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Reaching My Polling Place

My polling place is just under a mile west of my loft, just west of Jefferson at the Heritage House senior housing building located at 2800 Olive.  In the past few elections I have driven my car but I decided to use transit for yesterday’s election.  The bus ride was direct and short.

ABOVE: Looking west across Leffingwell Ave on the north side of Olive St

Exiting the bus at Leffingwell Ave & Olive St. I noticed the first problem, I couldn’t cross Leffingwell due to no curb ramp on the other side of the street. I needed to cross Olive St. anyway so I did that first.

ABOVE: Looking west across Leffingwell Ave on the south side of Olive St, the eastbound bus shelter is visible on the sidewalk

Unfortunately, the same problem existed when trying to cross Leffingwell on this side of Olive.  Since I needed  to cross the street to vote I had to look for alternate places to cross.

img_1126Halfway down the block I found a place to cross, on the east side of Leffingwell was a drive from an alley and the other side was a driveway for my destination.  My first preference to cross a street is a signalized intersection.  Second is a 4-way stop and the least desirable is mid-block. I was well aware that

I have reported this lack of curb ramps to St. Louis’ Citizens Service Bureau via Twitter (@csbSTL).

– Steve Patterson


Walkability Around The Maplewood MetroLink Station

ABOVE:worn path where a sidewalk should be, west of the Maplewood MetroLink station on Manchester Rd.

The “Cross County” MetroLink extension opened in August 2006.  In that time many would expect new development and increased walkability around the new stations but we had no plan beyond the line.  I’d plan for and require dense development and walkability over time.  But  not in our region, here we can spend hundreds of millions on transit infrastructure but not change the land planning to justify the infrastructure capital investment.

ABOVE: Aerial view of the Maplewood MetroLink station along Manchester Rd, just east of Hanley. Image: Google Maps

To make the transit investment worthwhile there must be nearby destinations (housing, office, retail, etc) and the ability to walk to/from transit and these nearby destinations. In cities where transit is planned and zoning is changed in anticipation of a transit line you get new dense & walkable development occurring before the line even opens for riders.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Think St. Clair County Transit Needs Bike Racks On Buses

ABOVE: Metro bus without bike rack at the Belleville IL MetroLink station
ABOVE: Metro bus without bike rack at the Belleville IL MetroLink station

Response to this poll was low but the results are clear, those who voted think St. Clair County Transit needs to add bike racks to their buses.

Q: St. Clair County (IL) Transit District doesn’t have bike racks on their buses, they 1) damage buses 2) damage wash brushes 3) take extra labor. Your thoughts?

  1. Madison County Transit finds a way, so should St. Clair County Transit. 36 [37.5%]
  2. So what if it takes more labor to wash the buses, they need to find a way to pay for it and get racks on their buses 29 [30.21%]
  3. No bus in the region should have bike racks 15 [15.63%]
  4. Other answer… 7 [7.29%]
  5. Unsure/no opinion 6 [6.25%]
  6. If it takes more labor saving money is more important than providing bike racks 3 [3.13%]

I thought #6 above would be the primary against answer so the 15 votes that “No bus in the region should have bike racks” was shocking.

The seven other answers were:

  1. SCCT should get over themselves and get with the program!
  2. Its up to the residents of st. clair county to want bike racks
  3. Why do the buses need to be washed, and how much money was spent on that?
  4. modify the bus wash to work with racks, like other transit systems do!
  5. Lame excuses
  6. there needs to be a balance between cost/benefit to the region of the bike racks
  7. If MCT, Metro and tons of other transit authorities can, St. Clair should too.

I’m going to stay on this issue until the day you can bike-n-ride in St. Clair County.

– Steve Patterson


What Took Me So Long To Become A Regular Transit Rider?

October 4, 2010 Public Transit 9 Comments

metropassI’ve always supported public mass transit, at least in theory. Sure, I’d ridden both rail & rubber tire transit from time to time in St. Louis during the last 20 years.  Getting to & from the airport was probably the most frequent reason for using transit, but even though I lived a block from the #70 Grand  bus line I’d get a friend to drop me off or pick me up from the MetroLink station on Grand.

I do recall one trip in 2007 where I walked to the bus stop, then a few blocks, to catch the bus to MetroLink so I could reach the airport. I may have done it twice but I know it wasn’t three times. From my last home in South St. Louis I’d bike over to catch the #40 Broadway bus to go downtown.  Again, this was only a handful of times.

After my stroke, in February 2008, I used the MetroLink light rail to get out of downtown a few times, especially before I started driving in July 2008 — dropping transit at that point. But two years later, in June 2010, I decided to see how difficult it would be to become a regular transit rider so I purchased a monthly pass for July 2010.

One thing I knew I’d have to let go of way my idea that I wouldn’t like the wheelchair lift on the buses because many destinations were only reachable by bus. Others were reachable by bus or light rail, but the bus was closer on both ends.

Short clip of lift in operation:


So what did I find out over the last three months?

  • Having a smart phone (iPhone 3GS in my case) with Google Maps was very helpful for determining routes and times.  Additionally, I can access PDF files of route maps I’ve saved on Dropbox.
  • Not having to pay each time I boarded made me more open to taking transit throughout the month.
  • The quality of bus and train operators varies widely, none were bad but some are better than others.
  • Using transit takes longer than driving my car but the convenience is worth the extra time.
  • The restoration of lines that came recently make a huge difference.
  • The level of ridership has been good on the many lines I’ve ridden, at different times of day & night.
  • Riders
  • The quality of the bus service is much higher than I had expected.
  • Initially it would have been cheaper to buy individual tickets rather than the monthly pass.  As my ridership has increased I’m probably at a break even point.

I feel like a regular now that I ride the bus and/or train 3-4 times per week.  I plan to keep buying a monthly pass so I don’t have to drive my car much.

For the last five months I drove my car just 1,000 miles locally (excludes road trips out of town), that extrapolates to 2,400 miles per year.  Not bad, I think.  I’d love to not have the expense of a car but due to the modifications I need I can’t just rent one as needed.

I’m fortunate that I have two bus lines each just a block away (#97 & #10) and three MetroLink stations nearby (Union Station, 8th & Pine, Convention Center).  My address got a “good transit” rating of 69/100 but is a “walker’s paradise” with a score of 94/100 on Walkscore.com.

I realize that had I been riding transit for the last 20 years I probably wouldn’t have gained so much weight, my blood pressure wouldn’t have been off the charts and I wouldn’t have had a stroke.  It took 20 years but I’m finally a regular transit rider.

– Steve Patterson


Poll On The Decision To Not Have Bike-N-Ride In St. Clair County IL

ABOVE: Metro bus without a bike rack at 5th & Missouri in East St. Louis, IL
ABOVE: St. Clair County Metro bus without a bike rack at 5th & Missouri in East St. Louis, IL

Monday I posted about how the Chair of the St. Clair County Transit board, Delores Lysakowski, doesn’t allow bike racks on the buses serving 15 municipalities in that county.  On Thursday the St. Louis Beacon looked into the story with more, although somewhat conflicting, reasons why an entire county in our region doesn’t have bike bike racks on the front of their buses:

Delores Lysakowski, chairwoman of the St. Clair County Transit District, says the racks damage the buses when they go through the bus wash.

“When they go through the wash rack, they tear the heck out of the bus,” she said.

But Bill Grogan, managing director of St. Clair County Transit District, has a slightly different tack. He says the racks damage the bus wash brushes. “The washers don’t damage the racks, but the racks can damage the washers,” he said. “They get stuck in those spinning brushes.” (full story: Want to bike and ride on Metro buses in St. Clair County? Forget it)

So which is it? Do the racks damage the buses or the brushes? Both? Neither?

ABOVE: A Madison County Transit bus at 5th & Missouri in East St. Louis IL
ABOVE: A Madison County Transit bus with a bike rack, at 5th & Missouri in East St. Louis IL

Neighboring Madison County, like Metro in Missouri, sees the benefits:

Madison County Transit (MCT) has equipped all of its buses with bike racks to provide accessible connections between the MCT bikeway and bus systems. Now people throughout Madison County can simply BIKE AND BUS for transportation and recreation. In fact, MCT carries an average of 800 bikes each month, which equal more than 12,000 bike and bus participants and growing since 2003. (source)

In the full story, linked above, writer Kathie Sutin goes to Metro to ask them about their experience with washing buses with bike racks. In short it takes some extra labor to wash around the racks, but it is worth it.  Back in St. Clair County the attitude is they made the decision in the past not to have bike racks so it is not open for discussion.  This whole thing doesn’t sit well with me but I want to get a sense on your thoughts so the poll this week (right sidebar) is on this subject.

Thanks to the St. Louis Beacon and writer Kathie Sutin for digging into this issue!

– Steve Patterson