Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Crosstown Boogie

Crosstown Boogie

Well, yesterday's Post-Dispatch says Metro Transit next month will unveil an online trip planner feature similar to what places like Seattle, Minneapolis and L.A. have had for years.

This is long overdue, given the relative user-unfriendly nature of the online bus schedules and system map, both of which are available only in PDF.

But it got me to thinking: Is there any chance we could get a few more crosstown bus routes in the City of St. Louis?

Back in the 1980s and 90s, printed Bi-State bus schedules were color-coded (ink, not paper) based on what region of the metro area they served.

Brown = South City and County
Red = Southwest City and County
Green = Northwest City and County
Blue = North City and County
Purple = Illinois
Black = Crosstowns

Nowadays, I guess because it's cheaper, all schedules are printed in black ink. Also, some routes like the #11 Chippewa crossed over different sectors, so it wasn't really that helpful ultimately.

The following routes that are still in operation are long-time crosstowns:

#40 Broadway
#70 Grand
#42 Sarah
#18 Taylor
#95 Kingshighway
#13 Union-Garden
#90 Hampton
#16 City Limits
#47 Cross County
#66 Brentwood-Airport
#49 Lindbergh

A few crosstowns have been eliminated, including the #01 Vandeventer and #65 Woods Mill-Westport. Some have been significantly restructured, but their core service corridors remain basically the same.

Meanwhile, a few new pseudo-crosstowns have been created in recent years via strange mergers of pre-existing routes.

The #52 Clayton-South County is a combination of the former #52 Forest Park and #73 Carondelet (and a short segment of the old #20 Cherokee), which makes for quite a long L-shaped route between the two endpoints indicated. It has two branches, like the old #52, one via Oakland Avenue / Clayton Road, and the other via Clayton Avenue / Dale Avenue.

The #30 Soulard is a U-shaped combination of parts of the former #19 Saint Louis Avenue, #30 Cass, and #96 Walnut Park in the north (and segments until recently covered by the #33 Dorsett-Lackland), with parts of the #03 Morganford-Arsenal and #21 Tower Grove in the south.

The #30 runs from Rock Road MetroLink station mainly via Saint Louis Avenue, then into downtown along 13th mainly, out of downtown via 7th and past its namesake Soulard Market, and then west along Arsenal to McCausland, and finishes up via Manchester at the Brentwoood bus garage.

Also, several of the long-standing crosstowns are not really crosstowns. Sure, the #42 Sarah and #18 Taylor run north-south, but they really only serve north city and the central corridor. Both end at MetroLink; Grand and Central West End, respectively. The #13 Union-Garden makes it a little further south, to Thurman Loop near Tower Grove Park.

But the only City routes that truly span much of the city north-to-south are the #40 Broadway (which also extends into the County mostly south, but a little bit north too), #70 Grand, #95 Kingshighway, and #90 Hampton. Even the #70 is truncated oddly, sometimes, at Jefferson/Chippewa/Broadway in the south and the Water Tower in the north. But sometimes it does run a few blocks further north to Bulwer and Gano off North Broadway; and much of the time it makes it to Grand and Iron in Holly Hills. Only the #40 and #90 service both the Baden area and the Carondelet area. In fact, except when the #90 terminates at Grand and Iron (via Wilmington/Leona/Holly Hills/Morganford), the #90 and #40 intersect both north in Baden and south at Catalan Loop, the respective termini of the #90.

Further west, the #16 City Limits and #66 Brentwood-Airport (formerly the Clayton-Airport, and before that the Maplewood-Airport terminating at St Louis Marketplace) only make it a little south of Manchester. Only the #47 Cross County and #49 Lindbergh are true County crosstowns.

Of course, several of these routes will be truncated or cut up into multiple routes when Cross County MetroLink starts operating.

Cross County MetroLink, as the name suggests, will provide a very partial crosstown option. It will connect Shrewsbury to Clayton. It certainly will not go across the entire county from Sappington to Florissant as the current #47 bus does. That bus route will probably be split into three different routes.

Even the #49 Lindbergh is not as long as it used to be, but that's probably a good thing. It frequently was way behind schedule in the years I rode it, for example, from I-255 and Telegraph Road to St Louis County Library Headquarters in LAH-due. For a time in the 1980s, it was actually privatized, but that only made it worse!

Anyway, I was thinking there are some combinations of routes that would make more sense as new crosstown routes - possibly restoring some of the old crosstown streetcar corridors long eliminated.

For example, why not combine the #11 Chippewa with the #04 Natural Bridge? True, both are very long routes. But that would restore continuous crosstown service on Jefferson Avenue (with a slight detour via Market and 14th to access Civic Center MetroLink/MetroBus Center), like there used to be until the 1950s.

This would be most feasible if the #11 was truncated at the new Shrewsbury-Lansdowne-I-44 MetroLink station. The western Watson Road corridor to Crestwood and Sunset Hills could become a new Watson Shuttle route. This is similar to the change made last year on the #04, which used to run all the way to Northwest Plaza but has been truncated at North Hanley MetroLink station. The western portion is now part of the truncated and restructured #49 Lindbergh.

Or how about combining the #10 Gravois and #74 Florissant? This would sort of reinstate the old Bellefontaine streetcar route -- except that of course the southern leg of that route was what became the #73 Carondelet bus - now part of the aforementioned #52 Clayton-South County. But this would provide a continuous routing via the 1930s superhighway that is Gravois/Tucker/N 13th/Mullanphy/North Florissant (up to Palm anyway).

That one should be pretty simple since both routes already serve the Civic Center MetroBus Center downtown, and run closely parallel routes within downtown. Perhaps the #10 would need to be truncated at Gravois-Hampton Transit Center; and similarly the #74 truncated at Florissant Valley Community College. Both effectively end at those locations most of the time, anyway.

I don't know that either suggested crosstown route would be viable nor feasible. Rather than recreating old streetcar corridors, it would be more sensible to analyze north-south travel patterns to see if folks actually are transferring from a northside route to a southside route in the downtown area, and to minimize the need for such transfers.

But are these really any wackier than the current routing of the #80 Shaw-Southampton? That one makes absolutely no sense to me.


Michael M. said...

Good post. I found the Post-Dispatch story. A trip planner will be a big improvement. It should be combined with realtime tracking and management of vehicles. Have you seen NextBus? I attended a presentation on it. I wrote Metro about it. The reply was that current funding problems are too great. My use of public transportation would increase if I knew how to get places and had some estimates of how long it would take.

Anonymous said...

One problem with connecting Natural Bridge and Gravois to other routes is that these two routes now form the downtown bus loop of Market, 4th/Broadway, Washington and Tucker, with Natural Bridge going clockwise and Gravois going counter-clockwise. Thus, your idea of just coming into downtown to the Civic Center transfer center would leave downtown commuters with fewer options. In fact, the loop was envisioned as a means of compensating for many routes no longer going beyond the Civic Center into Downtown, like the Chippewa.

Granted, I imagine most office workers still prefer a single-ride trip, which the Expresses still provide. And after Metro's 2006 "Redefined" restructuring planned for this fall, only express buses will be left covering the historic Olive and Locust couplet Downtown. All other routes, if even going beyond the Civic Center into Downtown, will be routed along the aforementioned loop, or even just the Washington and 4th/Broadway section as an "L," like the Soulard bus.

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

I am excited about this new tool. The CTA in Chicago has a similar website, and it is pretty useful, so I had hoped St. Louis would get something like this. I will say that whenever I used the CTA's version, the results always required some de-coding, 'cos it IS only a machine. Regularly, I'd plug in two addresses along one train or bus route, in an attempt to check about how long a trip would take, and it would spit out that I needed to take three different busses or trains just to go two miles, when really there was a much simpler route available.

Still, though, this is exciting.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, the option for fewest transfers as part of Metro's on-line service will prevent useless advice that Claire points to as a flaw with CTA.

ZombieKiller said...

Very interesting post.

The busline I miss most is the Morganford/Arsenal. I had a lot of good times on that route.