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June 20, 2011 | 38 Comments

Last Generation to Know St. Louis Streetcars Are First To Age With Metro: What Are the Coming Transit Needs of The Baby Boomer Generation?

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This is a monumental year for St. Louis public transit. Not necessarily for the Agency, but for our riders: the last generation to see St. Louis streetcars, & the first to know Bi-State Transit, will turn 65 this year.

The Baby Boomer generation is beginning the large wave of senior growth across the country, and with a large aged population comes new challenges and opportunities for the region. As of 2008, 45-64 year old makes up 46% of all MetroLink riders – nearly a majority. Clearly, the needs of this generation will be a strong decider in the transportation priorities in the years to come.

Last week, Transportation for America released a report called Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options to highlight the upcoming trend. According to a report published by the group on June 14, “By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent.” The report finds that 67% percent of the population 65 to 79 in 2015 in the St. Louis bi-state region will have poor transit access. The report defines poor transit access, for a metro area between 1-3 million residents, for seniors who on average have fewer than 1.7 bus, rail, or ferry routes within walking distance. The report does not include paratransit service, which is a critical component of serving the aging and disabled population.

The St. Louis region, especially in older suburbs, have rapidly aging populations (like other Midwestern cities), and how they choose to live their lives will shape the future of the region. Many Boomers may decide to sell the house in suburban areas and move into smaller, denser communities surrounded by their friends, culture and opportunities for easier mobility. But most will probably want to stay in the communities that they live, even if they were based around the automobile and have less walkable streets. If they do decide to stay in their homes, how will they access transportation if driving is not an option?

What do you anticipate that the Baby Boomers’ needs will be in terms of transportation and public transit? Better station access? Different approach to route planning? Do you think America is planning for these needs? What can public transit agencies like Metro do now to meet the anticipated needs of our aging population?

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Categories:
Economic Development, Metro Lifestyle

38 thoughts on “Last Generation to Know St. Louis Streetcars Are First To Age With Metro: What Are the Coming Transit Needs of The Baby Boomer Generation?”

  1. Phil says:

    Metro does a very poor job with the buses. They have many routes that almost run into themselves in the city. You should try an exercise:act as an outsider and set routes by distances rather than historical uses. There are too many stops on some lines. We need to design routes with a Rapid bus line mentality. People can walk and obesity is a problem. I can not believe that Metro doesn’t coordinate with the CVC and develope a seasonal tourist bus route for all the near southside attractions(Lafayette Square, Soulard, the Brewery, Cherokee Street, South Grand, Tower Grove Park, Mobot, the Hill, the Grove ect.) Visitors and suburbanities would explore and visit these areas more frequently, if they didn’t have to worry about traffic, navigating the confusing grid system in the city, or worry about the car breakins. A day pass, that would be the only means of accessing this tourist bus and metrolink, would go a long way toward increasing visits into the city and increasing tax revenue. It may sound snobbish, but most non-city individuals do not want to mix with the regular bus riders. Your stats you show that. Hopefully in the future a light rail option will surface, but we are losing revenue by ignoring connecting entertainment areas on one line, while subsidizing routes that could be streamlined, and shifting the resources to attracting new riders. Rapid bus lines should be balanced to serve all the metro areas, without light rail, reaching beyond the central city. On the Illinois side the routes in the St. Clair County area should be revised to recognize the metrolink and be circular in nature, rather the duplicating the old east/west route system. The present hub or spoke system is inefficient. Madison County bus system is superior to the Missouri or St. Clair County bus lines. Oh well, start from scratch with the bus system, and recognize that the St. Louis region of 2011 is much different than 1950.

  2. Jimmy Z says:

    What do you anticipate that the Baby Boomers’ needs will be in terms of transportation and public transit? Initially, very little change. They will continue to commute the way they always have, then will travel less after they retire. Like most people in the region, most will be driving themselves. Eventually, when driving becomes too problematic, some will expect Metro’s call-a-ride service to pick up the slack / meet their needs.

    Better station access? no – see above. Different approach to route planning? Possibly, but I see a real challenge in converting non-transit-riding seniors into riders given many local residents’ (mis?)perceptions about safety on Metrobus and Metrolink.

    Do you think America is planning for these needs? No, and very little, if any. What can public transit agencies like Metro do now to meet the anticipated needs of our aging population? 1. Get a better handle on what their unique needs are – safety at stops, safety on vehicles, challenges in crossing major streets to get to a stop, stops not convenient to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical offices, limited Sunday service (for church), the hassle of getting an ID card to get discounts. 2. Plan on how to fund the increased costs associated with the inevitable demand for both scheduled and non-scheduled services. 3. Consider / figure out something between a 32′-45′ coach on a fixed route and a call-a-ride van that requires a disability to qualify for service, something like RTD’s Call-n-Ride services: http://www.rtd-denver.com/callNRide.shtml

  3. RTBones says:

    What do I see Baby Boomers needs being when it comes to transit? Honestly, not much more than now for several years. We have actually educated a generation or two to NOT take the bus. Many of our suburbs are not walking or transit friendly, there is no train service, so driving is default and ingrained into their psyche. We ripped out streetcars (whose right of way is evident – and are easy to use) and replaced them with buses – yet simply expect people to “know” where those buses go (read: no maps, no timetables, not easy to use). Your difficulty will lie in converting non-transit using seniors (who likely haven’t used transit here on a regular basis since the streetcars left). To echo an old point – many folks in the suburbs (seniors and non-seniors alike) don’t want to be on buses (BRT or otherwise – a bus is a bus, and if they get in their car, it won’t be to go to a park-and-ride unless there is a train station attached) with the “regular” rider – for a wide variety of reasons. They’ll take a train or a streetcar, but not a bus. While the whys and wherefores of that is a topic for discussion and debate in and of itself – you don’t need me to tell you this as your own numbers and the numbers of others bear this out. Many stops don’t make sense, many routes are nearly empty of customers (other than perhaps the odd run or two during the day), operating hours don’t make sense, your sign, shelter, timings, and fare systems are bad (ease of use), and there is no sense of security on the buses. For someone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, portions of our buses may suffice – they are the computer and internet generations – that will not be the case for an older generation. Add to this that Metro itself is satisfied with the status quo enough that they won’t address problems with the system, and you get our current amalgamation of services or lack thereof. Seniors won’t put up a hue and cry – they’ll simply get on with life – it is how they were brought up. They have a sense of personal responsibility that is lacking in many people today. What you will likely see is that the Boomers will drive until they cant – at which point they will want call-a-ride types of services.

  4. Jennifer says:

    No offense, guys, I read and appreciate all of your comments along these lines, and I know you’ve both made these points before, but I think you’re missing the concern, here. Not to speak for Courtney but when I read her post what leaped out at me was this: Rapidly aging populations, aging in place in the suburbs and aging beyond the ability to safely operate motor vehicles is a real concern. What should we as a community be doing to try to improve mobility options for the largest generation of long-living elderly people the world has ever seen?

    Yes, all the general critiques of Metro’s service as it stands TODAY apply as they always apply, but let’s talk about tomorrow. What about people living in low-density, sprawled-out suburbs where zoning laws make it basically illegal to live in the same place where you shop, dine, amuse yourself, visit the doctor, etc? If you can’t walk from place to place, and you can’t or won’t take the bus, and you shouldn’t be driving….what’s the answer? What should we be planning today to solve the problems we can see coming tomorrow? How does paratransit (which service area is tied by proximity to bus routes) fit into this picture?

  5. Jimmy Z says:

    Jennifer, something like RTD’s Call-n-Ride services ( http://www.rtd-denver.com/callNRide.shtml ) is an obvious answer. While it’s more expensive to operate on a per rider basis than a fixed route, it can do a better job of serving non-dense suburban areas since you’re not trying to figure out how to run one or more fixed routes with limited ridership.

  6. mike says:

    From the comments I’ve read so far, Metro wants to address the needs of future baby boomers, maybe two or three generations from now. There is not enough time left for Metro to meet the needs of current baby boomers, because their time will run out before Metro would ever get around to providing any appreciable changes to meet their needs. Metro seems satisfied with the level of service it currently operates, and they pretty much have ignored suggestions provided in this website in trying to make the system more efficient for baby boomers and non-baby boomers alike, and things are not about to change any time soon.

    Case in point, why would a baby boomer give up the convenience of driving directly into the core of downtown (east of Tucker Blvd.), when Metro has virtually no bus service providing direct access from most outlying neighborhoods into the downtown core. Also, I have suggested on several occasions about running limited service from the #35 and #75 buses along a portion of N. Hanley Rd. (between Airport Rd. and I-270), which is by-passed by these buses running along I-170, which runs adjacent to and less than a block from that portion of N. Hanley Rd. That subtle change in service could have a significant impact in providing a new and an easier access for baby boomers between that portion of Hanley Rd., and areas such as the St. Louis Mills and the new Personnel Records Center. I often see the elderly along that area struggling to catch the #47 bus which is the only bus running along that portion of Hanley Rd., which incidently does not provide service to either of the above mentioned locations.

    I have followed and participated in this website for quite some time, and every suggestion that has been offered and posted in this website by others as well as myself, in trying to improve the bus operations in our region, has either been referred to your Planning Dept., met with excuses, or just plain ignored. The quarterly changes that Metro has implemented so far, has not had any type of impact on bus service, which appreciably meets the needs of the current baby boomers.

    Let’s face it, the clock is steadying ticking for the current baby boomers and they do not want to waste a big chunk of their remaining moments in life dealing with the inconvenience of riding buses. Realistically, at best, Metro can move forward with their plans, if any, to try to meet the needs of future baby boomers. However, for the current baby boomers, forget it, although their tax dollars are still being used to help provide funding for Metro.

    1. Courtney says:

      Mike,

      I know you’ve spoken to our planning department both through the both and directly with staff, and unfortunately the consistent answer is there isn’t time to take the #35 and #75 down N. Hanley Road. It would decrease headway time for these particular routes, and make more difficult other connections. We really do appreciate your feedback and comments, but the planning department has decided, at this time, that this particular change I know you feel very passionate about, probably won’t happen at this juncture. But we do want to continue the conversation about the direction transit and the region is heading. The youngest Baby Boomers are 19 years from turning 65…which is more years time than the age of MetroLink. Think how much can change in 19 years, including the fabric of the St. Louis region.

  7. RTBones says:

    Jennifer – no offense taken whatsoever. For my part, I’m always happy to hear your or Courtney’s take on whatever we’re talking about. Like everybody else, I miss things from time to time, so it’s nice to know there are folks out there to help me get myself sorted. 🙂 Besides, even when we disagree, it helps me to see the situation from someone else’s viewpoint.

    That said, I may not have gone deep enough in what was behind my comments. Part of what I am getting at is that if you are going to get seniors of this generation, or two or three generations from now riding transit, you need to change their perceptions of transit and their usage habits – and you’ll need to do it BEFORE they become seniors. That requires a paradigm shift in the way Metro thinks about and approaches transit. For seniors, the system MUST be easy to use, period. It’s a non-starter. You’ve seen me rail on and on about maps and signs and info. There is reason behind my rants. The system must be seen as safe. Right now, without getting into the reasons why – it isn’t once you get past a route or two. It must be seen as reliable. Very little about our current system is easy . Looking at Metro’s long range plan, it won’t be in the future, either. Metro has got to get out of the “commuter only” way of thinking. BRT to a park-n-ride lot (regardless of location) is a set piece to fail. To address reliable, the system has to be set up such that given periodic fluctuations in funding, the system as a whole isn’t drastically affected. You’ve got to set the system up so that if you have to connect, you aren’t stuck at Pick-Your-Favorite-Transfer-Station for 20 minutes or more. Changing bus times hither and yon at what is almost a “whim” (to riders, anyway) doesn’t equate to reliable. There may be very good reasons for changing schedules, but Metro does a poor job marketing and explaining those reasons to the public as a whole. Very few bus stops have shelters or reliable information – even a simple map with colored lines of the routes that stop there would be an improvement.

    Again, if you are going to get seniors to ride and trust your system, you need to do that BEFORE they become seniors. With Metro’s current mindset (covered by many of the things I rant about), and the approach outlined in their master plan – that is not likely to ever happen.

    It boils down to three things: Ease of Use. Safe. Reliable.

  8. mike says:

    I think people are frustrated from hearing Metro talk about changes and where transit is headed in the future, and it continues to currently go nowhere. All we’ve seen and heard are conversation pieces and discussions that seemsto fall on deaf ears, and very little has been done to get public transit in this region up and running at full throttle, in which Metro has the capacity and resources to do so. The so-called quarterly changes have produced virtually no changes as far as having any meaningful impact on meeting the transit needs of this region.

    Also. what was the significance of mentioning the 19 years before the youngest baby boomers turn 65. I missed out on that point, but I hope it doesn’t take the 19 years before the youngest baby boomers turn 65, that we start seeing changes. You have other baby boomers who will emerge during the next 19 years, like next year, and the year after next, and the year after next, and now it’s the time to prepare for their emergence. Also, isn’t it a coincidence that in 19 years, the current 1/2 tax levy that was approved under Prop. A to help fund Metro, is scheduled to expire?

    1. Courtney says:

      Actually, I believe Prop A ballot language included no sunset clause. I don’t mean at all that we will wait 19 years for changes. Change happens constantly; sometimes it is in small improvements, sometimes large.

  9. mike says:

    Following up on my previous comment.

    I wouldn’t go as far as to admit that I feel very passionate concerning my suggestion about the changes in the #35 and #75 to better serve the N. Hanley Rd. corridor. I don’t ride the bus (and probably never will unless radical solutions to the problems involving the bus service Metro provides are undertaken, and I do not foresee that in the near future), but I am among the taxpayers that stupidly voted for Prop. A, thinking that Metro would actually begin taking serious steps in trying to run a more efficient bus system.

    My suggestions for the changes weren’t out of compassion by any means, but rather reflected my thoughts of how the changes in the routing of the mentioned bus lines could better serve that part of the community, who could really use and benefit from the change. Metro wouldn’t be doing me any personal favors if they did implement the change. I was only thinking of those that Metro seemed to have forgotten, except at the time when Metro was campaigning to get their votes for Prop. A.

  10. RTBones says:

    Hey Courtney – I feel like it’s got to be said. You mention that change happens constantly, and that sometimes its small improvements and sometimes its large improvements.

    I think one of the points that Mike and I and others are trying to make is that very rarely are the changes that Metro makes seen as being “improvements” by ridership. Metro seems to at time be caught up in pet projects (99/3) because someone else pays for part of them, but its very rare that its a case of “improvement.” Change – yes. Improvement – not so much. I know Metro has a ridership demand on the northern portion of the 90, and its right that you address it – but does it have to come at the expense of the southern portion of the route? Metro has absolutely no other buses it can add to the northern portion of the route? (I’m using the 90 as an example as its from a very recent conversation about the latest timetable updates, and actually affects my Metro usage.)

    I’ll say it again: make the system easy to use. Make it safe. Make it reliable.

  11. RTBones says:

    Thought I had added another comment yesterday to this thread…maybe I didnt hit post. If I did, and my comment is hanging around the ether, I apologize for the double post.

    Essentially, my thoughts were regarding what you said, Courtney. If I may, “Change happens constantly; sometimes it is in small improvements, sometimes large.” There is only one problem here – while change may happen constantly, your riders don’t necessarily see the changes as “improvements.” Just the opposite, actually. This is one of the points folks like Mike and myself have been trying to make for a while now.

    Take Metro’s favorite pet projects – the painted bus duo of the 99/3. I realize I have my own (well-documented) aversion to these services, and I will do my best to put that aside as I write this. Metro didn’t pay for most of these two buses from what I understand, and it markets the daylights out of them on TV. I understand these could be attempts at “economic development” by trying to entice people to ride with their paint jobs. They fail miserably. Nearly every time I see either service, the buses are either empty or have 1-2 riders. Perhaps the 99 has midday traffic I don’t see, I don’t know. I doubt its much, particularly for the amount Metro spends marketing it. I have yet to see a rider use the 3 (I’m sure someone must at SOME portion of the day). I’ve actually seen people ignore it and walk into the park. Metro may think these painted buses are an improvement – as your customer, I don’t. In fact, while I know some think they are cute – they tell me that Metro isn’t serious about transit. Given some of the comments here over the time both services have been in operation, I’m not alone. I have also yet to see or hear an advertisement for Metro that talks about the system instead of the 99/3. If you want Boomers (current or future) to use your service, it helps if they know you actually exist past these services.

    Take Metro’s latest quarterly schedule update. I’ll use the 90 as an example as it affects me. We were told that service was added to the northern portion of the route, and headways extended on the southern portion. We were told that this is because the route has more ridership up there. Fair enough – it is right that Metro address issues of demand. But did Metro have to reduce service on the southern portion of the route to do it? Anybody that uses the southern 90 now has half hour headways. You have just driven potential ridership (like me) to find an alternate way to get where I need because, quite honestly, I can’t depend on the route. If the bus is the typical Metrobus 4-12 minutes late, I can potentially be waiting 40 minutes. Sorry, not happening. Does Metro realize that they actually detrimentally shape demand with some changes? Does Metro realize there is a market out there for transit beyond North City and North County? To follow up with our discussion on Boomers and what we see needs to be – do you really want an elderly relative waiting at Forest Park for 20-40 minutes for a bus?

    If you want seniors (current and future) to use Metro, then you have to convince them the service is worthwhile – before they become seniors. That means making changes – meaningful changes – now.

    Easy to use.
    Safe.
    Reliable.

    Metro not only needs these to BE reality, they need to be PERCEIVED as reality.

  12. mike says:

    Following up on RTBones’s point concerning the changes involving the southern portion of the #90.

    Why couldn’t Metro at least maintain the current level of frequency for that portion of the line, if they could not justify increasing the frequency to the same level as the northern portion of that line based on ridership demand? Also, isn’t it a normal practice (or maybe even legal) that “due process” must be afforded in the form of advisories and public meetings, of possible reductions or service elimination before they are implemented?

    Quite frankly, there would be very few buses on the streets in our region if the level of service was based solely on demand. Service reduction is the last thing that should be on Metro’s agenda at this point, if the agency is serious in trying to increase the level of bus riders, or at least maintain the same level of ridership. The reduction of southern portion of the #90 (which is one of the major bus routes in that part of the city) may further affect ridership, both current and potentially the new. I am amazed of how Metro continues to make a case for giving people, both baby boomers and non-baby boomers, good reasons for not wanting to rides buses, especially during a time when Metro is begging for new riders. Service that is not easy to use, safe, reliable, or available does not equate to more riders. But come on, Metro already knows this. So what are they really asking?

  13. mike says:

    Following up on my previous comment.

    Just as sure as Metro lost riders from the 2009 service cuts, they can stand to lose more riders from additional service reductions and eliminations, which is just the opposite of Metro’s suppose-to-be objective of creating new ridership. And once riderships are lost, they are hard to regain, because the rider’s confidence and trust with the transit system, which has been violated, must be re-established.

  14. mike says:

    Will Metro be providing special holiday service of running additional buses (or any buses for that matter) out of the downtown core area, following the fireworks display, like most other major transit systems do in the cities they serve? It would provide easier access and be more convenient for baby-boomers, non-baby boomers, baby carriers, baby haulers as well as those who are physically challanged, if they can board buses from areas close to the Arch to get out of downtown, rather than having them to walk to the Civic Center to catch their buses, or getting caught up in the crunching crowds at the MetroLink Stations. Also, it could potentially help alleviate traffic congestion and avoid overcrowding at MetroLink stations.

    1. Courtney says:

      Yes, during the parade on Saturday the Downtown Trolley will be rerouted to act as shuttles going straight to the Civic Center Station. During that evening and the rest of Fair St. Louis we will have additional MetroLink service to move people out of the Core area. I’ll have a blog post ready for this afternoon with all the details. 🙂

  15. RTBones says:

    That doesn’t sound like additional service – that sounds like a re-route because the route the 99 normally takes will be taken up by the parade. Additional trains, perhaps, but it doesn’t sound like more bus service.

    I’ll wait for your post.

  16. rtbones says:

    I will take my discussion to Courtney’s recent post.

  17. Patrick Richmond says:

    mike, are you a psychic? Metro cannot afford to loose more routes. St. Louis NEEDS these routes. There are those who cannot afford a car and have no other way of getting around. If they cut my line, how am I going to get to work? The tax has passed. Maybe it’s time for all of the anti-transit psychics to have their fantasyworlds scrapped and replaced with corporations. Public transit is a must. Some of us ride it and all of us need it. It was really stupid for St. Louis to give up it’s streetcars. Gasoline prices are out the window. It is time for more people to say positive stuff about Metro. It’s not like Toronto’s system, but we cannot go around and say rude things about Metro. There are hanidapped people that need a way to get around. Senior citizens need a way as well. MetroLink, just like the old streetcars run on electriticy which is CLEAN!

  18. mike says:

    Patrick,

    I’m not sure if your post was intended to be directed towards me, but I certainly agree with your comments. As far your remark on rudeness, I don’t perceive the comments posted in this website as being rude. These comments are provided as constructive criticism, which have evolved out of the growing frustrations many people have toward Metro. The comments, just like the ones you provide, are intended to suggest ways of improving bus service, to better serve people in our communities.

    Commenting on your statement “The tax has passed”, some people may perceive Metro as breaking their campaign promise to improve bus service, especially after taxpayers voted to increase sales taxes, which was suppose to be allocated to generate additional funding towards Metro’s operating expenses to improve bus service. The 75 to 80 million additional dollars generated annually by the sales tax should equate to more than just restoring service to only 97 percent of the level that existed prior to the 2009 service reductions. The 3 percent that wasn’t restored, I take it, may be the bus service that once traveled the streets of downtown.

  19. Patrick Richmond says:

    Mike, I am one of the ambassadors at the airport. And to get the system back up to what it was before the 2009 service cuts, and to expand, we need more buses. And here is the good news. Metro has purchased more new buses by Gillig Corporation and are the low-floor model. With my 19 years of volunteerism at Metro, I have seen some good moves and I have seen some moves that were just downright stupid! Some of the money is used in the maintenace section of Metro. Some of our tax dollars pay for the critical parts of the bus such as the blades for the windshield wipers, headlights, domelights, feeder hoses leading to the doors, etc. When I was taken into the shop to where they work on the buses, I have learned that it takes more air to cloose those doors than it does to open them. If one of those feeder hoses pops, the driver might be able to get the front door open, but would not be able to close it with the motor.

  20. RTBones says:

    Patrick,

    I’ll see if I can’t lend Mike a hand here and answer some of your concerns:

    1) On rude comments…like Mike, I don’t consider the vast majority of comments here rude. Critical, yes, but not rude. Almost all of the regular and semi-regular posters here really do just want to help and make the system better. Metro can’t fix things that we, as ridership, perceive as wrong unless we tell Metro about them. On Metro’s side, there may be routes or services that get set up with one thing in mind but are seen by the public as another. This is one way for Metro to “get the message out” to its ridership, and its one way for us to tell Metro what we think.

    2) Anti-transit…again, I don’t see anybody posting here as vehemently anti-transit. Critical? Absolutely, but not anti-transit. While I agree that public transport is vital to the area – and indeed, vital to any city that intends to thrive – that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with how Metro provides it. It is, after all, my tax dollars they are spending.

    3) Streetcars…agreed. It was silly for the lines to be pulled up or paved over. That, however, was a different time in history. Metro simply does not have a funding source that would facilitate putting even a line or two in, not that Metro would consider them. Even with funding, unless a paradigm shifts, you won’t see them here because everything is focused on the bus. Metro has done nothing to indicate that they want anything more than nostalgia (99/3) when dealing with streetcars/trolleys. There is nothing in their long range plan that even hints they would be interested in streetcars. In the St. Louis region, its all about the bus these days, sadly.

    4) Saying positive things about Metro…it isn’t all bad. This blog is a great resource for both ridership and Metro. Jennifer and Courtney do a fantastic job at both tolerating our raging cynicism, and getting us meaningful answers to questions we have. We may not always agree – but we can at least have a civil discourse and try to understand each others perspective.

    Having said that, I also think it is perfectly valid to be constructively critical when very little ever seems to change for the better. Metro has asked us what we think could be done to get more people riding the buses. We told them. We continue to tell them. Yet even looking at our recent 4th of July, why did it take Metro until just days before the weekend to get out its plan for extra and modified services on the Web even? I didn’t hear a radio ad or see anything on TV that suggested Metro was going to alter or add service for the busy weekend downtown. You can’t expect people to use a system that they know nothing about. I think Metro does as much to chase away potential ridership as it does to provide transit – the recent quarterly schedule update is a perfect example of that. You are correct in that there are people who depend on it – whether handicapped or just unable to drive, they need transit to get around. The problem of course is that Metro appears to not want to consider helping people who have the ability to choose between transit and driving. Metro makes CHOOSING transit difficult. Their marketing decisions, routing decisions, and general outlook on how to provide transit really make someone like me wonder why they bother at times. Does Metro want to provide transit for the region, or just the area core? Our headways are horrid, our signs are almost non-existent, our transfer stations have little in the way of useful transit information, our focus is commuter-only, many of our stops don’t appear to make any sense, there is little to no presence past the I-170/River Des Peres line, and our system is not easy to use. Nothing rocket scientist-y about any of those things, all of which have been said many times before.

    5) Metrolink and clean electricity…I would agree here as well. I can think of at least a half dozen lines I would like Metro to add to the system. There are two problems here, though. First is the most obvious – funding. Without federal or state help, Metro simply doesn’t have the money to expand the system beyond what it is. As much as I’d love to see Metrolink grow, I don’t expect it to in my lifetime. Second, as any transit professional will tell you – any light rail system is only going to be as good as the bus system that feeds it. Our bus system is less than stellar, in my opinion.

    Finally…the “tax has passed”. This is true. What have we gotten for it? Service has been restored to areas that were cut, and some routes have been altered. My question to Metro is what has improved? Restoration is not improvement per se, its just a return to the status quo. As Mike points out – many folks may have had the perception that Metro was going to improve bus service with the passage of the tax, which it doesn’t seem to have done. I am sure Courtney and Jennifer can point to things Metro did that Metro considers improvements. I know I can’t.

  21. RTBones says:

    Patrick –

    Given the amount of buses that were returned to the road under the Restoration, it is only natural that some of the tax money go to maintenance. I think almost everybody, if they stopped to think about it, would concede that point. You don’t increase your service by nearly a third and not account for maintenance.

    That doesn’t make Mike’s point any less valid. As has been discussed in the past, perception – right, wrong, or indifferent – is sometimes 90% of reality. There is the PERCEPTION that the tax increase was going to be used to improve service. It hasn’t. It was used to RESTORE service, not improve it – a subtle, but distinct, difference.

    Further – and Courtney, please correct me if I am mistaken – it is my understanding that nearly all of the new buses you mentioned are replacements, not additional service. There may be a bus added to a route here or there, but the vast majority will be used to get tired and aging vehicles off the road. From what I remember of previous discussions, some buses in Metro’s fleet have quite high mileage. So while it is good that Metro is updating its fleet – it is not an increase in service.

    1. Courtney says:

      RT, Mike, etc.,

      Regarding service increases, we have to remember what level of service we had in April 2010. We had already gone through rounds of cuts, and if additional funding did not come in, more cuts would have happened. The service would have been gutted and skeletal. So a lot of what this new funding does is stabilize the level of service to pre-March 2009 levels so that the Agency can build capacity slowly and intelligently. We are looking at sustainable means of growth over time, and there are still a lot of amenities that we can implement for customers throughout the system, and I promise I am reporting those as they materialize. But the vision for transit growth is in place, but its not going to pop up automatically in one year. There are a lot of stakeholders, projects and priorities that we have to balance.

  22. mike says:

    RTBones and Patrick,

    Courtney confirmed in a previous post that the new buses will serve as replacements to Metro’s aging bus fleet, and will not increase the number of buses available for service on the Missouri side.

    Question: Why can’t Metro renovate and update some of their older buses, and retain them, to have more buses available for service?

    1. Courtney says:

      Due to budget constraints, Metro was unable to purchase new buses for several years, so a lot of our buses were way beyond retirement when we finally were able to purchase new ones. The FTA allows buses to retire at 500,000 miles, these buses were running 700,000-800,000 miles. Now we have a regular schedule for receiving buses and new ones will come in, old ones will be retired. So the answer is yes, we already renovate and update our older buses and keep them part of the fleet for years longer than most transit agencies. Building capacity is a slower process, mainly because we have to get on a list, just like every transit agency in the country, to purchase new vehicles for our fleet as they are essentially made to order from Gillig.

  23. RTBones says:

    Courtney & Mike –

    I was fairly certain the new buses were being used as replacements, I was just unsure if some of the retired buses would be rehabbed or not and put back into service. Thank you for clarifying.

    With regard to service increases – I understand what you are saying, Courtney. My only point was to back Mike up on the fact that some people may have had the perception that the tax increase was for improving service – meaning new service, not just a restoration to pre-2009 levels.

    One question, though: when you mention the vision for transit growth is in place, are you referring to the long range plan, the methodology of how to grow, or something else entirely?

    1. Courtney says:

      The long-range plan, working within the strategic plan for the organization. We’re in the first phase, so working on things like transit station enhancements (in the works), signage upgrades, communication and technology upgrades, new buses, new bus stop enhancements. All of these things are in the first 5-year phase and are being worked on right now.

  24. mike says:

    RTBones and Courtney,

    When Metro was campaigning for passage of the tax increase under Prop. M prior to the 2009 service cuts, the funds generated from the increased tax were supposed to have been used to preserve the service levels for both the buses and Metro:ink service that existed at the time, as well as providing for improvements through service enhancements and expansions. The Post Dispatch published an article provided by Metro “St. Louis Region at a Crossroads” that pretty much outlined the benefits (including service enhancements and service expansions) if Prop. M had passed, as well as outlining the consequences if the measure was not passed. The article was published in the insert contained in the Sunday Post Dispatch, sometime during late August or early September 2008 (I still have the insert).

    During the period that Metro was campaigning for Prop. M, they estimated that 75 to 80 million dollars would be generated from that measure, which is the same amount that Metro expects to be generated from Prop. A. If Metro was looking to improve service, if Prop. M had passed prior to the 2009 service cuts based on the stated amount of funding that would have been generated, it would seem to me that now, that the same amount of funding is in place thanks to the passage of Prop. A, Metro should be making improvements and not just merely restoring service to only 97 percent of the level, which existed prior to the 2009 cuts. But only have I not seen any appreciable service improvements, but, well, look at just what happened on the southern portion of a major bus line, the #90 Hampton line, we’ve seen just the opposite.

  25. RTBones says:

    Thanks for the clarifications and discussion, Courtney.

  26. Phil says:

    I hate to add to the general chorus of cynicism, but the fact is that service since Prop A passed has not been restored to pre-2009 levels. In particular, many bus routes that ran every half hour now run at 40-minute intervals. It’s great to have Courtney and Jennifer listen attentively and sympathetically to our suggestions, but the Planning Department seems to be deaf. From the point of view of people who ride buses regularly, even the most basic suggestions get the brushoff. When I ride the bus in Los Angeles, which is getting be fairly often these days, buses actually have printed schedules on board for the same route you are riding. Board a St. Louis Metro bus, you are lucky to get schedules at all, and they are rarely for the route you are riding. This has been pointed out more than once, but the response has always been that it would be too costly and complicated to do this despite St. Louis being a much smaller city with many fewer bus routes. This is an administrative mentality that drives young and old customers nuts. It ‘s the kind of “we can’t possibly do this” response that holds us back as a region, and it’s what we hear constantly. Lots of good will, but no visible action.

  27. RTBones says:

    Phil,

    I have to LOL. I sometimes think I am the only jaded and cynical one. Nice to know I have company.

    I hear you on schedules. As Courtney can tell you, one of my biggest gripes with Metro is that the system isn’t easy to use. If you aren’t connect to the Web in some fashion, forget about getting any reliable schedule or routing data.

    One of the things that bothers me is that Metro thinks its vision for transit growth is in place. I know things take time – particularly for Metro, given that being a transit agency is not its prime directive and that its a non-profit – but I have yet to see anything other than Metro struggle to get back to the status quo. I have some sizable misgivings with Metro’s long range plan, and while I welcome the news that Metro is working on station/stop enhancements, signage, and technology upgrades, pardon my raging cynicism, Courtney, but I have zero confidence that Metro will do any of it right. (If Metro wants to convince me otherwise, I will remind them that I live in Missouri – Show Me.) Metro has a proven track record of catering to the lowest common denominator, which means the likelihood of any meaningful changes working for anybody other than those folks that must take transit is low. That means people like me will continue to drive and Metro will continue to be a bit player in the region’s transportation structure.

  28. mike says:

    RTBones

    I have to agree. Stations/stops enhancements, signage and technical upgrades are all good and a step in the right direction in keeping riders informed (I guess). People like to be kept in the know, even if buses only run every hour. But these upgrades have no impact on improving bus service headways, where I feel that more of Metro’s resourses should be channeled. I think bus riders would prefer seeing more of their tax dollars going towards findings ways to enhance service, over upgrades in communication: afterall many transit systems in the past have provided efficient public transit, included Bi-State and its predicessor Public Service Co., without modern tehnology.

  29. Patrick Richmond says:

    At least this is why I work my tail off at the airport. Gillig has added the BRT to thier fleet. Columbia, MO has them and so does Madison County, Illinois. And Gillig has been good to Metro from the start. The 9500s and the 9600s have a Cummins L-10 diesel in the back and the latest Phantom models Metro has bought from Gillig have a Cummins M-11 diesel. Now we are going with the new enviromentaly friendly ISM Cummins. What I have learned from Gillig is that the Phantom model is no longer being made. Only buses Gillig makes are the BRT and the Advantage. I do like the new Gilligs because they have a point on where they could be used for transporting out-of-town travelers from the Amtrak station to their hotels thanks to the hump over the front tire by the door.

  30. Patrick Richmond says:

    mike, you are right about somethings not done right. When the 9500s and 9600s came, they had nice plush seats. And then with the 2000s thru the 3400s, they have the hard seats with only SLIGHTLY plush INSERTS!!! If they wanted ridership to stay high and for the Prop M to pass, they should have stuck with the plush seats! At least the 3800s have the plush pads on the seats and they feel softer than the ones in the seats on the 2100s. The red handlebars are made of aluminum or metal. If the driver hits the brakes hard, somone sitting in the seat behind the seat infront of him or her, that person could break their neck or crack their skull. I think that some dont’ think that comfort and safety dosen’t mix. Well, it does!

  31. mike says:

    I want to make the following edit: After the last comma in the last sentence of my last comment, the sentence should have ended as follows: “before modern tecnology became prevalent”.

  32. RTBones says:

    I think an interesting exercise for Metro would be to start with a clean slate (no “sacred cows” – i.e. we gotta have this route because ridership demands it). Start with the resources we currently have (buses, trains, cash to run them), and completely remap transit routes with the specific goal of reducing headways. Trains are fixed, and the buses would feed them (as they do now). But forget the routes as we know them and bring headways down. Fewer stops, more stops, new stops, old stops revisited, routes that run completely different to the way they do now – put it all on the table.

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