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, July 6, 2016.

  • Hello and welcome to the July 6, 2016 edition of Talk to Metro About Buses, MetroLink and Transit in the St. Louis area. I hope you all enjoyed your July 4th holiday. For us July 4 is one of the busiest weekends of the year and so we spend our holiday making sure that you can be where you want to be for your holiday.
  • Good day and thank you for taking questions. My question regards the security issues around the area but particularly on the Metro system, including Metrolink. As a daily rider, I see the issues constantly. Most are not anything beyond quality of life crimes, but some are. The Post Dispatch and several TV news stations have reported that Metro is paying agencies in St. Clair Co., St. Louis Co., and St. Louis City to provide a very specific number of police officers and sheriff's deputies to patrol the entire system. I believe the number is more than 40. Again, as a daily rider, I find it entirely impossible to fathom that even a tenth of that number of officers is dedicated to the entire Metro system. Can you tell us how Metro is monitoring and ensuring that the police officers we are paying for from these three agencies are actually fulfilling the contract? Note that I am not asking about Metro security or other security officers or fare checkers, so I ask that you not address them, but specifically the police officers and sheriff's deputies contracted to these three agencies. Thank you.

  • Tobias,
    Police Officers cannot and do not report directly to Metro Supervisors. Police units have their own internal chain of command which is crucial to their proper operation. Our coordination occurs at the commander of each MetroLink unit where we share information about events, schedules, and public input including, comments, suggestions, complaints and commendations. One of the central themes for the police (and though you asked me not to) the Metro Public Safety officers and the contract Security Guards from Securitas is visibility of all involved in ensuring the transit system is safe for all who ride it.
    Remember also that all of those entities you describe are used to cover about 20 hours a day of service, seven days a week, where twenty plus trains operate over 45 miles of track, servicing 37 stations. This provides significant opportunities for visibility, but it is a big system they are patrolling.
  • How does a MetroLink train stop so quickly? It's a metal wheel on a metal rail. Doesn't seem like that's a lot of friction. And if it's wet, it seems like the train would slide. So how does it work?
  • Curious Dude,
    Trains take longer to stop from the same speed as rubber tired vehicles, but our MetroLink trains do stop pretty quickly. The key is to not let the tire slide. We have anti-slide sensors that release the brakes and reapply them to allow for shortest possible stopping distance. The trains also use electrical brakes, reversing the flow of electricity over their motors as their primary braking system. This converts the energy of a train in motion into electricity which is pumped back into the overhead wire and used by another train. Finally the emergency braking system of the trains is a disc brake system that applies full force to each axle. This system also drops sand on the rail in from of the axles to increase friction.
  • Heard rumors that a Northside-Southside route would use different train cars, is this true?
  • Peter,
    Northside-Southside is proposed to be a street running route, mixing in traffic with automobiles and buses on major arteries. This technology uses curb level boarding instead of the high platforms and platform loading that exists on the existing MetroLink alignment. So yes, the vehicles used would be physically different to accommodate the new boarding methodology. The remainder of the technology would be similar to our existing trains.
  • Is the third track between CWE and Grand ever used? I saw that some of it was removed in preparation for the new station. I was surprised when the replacment of the bridge over Vandeventer included the third track. Did properties have access rights that had to be maintained?
  • Richard,
    Those tracks were used to shuttle our new LRV’s received in 2005 to the Sarah street area where a ramp was employed to drive them off of the flatcar they were shipped on down to track level of the MetroLink system. They also were need to serve the grain elevator and several other businesses that occasionally used freight rail to ship their products. If you look closely there is a freight diamond near Grand station where freight cars could cross over the MetroLink alignment and be shuttled to the proper business siding for loading. The track itself became Metro’s responsibility when the abandoned right away MetroLink uses was donated to the system. As such, we replaced the track over the bridge to keep the freight access open. Over the years the volume across the diamond dropped off to negligible levels. Metro cannot simply close the track. There is a federal process that must be gone through to get permission to decommission and then remove freight track, even sidings such as those deployed in the Central West End area. That process is now complete, and as you noted, some track is being removed. We are looking at some of that track as potential maintenance sidings for heavy equipment that we sometimes bring into to do major work to the MetroLink system. The abandoned track could still save us some money down the road.
  • Brad,
    The design contract for the station has been awarded and design work has commenced. Site preparation has started, and we are expecting the station to be opened at budget and on time.
  • What's happening with the double-length buses that are supposed to be running on Grand? Almost every Grand bus I've caught in the last month has been one of the old single-length buses.
  • What additional measures has Metro taken in terms of increasing security presence and enforcement of its policies? Security at the stations are not doing their job if they are not peeking into the train that stops at their station. They cannot just stand and watch for complaints. They have to be proactive.
  • JBrad,
    We bought end of life used buses and had them refurbished. This was a measure to lower costs and still get a chance to see if articulated buses would work on the streets of St. Louis. There are two things about that plan, first we know that the buses not only work, but are popular with riders. That’s the good. The older busses have developed maintenance issues with their articulated section, and the Air conditioning systems require rework to survive and provide rider comfort during the St. Louis summers. Also when you buy a used bus, you are buying somebody else’s maintenance system as well. That’s been a little bit of an eye opener. The program allowed us to buy buses cheaply. They will not stay in the fleet as long as the other buses we buy and will be replaced with new buses in the future. We have a few years left of intensive maintenance work to keep these buses operating.
  • Aligo,
    The primary assignment of platform guards is fare enforcement, the checking of tickets as people enter the system in addition to providing a physical armed security presence at the MetroLink stations. Often they are not on the platforms, but down at the validators and the fare enforcement strip. There are other patrols consisting of both Public Safety and Police Officers that patrol the platforms and the trains. All elements of the Security function are constantly encouraged to be visible and proactive and to engage customers as the come in contact with them.
  • Thanks everyone for your use of and concern about your regional transit system. We at Metro will continue to work hard to provide the best possible system to the region we serve. Your feedback is important to us and some of the issues brought up here today will be shared with any number of managers to be used to improve the product. Thanks again, we’ll see you on August 3rd.
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