Friday, March 02, 2007

The #58 MetroBus: Why MetroLink Would Not Work on I-64/US 40

The #58 MetroBus: Why MetroLink Would Not Work on I-64/US 40

Very early Wednesday morning, I rode the #58 Chesterfield-Ellisville to that monstrocity of retail in the Gumbo Flats (under water only 14 years ago) known as Chesterfield Commons. It's truly fascinating (and surreal) just how many different stores, many of whom are in direct competition with one another, are located in this same super-sized strip mall.

Riding the #58 to Chesterfield is odd, because the route runs mostly along North Outer Forty (going west), and going east to head home, along South Outer Forty west of Mason.

It's actually pretty cool how fast the #58, whether on that Chesterfield branch or on the branch via Manchester Road to Wildwood, makes it from Brentwood I-64 MetroLink station, express via I-64 to the Ballas Road MetroBus Center. Unfortunately, that speedy service cannot last much longer, once that segment of I-64 goes under the knife.

But west of there, the Chesterfield-bound buses stop in some very inconvenient places, and in many locations it would be quite difficult to find a bus stop heading back east for the return trip.

The westbound route from the MetroBus Center is something like:

*Left onto off-ramp from I-64 WB to Ballas;
*Right on Ballas;
*Left on Conway;
*Right into St. John's Mercy;
*Stop at St. John's Mercy, a temporary-looking bus stop but at least it's at the front door;
*Looping back out of St. John's, to right on Conway;
*Pass under I-270 on Conway, left on North Outer Forty;
*Continue west on North Outer Forty all the way to Maryville University Drive;
*At Maryville University Drive, enters I-64;
*Exits I-64 WB at Timberlake Manor Parkway, to re-enter North Outer Forty;
*Continue west on North Outer Forty to Chesterfield Parkway North;
*Right on Chesterfield Parkway North, counterclockwise half-loop;
*Right on Chesterfield Airport Road (sometimes goes to Chesterfield Mall though);
*Past the Chesterfield Mobile Home Park (seriously!), then right on Baxter Road;
*Left to re-enter Chesterfield Airport Road; and I disembarked near Boone's Crossing.

The entering and re-entering I-64 on this route makes it hard to know just where to catch the bus, and may contribute to its limited ridership on the runs I rode.

As I said, the routing is a bit different headed back east:

*East on Chesterfield Airport Road, entering I-64 via the on-ramp just east of Baxter Road (skipping the trailer park);
*Exit I-64 at Chesterfield Parkway West/Chesterfield Airport Road exit;
*Left on Chesterfield Airport Road, right on Chesterfield Parkway South;
*To Chesterfield Mall, west side, and back out to Chesterfield Parkway South, into Chesterfield Parkway North (honestly, I don't know which section is North, West, South, or East, they seem to be signed differently depending where you come from);
*Clockwise around Chesterfield Parkway North;
*Left onto South Outer Forty, very few bus stops in this stretch;
*Right on Woods Mill Road;
*Woods Mill curves around, continue east via South Outer Forty;
*Left on Mason Road;
*Right on North Outer Forty, Right on Conway, loop via St. John's, Left back onto Conway, Right on Ballas, Left onto I-64 WB onramp, to Transit Center.

Alongside I-64 from Mason to Chesterfield Parkway (East) is the main problematic segment. Because of the one-way configuration of the frontage roads, and the awkwardness around the MO 141 interchange, it's hard to determine where the closest bus stop might be located on the return trip, which may contribute to the low ridership in this segment.

The only overpasses crossing I-64 and connecting the frontage roads between those endpoints are at Timberlake Manor Parkway, Woods Mill Road, and Maryville Centre Drive. While that's probably adequate for local car traffic to access the numerous office parks and institutions along this high-traffic corridor, it's certainly not pedestrian-friendly nor transit-friendly.

So if, for example, you work at Maryville University, there's a westbound bus stop at the "front door" (kinda), at the corner of North Outer Forty (at that point, really a high-speed on/off ramp) and Maryville University Drive. But getting back east could be challenging. I suppose you'd need to walk east alongside North Outer Forty (a daunting prospect indeed), then cross over I-64 on the Maryville Centre Drive overpass, and then find a bus stop nearby on South Outer Forty. Similarly, if you work at Delmar Gardens Chesterfield (maybe not a good example because they also have special, direct service at selected times on the #58), you have a westbound stop right at the door; but to go back east you'd probably need to backtrack about 4/10ths mile to the nearest eastbound bus stop, on Chesterfield Parkway North at Conway.

The low-density development pattern, confusing frontage road configurations, and lack of frequent crossovers for pedestrian access, would make I-64 west of I-270 almost impossible to reconfigure in a way that would make light-rail transit viable on that corridor. Sure, you could install elevated stations above the I-64 median, with walkways to either side. But even then, where would those walkway lead?

But you don't have to take my word for it -- try getting to the MoDOT offices at 1590 Woodlake via this bus route!

1 comment:

Doug Duckworth said...

Most of West County was not designed for pedestrian accessibility. I do not see why anyone would take these lines, unless their destination is immediately near those stops, or they have no other choice. It is simply impossible to walk anywhere, and it seems the farther west the fewer benches/shelters exist. What is the ridership on these Western lines?