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Poll: How Should We Address Auto Congestion In Forest Park

Last week Loop businessman & Loop Trolley backer, Joe Edwards, said he thinks we’ll eventually see cars banned in Forest Park. He’d like to see an electric powered trolley (aka vintage streetcar) on tracks circulating within the park. I know weekend traffic in the park can be so bad the #95 (Hampton) MetroBus reroutes to avoid going through the park. Cars are banned/limited at times — like the annual Ballon Glow.

Parking along park roads or in surface parking lots can be difficult at times
Parking along park roads or in surface parking lots can be difficult at times

Traffic can be obnoxious in Forest Park, ruining the pleasure of being outdoors to some. I recall flying back to St. Louis one night a few years ago and lighting in the parking lots stood out like a sore thumb in an otherwise dark park.

Currently the Forest Park Trolley does a decent job for those of us who enter the park without a car.

The green Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station
The bright Forest Park Trolley loops around in the park and stops just north of the park at the Forest Park MetroLink station. Yes, it is a new low-floor MetroBus with a cartoonish wrap.

Still, the vast majority drive into the park rather than use public transportation. This has prompted the St. Louis Zoo to buy the former hospital site across I-64/Highway 40 for additional parking with plans for a gondola to transport patrons back and forth. By eliminating some, or all, of the surface parking between the zoo and the highway the zoo can expand to the south with more exhibits.

So what are some of the options for dealing with congestion?

  • Bans cars at peak times or all the time
  • Construction of a electric trolley on a track, as Edwards suggested
  • Construction of an electric bus system with overhead wires like the trolley but no track
  • Run the existing trolley bus more frequently

Some will object to overhead wires and/or tracks, but others object to all the cars.

So this is the poll topic this week, the exact question is: How should we address auto congestion in Forest Park? I’m allowing you to pick up to 3 choices from the list. The poll is in the right sidebar.

Please take a moment to vote in the poll then share your thoughts in the comments below.
— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. Bryon says:

    Parking garages. Period. Lots take up too much space, parking along the streets is just stupid and the other options are simply annoying. Who wants a monster Six Flags with trolleys and trains you have to wait on? That’s simply bizarre and eccentric. Garage buildings could be built in a way that includes areas for shops (ice cream, hot dogs, you know… park stuff), family gatherings etc. They could also be a chance for area designers to show off some eco friendly designs that incorporate gardens and possibly not even look like buildings at all. Think outside of the f’n box before the world blows up and we no longer can. C’mon, we’re alive here, let’s act like it.

    • Parking garages wouldn’t solve the problem of getting cars in & out of the park. Traffic backs up over I-64 on Hampton due to the high number of cars.

      • Bryon says:

        The reason for the backups is people slowly crawling by cars parked along the roads for miles. Take away the cars parked along the roads and you’ve taken away the backups.

        By the way Steve, someone reported this site as having malware. Just got a warning using firefox. Not gonna waste time guessing who might have done such a thing. But, I think there’s a process for getting removed from the list. Meanwhile you might want to look for any *new* files/folders on the server just to be sure.

    • JZ71 says:

      Denver’s City Park has two garages, one at the museum and one at the zoo: http://goo.gl/maps/CyXgz . . . both look like surface parking lots, with additional levels below grade – not cheap, but less obtrusive than an above-ground structure.

      With Forest Park, I see three options – one, do nothing, let congestion find its own saturation point. Two, limit the number of vehicles to a set number – once that number has been met, let vehicle line up outside the park and wait for visitors to leave. Three, limit parking in the park to visitors with disabilities / handicapped plates or placards, and let the able-bodied hike, bike or bus in.

      Bigger picture,we need to accept that Forest Park isn’t so much a park as a destination for many venues – zoo, art museum, history museum, MUNY, golf course, tennis center, athletic fields – and visitors to those venues want to be able to park with walking distance. One reason there seems to be so much congestion is that there are no direct routes to most parking (except the zoo), so many people need to wend their way through the park to get to a specific parking area. If that could be improved, and the internal loop roads reserved for non-motorists, life might be better than it is now . . . .

      • wump says:

        Who gives a rat’s ass about denver dude? Get over it.

        • JZ71 says:

          So the only good ideas are invented here?! Denver certainly does NOT have all the answers, but they do have some worth looking at. Bryon proposed a solution, I presented an example of something that’s already built, never said that it couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t work here, so why not look at what other cities have done? Get over it.

          • wump says:

            Everything you post is about souless, horrible denver. You don’t look at other cities, you just deep throat denver daily. Denver is not even a city, its a giant suburb.

          • DBL314 says:

            Wump, what exactly is the reason that you have to turn this discussion into an uncivil place through your comment s and insults. You may not agree with what others have to say but your responses do not help further the dialogue.

            For the record, Denver is a great city, one that is doing remarkable things to further it’s urban environment. Sure it has its sprawl…are you familiar with the very metro region that this blog focuses on? I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of garages, but its an idea…and I don’t see a single concept that you have proposed to alleviate the issue.

            Next, you rail on Andy about how “easy” it apparently is to nether the park as a pedestrian or cyclist…a notorious issue that has in almost no way been in improved, even after the complete 40 rebuild. Personally I think that making it easier to access the park without a car is incredibly important to reducing the vehicle traffic within it.

          • Eric says:

            JZ happens to come from Denver and knows what’s been done there for better or worse. What’s wrong with bringing up the examples you know about?

      • Al Fickensher says:

        I voted to ban all cars at all times and to incorporate a tracked streetcar system.

        That said, I line up with JZ in seeing that the museums and Muny must be accommodated with localized-to-each-venue parking and direct access that does not otherwise impinge on the park in general. The zoo parking creates a whole other huge problem but its traffic still must be also separated from the park in general.

      • Bryon says:

        I lived in Denver for 2 years. I was on the south side but spent a lot of time down town. I completely disagree with what wump said about it not being a city and just a sprawling suburb. It’s definitely a city and does have a unified feel to it. St. Louis on the other hand feels like a different city every 10 blocks in most places… like (oh my, guess what) a suburb does.

        Not everything about Denver is at or near perfect but much of it is. That is because it was not hemmed in like St Louis was 100 years ago with industrial sections, tightly refined residential neighborhoods speckled among commercial ‘strips’ nor did it ever have to deal with bridges, large rivers or shape shifting interstates. So, to me, anyone knocking Denver has no clue what they are talking about. Between NY and LA there’s really only 2 cities that are on their game… Chicago and Denver. A close 3rd is of course Minneapolis but they’ve got a lot of money to throw around.

        St Louis needs to look at Denver and anywhere else that does have the freedom and options to evolve because St Louis doesn’t have an option, it’s going to happen, like it or not, here it comes. Let’s be prepared and not make a further mess out of what’s already a plate of spaghetti map of bs come to life.

  2. Andy Crossett says:

    A big problem is that the park is virtually inaccessible from the south and west if you don’t drive a car.

    I was there on “Earth Day” and it was appalling the number of vehicles there.

    There should be dedicated paths leading to Forest Park from where people live, so lots of people can leave their cars at home. Right now it is very difficult to ride a bike to Forest Park from points south, west and north. This should be addressed, and Forest Park could be a meeting point where people from all parts of city can get together without cars.

    For example, the River Des Peres Greenway should be extended from Shrewsbury all way to Forest Park. This would enable a key artery from South City and South County direct to the park, without excessive traffic impediments to riders. Extending this existing trail could take alternate paths, either go to Maplewood then near St. Mary’s Hospital then to the Park, or could take a route through Dogtown, cross I-64 and go straight into the park.

    Other new trails should be built connecting the park to points west, including Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Maryland Heights, etc. As part of this effort, there should be focus on using trails as means of getting to and from work.
    So trails should take riders from where they live to major business centers where they work or shop. Connecting Forest Park should easily be part of this plan.

    There is a valid point that the park has many attractions, including zoo, museums, muny, etc that draw visitors from a wide area. So these people do need somewhere to park. Perhaps garages can solve this part of problem. But these garages need to be on perimeter of the park, not causing traffic jams within the park itself.

    Improving parking for certain park attractions, plus making it much easier to use bicycles, pedestrians and scooters to work, shop and visit the park would be part of a sweeping solution.

    • wump says:

      what are you talking about? Just walk into the park, it can be dome from any direction. I haven’t driven a car into forest park in a decade, I don’t think its virtually impossible to access the park without one. You obviously don’t practice what you (badly) preach.

  3. mark says:

    1) Underground parking-garages. Period. It will cost money. Yes, lots of money. But it will be a tremendous investment for the future sustainability of the park and for the City of St. Louis. Place these underground parking-garages in prime locations so that traffic on Hampton Ave. will not back up.

    2) Ban all cars. Allow only pedestrians, bikes, two-wheeled motor vehicles, golf-carts, and mobility scooters.

    3) Incorporate a tracked streetcar system which does not use overhead wires.

    There is the solution.

    • Other Mark says:

      These sound like solutions in search of a problem. Honestly, I use Forest Park quite frequently and I don’t think traffic getting into the park or circulating within the park is that bad – if you plan to go to the zoo, Muny or another popular event, then you should expect traffic. Given the popularity of the zoo and Muny, I think the park layout does a pretty decent job of limiting traffic problems caused by these popular venues. The park is very big and zoo/Muny traffic does not generally prevent me from taking my kids to the playground, having a picnic, playing racquetball or using the running/bike trails (some days it seems that, in areas of park that are not near the zoo, overcrowding on the trails is more a problem than overcrowding on the streets)

  4. moe says:

    It seems the majority of the users that cause the problem are those coming from the surrounding counties. This is clearly demonstrated by the back up of traffic on Highway 64 and Hampton (and for events such as balloon glow, even 44). City folk know how to use the 8 entrances to the park. Banning cars is a fantasy. How Ironic that one poster commented about all the cars on Earth Day of all days.

    The Zoo garage will alleviate some traffic, but not all…pity the folks living in Dogtown, but it will eliminate some. The new Art Museum parking lot will also eliminate 300 street spots (only to be filled by 300 more cars). But I think another underground garage is the answer….the question will be how to convince people that they are safe and then getting them to walk.
    And then the fees….how much is too much to park? The Zoo lot was $15.00 the other day, the Art Museum will be $15 ($5 for members)…..some say that is too much, so they park on the streets. Others are willing to pay that….then have to deal with the congestion upon leaving.

    The problem with trollies and such is that events in the park are rarely 9 to 5. Sometimes they start as early as 6 and go as late as midnight. No trolley is that flexible.

    Can cars be limited at times? Sure. With major events, the police and organizers tell people not to try to get into the park, yet….But will people listen? Nope. It’s always the rush to be the first in or the first out. We sadly laugh every time we go to the MUNY and notice people leaving before the last song (how rude!!!) and then the big mad rush to get to the parking lot to wait in line to exit. Hardly any wait for just a few minutes to let the traffic ease.

    You have to admit though, for all it’s faults (which aren’t many)….Forest Park is the Jewel of the metro area.

    • tpekren says:

      Good comments Moe, I also think their is another opportunity beyond the Art Museum and Zoo. That is the Science center and its immediate surroundings are woefully underdeveloped in my opinion. A parking garge with green roof connected to the science center and a land bridge to the park itself among the ideas to be explored.

  5. Mark says:

    Before we get too deep in the conversation about UNDERGROUND parking garages, let’s consider the cost. Then let’s decide is Mr. Joe Average is willing to pay the hourly parking rates. Let’s consider a parking garage 200′ x 140′, with integral ramps. This is an efficient layout–best bang for the bucks! Let’s consider 5 floors of parking: 4 underground, 1 at grade.

    Total SF: 140,000

    An above ground post tensioned garage typically costs around $150 to $175 per SF, depending on soils conditions, etc. Now let’s add $5.00 SF for detectors and carbon monoxide exhaust since our garage is underground. Now let’s add $4.00 SF for a dry fire protection system since our garage is underground. Now let’s add about $9.00 SF for full-formed exterior poured in place concrete walls, reinforced. Now let’s waterproof those exterior walls @ $3.50 SF. To build this 140,000 SF facility, let’s get a big money bag from the bank and fill it with around $24 M on the low end, 27+M on the high end.

    Averaging one car per 350 SF of garage, (180 SF for the parking space, plus common area items: integral circulation ramps, pedestrian stairwells, small manager office, etc) this garage will likely accommodate approximately 400 cars. Let’s charge $10.00 an hour to park. Average stay: 4 hours–or $40.00 a car. Let’s assume a 12-hr parking day per space (which is really HIGH, 10-hr parking day is more reasonable).= 400 spaces x $120.00 on a given Saturday. That’s $48,000.00 revenue collection on a Saturday, and let’s assume $48,000.00 on a Sunday. If it rains, that would likely drop to $4,800. In the winter months, you can assume a dramatic drop in visitors and a dramatic revenue drop. But the debt service is on-going! Assuming $96,000.00 per weekend in warm weather x 33 weekends per year, you’ve collected $3,200,000.00 on weekends….and maybe a third that amount during the week……for a total of $4,300,000.00 a year (which will never happen because in cold weather, the zoo is a ghost town on weekends and on weekdays) . Now start listing your expenses: debt service repayment is a biggie, then add security, electrical lighting costs,on-duty manager, maintenance costs (parking revenue control equipment is NOT known to be trouble free), daily cleanup, etc……This estimate doesn’t consider the cost of 3 elevators: $30,000 per floor x 4 floors x 3 elevators…..and we just added another $360,000.00 to this garage!

    Underground parking is NOT cheap. St. Louisans are not accustomed to paying $10.00 an hour to park. They bitch when $5.00 per hour is charged. Unless some angel drops from the heavens and plunks down a 5 level underground garage, I doubt that you’ll be seeing one very soon on the zoo property.

    • Hayley Devereux says:

      Yup, it’s not cheap but I still think St. Louis should invest in underground garages. It saves the built environment. I also think it should be invisible from the top. There should be no surface parking, simply a ramp that goes underground. We need to become like Europe. Make cars expensive to drive, tax tax tax car drivers and provide incentives for people to use mass transportation. We are ruining the planet.

      • Mark says:

        This obviously isn’t Europe.

        • tpekren says:

          Exactly, the vast majority of visitors to the parks main attractions are going to come by car. You couldn’t build enough transit to get around that reality

      • JZ71 says:

        The Millennium Parking Garages in downtown Chicago are underground and include public park facilities on top: http://www.millenniumgarages.com/ . . Since they charge up to $30 a day, more for special events, and are near many major destinations, they make money. Would visitors to the zoo or the Muny pay that much, here?

      • Mark says:

        Your verbal design sounds beautiful and environmentally friendly as hell! But you’ve just added another $5+ Million to the project (10′ deeper excavation and thousands of additional yards of soil haul-off, larger footings, 70,000 additional SF of additional formed exterior wall @ 9.00 SF (more if the wall design is one-sided), more waterproofing, plus an upgraded waterproofing system on the lid, expanded exhaust system, more lighting– plus the cost of whatever landscaping your landscape architect dreams up! …..and don’t forget that you’ve also added thousands per year to the maintenance, repair and replacement budget as well. AND YOU HAVEN’T INCREASED THE NUMBER OF CARS THAT YOUR GARAGE WILL ACCEPT! That $10.00 per hour parking fee just jumped to $13.50+! And, with all due respect, your knee-jerk reaction to “tax, tax, tax” won’t fly in the USA. Let’s don’t try to fool ourselves. Americans just won’t tolerate it. THE CAR is part of the fabric of our culture. To minimize or attempt to restrict its use is counter-cultural.

      • Mike says:

        Move to Europe….problem solved.

    • moe says:

      Perhaps this is one of those projects where the negatives (costs) are outweighed by the positives (less crowding, easy of access, more access for all, etc.).

  6. Ian Scott says:

    Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has done two things: ban cars on Sundays in certain parts of the park, and add an underground parking garage under the science and art museums. On busy days it’s still very hard to find parking, though.

    • tpekren says:

      Few times I have parked outside the park for $15 or 20 bucks or so in the little side lots that can be found in the city next to Golden Gate Park. Certainly just as cheap or even cheaper then the Golden Gate’s science and museum parking and less hassle in some respects. Not to mention your comment, parking can by very hard to find within the park itself on weekends.

      Which gets back to the subject, St. Louis is not like San Fran let alone Europe. Cars are coming and parking is typically free for the most part. However, I think their is enough demand to build structured parking in and around the park as well as room to ban some parking on some of the selected FP streets to give a little breathing room .

  7. tpekren says:

    Not a big fan of trying to build a fixed circular transit system within the park and the thought of stringing wires for buses would only add clutter and be awful for the park in general. What I would support and can’t figure out, is why Joe Edwards doesn’t push for the loop trolley to be extended through the park itself in North/South fashion with a visitors center stop on the north side (instead of History Museum) and zoo stop on south side of park as it makes it way into Dogtown. Heck, I would get the extended loop trolley back onto Hampton and have it end a the mini cluster of hotels at I-44/Hampton Ave. Not only does it tie Dogtown into fixed transit but you provide a direct transit connection via transfer to the Zoo itself as well as giving Forest Park Community College connection to the loop.


    Also, does anyone else think that the Science Center and immediate surroundings woefully underdeveloped? You got the bridgeway across I64/40 but seems as it does nothing to convince people that this is alternative way to access and enjoy the park itself.

  8. JZ71 says:

    The bigger picture should be what is a park? What is Forest “Park”? Is it a regional destination? A theme park? A neighborhood park? A “natural” area in the heart of the city? And much like trying to define or to completely agree on “good” architecture or urban design solutions, we’ll never get complete agreement on what any park should “be” and include or exclude. A hundred years ago, taking a leisurely drive in a park was a positive activity. Today, cruising through a park looking for a parking space doesn’t hold the same attraction nor is it viewed nearly as positively.

    The big challenge in Forest Park is that it’s being “loved to death”. Decisions made more than a century ago, to locate multiple institutions and attractions in the same place, didn’t anticipate the demands for parking that we see today. There is no practical or functional reason (other than “free” land) for locating museums in the park – they could operate just as well downtown, in the CWE or on a college campus (as similar institutions do in other cities). Still, the odds of any of them relocating are pretty slim, so we have to manage their impacts. It all boils down to what each of us, individually, use and/or view as “valuable”. Do we allow each institution to expand as they see fit? Should we expect them to provide their own parking facilities? In the park or outside? Should there be a master plan for the park and its institutions? A master parking plan, including a management plan to share resources? And how do we accommodate “special” events and “new” uses, like a skate park or disc golf? Until we get more consensus on these issues, voting on which transportation solution is “best” is probably premature.

  9. nten says:

    What about making the Forest Park Trolley run more frequently and “free” at peak times (summer weekends and events). Not sure how much this would cost, but probably cheaper than building a garage or fixed trolley throughout the park.

  10. Mark says:

    I would like to see cars banned from the park entirely as traffic
    congestion has gotten out of hand. Build a couple of pay lots outside the park,
    free for city and St. Louis county residents, everyone else charge $15 per day
    to park. Expand the park trolley system and make it free to move people through
    the park. This would hopefully, reduce park congestion while encouraging people
    to use public transportation, or walk.

    • moe says:

      Steve…I have to let the coffee set in since you’ve changed the layout. I kind of like it but I can’t see where you can like/dislike individual comments and your pictures don’t open. I’m going to have to check my computer settings, hence the coffee.

      Mark…Why should parking be free for County Residents? If it’s built outside the park (and most likely inside the park as well)…it will be financed by the City, not the Museum Tax District. So I would suggest a 3 tier rate: City free, County a mid rate, and for all others that choose not to fund the ZMD can be charged the highest. But then, I’m also for the same system being installed at the museums for admissions too. It’s time for those that come in for the free stuff to pay their fair share.

      • tpekren says:


        As a county property owner I pay into the City-Musem tax district that puts up a good chunk of the funding for the four biggest attractions tied to Forest Park – Zoo, Art, History and Science Museum. The property tax contribution from the county is significantly higher then the cities. Not to mention that the city sold off its obligation to the Forest Park Forever, a non-profit supported by the region as a whole, for a bond sale that is going in part to pay for a lot of other city park improvements. The idea of tiered parking rate because you think that city is footing Forest Park for everybody else is simply false.

        • moe says:

          I would have to see figures that the County finances more of the park than the City. And yes, I’ll give you that the county helps pay for the Zoo, Art, History and Science centers, they don’t help pay for the Balloon Race/Glow, the Muny, the Beer Fest, the Bark in the Park….many, many events not tied to the institutions. And we can’t argue the fact that most of the traffic is coming off the highways….i.e. non-city people. But I might concede free parking for Countians, but not for everyone else that expect everything for free, then complains of traffic, trash, and crime, though I hate to lump tourist with those in Jefferson and St. Charles and the like areas. The biggies are free and that’s a major, major tourist attraction.

          We’ll see how this plays out on a smaller scale now that the City is going to start charging meters on Saturdays. People think making driving more expensive will decrease cars, so will see if quarters, the time to go to and from the meter, and $10.00 fine will do it. But as the Post said today….it’s still cheaper than Chicago and New York City.

  11. RyleyinSTL says:

    The problem with Forest Park is that it was designed from day one to accommodate traffic. In the early days it’s only visitors were rich “west enders” in carriages. While I would LOVE to see the automobile banished from the park it will simply never happen so we need to give up on that idea. Some attractions like the Art Museum are in the middle and have recently doubled down on the vehicle with a new underground carpark. The city has played its cards.

    Multi-level carparks, in parks very similar to FP, do work. JZ71 mentioned City Park in Denver as an example. Another is Piedmont Park in ATL. Piedmont has no parking other than what is available in it’s carpark. Yet both these parks manage to host races and other events. The other thing a carpark does is increase the green space in the park. This is exactly what happened in ATL.

    The biggest obstacle in my opinion, when looking to reduce in park parking, is retraining the average fat-o American to walk. It takes no more than 20 minutes to walk a mile…how long do you spend waiting in traffic or looking for parking?

    If we want nice things then we can’t build parking next to everything.

  12. guest says:

    Some basic comments.

    Number one: build the South County Connector. That makes access to Forest Park, Clayton and Wash U much easier from South County/Jeff Co. Let’s do this!

    Number two: More surface parking. The redo of Forest Park actually reduced parking. Let’s open up more areas for surface parking, especially around the Boat House and the History Museum. More surface parking makes Forest Park more auto-centric.

    Number three: Let’s turn over all parking and access designs for Forest Park to the County Highway Department, First off, obviously the County Highway Department already believes it knows what’s best for city parks (see South County Connector), second, the County Highway Department is all about cars and trucks, so they, more that anyone else in the region apparently, know how to manage traffic. So let’s let them handle this.

  13. Chris Naffziger says:

    Speaking as a former employee of one of the cultural institutions in Forest Park, it will be very hard work to change the habits of people visiting Forest Park. Something like over 60% of all visitors enter through Hampton, thus resulting in the horrible back-ups. Watching visitors for five summers, most people are obsessed with getting the closest spot possible to the Zoo, and will sit and back up traffic for a long time for the chance to park in the lots. The circulator route that the Park uses during high volume days works fairly well.

  14. J Rooney says:

    The big bottlenecks in the park are the entrances to zoo parking. The traffic is backed up forever. Simple solution is have the cars enter parking lots free and directed to parking slots by attendants. They then pay when they are finished with the zoo and exit the lot. The cars will continue to smoothly enter the lots without having to stop for minutes at a time to pay.


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