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Hodiamont Streetcar Ended Service 55 Years Ago, Right-of-Way To Become Trail

May 21, 2021 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Hodiamont Streetcar Ended Service 55 Years Ago, Right-of-Way To Become Trail

Fifty-five years ago today the last streetcar ended service. That line was the Hodiamont. West of Vandeventer Ave. it ran on a private right-of-way, not mixed with vehicles on the street.

Looking East on the last eastern section of the Hodiamont Right-of-Way, 2012

For a time after the last streetcar Metro (then known as Bi-State Development Agency) ran a bus down the private strip.  The bus was a huge improvement over old fashioned streetcars — faster, quieter, flexible, etc.

Not sure when buses stopped using the Hodiamont right-of-way. Currently Great Rivers Greenway is working on making it a trail.

The Hodiamont Tracks were once the route of a streetcar line and in later years a bus route.  While the bus route is no longer active, the 3.5 mile corridor has the potential to become a greenway that would link the St. Vincent and the future Brickline Greenways. (GRG)

In the ideal world a new streetcar/light rail line would occupy this corridor as it snakes through neighborhoods.

I’d love to go back in time to ride the streetcars and see the neighborhoods at their peak. Of course, I’d also have to see the segregation of housing and transportation.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

March 25, 2021 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit, STL Region, Transportation Comments Off on Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

The previous 12 months have highlighted how auto-centric the United States is. So far during this pandemic we’ve seen drive through food banks, and COVID-19 testing. Each with cars backed up for miles. To keep the cars on the road there were also lines at licensing offices.

From May 28, 2020:

On Friday, May 29 CVS Health will open 22 new COVID-19 drive-thru test sites across Missouri, including locations in St. Louis.

CVS Health expects to have up to 1,000 locations across the country offering this service by the end of May.

The testing will be by appointment only. You won’t go into the store, but sit in your car and administer the test. (Fox2)

From June 11, 2020:

Many St. Louis-area residents endured long lines and waiting times at licensing offices Thursday, which recently re-opened due to COVID-19 worries.

Thursday, a News 4 crew found some people who waited several hours at two licensing offices in west St. Louis County, where only a few people are allowed inside at one time to due to COVID-19 restrictions. (KMOV)

From November 25, 2020:

From California to New York, pictures have emerged of thousands of people waiting to receive groceries from their local food banks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s one side effect that has cropped up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to sweep the nation. Experts say the problem is rooted in high unemployment and low cash flow. (CNBC)

So it was no surprise when it came time for vaccinations that many sites weren’t accessible by foot or public transit. As with food & testing, people in their cars were backed up for miles to get a shot.

Last Thursday:

Traffic was backed up for more than a mile in both directions entering the county’s drive-thru mass vaccination site. The event, put on by the St. Charles County Health Department with support from the Missouri National Guard, was expected to vaccinate 4,000 people by the time it wrapped up Thursday evening. (KMOV)

Monday I got my first shot. I’d been on a waiting list at BJC only, as I knew I’d be able to take transit. Many people signed up for multiple lists with the expectation they’ll drive wherever they need to.

Valet parking makes sense, especially for those who can’t walk far.

I was given a choice of vaccination sites, but I picked the 4353 Clayton location because I knew it was adjacent to the Cortex MetroLink station. The instructions from BJC, however, didn’t mention transit at all.

  • Due to social distancing restrictions, do not arrive before your scheduled time.
    • If you arrive earlier, please remain in your vehicle until it’s time to enter the building.
  • Please park in the lot at the front of the building, labeled “30 minute visitor,” or the lot west of the building, labeled “2 hour visitor.”
    • Free valet parking is also available at the front of the building.
    • Click here for a parking map.

Despite my criticism of their lack of mentioning transit, the entire process was very well orchestrated. Outside they had signs & people to direct drivers. At the building they had people stationed at every step to keep the flow going. I was in and out in under a half hour!

– Steve Patterson

 

Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

March 15, 2021 Environment, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

My previous post was on the subject of BEVs — battery electric vehicles —- was the realization the used car we will purchase in a couple of years can’t be a BEV because we rent and can’t charge at our apartment. Even though we won’t own a BEV I’ll still be able to ride in one…on the #70 bus route.

The North Broadway transit center reopened after adding infrastructure to charge electric buses.

From September 2020:

Metro Transit announced Tuesday a deal with Minnesota-based New Flyer of America to add 14 zero-emission buses to the city’s fleet.

The new buses stretch 60 feet long and come with a price tag of $1.33 million each. Eighty percent of the cost will be covered by grants from the Federal Transit Administration, said Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director of Metro Transit.

The regional transit agency has been considering adding electric battery-powered vehicles to its fleet for more than a decade, Mefford-Miller said. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Here’s some additional detail:

The 60-foot battery electric buses have 320 kilowatts of battery storage on each bus. That is enough power to support about 10 2,000-square-foot houses for an entire day. They will operate exclusively on the #70 MetroBus route, which is Metro’s busiest route and carries about 10 percent of Metro’s customers on a daily basis. (Metro’s NextStop blog)

For comparison a Chevy Bolt EV has a 66kWh battery, the biggest Tesla battery is 100kWh.

After reading numerous articles about the new electric buses but I still had questions, so I asked Patti Beck, Metro’s director of communications, to answer them.

Much of the previously large open waiting area is now filled with electric equipment.

Q:   Why are the buses for use on Grand going to be stored/charged at Brentwood instead of Central?  My guess is not enough room at Central. Or was power supply better at Brentwood? Are the current articulated buses operated out of Central or Brentwood?

A: MetroBus operates out of three facilities- Brentwood, near Manchester and Brentwood; DeBaliviere, at Delmar and DeBaliviere; and our Illinois MetroBus Facility. Metro chose the Brentwood MetroBus Facility as our first battery electric operating facility because of its more advantageous location and power rate. Ameren Missouri, in partnership with Bi-State Development, constructed an electrical substation adjacent to the Brentwood facility that will provide power supply to Metro’s battery electric fleet, as well as the surrounding community.

Comment: The Central facility is very close to Grand, but it’s small. This is the location for Call-A-Ride buses, but not 40 foot or larger buses.

Q: As I recall the current articulated buses are from Gillig. Will having new articulated buses from New Flyer be a problem in terms of maintenance, parts, etc?  Does Gillig not offer an electric articulated bus?

A: The existing 60’ articulated buses will all be retired in 2021. Gillig does not yet offer a battery electric 60’ bus. They do produce battery electric 40’ buses, and we have purchased four Gillig 40’ electric buses that will become part of our battery electric fleet.

Comment: the existing articulated buses were bought used and refurbished, began operation in June 2014.

Q: I see buses will recharge at Broadway & Taylor. How many will recharge at a time? How long will they need to recharge?

There will be 3 active 450kWh chargers at Broadway & Taylor. A pantograph from the charger lowers to rails on top of the bus to deliver the charge. To maintain continuous operation of the #70 Grand, two chargers must be used to maintain an effective charge throughout the day. The third charger is a backup when one charger needs maintenance or if there is a component failure.

4.    What type of charging connector do buses use?

There are 22 150 kWh charging dispensers at the Brentwood MetroBus facility. These use a heavy duty plug type CCS type 1 built to the SAE J1772 standard. The depot chargers will “top” off the articulated buses at night and be the sole source of charge for the 40’ Gillig buses stationed there.

Comment: this is faster than even Tesla’s superchargers.

Two diesel 40-foot buses. The existing driver restroom in the back corner remains.

The North Broadway transit center will be an important part of the hopeful success of battery electric bus service.  Some other cities have had problems, Albuquerque returned 13 electric buses to the Chinese manufacturer and ordered diesel replacements for a BRT line.  Other cities didn’t build field charging locations like the North Broadway transit center.

My follow up questions were not answered. I’m still curious how different it’ll be from diesel buses. Will electric buses in service need to wait longer at North Broadway, or will the existing wait/break times give them enough charge? Do & will buses stay in service from begging to end of service, or do they serve part of the day with others taking over later?

I don’t normally have a reason to ride the 70/Grand, but I will at least once when the new electric articulated buses begin service.

— Steve Patterson

 

Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

December 24, 2020 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in.

You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses have improved emissions and a much smaller turning radius than other buses in the fleet, making them more flexible in the types of service they can provide and in the locations where they can better operate.

The new paint scheme will only be applied to new vehicles being added to the Metro fleet as they replace older trains, buses and vans that are being retired out of service. All of these updates are part of the normal maintenance and replacement cycle for transit vehicles, signs and materials, and no additional funds are being used or needed to make these changes.

It took a while but I think most vehicles have now received the new design. Train vehicles haven’t actually been replaced, but individual cars gets updated and the livery changes from the standard to advertising, etc. Buses also get a change of livery based on advertising wraps.

The new blue design in July 2020
New blue design last month

MetroLink trains & buses have been white for decades.

The old blue & red design on a white background, 2014.
The old blue & red on a white background on August 26, 2006 — the opening of the Shrewsbury line.

I’ve been here 30 years and I couldn’t think of a different color scheme, but a friend reminded me prior to the 2003 Bi-State to Metro change to blue & red on white they had a red/orange/yellow scheme.

Red, orange, & yellow strip on white background. 1996 photo by Ron Walker.

I personally love the new design. The bold blue design stands out, at least for now. In time it’ll get old and tired. It’s refreshing to no longer have the white background. I’ve seen the new blue design on buses, but haven’t gotten a photo yet.

— Steve Patterson

 

More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

December 23, 2019 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

When our light rail line, MetroLink, opened in July 1993 the Central West End (CWE) station was one of the original.  This was prior to the city vacating Euclid Ave. for vehicular travel. For the next 13 years the station operated with two separate platforms — one for eastbound and one for westbound — with the tracks in the center,

In August 2006 the new Blue Line opened further west.  But the CWE station had been rebuilt from two platforms to one center platform. This reduced elevators from two to one.

July 2010 looking down on the station from what used to be Euclid Ave on the west.
Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform, 2014

The station, the busiest in the system, remain largely unchanged until last year when the platform was extended in length. The trains aren’t any longer, but the eastbound trains now stop further east from the stair/elevator. This was done to reduce pedestrian congestion.

Construction on the platform extension, November 2018.

So what’s changing? From Metro’s December 20th press release:

Station Redesign Details:

  • New, monitored entrance/exit at the street level from Euclid Avenue on the west end of the station featuring a welcome center at the top of the stairs that lead down to the MetroLink platform
  • A new, wider staircase with a center handrail connecting the new Euclid Avenue entrance/exit to the platform to better accommodate passengers
  • Relocating the elevator on the station platform to relieve congestion
  • New, upgraded platform lighting
  • An expanded canopy to cover 70% of the MetroLink platform. The current canopy covers 30% of the MetroLink platform.
  • Safety improvements including a speed bump, stop sign, and new lighting at the entry to the MetroBus area of the garage which connects to the east entrance/exit of the platform.

Construction begins today, the elevator will be closed starting Thursday (12/26/19). When the station was reconfigured in 2006 they should’ve made the platform wider. Hopefully the new station will have a substantially larger elevator — and that a wheelchair user waiting for the elevator won’t block others.

Obviously during the construction those of us that need the elevator will have to use the east end of the platform and enter/exit via the CWE MetroBus Transit Center. Metro’s release indicates other closures may happen throughout the project but that advance notice will be given.  Unfortunately, they did not indicate how long this project will last.

— Steve Patterson

 

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