Talk to Metro: What's in store for 2017

Talk to Metro: What's in store for 2017

The new year is shaping up to be an exciting year for transit. Construction on the Civic Center Transit Center continues, providing new transit options and amenities for downtown St. Louis. More technology enhancements are on the way for Metro riders and work will begin on a new MetroLink station in the Cortex Innovation Community. Join the experts during their monthly chat, Wednesday, Jan. 4 at noon.

    Happy New Year, St. Louis. We are looking forward to our discussion this afternoon. We have a number of projects underway, including reconstruction of the Civic Center Transit Center, scheduled to re-open in fall 2017. We’re also busy working to design the new Boyle MetroLink Station, to open in 2018. In the meantime, with winter weather approaching, stay tuned to our website for rider alerts including snow routes.
    A writer commented last month about the lack of fare checking on the trains. The response indicated that the primary fare checking was done by platform security as the rider enters the paid fare zone. It appears to me that you forgot to tell platform security that this is their function as checking just does not happen where there is security. Of course, it does not happen where security is not assigned, like the UMSL stations.

    It was reported that an MTA Long Island Rail Road train hit the end of the track this morning, resulting in onboard injuries.

    Metro works with the Federal Transit Administration to create a system design and operating policy that will ensure the safety of our customers. With respect to terminal end collisions our current design of all our terminal end stations includes a bumping post that is rated to safely absorb an impact of up to give miles per hour. This bumping post slides along the rail to absorb the energy and slow the train. Beyond this physical bumper, we restrict the speed of our trains to five miles per hour. The combination of these two precautions is designed to mitigate any serious injuries associated with a terminal end collision.
    Please talk about the MTA LIRR Accident today and how MetroStLouis prepares for an event like that and steps that Metro takes to try and prevent something like that from happening here in the future, especially at Lambert or Shrewsbury
    Regular Rider,

    Fare inspection at MetroLink platforms is indeed the primary mechanism for validating fare payment, and is supplemented by onboard sweeps by fare inspectors and local law enforcement. Fare inspectors are not assigned to all thirty seven MetroLink Stations during all operating hours, but rather are concentrated at the highest boarding stations, and are supported by those roving inspectors and law enforcement officers.
    Good morning and Happy New Year. I have a couple of questions. First, when is the new transfer center at 14th going to be completed? From my untrained eye, it does not appear that much progress has been made.

    Second, can the security guards at the Union Station platform be better trained? They never check for tickets/passes/transfers, etc., and quite often the mill around the Clark Street entrance to the point that you have to ask them to move out of the way so that you can get down onto the platform. Furthermore, people regularly smoke on the platform, stairwells, etc. and nothing is ever done by the security folks (when they are actually on the platform). Recently, someone lit up a joint on the platform and security was no where in sight.
    Walk me through how Metro prepares for a winter storm.

    Metro has inclement weather plans in place across our agency. These plans include a number of potential scenarios and prescribed responses, including:

    - Operating plans for MetroBus and MetroLink that respond to snowy or icy conditions. Some Metro buses have published “snow routes” that correspond to streets where buses have difficulty traveling. MetroLink can experience delays during icy conditions. Like motorists, Metro buses most frequently experience delays due to reduced speed on snowy or icy roads.
    - Metro communicates any disruption in service through a network of information channels, including or own website and social media channels; media released covered by local news outlets; and platform and onboard announcements. Stay tuned to these information channels for updates on your commute.
    - Metro’s maintenance team and contractors are prepared to de-ice, plow and shovel snow at our stations, transit centers, and platforms.
    - Implementation of these winter weather plans are overseen by a centralized control center that works to ensure continuity between each of these different units, and keeps our communications team informed of service plans in real time.
    If you had to pick ONE transit project you're most excited about in 2017, what would it be?

    2017 is an exciting year for transit in the St. Louis region. Our regional partners including East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County will conduct conceptual design studies for potential MetroLink expansion. Metro is supporting these ongoing planning efforts.

    Metro is soon to embark on evaluation of our transit system design, focusing on bus service. This work will include a comprehensive analysis of service productivity, and an exploration of different strategies for meeting regional mobility needs into the future. These strategies could include some change in route design; schedules; and methods of delivering service such as vehicle types, route types (i.e. express routes, priority routes, bus rapid transit, etc). To support the evolution of our service model, we will continue electric bus testing and exploring integrating transit with transportation network provider service in some markets. We anticipate this work will define the evolution of the MetroBus system for the next ten years. That’s pretty exciting. Stay tuned for more information on this effort, which will include a public conversation about the future of our transit system.
    As someone that utilizes the Union Station Metrolink station regularly, I am generally pleased. Your morning security crews tend to do a more active sweep of security as compared to the evening shifts. The observation of smokers encroaching into the main entries that Metrolink users is indeed accurate. Although some would consider more bothersome, I would welcome MORE audits for Metro riders as in my 6+ months of being a regular M-F Metrolink rider, I have seen several persons although identified as Fare Watchers check neither anyone on the trains I've been on nor on the platforms I've been on.
    Bill K,

    Thank you for your feedback about your positive experiences, and we will share your recommendations for improving our service with our Public Safety Team.
    When will the Gateway Cards be ready for use? Not looking for a specific date, but is it a few weeks, months, or years?

    Metro has a limited number of smart fare payment cards, called Gateway Cards, in circulation now. These cards are part of a testing program for our hardware and software, and this testing program will soon be expanded. We anticipate rolling cards out to the general public beginning in 2017. The implementation of Gateway Cards will occur in several phases, likely spanning 2017 – 2018.

    Once fully implemented, Gateway Cards will replace paper and magnetic stripe tickets, passes, and transfers currently available. These cards can be reloaded with cash or products (i.e. monthly pass, semester pass, etc) via our website, ticket vending machines, and a network of third-party vendors like grocery stores and other retailers. This will make paying fares, and fare enforcement more convenient.
    MetroLink Rider,

    Construction is proceeding as scheduled on the Civic Center Transit Center, which will re-open in fall 2017. The construction area is enclosed in protective fencing, but the building on this site has been erected, and is visible from the MetroLink platform.

    With respect to platform security guards, we are disturbed to hear your assessment of post guard performance Union Station. We have two to three post guards assigned at Union Station at this station. They are responsible for patrolling the platform and platform access points at street level. We will have our Chief of Public Safety share this feedback with the manager of our contract with this firm, Securitas.
    I was recently in KC over the weekend. I am amazed how they have overtaken St. Louis on the Total Transit Plan. They are also a two state, multi county system. They have a modern starter streetcar line that is already planning on two extensions. They are in the planning stages of a Commuter Rail Plan. They are in discussion with MODOT/KDOT on every road expansion. Their system was free on NYE? Was your? Their apps are well ahead of Metro. Why is Metro seem to be dragging their feet, with the status quo.

    Both St. Louis and Kansas City have dynamic plans for transit expansion and enhancement. We’ve been following Kansas City’s bus rapid transit (BRT) implementation closely, as the St. Louis region also has plans for similar service. I do want to highlight some of what this region is doing to enhance and expand our transit system. The Metro system has enjoyed several successive light rail expansions, and since 1993 the region has constructed 46 miles of light rail. The St. Louis region will soon open its first modern streetcar this year (the Loop Trolley). Any further expansion of transit would require a regional decision, and corresponding funding.

    Metro actively works with our regional partners, including MoDOT, IDOT and the local jurisdictions and counties that own our major streets on transit, road, and streetscape projects. Through our parent company, Bi-State Development, we are also actively engaged in regional land use planning including transit-oriented development planning.

    We mentioned in an earlier thread an upcoming comprehensive operational analysis study that will identify short and mid-term goals and projects for our bus system. This work is consistent with the planning approach of other major transit entities, including KCATA.

    Metro did not offer free fares on New Year’s Eve, however we are actively exploring opportunities to provide free or promotional fares to stimulate ridership growth.
    this is kind of a big ask, but here goes. can you change the On the Go app so that walking distance is adjustable? I stopped using it because it often suggests crazy routes with multiple transfers to avoid walking more than whatever the sensitivity is set to (I think about 0.3 miles?) I'd like to be able to set it to something like 0.75 miles, since that usually results in a much faster trip.

    Thank you for your interest in the Metro on the Go app (available via Android and Apple platforms). The max walking distance in the Metro on the Go app is currently set to 0.4 miles. We have arrived at this figure after several adjustments based on customer feedback. It could be changed to a higher number, however we’ve found we receive negative feedback above 0.5 miles. Ideally this would be a setting that individual users could customize based on their own preference, however this feature is unavailable at this time.
    I have ridden both MetroLink and MetroBus for my commutes to and from work from time to time and have enjoyed it. However, when comparing the cost benefit vs driving, the marginal savings of a monthly pass over driving has not been enough to justify a more regular ridership. A monthly commuting fare only valid during commuting hours, Monday - Friday, for a lower price may do more to entice me to ride. Has any thought or consideration been put into such a program?
    We’re glad you want to ride more and we continue to endeavor to make transit fares competitive. This becomes more difficult in light of record low gasoline prices. Here’s a little background: when fares are set, we must strive to recover approximately 20% of the cost to operate service from passenger fares; the remainder of operating costs are supported primarily by local sales tax proceeds, so wo do have some limitations with respect to pricing.

    We appreciate your suggestion of a hybrid pass. You may find increased flexibility with the forthcoming Gateway Card, which is a “smart” fare payment card. If you ride occasionally, you may wish to load cash on your card, rather than a monthly pass. We are in the process of refining our planned fare policy, and we will consider your feedback in that discussion.

    You may also be eligible for an employer subsidy, or you may be able to purchase your monthly pass with pre-tax dollars through your employer and Metro’s Transit Benefits program; this program makes purchasing your monthly pass convenient and affordable.
    Thank you for a lively chat today, and welcome 2017! We'll be back next month, and you may always reach us at; via our website; Facebook; or Twitter.
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