Wednesday, May 03, 2006

MetroLink Stops

MetroLink Stops

By now, most readers are aware I am a frequent transit rider.

I do enjoy MetroLink, although sometimes I wonder whether there might be more optimal locations for its various stops.

Sure, inside downtown it stops every few blocks. Still, I wonder why they couldn't have placed a stop under Tucker Boulevard, which would have made direct connections to numerous bus routes a snap. Instead, they're rerouted all those buses (and then some) to serve the Civic Center station two blocks west, on 14th Street.

To a great extent, it has always seemed to me that MetroLink was built with suburban park-ride commuters as a paramount consideration. Connnections to the bus system were secondary, but also mandatory, because they truncated some bus lines to feed into MetroLink.

Then there's the events - Cardinals, Blues, and Rams games, Fair St. Louis, Mardi Gras - which do bring much needed revenue to Metro transit, but at the same time, they overwhelm the capacity of MetroLink itself.

One thing that always annoys me is when MetroLink security blocks off the stairs leading to Spruce from both platforms of the Stadium stadium. That is presumably a crowd control measure, to force everybody into using the very long, convoluted ramps that lead eventually up to the little plaza at 7th and Clark.

But that makes it nearly impossible to connect with a #30 Soulard bus on game nights!

I've never felt quite as overwhelmed at the Civic Center station when there's a Blues game, partly because it is a HUGE center platform station. The two separate platforms at Busch Stadium stop are, it turns out, way more capacity than necessary 75% of the time. But when there's a ballgame, it's not nearly enough space.

I thought part of the deal with the new stadium included redesigning and possibly relocating that stop slightly; but it certainly hasn't happened yet.

It's great that MetroLink stops at the front door of so many downtown event venues, but I wish those stops would get more use at other times of the day/week/year.

I would also love to see an additional MetroLink stop somewhere closer to Harris-Stowe State University. Sure, I guess they have a shuttle service connecting with Grand station, but if there was a stop somewhere west of Jefferson and east of Compton, that could serve not only HSSU, but also Sigma-Aldrich, A.G. Edwards, and the rest of the Mill Creek Valley business park.

Ideally, there could also be some kind of pedestrian connection southward, to serve the Gate District, including Flower Row.

I believe the CORTEX plan also may call for eventually building a stop in the vicinity of Sarah Street. If that could revitalize that little depot building next to the grain elevator, and connect with all the new development along Sarah between Forest Park Parkway and Lindell, I would support that as well.

Even the new Cross County MetroLink line seems replete with missed opportunities. Given that both the Skinker and the Big Bend stops will be a pretty substantial walk from the core of the WashU campus and from the Delmar Loop, it would have been sensible perhaps to instead just have one stop, near Melville Avenue/Ackert Walkway, simply known as "the Overpass" by WashU students. Such a location would be convenient to the heart of the campus, just steps from Olin Library, and about a four-block walk south of Blueberry Hill.

Likewise, the Clayton Corporate Park, where Enterprise Leasing is headquartered and the County Juvenile Center is located, will be adjacent to Cross County but not directly served.

Meanwhile, I can't see the big demand for the Sunnen station, unless somebody comes up with a way to redevelop Deer Creek Center in a transit-oriented way. But since it's located in a flood plain, that might be difficult. And there will not be a stop on the Big Bend end of that center, which is closer to more residences than the Laclede Station side.


Anonymous said...

The #30 Soulard will be relocated to 4th/Broadway south of Washington, as part of Metro Redefined 2006, bus restructuring taking place with the opening of Cross County. In the future then, #30 riders will transfer at Convention Center station instead of Stadium.

As for missed opportunities...

The close proximity between Civic Center and Union Station is a joke, but the original line was planned in the 1980s (1984 conceptual design), when big projects, like Kiel, Union Station and St. Louis Centre were thought of as the way to the future. Of course, when now planning a north-south line, when Tucker is so logical, the station at Kiel instead does provide a challenge. Others will point to the multi-modal center. However, maybe that could have been built at Tucker too.

Neither the Skinker nor Big Bend stations are meant to exclusively serve the Hilltop campus, although that is without a doubt the most popular destination nearby. Perhaps, a single stop around Melville could have shaved nominal travel time off trains and been a shorter walk for WashU and the Loop via the walkway. However, the lines were already needing to go under Skinker and Big Bend, while an at-grade Melville station would have needed more width and thereby land.

Adding a station to Enterprise is foolish if such station wouldn't serve any other destinations. In Clayton, the real mistake was Metro giving into resident pressure to only have access to the Central station from the north. Access to Brentwood Boulevard was possible but neighboring condo residents killed it.

As for Sunnen, the hopes are on a TOD-redevelopment future. The distance between Manchester and Lansdowne is enough to consider another station, but in the short-term future, Big Bend does seem more logical. Sunnen controls a lot of property around what will be the least active Cross County station, so hopefully, the consideration for profit will lead this major land owner to a TOD future. Cynically, some might think it would be more big boxes, but luckily, much of the area about Sunnen doesn't have direct arterial access.

urban Review said...

To your point about how MetroLink is a suburban park-n-ride system, you are correct. Travel time for the user way out is more important than convenience to the local user. This is the light rail vs. modern streetcar debate.

The light rail advocates want as few of stops as possible to improve headways while modern streetcar advocates, like myself, want more stops to be able to serve more people. We need to get the maximum number of people within a 1/5 of a mile walk to a fixed rail (or BRT) stop.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, the new stations planned as part of the North-South lines in the City will have stops in closer proximity than current MetroLink lines. Put simply, outside of Downtown, current lines have stops every half-mile to a mile, while a line on Natural Bridge or Gravois could have stops every quarter-mile to half-mile.