steeper so some may find the front steps more comfortable.

The meeting was held at the senior center located at 5602 Arsenal, so I mentioned places that can be reached on the #30 “Soulard” bus along with the time to get there:

The SWGNA office is located at 4950 Southwest Avenue so I mentioned options via the #14 “Botanical Garden” and #95 “Kingshighway” buses.

To drive the route to the airport it would take 20 minutes, 25 in traffic and is 15.7 miles. If you drove to catch a flight you’d need to consider the time spent parking at a long term lot and catching a shuttle bus to the terminal. Factor in the cost of gas, wear on your car and parking costs then transit might be a good option. Note that a late return flight might get you back too late to catch the last train.  I once had to exit the last train at the CWE station and catch a taxi the rest of the way home.

And finally I listed some options from Hampton & Southwest via the #90 “Hampton” bus.

Of course everyone would need to map their specific origins and destinations.  I find Google Maps far easier to use than printed maps and timetables.  Metro’s website was recently updated to incorporate Google Maps.

For many getting to work via transit may not be a viable option, but we take so many other trips in our lives outside of getting top/from work.

Unfortunately due to the rain I had to drive my car rather than take the #30 bus.  Thanks to Southwest Garden’s executive director, Dana Grey, for inviting me to speak.

– Steve Patterson


One Year Since St. Louis County Voters Approved Proposition A

A year ago St. Louis County voters approved a small sales tax increase to fund transit, Proposition A. Wednesday I attended a panel discussion on why this measure  passed where previous attempts had failed.  Professors Todd Swanstrom & David Kimball introduced their new study:  From Checkbook Campaigns to Civic Coalitions: Lessons from the Passage of Prop A (PDF).  From the introduction:

On April 6, 2010 the voters of St. Louis County approved a tax increase for transit with a surprising 63 percent majority. The 1⁄2 cent sales tax now raises about $75 million a year to maintain the bus system and expand light rail. Seventeen months earlier a similar initiative had lost with 48 percent of the vote. With the economy in a recession in 2010, unemployment high, and the anti- tax Tea Party movement rising around the nation, the huge majority for Prop A was startling. In this paper we try to explain the success of Prop A and tease out the lessons for future tax initiative campaigns and civic coalitions.

Compared to the defeat of Prop M in 2008 two characteristics of the 2010 Prop A election make the victory especially surprising and help to frame our analysis: 1) Prop A succeeded in an off-year election when the composition of the electorate is less inclined to support tax increases and public transit; 2) Prop A, at least initially, did not enjoy unified business support – usually the kiss of death for transit tax initiatives.

The report details how the campaign differed from prior campaigns.  One difference was the campaign targeted some voters, as outlined by the dark line below.

ABOVE: the dark area had increased support of more than 18%, the grey 10-18%

Basically efforts were concentrated on West & North County and ignoring far SW and South parts of the County.  Voters who had voted in the prior 12 elections were targeted rather than all registered voters.  Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) funded an educational component that never mentioned Prop A.  The pro-transit slogan was: Some of us ride it. All of us need it. Here is the TV spot that ran in the months leading up to the vote:


Notice Metro isn’t mentioned at all, the focus is on transit.

At the panel an audience member asked about a more regional approach and including St. Charles County. All agreed that more of the region should be served by transit but it was noted those areas need to step up with a funding source. In Illinois both Madison & St. Clair Counties fund transit.    While the 2010 passage of Prop A was important, we still have more work to do.

– Steve Patterson


Grand MetroLink Station Getting Complete Makeover

ABOVE: Grand MetroLink platform, December 2010

As part of the replacement of the Grand bridge, Metro will be redesigning the Grand MetroLink station.  Below the bridge will be the new Grand MetroLink Station Transit Plaza:

The new transit plaza will be constructed underneath the new bridge where the current bridge piers are located. Because it will be under the bridge structure, the new plaza will be protected from weather. The new plaza will include:

  • Seating;
  • A vending area;
  • Landscaping and new lighting, including lit paving stones and lit artwork;
  • A new bus turnout area between the MetroLink Station and the new plaza;
  • New elevator and stair tower structures that connect the plaza below to the bridge bus stops above.

The elevator/stair towers will be removed from the MetroLink platform and relocated north so that they touch down in the new plaza, which will open up the MetroLink platform and provide better visibility for MetroLink operators as they approach the station. The new parking lot will accommodate approximately 60 cars.

I’m not totally convinced all the changes are a good thing — such as moving the elevators — but I will withhold judgment until complete.  The project is going forward regardless of my opinion so I might as well wait.

– Steve Patterson


The Next Eastbound Train Will Be Arriving In Thirty Seconds

ABOVE: A MetroLink train pulls into the Brentwood station on opening day, Aug 26, 2006

Riders of our light rail system, MetroLink, are used to hearing a number of platform announcements, including:

“Attention passengers, the next eastbound [or westbound] train will be arriving in thirty seconds.”

I’m sure the visually-impaired passengers find this announcement very helpful.  To the rest of us it is rather humorous.  At the Forest Park station the announcement usually doesn’t start until the train is already pulling into the station.

It would be nice to know if the next train is nine or five minutes away.  When heading westbound before Forest Park it would be nice to know if the next train is headed to the Airport or Shrewsbury. This shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish but it would be helpful information.

– Steve Patterson



Downtown Trolley Important To This Downtown Resident

The (#99) Downtown Trolley has become, for me, an important part of downtown. Yesterday I had to go to the Millennium Hotel on 4th Street for an Affordable Housing Conference.  Sure, it is a regular bus with a unique exterior wrap but the frequency & route are why I use it regularly.

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

As a downtown (west) resident I could have “walked” since I have a power chair. But Google Maps says the distance is 1.4 miles via a direct route. That distance in the chair is no big deal, it has plenty of power for the round trip.

Just like physically walking that distance, it becomes exhausting dealing with the number of intersections to cross.

The Downtown Trolley has a limited fixed route that covers much of downtown, but not all. I had to go a few blocks from my loft to catch the trolley and another few to reach my final destination. Still, I was able to do about a mile of my journey on the trolley.

Studies show people are generally willing to walk about a quarter of a mile but anything beyond that those willing to walk drops off dramatically.Returning home at the end of the day it was a nice evening and I had stop to make so I skipped the trolley entirely.

– Steve Patterson