Monday, September 18, 2006

Bus Service for St. Peters?

Bus Service for St. Peters?

Believe it or not, there's actually talk of creating a small bus system within the City of St. Peters, MO.

Of course, it would be mainly geared toward senior citizens, just like the little-known and oddly-named SCAT: St. Charles Area Transit.

Recently, though, the St. Charles City Council considered eliminating that service, which consists of four looping routes that operate once hourly from 9 AM to 3 PM weekdays through different parts of the City of St. Charles, with the hub of operations being the O'Dell Senior Center located next to the Fairgrounds Road overpass along I-70.

There's also a very limited I-70 commuter route with four weekday AM runs eastbound to North Hanley MetroLink and four weekday PM runs westbound, serving St. Joseph's Hospital, Ameristar Casino, and then the Cave Springs, Zumbehl Road, and Fairgrounds/Veterans Memorial Pky commuter parking lots along I-70.

Currently, no bus service is provided to the Mid-Rivers commuter parking lot, at one time served by the former Bi-State routes 134 St. Charles Limited (traditional commuter service) and 34 Earth City (reverse commute; i.e., the westbound early AM bus and eastbound evening buses).

It would be great if St. Charles and St. Peters would get together to offer a more extensive commuter bus service along the I-70 corridor, or perhaps even other, less congested routes like MO 370 or MO 364 (Page Ave.)

While there is a legal entity called the St. Charles County Transit Authority, authorized by state law to levy up to one-cent sales tax for transit purposes, voters have repeatedly turned down requests to collect that tax. We can debate the reasons, but many said it was out of fear that MetroLink expansion westward would increase crime.

Also, a huge right-of-way opportunity was lost when the old MO 115 (St. Charles Rock Road) bridge into St. Charles was demolished several years ago. While it may have needed reinforcement, it was wide enough to accommodate MetroLink dual-track operation.

Now, if MetroLink is ever extended across the Missouri River, some kind of structure would need to be built, either an entirely new bridge or one hanging off an existing bridge complex like the I-70 (Blanchette), MO 370 (Discovery), MO 364 (Veterans Memorial), or I-64/US 40 (Daniel Boone). That's expensive.

It's not likely a St. Charles County-wide sales tax will pass anytime soon -- and realistically, residents of still semi-rural areas like Portage des Sioux, Orchard Farm, New Melle, Defiance, etc. could not be efficiently served by transit. So maybe the communities in the developed area of the county -- St. Charles, St. Peters, O'Fallon, Cottleville, Dardenne Prairie, Lake St. Louis, and Wentzville -- could get together on a joint application for federal funding to provide public transit to address some key needs:
  • Independence for senior citizens;
  • Congestion migitation by providing peak-hour commuter bus routes along I-70 westward to Bryan Road; and a demonstration route via MO 364 connecting the MO 94 corridor to West Port and MetroLink at Clayton. This would operate as an express along MO 364, then via Westline Industrial to serve West Port, and then continue with limited stop service via Page and I-170 to Clayton MetroLink station/MetroBus center. Stops on Page would be only at Lindbergh, Warson, Dielman/Records Center, and Woodson.
  • Reverse commute trips for St. Louis City and County residents to employment destinations such as Missouri Research Park in Weldon Spring and MasterCard / CitiMortgage at WingHaven, via an extension of the #58 Chesterfield-Ellisville MetroBus route across the Daniel Boone Bridge.
  • Demonstration service to St. Charles Community College on selected reverse commute weekday trips of the MO 364 route.
While it would cost some money, this would be a way to test whether MetroBus service via corridors other than congested I-70 could be feasible, at least for peak-hour commuting trips in both directions.

A survey would need to be done to identify both workers who live in St. Charles County and would like to take transit directly to Clayton and West Port; as well as workers in the Winghaven and Missouri Research Park areas who live east of the Missouri River who might take advantage of transit service.

There are plenty of other possible reverse commuter transit destinations, such as hospitals, nursing homes and retirement complexes, and the various retail complexes such as around Mid-Rivers Mall. It's not like there aren't places in St. Charles that could benefit from bus service. It's a question of political will and interest. Even if voters continue to reject MetroLink, at least some limited bus service across the Missouri River would be desireable.


Doug Duckworth said...

Maybe another bridge could be built through Creve Coeur Park. That would be fantastic!

Run the MetroLink to Westport through Overland, and then through the park along Page. The MetroLink could have stations near multiple locations in the "dense" sections of St. Charles, with bus service to these stations. If only there were more sidewalks so people can get to said bus stops.

Joe I think we should concentrate on the Inner Ring Suburbs and possibly West County. St. Charles had its chance and they voted it down. If they want transit then they can move to St. Louis County and lobby to get a tax increase on the ballot. St. Charles residents, at least the majority that voted it down, are ignorant to the benefits of mass transit. Let them sit on Highway 40 during construction and maybe they will move closer to the core or reconsider their worldview. St. Charles has limited potential for mass transit but it will never happen until public opinion shifts.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Metro offer the same deal to St. Charles as they do now for Arnold in Jefferson County? Just run a Metro bus for express commuter service, but charge 50-cents extra.

As for the lost bridge, there is excess capacity on Page, such that you don't need the expense of an entirely new bridge or even cantilevered structure. But I agree with Doug, that it's a moot point. St. Chuck will never pass a significant tax increase to expand MetroLink, Metro can't afford empty trains out to Wally-world, and the urban core could use more transit first.