Monday, May 15, 2006

Metro Redefined --> Fewer Direct Buses to Downtown

Metro Redefined --> Fewer Direct Buses to Downtown

A recent press release from Metro transit (PDF) trumpets "4th Consecutive Fiscal Year of a Balanced Budget with No Service Cuts" but also notes that after FY 2007, either service cuts or a tax increase will be necessary.

We've been hearing this message for a while.

It's not like service cuts are anything new to the St. Louis transit system.

Meanwhile, there's Metro Redefined, the now more-or-less completed bus system restructuring plan effective in fall 2006, when Cross County MetroLink finally begins operation.

It seems a number of neighborhoods city and county that currently have direct bus service into downtown St. Louis will be required to transfer to MetroLink instead. This isn't necessarily bad, but this combined with the removal of all express buses from EB Olive Street (morning rush) and WB Locust Street (evening rush) may require longer walk times/distances within downtown for some passengers.

For example, the Shaw neighborhood is currently served by both branches of the #80 Shaw - Southampton. Admittedly, it is a circuitous route that serves the interior of numerous neighborhoods but very few major activity centers, and runs bidirectionally through downtown. It was a merger of the old #99 Shaw-Russell (itself an amalgam of parts of the old #99 Lafayette and #21 Tower Grove) with the old #80 Southampton.

The #80 will be split into parts of five different routes. It seems mostly sensible. The route number will be retained by the new #80 Lafayette Square, a short neighborhood circulator route starting at Civic Center MetroBus Center, then via 14th, Chouteau, and Truman Parkway, to Park and Mississippi. From there it will make a big loop via Park, Grand, Russell, and Mississippi (a street heretofore without bus service in that segment, but also with diagonal parking adjacent to Lafayette Park that would make locating a bus stop difficult).

But in Shaw, the #80 route will be split into parts of two other routes.

The #13 Union-Garden already serves the neighborhood on Tower Grove Avenue. It will be shifted to the east, so that the new #13 Union will, after departing the new CWE MetroBus Center on Taylor, head east on Forest Park, Sarah, Laclede, Vandeventer, Lindell (absorbing part of the current #52 Clayton-South County route), to Grand, south on Grand to connect with MetroLink, then via New Park, Spring, Park, 39th, Shaw, and back onto its current route of Tower Grove, Magnolia, and Thurman to end at Thurman Loop.

The sections of Taylor, Chouteau, and Tower Grove north of Shaw and south of CWE MetroLink through McRee Town and Forest Park Southeast currently served by the #13 will be picked up by the ridiculously long #93 Midtown-South County, which will also feature direct service into the Botanical Garden parking lot eliminated on the #13. It will then continue west on Shaw into The Hill neighborhood.

Also serving Tower Grove through McRee Town and FPSE will be the brand new #59 Shaw-Kirkwood. It will also serve MOBOT directly, then head east on Shaw, to 39th, to Shenandoah, to Thurman, ending at Thurman Loop. Its outer leg will mostly cover parts of other routes that will be eliminated like the #52 along Oakland and Clayton Avenues.

Strangely, Shaw Blvd. between Tower Grove and 39th will be served by both the #13 and the #59 - but in opposite directions. To connect with Grand MetroLink, you'll get the #13 on the south side of Shaw. To connect with CWE MetroLink, you'll get the #59 on the north side of Shaw. The two-block segment of Shaw Blvd. between 39th and Grand will have no bus service at all.

Both routes will end at Thurman Loop; but only the #59 will operate on Shenandoah and 39th through the center of the neighborhood.

No bus service will operate on Magnolia between Tower Grove and Kingshighway, currently served by the #80. Yeah, there aren't many houses there, and most of them are within a short walk of Kingshighway, so I guess that's no big deal.

This restructuring will mean most routes connect with at least one MetroLink station. Many routes will connect with two stations, either on the existing alignment or the Cross County route, or both.

Hopefully, this doesn't confuse too many current riders. The online TripFinder might help with the changes, at least for those who have Internet access.

Otherwise, expect really long waits on the Metro Customer Service phone lines this fall.


Anonymous said...

As a regular rider of the #80 towards Mackensie from Downtown, I can tell you most workers in Downtown either get off east of Jefferson or west of Kingshighway. Those riders boarding or alighting between Jefferson and Kingshighway are usually transferring to/from a crosstown route (#11, #70, or #95).

And look at the change this way... Someone in Shaw will now have twice as many buses to take from the CWE or Grand MetroLink stations. Right now, you can only take the #13 Union-Garden from the CWE, but soon you'll have the #13 Union-Shaw and #93 Midtown-South County. Likewise, from Grand MetroLink, you can only currently take the #70 Grand and walk from Grand or transfer to the #80, when soon the #52 Shaw-Kirkwood will serve the Grand MetroLink station as well. And considering most transit-dependents in the Shaw neighborhood are not downtown-bound for work, it will improve their daily lives to get more quickly to MetroLink and hence reach more jobs spread out across our region more quickly.

But Shaw isn't the only area impacted. Those west of Kingshighway will now take the #93 Midtown-South County or #92 Macklind to either the CWE or Shrewsbury stations, depending if they have jobs in the City or County. It just so happens that those east of Grand are still closest to MetroLink via Downtown, using the new #80 Lafayette Square. However, not even this route really will go into Downtown, forcing transfers to MetroLink at the Civic Center station.

With employment dispersed, and downtown no longer being the magnet it once was, bus transfer systems are a lot like airline hubs. I'd like to fly direct from St. Louis to a lot of places, but realistically I'm going to catch a connecting flight in Chicago or Dallas. If even airlines must cut direct flights, why do folks expect our region's bus operator to sustain direct routes? Transfer centers are now in place in every metro area, even Omaha. But at least in St. Louis, our transfer centers, or "hubs" are fortunately on a rapid transit line linking the most popular destinations, minimizing bus-to-bus transfers for speedier rail transfers.

Todd Plesko said...

Metro Redefined does make some substantial modifications to the current bus network but it is not a net service reduction on the bus and certainly not on the train.

It does eliminate some of the buses serving downtown including the 80 and the 52. The miles and hours are shifted to some earlier morning and later night service, new service connecting to some of the reverse commute areas, expanded service to bring Washington University ridership onto the public system. It creates two more frequent express routes, but eliminates three weaker ones. All of the resources are dedicated to these larger routes. Service was also added to the 420X Eureka Express and to the Hwy 40Express which will now feed the Brentwood Station. When combined with the revised 58 Ellisville-Chesterfield, there will be peak hour 10 minute service from the Ballas Transit Center to the Brentwood Station.

The new downtown routing creates a zig zag through downtown including the federal building, Market and 7th and 8th to Washington.

All of the express routes will hit Civic Center area permitting persons on the periphery of downtown or on Metrolink to still catch a downtown express just before departing. You would have to look at the schedules to see an example.

The expanded 240X Bissell and 40X I-55 will operate more frequently and cover more hours like the MCT expresses (16X and 14X) which have had consistent growth over the past 10 years.

Olive street is so slow as a street to operate on that you can get off and walk faster than the bus will move.

With the the Federal Reserve Bank forcing the closure of Locust between 4th and Broadway, all of these expresses have to go to Washington to go back south on Broadway to get to Locust. When there is a baseball game, you can spend 10 minutes trying to turn left from Washington westbound onto Broadway southbound. The new routing will operate north on 4th, West on Washington, south on 8th Street, west on Market, Tucker to Spruce to 14th. Some will go back to Market to Jefferson. Others will go south to I-55.

The Metro buses will duplicate more of the MCT downtown routing which been quite popular over the years.

The largest growth market for ridership is now reverse flow to the suburbs and to CWE Station area. For that reason Metro Redefined is making the CWE a major bus hub, served by Metrolink's two branches and many bus routes.

The train will save some persons going to western parts of the county up to 40 minutes. There are some areas where the changes will increase travel time and increase transferring which is never an ideal thing to do. However we are trying to insure transferring takes place at bus hubs like 14th Street, CWE Station, N.Hanley Station, the Shrewsbury Station, Brentwood Station or the new Riverview and Hall Transit Center...which is supposed to be completed by August 15th.

Overall the changes do not reduce total miles and hours. We do expand coverage, add some new routes, and expand service to areas on the weekend that currrently do not have service.

Pony Mommy said...

If you've been taking the Shaw from Hampton @ Arsenal to MoBot, or into Soulard, or into DT, what do the changes mean?

Anonymous said...

^Pony Mommy, from Hampton and Southwest, just a couple blocks north of Arsenal, you will be able to take the #93 Midtown-South County to the Garden (roughly taking the route of the current Lindenwood to Hanneke Hardware then through The Hill on the present route of the Shaw-Southampton). And from Hampton and Arsenal, you will still be able to take the same #30 Soulard route to the Market.

Anonymous said...

^And the #30 Soulard will continue into Downtown for that desired single-ride trip, but soon traveling 4th/Broadway north of Park to Washington then back onto 9th/10th just as today to Old North. Thus, #30 riders will need to connect with MetroLink at the Convention Center station, instead of its present connections at Stadium and 8th & Pine.

Pony Mommy said...

Thanks for the info. I use the Soulard bus to get to the Market but I ride the present Shaw to travel Russell for purposes of getting to and from West Soulard where family and Juniper Grill are located.

Anonymous said...

I will taking the 93 midtown south country route in the fall. i also glad there reinstating service on union and revias barracks.