Friday, January 26, 2007

Transit Daze

Transit Daze

Lately I've taken public transit to some of the more remote places accessible by transit in the St. Louis region, logging probably several hundred miles and certainly many hours.

A few Sundays ago, I took the #30 Soulard and then the #57 Manchester all the way to West County Center. The place was packed and many traffic lights in the Kirkwood area were out, after that latest ice storm passed through. The area there seemed to have been hit much harder than St. Louis City. Then I took the #58 Ellisville-Chesterfield, MetroLink, and the #11 Chippewa back into the city.

That #58 is a fast ride, since it usually runs on I-64/US 40 from Ballas direct to Hanley, not just at peak-hour but all day, every day. The #58 has two branches, one starting in Chesterfield Valley and the other in Wildwood, but both express to MetroLink from Ballas MetroBus Center eastward.

I kind of wish the Olive and Page corridors could be split up like that, with a reverse commute express via 40 or I-70 from MetroLink. Then again, once the I-64 rebuild starts, the #58 will no longer be so fast. But for now, it works nicely.

I did go out to Westport on Tuesday via transit, using the #11x, MetroLink, and then the #33 Dorsett-Lackland to get there. That #33 is a long, twisty ride mostly through Overland. Actually, it's almost an express from Rock Road MetroLink to near I-170, simply because that section of St. Charles Rock Road is mostly cemeteries and golf courses, with limited residential population. But once you get into Overland, it slows down; then it speed up again west of Lindbergh. It's the bus route that most closely parallels the western reaches of the old Creve Coeur Lake trolley.

My trek back into the city had me headed way south, to the Carondelet YMCA, so from the #33 and MetroLink (via a transfer from eastbound to westbound at Forest Park) I hopped onto the #08 Bates line.

The #08 is a tremendously convenient option added to the system in August 2006; although many many years ago before Bi-State took over transit service, there was a #108 Bates bus line.

This route is a nice, quick way to get from Shrewsbury MetroLink station to Gravois and Hampton; from there it travels a long bidirectional loop via Morganford, Bates, S. Grand, Loughborough, S. Broadway, and Marceau/Germania.

So in addition to replacing the southernmost leg of the #90 Hampton, it connects to places like the new Loughborough Schnucks and the Carondelet Y, not to mention the Bevo Mill and Holly Hills neighborhoods. If you need to get to work in Clayton, for example, it is much faster than taking routes like the #10 Gravois, #40 Broadway or #70 Grand all the way to downtown/midtown. It's a pretty short route overall, so it seems to be mostly on-time. And it lays over 10 minutes at Shrewsbury station; usually the driver will let passengers board to stay warm until it's time to pull off.

I rode the #08 again on Wednesday, after taking the #11 directly from home to Sunset Hills and then back to Shrewsbury. The stop by the new Schnucks is not ideally situated, but hopefully the access will be better once all construction is done. I do think the site plan could have used some work, but once you get inside the new Schnucks, it's clearly 10x better than the old store, and probably 100x better than the Grand and Gravois location is!

At peak-hour, another option for accessing the new Schnucks, or the YMCA, is the #40x I-55 Mehlville Express, which stops on the Loughborough on-ramp to I-55 southbound. It's a bit more walking to either destination, but (barring traffic) it's a fast ride from downtown St. Louis. Just make sure to pull the stop request cord right after you pass the Bates Street exit; you don't want to have ride all the walk down to Reavis Barracks Road, since you'd then have to take the much slower #93 Midtown-South County to go back north.

I even took MetroLink into Illinois yesterday to get to Scott Air Force Base. Visitors are not allowed access at the unstaffed gate adjacent to Shiloh-Scott MetroLink station; you need to be in their biometric security database to get in there, which pretty much means only base personnel and their families. So I caught a ride with a colleague from Swansea station due east to the main gate at the end of Siebert Road; then a quick ride back to Shiloh-Scott Station, about 1.5 miles south of the main gate via Air Mobility Drive (IL 158).

On the way, I got a look at the massive new St. Clare Catholic Church being built in O'Fallon near I-64. This parish has been located at the same spot in old town O'Fallon since 1868; the current sanctuary dates to 1895. But now because of the massive rapid growth in that area, they're building a new, much larger facility on land owned by the parish for at least five years.

I've also finally figured out there is, indeed, an accessible route to access the Eads Bridge on foot from the eastside. If you take MetroLink to East Riverfront station, a ramp leads up to the walkway along the south side of the bridge. However, on the Missouri side, there is no such convenient connection between Laclede's Landing station and the upper deck. Unfortunately, since the Landing station is a center-platform, it would impossible to make such a connection with the current structures in place.

I think the East Riverfront station platform, and the Eads Bridge walkway above, have some of the greatest views of the Arch and the downtown skyline. And I hope and believe that sooner, rather than later, the East St. Louis Riverfront will be fully developed in a way that complements that magnificent view.

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