Thursday, May 17, 2007

Transit NIMBYism

Transit NIMBYism

Metro Transit recently announced a plan for re-restructuring of transit service in the Shaw, Compton Heights, and Lafayette Square (and adjacent) neighborhoods, to re-instate direct transit service between the Shaw neighborhood and downtown St. Louis, as the former #80 Shaw-Southampton route (and before that, the #99 Lafayette and #80 Southampton routes) provided until August 2006.

The plan (available in PDF format) goes into effect on Monday, June 11, 2007.

The #80 Lafayette Square (PDF route map), a very short neighborhood circulator, will be eliminated.

In brief, the new routes are as follows:

#13 Union. Currently ends at Thurman Loop. Will no longer serve Shaw neighborhood, but instead will turn east on Park Ave. from S. Grand Blvd., then via Park to Truman Parkway, Chouteau, and 14th Street to end at Civic Center MetroBus Center -- a long way from Union Boulevard! This covers the Park Ave. portion of the current #80.

#59 Shaw Kirkwood. Currently ends at Thurman Loop. It is extended eastward to cover parts of the former #13 (within Shaw) and #80 (along Russell Blvd. east of Grand) routes via Thurman, Shenandoah, 39th, Shaw, Grand, Russell, S. 12th, S. Tucker, Chouteau, and 14th Street to end at Civic Center MetroBus Center. This makes for a rather long, twisty route, but does provide a direct connection to MetroLink downtown, albeit lacking a downtown circulator component to provide access to the major employment centers along Market, N. Broadway, and Washington.

#92 Macklind. Currently runs via S. Vandeventer through the industrial zone on the southeastern boundary of the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Will instead be routed via Shaw Blvd., 39th St., Vista, Spring, Chouteau, and then back to current routing via Sarah, Clayton Ave., and Taylor to end at the Central West End MetroBus Center. Supposed to add only 6 minutes to inbound (to CWE) trips from passengers boarded along Macklind, Sublette or Southwest further south.

But what struck me as a bit of NIMBYism toward transit were the following notes within the detailed plan posted online:

1) "[C]ommunity redevelopment interests have asked Metro to consider eliminating the use of its Thurman Loop as a bus terminus so the property can be sold for redevelopment. While redevelopment is already occurring in the Shaw neighborhood, lack of available off street parking for multi-family residences has made improvement of some larger multi family units very difficult. Since Metro’s bus loop may be large enough to provide off street parking for at least one large apartment complex, a route plan that would make the Thurman loop unnecessary for Metro bus operations is an important objective."

Sure it's great as a one-time cash infusion for Metro, and probably makes the nearby dense apartment complexes more appealing for condominium conversions... but isn't this pretty short-sighted? Transit should be viewed as a necessary community amenity, not something to be pushed aside for more parking! And really, how many cars can you park on that Thurman Loop site? Even assuming the loop building would be demolished, maybe 20-25 spaces?

2) "There is strong opposition by non-bus patrons who live on or adjacent to Thurman in the section between Shenandoah and Shaw. These residents supported Plan C. A few residents who live along Thurman but do use the bus support the Plan A and B which both serve the new part of Thurman."

To clarify this one: Plans A and B for the #59 route called for re-routing via Thurman north of Shenandoah, a section of street currently without bus service. However, neighbors opposed this move. It kind of made sense to me, because the stops along Tower Grove Ave. are not particularly busy. After all, only one side of Tower Grove is residential; the west side is the Botanical Garden grounds.

3) "Several non-bus riders living in [sic] Mississippi oppose the use of Mississippi between Russell and Park."

First of all, why do we care about the opinions of Mississippians? ;-)

But seriously, there has long been concern by Lafayette Square residents regarding transit service on Mississippi Avenue. See the following recommendations from the Lafayette Square Neighborhood - Urban Plan, circa 2001 (PDF -- Chapter 4)

"Coordinate with Bi-State agency to re-route the #80 bus line
once the Grattan Street Parkway is completed in order to
better serve residents and workers and to alleviate the
deterioration of Mississippi Street between Park and
Chouteau and the structural damage to historic homes along
this street.
· Coordinate with the St. Louis School administration to
relocate the school bus transfer point, possibly to another
location adjacent the park. The current location has been
designated as needed parking for the expansion of the Park
Avenue Business District."

Of course, Mississippi Avenue north of Park Avenue has since been relieved of transit service, with the current #80 running bi-directionally via Truman Parkway. (Back in 2001, the #80 was still running outbound via Mississippi, and inbound via Dolman)

Now the concern is with the new #80 routing via Mississippi south of Park Avenue to Russell Blvd. I must admit, I didn't really think it made a whole lot of sense to run buses on that street, especially given that the combination of bike lanes and diagonal parking from Park to Lafayette is already potentially hazardous. Trying to squeeze in a few bus stops doesn't seem like a great idea.

So the routing plan does totally eliminate bus service on Mississippi Avenue.

Funny though, nobody has mentioned anything about Lafayette Avenue. Until 2001, two different routes operated on Lafayette from 14th to Jefferson in the Lafayette Square neighborhood: the #20 Cherokee and #99 Lafayette.

Both were eliminated, thereby removing that issue from consideration but also removing the transit connection to Soulard Market from Lafayette Square and Shaw, not to mention bus service along California Avenue in Fox Park, Benton Park West, etc.

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