Home » Public Transit » Recent Articles:

We need street cars, not planted medians

All over the City of St. Louis you can see newly constructed medians along our wider boulevards – Delmar West of Union, Russell near Jefferson, and most recently along S. Grand from I-44 to Arsenal. Unfortunately, these aesthetic improvements serve as a barrier to what we really need – street cars.

MetroLink is great but it currently only covers a small fraction of the region. Soon it will extend out to Clayton, Brentwood & Maplewood. But, much of the city & region is served only by bus service. Even when the south & north MetroLink routes are constructed much of St. Louis will not be within walking distance of a station.

Light rail is far more costly to construct than streetcars. In cities such as San Francisco – both fill an important need. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) rail system in SF is only about a 5 minute drive from my brother & sister in-law’s house which is nearly an hour drive from San Francisco. Taking BART into SF I am able to get around quite easily on their system of streetcars and cable cars.

While I have ridden the bus here and in other cities I don’t think it is the best way to get around town. Not sure what it is but buses just seem like second class transportation. Street cars, on the other hand, are very enjoyable. Waiting for a bus is different than a street car – I can’t quite put my finger on why this is. Figuring out bus lines, especially for a visitor, is maddening. Street car & light rail lines are easily seen on a map. I think it is mostly a mental state of mind I need to get over. Still, street cars have proven to be very popular in other cities – if it will get more people out of their cars when why not?

Currently I know of only one planned streetcar line for the St. Louis region – serving Forest Park and the Delmar Loop. Given that the Loop got its name from an old streetcar line making a loop in the area, it seems fitting to return streetcars to this area.

• Heritage Trolly – St. Louis; a good description of the proposed streetcar line.
• Trollys To Go was created to promote the new Delmar Trolly/streetcar.

Here are some other streetcar lines I’d like to see in St. Louis:
• Grand Blvd from the North Water Tower to Arsenal. This line would pass the MetroLink stop at the Grand Viaduct. Future MetroLink stops at Natural Bridge & Chouteau would make this line critical for getting mass transit to areas in North & South St. Louis that will never be served by our light rail.
• Jefferson from Natural Bridge to Broadway/Chippewa.
• Broadway from downtown to Lemay.
• Tucker/Gravois. Starting at Tucker & Cass heading South through downtown and following Gravois as far into St. Louis County as is feasible.
• Dr. Martin Luther King or Page. Start at Tucker & MLK and head West
• Union & Goodfellow.
• Chippewa from Jefferson/Broadway West to Watson Road/River Des Peres.

Such streetcar lines, combined with MetroLink and bus service would add needed diversity to our transportation system. I’d much rather invest in mass transit systems than pretty flower beds. Another blogger, Citywmn, posted her thoughts on Grand today – click here to read her take.

– Steve


St. Charles County is facing problems due to sprawl

November 4, 2004 Public Transit, Suburban Sprawl Comments Off on St. Charles County is facing problems due to sprawl

I love “old town” St. Charles and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. It is compact, urban, charming and it works. To county officials, developers and home builders it doesn’t work. Massive office parks, industrial parks, strip shopping centers, apartment complexes and single-family subdivisions are what works.

Today’s Post-Dispatch is reporting “St. Charles County faces shortage of development sites.” Reporter Eric Heisler begins the story, “Fast-growing St. Charles County faces a shortage in the types of sites it needs to continue luring new employers at a rapid pace, according to a report that will be presented today to county leaders.”

“You need to have sites available and the ability to put together a deal” in order to draw major projects, said Deane Foote, senior project manager for economic development and real estate services at Carter & Burgess Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas. “When it comes to big projects, the sites just aren’t there right now. … That creates the potential that some prospects will go elsewhere.” 

I have to laugh. St. Charles County grew so fast and so sprawling it failed to realize it would not be able to sustain such patterns forever. For a couple of decades St. Charles County has drawn residents from other parts of the region – mostly St. Louis County. Along with residents come the big-box stores like Wal-Mart and soon the office parks show up. Is calling it an office ‘park’ supposed to make you think you are spending your day at a park rather than work? Or the runoff area from all the parking lots with a few ducks will evoke that at the lake feeling?

Ok, back on subject. St. Charles County is now realizing it does not have an endless supply of virgin land. Duh! Instead of fighting Metrolinkexpansion into St. Charles County a decade ago they should have been developing mixed-use neighborhoods around transit stops. Wing Haven was a half-ass attempt at a mixed use development but it didn’t fully grasp the concepts of New Urbanism. The one exception in St. Charles County is the New Urbanist development known as New Town at St. Charles.

Other than being constructed in a flood plain, New Town at St. Charles, is the most progressive development built on virgin land in the St. Louis region in the last 100 years. New Town is also superior to brownfield developments such as King Louis Square as it represents a mix of housing types and uses. Flood plain aside, the next issue with New Town is that it is not connected to the rest of St. Charles nor is it along a possible transit corridor. Within New Town life will be great but to come and go they will be forced to use a car. The bigger picture would be to have more of this development connected by alternative means of transportation. Someone living in New Town should be able to visit a friend in St. Peters without having to get into their car.

St. Charles County has wasted a precious resource in their sprawling land policies. In short order they will come to understand the errors of their ways but by then it will be too late. The inevitability of rising fuel costs in the coming years will have a greater affect on St. Charles County than any other part of the St. Louis region (with the possible exception of Jefferson County).

Four dollars a gallon for gasoline will force regions to become more compact. The WPA-type projects in the future will be undoing the damage caused by decades of sprawl in the burbs and ill-conceived urban renewal projects in the core. Such projects will take decades to complete but in the meantime we will see the economic prosperity of St. Charles County shrink as fuel costs will make most of the county obsolete. Economic prosperity will be shifted to those areas surrounding MetroLink stops.

Sorry St. Charles County. You voted against MetroLink because you didn’t want undesirables stealing your TV sets. In the end, you will lose far more than a television.