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October 17, 2011 | 16 Comments

FTA Announces $3.8 Million in Federal Grants for STL Bus Rapid Transit, I-55 Corridor Study, Clean Buses

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Update: The term “bus rapid transit has been removed from the $2 million grant award; this current award is for articulated bus service.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced its support for applicants to the Alternative Analysis, State of Good Repair, and Bus Liveability discretionary grants program. Metro St. Louis has been awarded $3.8 million for projects that will help improve the delivery and service of transit in the St. Louis region. What do each of these grant awards mean?

$2 million for articulated buses and related equipment. This grant is for articulated buses and related infrastructure along the Grand Avenue corridor. The grant is among the first Metro is pursuing to bring expanded service to the popular Grand route.

$970,000 for bus-related equipment (to improve emissions technology in our clean diesel MetroBus fleet).

$677,000 for transit asset management program. This grant will allow the Agency to create a unique asset management program to assess the state of all transit vehicles, buildings, and facilities, to be used as a national template for other transit agencies.

$200,000 for I-55 corridor study.
This grant
allows Metro and its partners (MoDOT, East-West Gateway, St. Louis City and St. Louis County) to evaluate the costs, benefits and environmental impacts of transit options along the I-55 corridor.  Options include expanded bus service, bus rapid transit, and light rail service. Metro has applied for grants to study other major interstate corridors; I-55 is the first to receive funding support from the FTA.

The FTA has formally supported these grants, and final FTA approval is expected sometime next year. This is a major step in seeing improved transit service in St. Louis.  For more on Metro’s long range plan for transit improvements, see Moving Transit Forward. We’ll keep you updated on project developments.

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Capital Projects

16 thoughts on “FTA Announces $3.8 Million in Federal Grants for STL Bus Rapid Transit, I-55 Corridor Study, Clean Buses”

  1. Herbie says:

    Is the $2 million grant just for articulated buses or are other infrastructure investments included as well?

    1. Courtney says:

      Here’s the language from the award description: St. Louis (Bi-State Development Agency)
      Project: Purchase of Articulated Buses and Related Equipment
      Amount: $2,000,000
      Bi-State Development Agency will improve transit service along MetroBus’ Grand Boulevard
      route, a high-ridership corridor, by replacing older 40-foot buses with larger articulated buses.
      Articulated buses will provide 30 percent additional passenger capacity on the route without an
      increase in emissions.”

      Other equipment would mean maintenance investments needed to maintain the fleet; there are some unique aspects of these buses, including their larger size and accordion-like structure, and other related possible capital investments.

  2. RTBones says:

    Out of curiosity – your post mentions BRT along Grand.

    Is this just for the buses themselves, or does this include re-striping, dedicated lanes, dedicated shelters, etc?

    Personally, I’m sad to see and hear Grand is getting BRT. I know the route is one of Metro’s busiest – makes it a great candidate to put a streetcar back in. Oh well, at least I don’t have to ride the route.

  3. RTBones says:

    Sorry for the double comment (no edit button) – looks like you answered my question above, Court. Thanks, as always.

  4. RTBones says:

    A further question: the I-55 corridor study – hasnt that been done? Wasn’t there an environmental impact study done several years ago (2004?) that looked at running Metrolink south to about Arnold?

    I bring this up for two reasons: 1 – earlier this year, when gas prices were well north of $4.00/gal, I remember several posters mentioning that if the train ran to the south, they and others they knew would have taken it in. 2 – I suspect what this study will conclude is that BRT is needed in the I-55 corridor. Why? Fewer emissions than expanded bus service, and it will be perceived as lower cost than running a train. Nothing set in stone, obviously, but that is my prediction.

  5. Herbie says:

    Thanks Courtney. I’m excited to see larger buses serving Grand in the future. My only quibble is that larger buses in and of themselves do not constitute BRT as your description seemed to imply. Either way, I look forward to the upcoming studies for BRT on Grand and area highways.

  6. Joshua B says:

    What is the status of the Northside-Southside Metrolink? I was told that the decision for the next Metrolink route would be made this year. 2011 is coming to an end and I’ve heard nothing. Is the next line going to West County or St. Louis City? Whats the deal?

    1. Courtney says:

      Joshua, I’m not sure where you got your information about the next MetroLink line, but I have not heard of the 2011 deadline. The decision itself of where to put MetroLink is less Metro’s decision as STL’s regional planning organization, East-West Gateway. Because any MetroLink line will have to involve many munis, state and federal funding, it has to be a regional decision. As far as I know, there are no immediate plans for an additional MetroLink line, though land utilization studies may be underway. Right now, the immediate plans are looking at bus rapid transit options in the area. Regarding TOD zoning requirements, Metro is working on creating station profiles and frameworks for TOD zoning guidelines, but ultimately, it requires a partnership with the local muni or county to pass requirements for TOD. I do know Metro is working towards, and wants, to foster a TOD environment for future developments.

  7. Joshua B says:

    I would also like to know if TOD zoning requirements would be connected to the next expansion of Metrolink or BRT service. I would also hate to see more expensive infrastructure built in St. Louis County, only to have surface parking lots and strip malls built next to them. See Cross County extension for reference. I personally think a Westport line would be even more wasteful.

  8. Chris says:

    I am curious which articulated buses Metro intends to purchase. I remember Metro tested the NABI 60-BRT in Fall 2008 and many called it Metrolink on wheels due to the design of the bus.

    I would like to see Metro look at the Novabus LFS artics. New York MTA has these and they look and ride nice. Austin’s Capital Metro is purchasing 22 of these Nova LFS artics for their MetroRapid service.

    1. Courtney says:

      Chris, I’m not yet sure which company Metro will contract for articulated buses, but I do know right now we work with Gillig for our regular bus fleet. I’ll pass along the suggestion to take a look at Novabus. 🙂

  9. Jimmy Z says:

    Congratulations on the grant for the articulated buses. Part of the grant needs to be spent on new lifts to raise the longer buses for service.

    One “duh” thing that may be being overlooked is that longer bus stops will be required along Grand, to allow the artics to pull completely out of traffic. Hopefully, Metro is working proctively with the city to both get this accomplished and for ongoing enforcement.

    1. Courtney says:

      Definitely, any service that will go along Grand will need a lot of cooperation with Saint Louis City and area business and residential organizations, along with any streets departments to make it work most effectively. I’ll keep you posted as developments occur.

  10. RTBones says:

    Reading the comments above, several things come to mind:

    1) The article mentions the $2 million grant for BRT. From what Courtney has put out, it would appear the money is really just for articulated buses, not a “full BRT” route. This means that while Metro may get nice articulated buses out of this, they are still regular buses.

    2) I remember seeing that NABI-thing outside of the Scottrade Center and cringing. My thought at the time (and now) is that trains belong on rails, not wheels. I also remember hearing folks talk about it being “Metrolink on wheels” as Herbie points out, because of its design. To me – it may be a nice bus, but its still a bus – and anything that big is going to require some investment in changing the way stops are designed because the current method will not adequately allow the larger vehicles to utilize the stops efficiently.

    3) Any BRT route- Grand, I-55 corridor, or otherwise – by its very nature will require close cooperation with local governments and authorities, because you are dealing with streets, painting, possible construction of stops, etc. From what Courtney has posted so far, we aren’t there yet (please correct me if I am wrong, Courtney.)

    4) Given the way Metro thinks of transit here in St. Louis – I suspect that anything run down the I-55 corridor will be a) dumped into a park-n-ride lot, ala Shrewsbury or North Hanley, b) surrounded by an asphalt jungle like Joshua mentions, and c) not walkable. I predict it will be a commuter solution, not a transit solution.

    1. Courtney says:

      RT, Herbie, etc. – The “bus rapid transit” has been removed from the description of the $2 million articulated bus grant. The grant is for the purchase of articulated buses and equipment, and not bus rapid transit service. Hopefully, this clarifies the purpose of the grants, and I apologize for the error on my part.

  11. dkh2 says:

    Also look at at NewFlyer D60LFR, DE60LFR and my favorite, the E60LFR…The “E” stands for electric, now that’s what you call MetroLink on Wheels! Translink in Vancouver has many of those and were the first in the nation to buy them from NewFlyer Industries.

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