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Utility Work on Washington Ave

January 3, 2014 Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit Comments Off on Utility Work on Washington Ave

For a while now workers have been cutting a trench in Washington Ave to do utility work.

Utility work on Washington Ave 15th-17th
Utility work on Washington Ave 15th-17th

In the process it has been closed to eastbound traffic. Both directions of the #94 & #97  MetroBus routes have been rerouted to Locust St. Thankfully I haven’t needed to catch either of these for a while. I usually catch them at one of three stops between 14th-18th, I’ve not seen any temporary stops on the reroute. If I need the bus I’ll have to travel to a stop beyond the reroute, to the normal route or see online if Metro has posted temporary stop locations.

The noise has been loud during the day, I can only imagine how loud for those with windows facing Washington Ave. But new infrastructure doesn’t just pop into place — noise, dust, inconvenience, etc are part of the process.

Just looking forward to when the project is completed.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Public Transit Takes Too Long, Doesn’t Go Where They Go

December 11, 2013 Public Transit 23 Comments

For years I had many reasons for not using public transit. In hindsight some were valid, but most weren’t. Last week’s poll asked why readers don’t use public transit, the results are interesting:

Civic Center MetroBus Center
Civic Center MetroBus Center

Q: Top 3 reasons why you don’t ride public transit as your primary mode?

  1. takes too long 93 [22.85%]
  2. Doesn’t go where I go 72 [17.69%]
  3. I have a car 69 [16.95%]
  4. I ride public transit! 50 [12.29%]
  5. Confusing routes/schedules 21 [5.16%]
  6. Other: 21 [5.16%]
  7. It’s unsafe 20 [4.91%]
  8. Having to walk to/from 19 [4.67%]
  9. I’m white 17 [4.18%]
  10. Other riders 11 [2.7%]
  11. I’m not poor 7 [1.72%]
  12. I have young children 7 [1.72%]

The top answer “takes too long” has a few variables: start and destination locations, and expectations. If you already have a car it’s hard to justify using transit except in special circumstances – like going to the airport or a Cardinals game. Depending upon locations, route, distance, etc public transit can be as fast as driving. Factoring in parking, I can get from my downtown loft to the Chase Park Plaza in about the same amount of time. For other destinations driving a car wins handily in terms of time.

Ok, it takes me 45 minutes to get to Target on Hampton, I make the time productive. At first it seemed like forever, especially when I still had a car. Over the last 20+  months  I’ve gotten used to the time — I’ve readjusted my expectations.

Here are the 21 “other” answers provided by readers:

  1. too expensive
  2. Bring a rail line S-SW and more access with mean more riders.
  3. I really enjoy riding a bike, too!
  4. I don’t live in the city.
  5. other
  6. Stop is in difficultLocation to get to – Grand Blvd. stop, terrible location!
  7. I bicycle
  8. Infrequent schedules
  9. Walking is cheaper.
  10. doesn’t run often enough
  11. More Expensive than Driving
  12. transit IS my primary mode.
  13. Vehicles/Trains feel dirty
  14. Poor frequency, operating hours
  15. Must transport tools & equipment to work sites
  16. I have a bike
  17. Trains/buses run too infrequently
  18. More expensive than driving due to opportunity cost of a longer commute.
  19. Lack of Frequency (especially at night)
  20. Having a car saves me time during the day going from one meeting to the next.
  21. I ride a bicycle and supplement with metrolink when needed.

I should’ve included biking as a reason for not using transit — a very good reason! If you’re already paying for a car, it becomes very hard to justify letting it sit to use transit. In a region where car ownership isn’t outrageously expensive, as say, NYC, then transit use is it becomes transportation for the poor and/or environmentalists.

Until the equation changes (high fuel cost, for example) public transit use won’t increases. If we see fuel costing north of $4/gallon then you’ll hear about more people trying transit.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Top 3 Reasons Why You Don’t Ride Public Transit?

The #11 (Chippewa) MetroBus on 14th next to Peabody
The #11 (Chippewa) MetroBus on 14th next to Peabody

Fifty-eight years ago today a forty-two year old Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama:

The Montgomery City Code required that all public transportation be segregated and that bus drivers had the “powers of a police officer of the city while in actual charge of any bus for the purposes of carrying out the provisions” of the code. While operating a bus, drivers were required to provide separate but equal accommodations for white and black passengers by assigning seats. This was accomplished with a line roughly in the middle of the bus separating white passengers in the front of the bus and African-American passengers in the back.

When an African-American passenger boarded the bus, they had to get on at the front to pay their fare and then get off and re-board the bus at the back door. When the seats in the front of the bus filled up and more white passengers got on, the bus driver would move back the sign separating black and white passengers and, if necessary, ask black passengers give up their seat.

On December 1, 1955, after a long day’s work at a Montgomery department store, where she worked as a seamstress, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed.

As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, “Why don’t you stand up?” to which Rosa replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” The driver called the police and had her arrested. Later, Rosa recalled that her refusal wasn’t because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in.

The police arrested Rosa at the scene and charged her with violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code. She was taken to police headquarters, where, later that night, she was released on bail. (Biography.com)

The bus was so full of white passengers the driver wanted Parks to stand. In 1955 more of the general (read: white) population rode public transit compared to today.  Increased car ownership and decentralization of regions has changed who does — and doesn’t ride public transit.

For the poll this week I’m asking for the top 3 reasons why you don’t ride public transit — as your primary mode. One answer in the poll is that you do ride, I’ve also provided a field for you to submit your own answer. The poll is on the top of the right sidebar in the desktop view.

— Steve Patterson


14th Street Conflict: Transit vs Events

14th Street is a very popular north-south street through downtown St. Louis. Unfortunately, it’s too popular. Nearly every MetroBus that comes into downtown uses 14th just as nearly every event shuts down at least one intersection along 14th, usually at Chestnut, requiring many buses to reroute.

14th Street was closed between Clark & Pine recently for the Taste of St. Louis
14th Street was closed between Clark & Pine recently for the Taste of St. Louis
From Metro's downtown detail map we can see all the bus routes that pass through the 14th & Chestnut intersection.
From Metro’s downtown detail map we can see the six bus routes that pass through the 14th & Chestnut intersection: 10, 32, 41, 74, 94, 97.  The 4, 11, 30, 58x, 410x use 14th St south of Market
14th Street closed at Pine on a thursday to set up a weekend event
14th Street closed at Pine on a thursday morning to set up for a weekend event

It seems like twice per month there’s a festival, concert, run, walk, bike ride, parade, or something that totally screws up the bus routes and schedules. All because the events shut down the primary route used by the buses. Because we’ve messed up our street grid for years by removing streets and making others one-way 14th St is the only choice for these bus routes. The reroutes that go into place are time consuming, making that route late everywhere it travels.

The solution is to remove the conflict, not close 14th St. How you ask? Not possible right now, but perhaps once the area is redesigned.

The Gateway Mall Master Plan calls the area around Soldiers' Memorial the "Civic Room", click image to see section
The Gateway Mall Master Plan calls the area around Soldier’s Memorial the “Civic Room”, click image to see section. 14th St separates the left third from the right two thirds+.

From the Master Plan:

The Civic Room will create a large unified space well-suited for civic events, markets, festivals and concerts. In order to achieve this, it is anticipated that Chestnut Street would be closed incrementally over time, beginning with temporary closures for festivals, and ultimately considered for permanent or seasonal closure. though still allowing emergency and service vehicles access.  Chestnut Street should be still be hard surfaced with a paving different than surrounding areas, to accommodate tents and other services necessary for festivals. Locations for performance stages and cultural or art annexes should be provided to further define the civic character of the space and create attractions to activate the mall.   

This is good, just the wrong location. Rather than Tucker (12th) to 15th I think it needs to be 14th to 17th or 18th. 18th St is a busy street but it doesn’t have any bus routes, close it for an event to combine with Aloe Plaza to 20th. But from 15th to 20th the space is narrow, from Market to Chestnut only.

If the St. Louis Streetcar gets funded and built, 14th St will need to stay open so I hope someone creative can find a way to hold events here while still allowing all transit vehicles continuous access to 14th St.

Transit is important but so are events. One shouldn’t be compromised by the other. Tomorrow’s post will be about design issues with the current area around the Soldier’s Memorial along with some possible solutions.

— Steve Patterson


New Wellston Child Care Center Under Construction, Adjacent To MetroLink Station

Construction workers are busy building a new child care center near the Wellston MetroLink station:

The Wellston Developmental Child Care Center is a key component of the Wellston Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative Masterplan. Located adjacent to a Metrolink Light Rail Sytstem (with which it will share parking) as well as being in close proximity to the Metropolitan Enterprise Center (a new job training center) will allow the Development Center to attain the goals of providing early childhood education in a depressed neighborhood, preparing children for the K-12 system, and providing day care assistance for parents training for new jobs.

The 14,650 SF building is oriented primarily on an E-W axis maximizing orientation for energy efficiency and daylighting. The building footprint had been placed on the site to minimize driveway length and take advantage of the adjacent public parking. Stormwater from the site will be handled by a series of micro-detention areas integrated with native landscaping. The program includes public, administrative, infant/toddler, classrooms and support spaces. (Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects)

I’ve requested the site plan & Wellston masterplan from the architects & county economic council, neither have been received.

Construction of the building in Powell Park, seen from the far end of the station's park-n-ride lot
Construction of the building in Powell Park, seen from the far end of the station’s park-n-ride lot
ABOVE: Over the last 19 years residents have worn a clear path across the open field...ur, park
Last year Powell Park was just a field that area residents cut through to reach the bus & train. Click image for post.
The long used shortcut is now blocked
The long used shortcut is now blocked
From the parking lot we see the point where the shortcut comes through the greenery
From the parking lot we see the point where the shortcut comes through the greenery

The shortcut was the most direct path for pedestrians to reach public transit.  It wasn’t even paved, but since 1993 it was heavily used. However, I support building on the field — especially facilities that’ll benefit the community.

How will pedestrians now reach the station?

Rather than cut through the field to the right, pedestrians must now walk along Werley Ave
Rather than cut through the field to the right, pedestrians must now walk along Werley Ave
Just past the construction fence is the west edge of the large station parking lot.
Just past the construction fence is the west edge of the large station parking lot.
Turning east we see the parking lot, the station is at the bottom of the hill. The stop for the #94 MetroBus is on the left
Turning east we see the parking lot, the station is at the bottom of the hill. The stop for the #94 MetroBus is on the left

The new child care center will use the existing parking, rather than have a separate parking lot. Still, the parking lot remains a divider between train, bus, residents, and new child care center. It’s possible pedestrian routes will be constructed in the parking lot to connect these elements. Without pedestrian connections the new construction is just transit-ajacent, not transit-oriented.

Once I see an actual site plan I’ll post an update.

— Steve Patterson