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A Month Without Transit

February 26, 2011 Public Transit 3 Comments

Last summer I decided to begin using transit for the bulk of my transportation needs.  I was doing well July 2010 through January 2011.

metropassBut then the snow & ice came in February.  It must have started in late January because I couldn’t get out to even buy a February pass.   Sure, I could have ordered it online but I decided I’d wait and see what happened.  We had that one nice week but I didn’t have a pass.  I could have bo0ught individual tickets but I find myself more willing to use transit when I can just swipe the pass rather than pull out money and not lose a transfer.

I went to the sales office at the SE corner of the convention center yesterday and bought a pass for March.  It feels better having the pass in my wallet, especially with rising gas prices. Now is the time to give transit a try, don’t wait until July when gas prices may exceed highs from July 2008.

– Steve Patterson


1964 St. Louis Streetcar Clip Is So Interesting

January 14, 2011 Public Transit 16 Comments

Streetcars rolling along track in the road and connected to overhead cables bring a smile to my face.  This short film from January 1964 keeps me grinning and watching over and over.


I hope you like it as much as I do, have a great weekend!

– Steve Patterson


Experiencing Bus Rapid Transit

December 20, 2010 Public Transit 53 Comments
ABOVE: Markers indicate direction of travel as well as time of arrival for the next bus

Long-time readers know I love streetcars — rail vehicles on fixed rail in the street.  I love other forms of rail transit: light rail and heavy rail.  Bus I’ve also come to appreciate the rubber tire bus that replaced streetcars in St. Louis.  When I visited Kansas City earlier this month I used their local public transit, which included a newish BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line.

Kansas City Area Transportation Authority implemented its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, called the Metro Area Express, or MAX, in July 2005. MAX was an instant success, with ridership in this corridor increasing more than 50%. While Kansas City’s MAX line was not the first BRT line in the United States, its immediate success and affordable execution have garnered recognition across the country. In fact, the Federal Transit Administration holds it up as a model BRT line.

MAX is a six-mile linear route linking the vibrant River Market, downtown, Union Station, Crown Center and Plaza. As the region’s most significant new public transportation project in decades, MAX provides quick, convenient public transportation that helps reduce traffic congestion and auto emissions.

MAX features distinct characteristics that incorporate state of the art technology to deliver customers a high level of reliability, speed and comfort. For instance, dedicated lanes help give MAX vehicles a rapid, smooth ride, and special traffic signalization holds a green light longer to keep MAX on schedule. Limited stops mean that MAX can keep moving to key destinations.

By design, a unique identity was created for MAX, including unique vehicles and easily identifiable “stations,” not “stops.” Each station features an 18-foot marker that is well lit at night, serving as a beacon from blocks away. The new, modern shelters were designed to provide protection from the elements with a roof that is 80% opaque, providing needed shade in the summer, yet allowing 20% of the light through to break the chill in the winter. One of the most popular features of the stations is the real-time arrival signs. Customers know exactly when the next MAX will arrive, taking the guesswork out of riding. (Source)

Do these changes make a difference in the perception of the bus? Based on my experience & observation, a big yes!img_1841

The Kansas City MAX line on Main St. gets transit-optional & tourist riders, something regular bus lines just don’t get.  Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer fixed rail but I was shocked at how much I liked the limited-stop BRT concept now that I’ve ridden one.

The following is a promotional video from the Kansas City Transportation Authority:


I rode conventional bus lines in Kanas City as well, easy to navigate with Google Maps on your phone.  But with limited stops, the map of the entire MAX line is clear & easy to understand.

maxmapEarlier this year Metro mentioned BRT when asking St. Louis County voters to approve a tax to help fund transit.  The question is, what corridors are ideal for BRT?

– Steve Patterson


Travel By Train Good For Urban Centers

ABOVE: Watching Toni Braxton on my iPad in coach

Recently I took a weekend trip to Kansas City.  I’d driven there many times and I’ve flown there once.  But have you been to the Kansas City airport? It is located more than 20 miles north of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride takes more than an hour!  For this trip I took Amtrak.

The train trip was longer than if I had driven my car (6 hours vs 4 hours 15 min), but the convenience was worth it.  First, I could read, stay current on email, watch music videos, take pictures and arrive at my destination refreshed.  Apparently, I’m not alone:

In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Amtrak served more than 28.7 million riders, an increase of 5.7% from 2009, according to a company statement. Ticket revenue grew 9%, to $1.7 billion. Ridership on the Acela, Amtrak’s higher-speed train, was up 6.6%. Manieri says the ability to stay connected by phone and Internet while traveling is just one reason she prefers the train over flying or driving.

“You can make phone calls, and you don’t have to turn your laptop on and off,” says Manieri, adding she also avoids the airport’s long security lines and the highway’s congestion.

Amtrak has benefited from the “remarkable lifestyle shift” caused by smartphones, laptops and iPads that let travelers work and communicate almost everywhere, says Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “It’s kind of a have-iPhone-will-travel kind of thing.”

Young adults especially view trains and intercity buses as extensions of the public transportation system, he says. They can hop on without ever disconnecting from the rest of the world, he says. (Amtrak chugs along nicely to record ridership)

My last train trip was to Chicago, nearly a decade earlier.  That trip was a disaster, arriving about 6-7 hours late. But this trip was punctual to the minute.  By taking my train I was able to have my power wheelchair with me, saving the hassle of parking and of my limited walking distance.

ABOVE: Manual lifts are placed where needed to get wheelchairs into a train car

ABOVE: The coach car to Kansas City was clean & comfortable
ABOVE: The coach car to Kansas City was clean & comfortable

ABOVE: One outlet per seat for coach & business class
ABOVE: One outlet per seat for coach & business class

ABOVE: Business class on the return trip had much more room, leather seats and softer lighting
ABOVE: Business class on the return trip had much more room, leather seats and softer lighting

Future trips will be by planes, trains & automobiles. Once Amtrak service in Missouri & Illinois gets wi-fi like trains on the east coast I think we will see more and more opting for train travel.  More people traveling from urban center to urban center will only help those  cities, without hurting the suburban edge.  Next week I will look at Kansas City’s BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line.

– Steve Patterson


Downtown Trolley Popular With Visitors

November 12, 2010 Downtown, Public Transit 2 Comments

The #99 Downtown Trolley is proving popular with visitors to St. Louis.

ABOVE: Young visitors from NE Illinois in St. Louis for the Family Career & Community Leaders conference pose for a group picture on the Downtown Trolley

I have no numbers, only my frequent observations of the ridership.  Locals are riding as well.

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

The wrap on the bus, the well marked route and the $2 all day fee seem to be doing the trick to get visitors to explore more of downtown.  The region benefits as well as others also take MetroLink to other parts of our area.

– Steve Patterson