Friday, February 17, 2006

Transit Confusion

Transit Confusion

I must confess, I am confused. Metro has been messing with the schedules for MetroLink a lot lately. It's all related to the construction in the vicinity of Forest Park station associated with the tie-in to the new Cross County MetroLink line.

On Monday, February 20th (Presidents' Day), a newly adjusted schedule starts. Service will still operate at 12-minute intervals, as it has since mid-January, but eastbound trips will be a few minutes earlier than now.

This latest schedule is supposed to last through March 3rd. I think it has something to do with the single-track operations being shifted a little east.

Right now, MetroLink runs single-track from about Etzel Ave. south of Wellston station, to just east of Forest Park station. The new schedule will accommodate single-track operation from about Waterman Blvd. just west of Forest Park station, to Taylor Ave. just east of Central West End station. At least, I think that's right. MetroLink has track crossovers every couple miles for just this purpose.

Anyway, the especially confusing part is the holiday schedule. On Veterans' Day and Dr. Martin Luther King Day, both MetroLink and Missouri MetroBus service operated on an "supplemented" Saturday schedule, as they did on both those holidays.

That just means that selected trips on four of the express routes will be operated to serve areas of North, West, and Southwest St. Louis County that don't have nearby local bus service into downtown. Ordinarily, express routes don't run on the weekend.

It still leaves a lot of areas and routes without service on those days though; after all, there are a few local routes like the #15 Hodiamont and the #60 Midland that do not run on Saturdays or Sundays. And a bunch of routes stop operation on Saturday schedules around 7:00 PM. Still others that do operate on the weekend are truncated in odd places; for example, on Saturdays and Sundays the #64 Lucas Hunt only goes as far south as the Delmar Loop. Access to the Clayton CBD requires a transfer to the #97 Delmar.

So in summary, on Presidents' Day MetroLink will operate on the newly revised temporary weekday schedule. Missouri MetroBus service, however, will operate on a "supplemented" Saturday schedule.

Anyway, to top it all off, Metro has posted a tantalizingly detailed proposed schedule for the Cross County MetroLink in combination with the existing line.

Proposed service will operate at 5-minute intervals during peak-hour between Emerson Park station in East St. Louis and Forest Park-DeBaliviere station, and 7-to-8-minute intervals at mid-day. Alternating trains will either: 1) Operate straight from Shiloh-Scott in Illinois to Lambert Airport Main Terminal; or 2) Operate from the new I-44-Lansdowne-Shrewsbury station to Emerson Park only.

Thus service on the branch from Forest Park to Lambert Airport will be every 10 minutes at peak-hour, every 15 minutes mid-day. Likewise, service on the branch from Forest Park to Shrewsbury will be every 10 minutes at peak-hour, every 15 minutes mid-day. Service east of Emerson Park to Shiloh-Scott will also be every 10 minutes at peak-hour, every 15 minutes mid-day.

So, this would actually be a reduction in mid-day service frequency along the northwest corridor of the existing line; currently, service from Lambert to Emerson Park (or sometimes JJK or sometimes Washington Park) operates every 12 minutes; before the construction-related revision, that service operated every 10 minutes.

But the proposal does improve frequency in the busiest portion of the line, the central corridor of the City of St. Louis plus a couple stops into East St. Louis. This would return service on this stretch to the former 7-to-8-minute peak-hour intervals MetroLink had operated for the entire Missouri portion of the existing line prior to 2003.

Anyway, it's not clear to me just how much more it will cost Metro to operate the new Cross County MetroLink; or for that matter, some of the proposed new bus routes that may not really service that many people at first. I'm sure it is a significant amount, even though they're probably trying to do some load-balancing.

So, it will be interesting to see what Larry Salci proposes: another go at a sales tax increase, perhaps? Private funding in the form of subsidies from major employers in remote locations served by transit like Delmar Gardens, St. Luke's Hospital, St. John's Mercy and Missouri Baptist Medical Centers, Saint Louis Mills, Chesterfield Commons, Chesterfield Mall, and Riverport? We'll see.

No comments: