Talk to Metro about buses and MetroLink

Talk to Metro about buses and MetroLink

What improvements are being done on MetroLink? Can you catch a bus from here to there? Metro can answer all your questions in its monthly chat. Join the experts at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

    Good afternoon St. Louis!
    The month of February is going to be a busy one for transit in St. Louis. This weekend, Metro will offer special MetroBus shuttle service to safely and conveniently allow fairgoers to travel to Mardi Gras festivities. The shuttle will operate from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. between Soulard and the Civic Center MetroLink Station. Round-trip passes for the Mardi Gras shuttle are $6. Later this month, we anticipate sharing the new MetroBus service plan for North St. Louis County. It’s all leading up to the March 14 quarterly service change and the grand opening of the North County Transit Center, located at 3140 Pershall Road in Ferguson. We look forward to answering your questions today.
    Have you thought about adding electric buses to the fleet full time? Or adding the longer grand buses on other routes?
    A Grand Guy,
    Yes, Metro is pursuing the introduction of battery electric vehicles to our MetroBus fleet. We have found that technology has advanced to the point where the market can likely supply a vehicle that can operate a sufficient range (around 250 miles) without charging.
    We are now in the process of creating our specifications for battery electric vehicles, and hope to pursue a contract within the year. We have tested several different electric bus models this year, and have a few more demonstrations scheduled. These experiences are used to inform our selection of a specific vehicle type.
    Thanks for hosting these chats. When is the work at Union Station platform going to be completed? Due to not being able to exit/enter as the east end of the platform, I have to catch an earlier train to get to work on time and a later train coming home as I cannot make my regular train. One would think that it would not make a difference, but it takes a few extra minutes to cross 18th street.
    MetroLink Rider,
    We apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced with the construction at the Union Station MetroLink Station and on Clark Avenue. We anticipate that the construction at Union Station will be complete this month.
    Metro is currently constructing an improvement to the pedestrian access to the station from the north (Clark Avenue), and is also pouring new sidewalks and erecting fencing along Clark Avenue. These enhancements will improve safety for MetroLink and MetroBus customers at this station, and will help us prepare for the shifting of MetroBuses from Civic Center Transit Center to 18th Street and Clark Avenue when the Civic Center closes for construction later this spring.
    (cont'd) ...I get so frustrated hearing people say "yeah, there's a Metro, but it only has two lines" or "Metro doesn't go to..." [take your pick: a Kirkwood brewery, MICDS, South City, etc.] How do we stop this irrational narrow view of what "Metro" involves and who should be riding it?
    Hi folks! One of my big concerns re: transit in St. Louis (and in many many U.S. cities) is, how to do a better job of promoting MetroBus so "certain" people aren't afraid to ride it? It seems like there's a big divide between car-drivers and Metro-riders, but then also a big one between MetroLink riders and MetroBus riders. (to be cont'd)
    Nick Weil,
    We understand your concerns about promoting transit service to a broad market; this is a challenge across the country. Metro is actively working to provide a transit product that is safe, reliable and attractive. We are in the process of implementing new amenities and technologies (and some have already been launched) including real-time arrival information; a mobile app; a new transit center with fantastic amenities (opening next month); improved signage and wayfinding information; pass programs designed to make it easier and more convenient to pay fares, etc. The most important feature transit agencies can provide is competitive travel times. This is challenging here and elsewhere where congestion is relatively low and parking is abundant and cheap. MetroLink offers a great competitive edge, and Metro is exploring additional options for expanding our offering of higher-speed transit service, including the potential introduction of bus rapid transit. These and other technologies can be offered to the extent funding is available. One of the most powerful messages for expanding transit utilization is word of mouth. You as a customer can use transit and can spread the word about how convenient and reliable Metro transit is.
    How does Metro balance between offering more frequent service on popular routes and service that extends over a greater land area to enhance access?
    There’s not a quick answer to your question regarding the balance between service frequency and access. Metro operates within a number of constraints including available resources (total budget); meeting requests of our funding partners (the communities that provide the resources); and creating an integrated system that is capable of carrying many people across a geographically dispersed region 7 days per week, 21 hours per day. At a high-level, higher demand routes typically have greater frequencies. Other determinants of frequency include schedules of connecting routes (many routes are timed to connect with MetroLink, for example); route cycle time (end-to-end travel time); and available fleet (also governed by a budget). One of the greatest challenges in providing transit service to the St. Louis region is that the region has, and continues to, expand its geographic footprint without generating a corresponding increase in net revenue. This requires routes to travel greater distances to carry customers to needed destinations, and undermines ability to add frequency.
    Speaking of the electric buses, I previously had asked how much they were. But I'm curious what the expectation is as far as repair and maintenance. Are they cheaper to maintain, and by how much percentage-wise? Also, how does using air conditioning or heat affect the 250 mile quoted range?
    When making decisions regarding what type of vehicles to purchase, Metro considers the entire life cycle cost of the vehicle. That includes purchase price, operation (including fuel/power), and maintenance. We are finding that electric buses could offer lower life cycle costs. Each of the vehicles we have tested offer different benefits and life cycle costs. One of the more compelling features of electric vehicles is their lower maintenance cost (compared to diesel). The battery performance has varied by vehicle, and we have tested some models that include a diesel heater and/or diesel AC to prolong battery life during hot/cold weather.
    Hi, a minor quibble, I know, but it destroys me when I hear Metrolink train operators repeat on the intercom the same bad information every day. Please issue new instructions to the drivers. Replace the comment that the North or South bound elevator at the Forest Park stop is out of service druing Trolley construction. They are on idential North and South geophysical lines! It is the East elevator that is out of service.
    The elevators at Forest Park do serve the east and west sides of DeBaliviere, however the selection of elevator or stairs is determined by the direction one wishes to travel upon alighting the train. If you were heading northbound (toward Delmar) you would select the elevator to the east. If you were traveling southbound (toward Forest Park) you would take the elevator to the west. Communicating directions in terms of individuals’ intended travel direction/destination is often more effective than communicating in terms of compass direction.
    Hello and thanks for taking questions. As detailed in a recent post dispatch article, metro is hoping to secure it's own transit police force. While I an opposed to that idea on the grounds that it represents unnecessary duplication of agencies, i do believe that the vast majority of security presence on the metro system be law enforcement officers.

    The PD indicated that metro is paying substantial money to the three jurisdictions in which it operates (stl city, stl county, and st Clair county) for law enforcement protection, yet can't account for so much as a single minute of time spent by those agencies actually providing services. What is metro doing, specifically, to either recover money spent on services not provided, or to actually account for the agencies performing the job that our tax dollars paid for?
    I heard Kansas City police recently added two full time police to KC's transit bus system. I know there's been some back and forth in St. Louis on this issue, but where does it stand going forward?
    Good afternoon!

    Let me start this on a positive note! I am seeing an increase in fare inspector checks and public safety visits aboard MetroLink. Definitely an improvement from this time last year.

    However, you need to increase your enforcement. Enforcement of loud music, no smoking, no panhandling, no selling of services/goods. How are you handling repeat offenders? I am noticing from time to time, the same person panhandling, the same person selling transfers etc. Another thing that is bothering me is the blatant negligence on the part of security at Forest Park to prevent riders from smoking on the platform.

    Any thoughts/input would be appreciated. I know this cannot be implemented in a day or two but I would love to see improvement even if it is tiny.
    Velo, Aligo, Craig:
    The Metro Transit System won the Gold Standard for Security based on a national audit of our system in 2014, one of a very few transit systems to achieve that status. In addition to security technology (dedicated phones, system cameras), Metro has and will continue to deploy a multi-layered approach to system security that includes contracted Police Officers, contracted Security Guards, and our own Public Safety Officers as well as a group of fare enforcers. We continue to work with all elements to improve the security product for our system.
    We are glad that you are seeing the increase in Public Safety visits and Fare enforcement activity. That is the frontline of any transit security program and this visibility is something we are striving for. Another of our continuing efforts include providing feedback about customer complaints back to the security personnel on the system.
    Enforcement is one thing, eradication is another. We are aware of several persons who we have had removed from the system for identical issues, but who are released and return to their activities within the same day. This is a problem not limited to the transit system and needs a wider solution.
    Metro continues to work with all elements of the security system to ensure good return on the investment. New reports have been developed and we are analyzing the information from them. As with any program of this size, improvements occur incrementally, but has been stated here, the visibility of the forces has been increased, enforcement activities are up, and we believe the security product will continue to improve in the weeks ahead.

    Approach to Hollywood Casino

    Metro has recently made contact with the Hollywood Casino to inquire as to whether operating on the street in question is an option. It is a provide road and Metro would have to be authorized to use it. There are potential problems with transit use, as the road may not be equipped to handle repeated bus traffic; is gated on each end; and because it is a private road, snow removal would be the responsibility of a private entity.
    Regular Rider,
    We apolgoize for the inconvience assoicated with the outage of the outdoor escalator at 8th & Pine Station. These escalators are over 20 years old, and the parts for them are often custom order. These escalators are subject to the demands of our climate including snow, road salt, and rainwater, and in spite of intense preventative maintenance efforts, they will fail over time.

    Metro will look into your suggestion to have the functioning escalator in the “Up” direction when a problem occurs.
    Has Metro ever considered having the 34 Earth City bus accessing Hollywood Casino using the access road from Riverport Dr instead of using Casino Center Dr? I'm sure the access road would help save at least 5 minutes of drive time from every bus run.
    Why has the up escalator at westbound 8th & Pine been out of service for more than a month? When an escalator is taken out of service, the remaining escalator should be in the up direction, since it is easier to walk down steps than it is to walk up steps.
    When will the work on the DeBaliviere/Forest Park station be completed? I live in the area and it's a nightmare - there's a concrete corral for people waiting for the bus on one side of the street, and the temporary stop signs up are constantly ignored.
    Haha, I liked argybargy's question, and I liked your response even better. Good-natured geeking out about transit is my happy place.
    Who receives the revenue received from fines (no ticket, etc.)? Does Metro get the revenue, or is it some other entity?
    Herbie, Herbie,
    Revenue collected from fines issued on the Metro Transit System (no fare, ect.) are collected by the jurisdiction in which the citation was issued (City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, etc.)
    Good point re: word of mouth to promote buses. (And that doesn't cost you anything, which I know is always the first bar to development.) BTW, both MetroBus & MetroLink are phenomenally reliable, timing-wise, compared to their counterparts in other cities. Bravo on that!
    We believe we operate one of the most reliable, safe and on-time systems that can be found in any large city. Thanks for noticing!
    The Loop Trolley is not a Metro project, so we are not responsible for its construction, which should be complete later this year. Find out more about this project at the Loop Trolley website.
    I'm excited about the redevelopment of the Arcade-Wright building downtown which pretty much sits atop the 8th & Pine station.... do you have data on boardings at each station? I'm interested in seeing how much usage of the station may increase as a result of the redevelopment.
    We too are excited about the redevelopment happening downtown, including the gorgeous Arcade building. Metro does collect boardings data at each of our MetroLink stations on a daily basis, however ridership at the 8th & Pine station has dropped recently. Much of this trend can be attributed to fewer events and employment in Downtown, and 8th & Pine in particular has lost some of its market due to the relocation of major companies like AT&T. We are optimistic that continued residential growth and repopulation of some of the Downtown buildings will result in growth in MetroLink ridership.
    Thank you for your interest in inaccessible bus stops and snow removal along streets served by buses. Pedestrian infrastructure, including accessible and well-maintained sidewalks are critical for ensuring safe and convenient travel by transit. The answer to both of these questions is to contact the entity that owns and maintains the street(s) in question. Metro has some history of partnering with municipalities, counties, MoDOT and private property owners to make improvements to bus stops and sidewalks, but Metro does not own or maintain sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure.
    What can we do about careless businesses/munis/county DOTs, State DOTs that pile snow on sidewalks and bus stops?
    When we come across a non-ADA complaint bus stop, what can we do about it?
    Is it possible to watch the buses moving on a map in the Metro App? That works best for me.
    If you exit out of the real time map screen in the app, refresh, and return to the screen you can see the buses’ new location. You can view the updating location in real-time from the desktop application.
    Thanks for mentioning the mobile app. It seems like I get as much value (really more) from Google transit as I do from the Metro app. I know it takes effort to create the feeds for each one...but Google transit takes advantage of combined effort of many transit systems. I would prefer to just use google transit instead of a dedicated Metro app. BTW this is true around the world. From my travels I have at least two dozen separate apps, one for each city. A lot of duplicated effort!
    Thanks for checking out the “Metro on the Go” mobile trip planning application. This tool provides some functionality that Google doesn’t, like service updates and alerts. Metro will likely maintain a proprietary app, as we have no control over the availability, maintenance, or accuracy of Google or other apps. That said, we like Google Transit too, and that’s why Metro publishes our real-time and scheduled data in publicly available feeds. The selection of tool is ultimately up to the discretion of the use.
    I saw a sign downtown near the bi-state center saying coming soon 2015 new and improved and to today the sign is still there. Is there plans to improve it still.
    Cigar 75,
    The Civic Center Transit Center Project recently completed a second review by the City of St. Louis; this review required some modifications to the ramp system. The engineering on these changes was recently completed and we will be seeking construction bids in the near future. We expect to begin construction this year.
    I understand your public safety department hands are tied with their limited capabilities in regards to crime. But I don't get why St. Louis city and county police officers do absolutely nothing? When are you guys going to push the issue and create your own police force? They should be able to work as one unit because it is getting out of hand now in the winter come this summer it's going to get out of hand.
    Sorry to be bother you, when are you guys going to finally create your own police agency? These young thugs are creating a headache for me. I know your public safety unit hands are tied you can see it in their eyes they want to do something about like arrest them but the only thing they do is just kick them off. The problem is only solved for twenty minutes cuz they come back!!!
    MetroLink North Hanley and Big Phish,
    To echo a prior response, the public safety system that works best has all elements of it working to create maximum safety for system users. We do not agree with any comments that categorically state that any of the Public Safety team members “do nothing,” in fact there is statistical and physical evidence to the contrary. All parties are working towards the continued improvement of the system, and has been noted earlier, people have noticed.
    I like Regular Rider's idea of having an "UP" escalator. Makes sense and very logical.
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