Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Suburb-to-Suburb by Public Transit: Sometimes Arduous

Suburb-to-Suburb by Public Transit: Sometimes Arduous

On Monday afternoon, I needed to go from Washington University to Crestwood Plaza by bus. It was rush hour, which has pluses and minuses in this particular case. It was also raining intermittently, which has mostly minuses in any case when you're waiting for buses.

About 4:15, I walked over to the corner of Big Bend and Forsyth, to catch the #58 Clayton-Ballas (branch to Brentwood Garage). I used that stop because it also gives you the option of taking either the #97 Delmar or #64 Lucas Hunt to get into downtown Clayton.

Given the heavy traffic and rain, it took a little while to get to the Clayton Transit Center, and even longer to go south on Brentwood Blvd. For some reason, I decided to transfer at the Saint Louis Galleria bus stop on Brentwood, rather than at the Transit Center. After about a 10 minute wait, I caught the #47 Cross County (branch to St. Anthony's) just before 5:00.

Of course, the #47 also had to fight traffic, on Brentwood, Eager, Hanley, and Laclede Station. But, somehow, it still made it to Laclede Station at Watson about 5:15, where I transferred again, to the #11 Chippewa westbound. Fortunately, I didn't need to cross either street; just dashed across the edge of the Yorkshire Shopping Center parking lot as the #11 came through the intersection.

I arrived at Crestwood about 5:25; conveniently, the #11 Chippewa stops in the mall parking lot near the Dillard's entrance.

Anyway, this was actually a short, 1 hour commute - considering it took three buses and was practically door-to-door, that's not bad. It helps that (currently) the #58 and the #11 run every 15 minutes or so at rush hour; the #47 is every 30 minutes.

On November 28th, the #58 Clayton-Ballas will change. Although service to Chesterfield will be improved, it will only run every 30 minutes. Currently, the #58 runs every 14 to 20 minutes or so, with alternating branches going to Brentwood Garage or to the Ballas Road MetroBus Transit Center.

While the November 28th Service Changes are accurately touted as a service improvement in West County, it makes things a little more confusing in Mid-County. Now, to go south on Brentwood Blvd. into the City of Brentwood, you'll need to transfer to the newly renamed #66 Brentwood - Airport, currently known as the #66 Clayton - Airport. Of course, the Airport terminus suggested by the route name is not entirely accurate, since the route actually goes all the way to Village Square Shopping Center in Hazelwood, via North Lindbergh.

Ironically, at one time this route was called the #66 Maplewood-Airport, although it actually operated from Saint Louis Marketplace shopping center in the City of St. Louis, then via Manchester (past its original terminus, the Yale Loop), Big Bend, Folk, and Hanley, into Clayton. North of Clayton, it ran mostly along the current #66 route, with some changes having been made back when the old #63 Clayton-Northwest Plaza was eliminated.

At that time, the #66 was shifted from, I believe, its former routing within west University City via North & South, Delmar, McKnight into Woodson; over to North & South, Olive, 82nd Blvd., and through the subdivision north of Olive between 82nd and Woodson via Braddock and Kempland to Woodson near the I-170 underpass. This section was previously part of the #63 route, which also served Brown Road in Overland - hence the deviation to Brown on the #66 up to now. However, now the #66 is being streamlined to again run direct on Woodson, and the #33 Dorsett-Lackland will shift to Brown for the stretch from Lackland to St. Charles Rock Road. Currently, it runs directly on Lackland all the way to the Rock Road. And, back before the Lackland Road Bridge was reopened over the railroad tracks (owned by Bi-State) just east of I-170, that route operated, I think, via Woodson.

Sometimes, I just wish Metro would settle on a routing plan and stick with it. While it's great to respond to customer requests, as they apparently have done with the rerouting of the #74 Florissant to occasionally serve Carter Avenue on the old #96 Walnut Park route, replacing the ridiculously inadequate #195 Carter Shuttle, it still is very confusing for all riders. Many people still refer to the #52 Forest Park or #73 Carondelet, when in fact the routes have been combined into the very, very long and winding #52 Clayton - South County.

And I know that a whole bunch more changes are coming in October 2006 - when Cross County MetroLink is supposed to open. At least those will definitely make the trip faster. But, why do they have to cut in half bus service from Forest Park MetroLink station to Clayton CBD on the #58 - one year early? I guess it's the only way to make the extension of bus service (rather than the current Chesterfield Connector van service) to Chesterfield Valley feasible.

This also serves as a reminder that, despite some changes, MetroBus does not provide particularly ideal nor complete suburb-to-suburb transit connectivity. While Cross County MetroLink will make my WashU-to-Crestwood trip dramatically faster, many relatively short trips in the county require three buses. And most of those buses don't run that often, either.

For example, suppose you lived near I-255 and Telegraph Road (like I used to) and wanted to get to work at St. Anthony's Medical Center on Tesson Ferry and Kennerly - all within South County. By car, that's probably a 10 minute trip by highway; more like 20 by back roads. You could actually take the #52X Tesson Ferry Express and make it there in about 20 minutes. But that's no help if you need to get there anytime other than between 6 and 7:30 AM. If you have an afternoon shift, it would take three buses: #40 Broadway, which runs once each hour via Forder Rd to South County Mall; then the #49 Lindbergh, which runs once each hour most of the day and every 30 minutes at peak hours, to Lindbergh at Tesson Ferry; then the #47 Cross County, which runs once each hour to St. Anthony's.

That five-mile commute could conceivably take two hours each way. At least living in the City, you know you can find a bus within reasonable walking distance of most residences, and within reasonable walking distance of most destinations within the City limits. And most buses in the City run every 30 minutes or better.

The major exceptions are the interior parts of certain neighborhoods like Tower Grove South, Clifton Heights, Boulevard Heights, Saint Louis Hills, eastern Bevo and western Dutchtown, as well as the Riverview Drive neighborhood, which are more than a 1/4-mile walk from a bus stop.

Also, there are a few routes in the City which don't run so often - namely, the South Broadway corridor in Dutchtown and Carondelet, where service on the #40 south of Montana Street is once hourly; the #15 Hodiamont which runs about every 40 minutes; and the #92 Lindenwood which, like many county routes, runs once each hour. And weekend travels can be a bit harder: the #15 and #92 don't run on weekends, like a number of county routes.

1 comment:

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

Try pulling that commute off on a Sunday, fun, there!

I have numerous woeful memories of attempting suburb-to-suburb transit when I lived in the Chicago 'burbs. I remember one wintery Sunday when an also carless friend who lived two suburbs over--not too far--invited me over, but after I spent a moment poring over bus and train schedules, I realized it would take me about three hours to get to her house that day! The way Chicago public transit was set up, I would have had to take a bus into Chicago, where I would take the Red Line all the way Downtown, then transfer to the Blue Line and take it all the way back out of the city, at which point I had to catch a bus that ran very sporadically, and then take a 15-minute walk. I stayed home that day, and spent a lot of time thinking about how stupid of a transit arrangement that was. Even on a weekday when I could have replaced one of those busses with a train route (faster) and everything would be running more frequently, going all the way into the city and coming all the way back out is silly, particularly in a city of that size.

And I won't even get started on the time I tried to take two busses out to another suburb and ended up an hour late to an appointment....blugh. Just in case I needed another reminder that the place where I lived was built for people who could afford to own cars, there it was.