Good Afternoon, St. Louis! It is an exciting time for transit in the St. Louis region. This week we hosted Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers who toured several recently-completed transit projects including the Eads Bridge and North County Transit Center, and the construction site of the Civic Center Transit Center. Ms. Flowers also visited the potential Northside-Southside light rail corridor, which will soon be studied further by East-West Gateway Council of Governments and their partners.
Free transit fares on election day is an interesting idea, thanks for sharing! We have not made plans to offer a free-fare day next Tuesday, November 8, but it is an idea that we will consider in future years.
MetroBus is a powerful means of providing access to opportunities across our region, and carries over 60% of boardings across the Metro Transit System.
Any expansion of transit service, whether bus, light rail, or another mode, would require operating funds to support that service. Metro operates with a balanced budget, and provides a service level commensurate with available funds, which primarily include sales tax proceeds appropriated by the jurisdictions we serve, and passenger fares. Metro occasionally receives limited federal grant funds to support the kickoff of new or enhanced service, including two routes that were introduced this past March to serve the North County Transit Center and surrounding communities.
In 2017, Metro will begin a comprehensive analysis of the MetroBus system. We’ll consider different routes, service levels, vehicle types and service types. This effort could result in plans to incrementally modify or enhance bus service in many of the markets MetroBus serves, though we anticipate resultant plans would need to be supported within Metro’s currently-available operating resources.
Metro is planning to re-stripe the Shrewsbury I-44 MetroLink Station park-ride lot in the next two weeks, weather permitting. If this lovely weather happens to turn very cold, the re-striping could be pushed to the spring.
State funding is a significant source of funds for transit operations or capital programs for many transit systems across the United States, including in Illinois. State funding for transit in Missouri is currently very low. There are conversations taking place across the state about strategies for creating funding streams for transportation in Missouri, including transit. You may recall that in August 2014 an unsuccessful initiative called Amendment 7 was on ballots in Missouri. If passed, proceeds of this initiative would have been devoted primarily to roads and bridges, with some funding for other modes including transit. Leaders across Missouri continue to discuss options for a long-term strategy for supporting our multi-modal transportation system, though a specific funding measure has not been announced.
Through the work we do, public events, customer communications and media relations, Metro highlights the many positive ways our service impacts our region, and the benefits of transit to our many customers. Over 75% of Metro customers are using our service to get to work, and many are choosing Metro to get to school. The economic impact of our service is powerful, and extends even beyond the wages earned and education attained by our customers. MetroLink stations are a powerful economic development catalyst. Metro offers residents of our region cleaner transportation options that allow them to reduce their environmental impact, while also saving money. Metro has a powerful story to tell, and we continue to seek out opportunities to promote our important service.
Metro has service standards for our system the act as a guide for determining route locations and service levels, like frequency and hours of operation. These guidelines are applied alongside regional mandates to provide transit access across a very large service area so that most residents of communities across the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County have access to transit near their home and work locations. This is an important mission. Routes that have very low productivity tend to have limited trips during peak time periods, and many operate on weekdays only. We also endeavor to time trips to coincide with employers to the extent feasible, so that even limited service can be productive. We mentioned earlier today that next year we will conduct an operational analysis of the MetroBus system and may make adjustments to service as a result. This could include identifying different service strategies in lower-ridership markets.
That’s an interesting idea! I’ll forward this over to our Marketing and Communications team for consideration.
The escalator at 8th & Pine is currently undergoing a step chain replacement (this is the major component that the steps sit on). This is an extensive project and requires an extended down time. The industry does not recommend reversing the direction of escalators during outages. The equipment wears in its typical direction, and reversing that would cause further problems.
I’ve forwarded your comment to our team responsible for the clocks at our MetroLink Stations.
The safety and security of our customers is Metro’s highest priority. Metro Public Safety and our partners including St. Louis County Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department of the City of St. Louis recently increased the number of personnel assigned to patrol the Metro transit system. We have observed a decrease in criminal activity across the transit system since this additional presence. I have shared your comments with our Public Safety team so that they and our partners can remain vigilant.
I am sorry you have experienced some inconvenience as a result of single tracking on the Blue Line. This episodic single tracking will take place occasionally for remainder of the year, and we anticipate having very little single tracking next year. The nature of the maintenance requirements of a rail system require that we close down tracks during a portion of our normal schedule to accommodate maintenance activity. The solution with the least customer impact for our current maintenance activity is to turn Blue Line trains at the Forest Park Station, operating trains in the core of our service area only every 20 minutes. I encourage you to stay abreast of schedule single-tracking events on our website so that you may plan occasionally. We regret this inconvenience for you and our other customers, and we want you to know that Metro Transit is committed to maintaining our transit system in safe operating condition.
It is very unlikely that additional lanes of traffic could be added to Jefferson or Chippewa, and a decision regarding whether to devote existing traffic lanes in whole or in part to bus service would have to be made by the jurisdiction that owns those roads, in this case the City of St. Louis. We have seen successful examples in other cities of dedicated transit lanes, or lanes that are shared between transit and vehicles making right turns. We proposed this type of configuration in a north-south bus rapid transit route called West Florissant – Natural Bridge BRT. This could be an issue Metro and our partners explore in our 2017 – 2018 system analysis, though I cannot confirm there is any significant interest or capacity to devote lanes to transit on these busy urban arterial corridors.
Metro is currently testing our Gateway Card, which is a smart card used for transit fare payment. We hope that this option will make paying transit fares more convenient for our customers. We anticipate beginning to roll out the Gateway Card to the public in 2018, starting with select markets and gradually increasing dispersion to all fare types.
The Union Station MetroLink Station is carrying large volumes of passengers at this time during the temporary closure of the Civic Center Transit Center. Unfortunately some individuals chose to urinate in elevators, and Metro endeavors to ameliorate the impact of this nuisance with frequent and thorough cleanings. It seems you’ve noticed both. The good news is that when Civic Center Transit Center re-opens next year, it will include public restrooms.
During our current maintenance activity in the Union Station tunnel, we can only operate trains every 20 minutes.
Thank you for a lively chat today, St. Louis! I look forward to returning next month to report on some of the exciting activities going on at Metro. Stay tuned later this month for the launch of a new www.metrostlouis.org website.