Good afternoon, St. Louis! Hockey season is here, and on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues will hit the ice at their home opener at the Scottrade Center. Get to all of the action by riding Metro to the redesigned and enhanced Civic Center Transit Center, just steps away from the Scottrade Center. Last week, we introduced an innovative food kiosk program to provide healthy, fresh and affordable food options for the community at the North Hanley and Wellston Transit Centers. Those food kiosks will open in the coming weeks. Until then, let’s get to your transit questions!
Thank you for this suggestion. We have received requests for free fare days on special events like elections, and are exploring such a promotion for a major election. We must be selective when it comes to promotional fare events, as customer fares are a critical source of funds needed to operate service.
Thanks for asking about the Loop Trolley, which announced its fare structure today. Metro is partnering with the Loop Trolley to provide technical and administrative support, however it is a separate system from Metro Transit. Interoperable fares are possible through an interagency agreement and common technology, as exists between Metro and Madison County Transit (limited to certain fare types). Such an agreement is feasible for Metro and Loop Trolley, and would require the Loop Trolley Company adopt some technology that accepts Metro forms of payment, such as validators, as well as an agreement for revenue sharing. This is not planned for the opening of the Loop Trolley, but remains possible in the future.
Amazon has identified excellent transit access, and rail transit and transit-oriented development in particular, as critical requirements of its next headquarters, or “HQ2” location. Metro transit is working with regional leadership to support the Amazon application program, which includes local sites with excellent transit access. The resultant application will highlight St. Louis’ extensive light rail and bus system; planned transit enhancement and expansion programs; large parcels that can be assembled for this project that are near existing light rail; and access to the region’s airports, housing, and educational institutions.
Thank you for this suggestion. We recognize the comfort and convenience of basic amenities like seating, and benches at busier MetroBus stops would be a great improvement for Metro customers. In the past ten years Metro has been increasing the number of benches and shelters at key MetroBus stops. Most of these programs have been focused on specific corridors, like a recent project along West Florissant from the City of St. Louis through St. Louis County. Metro is also working with businesses and the communities we serve to encourage more accessible sidewalks and street furniture, as Metro does not own the property (often called the “right of way”) where bus stops are located. This property is typically owned and maintained by municipalities or local or state departments of transportation. As part of any bus stop improvements, Metro or our partners must also ensure that bus stops meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means before a bench can be installed, many bus stops also need a large concrete pad, adjoining sidewalk, and curb ramps at nearby intersections. This means the cost of installing a bench and creating an accessible, attractive pedestrian path often exceeds $2,000 per stop. With 7,400 bus stops in the Metro system, we’re making steady progress, but it will be some time before all stops are accessible and include street furniture.
Glad you mentioned your desire for route numbers on the back of Metro buses; we’ve heard this request from other customers and this is an option we are exploring now in our forthcoming vehicle specifications.
Regarding painting curbs, we’ve had discussions about this with our municipal partners (who own and maintain the streets and curbs), and there isn’t a great deal of interest in painted curbs because of the ongoing cost associated with re-painting. Metro is planning to launch a new signage project, which will include replacing all MetroBus stop signs. One of the design options we are considering includes adding a second sign at bus stops near on-street parking so that the beginning and end of a no parking zone is more clearly identified.
The safety of our customers and employees is Metro’s greatest priority and we understand it is a pressing concern for our customers. Metro is working with our law enforcement partners in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department to increase the presence of law enforcement officers, and Metro’s Public Safety team including Metro staff and contractors. We are also working to create more communications mechanism between customers and law enforcement and public safety personnel. Many customers have noticed the difference, and I hope you will too. We’d like your specific feedback on where and when you are not feeling safe on the Metro Transit system so we can inform these efforts.
Metro is committed to ensuring the success of the newly-launched no-smoking policy. Since Metro went smoke free on September 5, we have installed over 200 “No Smoking” signs across the transit system. We are also providing ongoing training to our employees and contractors so that they are equipped to first inform and encourage the public to comply with the no-smoking policy, and apply enforcement if needed. One month in to this launch, we’re also making adjustments based on employee and customer feedback so that together we can successfully create a safer, more comfortable environment for all our customers and employees.
Metro is currently constructed the new Cortex MetroLink Station, near Boyle and Sarah Avenues between the Grand and Central West End MetroLink Stations. We have designed this project to minimize the impact to customers and ongoing operations. This design includes constructing the station platform and new track immediately north of the existing MetroLink alignment. When this construction is complete, the new track (east and westbound) will adjoin the existing alignment east and west of the new station.
Thank you for your feedback regarding the need for additional security in the afternoon and evening hours, especially on rear MetroLink cars. Metro and our partners have increased public safety and police patrols, focusing on hot spot locations and periods of high demand, and I will share your request with them.
I will share your comments regarding Metro’s contract security personnel’s smoking behavior with our Public Safety team so that they may enforce this issue. We are currently working through our approach to installing signage at the Central West End and Clayton Transit Centers, which are not owned by Metro.
Thank you for asking about the Gateway Card, Metro’s smart card fare payment program that is currently being tested for release. Regarding online loading, we are near releasing our software to our customer test groups. We hope to begin releasing smart cards to the general public in 2018.
Thank you for your suggestion to include barriers at MetroLink Stations. This is an option that will be explored soon as part of a regional study that will answer important questions about the costs and benefits of shifting MetroLink from a proof-of-payment to a barrier system. We don’t yet know when this regional study will launch, but will keep the public apprised.
As background, light rail systems constructed in the US are nearly all proof-of-payment (examples include Denver, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Minneapolis), as many stations are imbedded within their surrounding environment on streets, open suburban stations, etc., which contrasts with the design of heavy rail systems like Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C. and New York where stations are typically grade separated and more logically designed for barriers.
We have been watching the industry experience closely as some of our peer cities including Atlanta and Los Angeles have installed barriers at some or all of their light rail stations. We have learned that, while barriers do successfully improve the perception of personal safety and fare evasion, they have not proven to increase passenger revenue or decrease the incidence of crime.
Metro's forthcoming Gateway Card fare collection project will improve the visibility of fare enforcement, as all MetroLink customers will be required to “tap” their valid fare media at ticket validators prior to boarding. This validation check will be accompanied by a visible red or green light atop the validators, which can be seen by security personnel. We will also use hand-held validators aboard the system to verify proper fare and validation. Today, most Metro customers are using passes or transfers such as monthly pass, UPass, transfer from MetroBus, etc. that can be visually inspected but do not require validation prior to boarding.