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September 29, 2009 | 22 Comments

Moving Transit Forward: Metro would like you to help shape its long-range transit plan

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As our readers are aware, Metro has been making many changes over the past two years under the leadership of our current President & CEO, Bob Baer. This blog has been one such change.

Now here comes a big change: Under Mr. Baer’s leadership and that of our new Chief of Planning and System Development, Jessica Mefford-Miller, and in cooperation with the region’s planning body, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Metro is now working on the development of a long-range transit plan for the St. Louis metro region. The plan will consist of three parts:

When completed, each stage of the plan will be prioritized and will detail funding levels not only to build but to operate  and maintain any enhancements and expansions to the current transit system. This planning process will be unlike anything that Metro has done before.  Over the past two months our market research team has been identifying an initial baseline “pulse” of what the region thinks about transit, the current transit system, and hopes for transit in the future. Now we’re moving into the community engagement phase of the plan development, and the crucial factor in this process is you. Read more about the planning process below the jump.Beginning October 13, Metro will conduct a series of public meetings on the future of transit in St. Louis. These meetings will be held in various locations throughout the region to encourage maximum public attendance and ensure regional representation. These meetings won’t be large-group public hearings, such as the FTA-required hearings Metro conducted last fall to get public input on the then-looming service cuts. Instead, the meetings will begin with a brief introduction to the planning process and some transit technologies and amenities. Then the meeting will break into small groups for roundtable discussions. We intend to provide each group with maps and information, and a Metro planner will facilitate a discussion of the participants’ transit priorities.

The purpose of these meetings is twofold: First, we want people to know what sorts of transit services are possible in the region, and what the impact of those services would be. Beyond traditional bus service and light rail, there are all sorts of improvements or modifications that can be made to better serve the region. Second, and more importantly, we want to hear what people want from their transit system. Riders and non-riders alike are invited and encouraged to attend and let us know what exactly you want from Metro.

These initial meetings are just the first step in the planning process, which we anticipate to include three different rounds of public meetings. We will also introduce a web component, for those technically inclined and those who may not make it to a public meeting. (The site isn’t live yet; but if you subscribe to NextStop’s RSS feed, you’ll get the notice as soon as we publish it here.) We will be providing much more detail here on the blog as the plan progresses, including a full schedule of the public forums as soon as the schedule is finalized.

I would just like to emphasize that this planning process is designed to solicit maximum community engagement. At the end of the process, Metro intends to adopt and publish a thirty-year plan for transit services. This plan will have a large impact on the region, and will help shape economic development, job distribution, possibly even living patterns, for years to come. So if you are interested at all in the transportation planning process; if you have opinions about what Metro should and could be doing, please plan on participating in these forums. Subscribe to the blog and, when it goes live, visit and utilize the long-range plan website to stay on top of developments in the plan, to get all of the background information you’ll need to make informed decisions, and to provide Metro with your feedback and ideas so that the final plan best represents the will of the region.

This morning Metro, led by Jessica Mefford-Miller, will be conducting an executive briefing with various elected officials, business leaders, and other dignitaries, of Metro’s long-range plan process. Members of the media will be there to observe as well, and this event is the public introduction to Metro’s long-range planning process. The blog team will be at the executive briefing this morning to observe and report on the event. Check back for the results of our efforts later this week, and stay tuned for further developments and news of public events.

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Categories:
Capital Projects, Economic Development, Metro Lifestyle, System Changes, Technology, Transit Benefits

22 thoughts on “Moving Transit Forward: Metro would like you to help shape its long-range transit plan”

  1. Jazzy Jeff says:

    If there is no projected increase in funding how can there be much of any valuable planning to do? The temp. service restoration funds run out next year. Also the Stimulus funds don’t allow for operations from what I have read and there are bill(s) to allow for some limited amount of operations but we know that bills can take a long time. Look at “Complete Streets” bills they have been shot down again and again here in the state of Missouri.

    I took Metro to get to work part way today and road my bike 5 miles to work. I have been using Metro and bicycling / walking for about 6 years now. So I am pro Metro. I just think it isn’t a good time to try planning if you don’t have the funds in hand.

    Have a great day!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Fair critique! My question for you, then, is – how do you know how much money you need / how much you’re willing to spend, if you don’t know what you’re getting for the dollars?

  3. Donnice says:

    Also Jeff, if Metro doesn’t plan now, when the money does come, how will they know how to use it. Not planning could be disasterous if/when the money comes and they don’t know what to do with it and start to make short term fixes just to “use” the money in the usually arbitrary deadlines imposed by legislation and budget calendars. Good job to Metro for thinking ahead.

  4. Donnice says:

    Oh yeah, Jennifer, I couldn’t find this blog on Metro’s website I was told about it and had to remember where the person told me to go in order to find it. I think it should be linked from the Metro website. 🙂

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hm, that tells me the blog button on metrostlouis.org isn’t visually striking. Check it out – top right corner. What should we do to make it more visible?

  6. Jazzy Jeff says:

    I am 35 years old. I have lived here all my life. I have seen the plans that are already online if you wish to check them out (just google east west gateway and Metro etc). North / Southside projects, Westport expansion, Metrolink along I-170 north into Florissant (I have wished this one for several years!) . I already think there are enough plans. The ? isn’t planning it is where will the money come from?

    Again I think there needs to be more focus on Transit Districts and forming the basis for how it will all be paid for (public / private partnerships).

    I am contemplating an extension on my own house. I can plan till I am blue in the face. But if the bank won’t loan me the money…nothing will happen. And I am no “Paul Bunyan”. So I am not going to chop down trees and build my extension using wood! ;0)

    Lastly I am “pro transit”. However Metro needs to do what Joe Edwards is doing in the Loop for the “Loop Trolley Project”. He has a transit district setup (sales tax). The plans are there but he is waiting for the funding (enough collected to match the fed. funds). He is doing both at the same time (planning and funding). Until Metro can show they are working on the funding and actually getting some headway in regards to that it is just “lip service”.

    In fact I think Joe Edwards should be on the Board w. Metro. He is able to get things done!

  7. Jennifer says:

    You’re absolutely right, Jeff, all the plans in the world won’t build a system unless the funds are in place. The problem with the East-West Gateway’s past studies is that, simply studying a corridor doesn’t tell people how much it will cost or what its priority is within a system. A study showing a potential MetroLink corridor through Madison County doesn’t tell people the conditions under which it will get built, or anything other than that it’s a possibility. There’s a hierarchy of needs and wants. One group wants more MetroLink. One group wants BRT to Chesterfield. One group wants more frequent bus service on the existing routes. The beauty of the long-range plan process is that not only will it gather & reflect what people want for the system, but when finalized it will prioritize those needs & wants, so that people will see what they get for certain levels of funding.

    The plan process also opens up the conversation in the region about funding. Please remember that Metro has no – zero, none, zip – taxing authority. Metro by law cannot endorse, support, recommend, or campaign for any tax referendum on its own behalf. That makes the process more convoluted but it does serve a purpose. However, you are right – the funding discussion must be had in conjunction with the planning, there is no question. The plan stages will be tied to specific funding levels, so people will see what it will cost to get what they want. Once the plan is complete, then people will have something they can actually evaluate and accept or reject funding that plan, but they will know what they are getting for their money.

  8. RTBones says:

    I understand Donnice’s and Jennifer’s point – you need to have a plan for when the money comes in. But Jeff is right on the money – there are LOADS of plans out there already! Loads of them! But they are just that – plans. What doesnt seem to be there is an overall _strategy_ for the St. Louis region. There doesnt seem to be a vision of transit here.

    I am an East Coast transplant to St. Louis who went to school here and decided to call this place home. I have been blessed enough to live overseas at points in my life and have seen transit done well. My observation after having lived here for 13 years now is this: until the St. Louis City and the surrounding counties decide to work together or become one, we are essentially stuck (witness the failed attempt on the recent ballot to get a tax passed and the metrolink line to Westport funded). While Metro does a fair job of working with what it has, it seems as if there is no vision of what transit in St. Louis will/would/should look like in the coming years ahead. What does get communicated in the city (where I live) DOESNT resonate in county (South, North, or West).

  9. Jazzy Jeff says:

    I think the cross-county ext. debacle has most St. Louisans wishing for Metro to die on the vine. I however understand there can be mistakes when there are many “hands in the pot”. I hope things will change… but it gets hard when you see very little over the years. A few new buses here a little transit beautification, a few new routes. But little in comparison to more robust city’s as: Portland, Chicago, Denver, etc…

    I hope they (Metro) can actually provide the exact or close to the exact cost and fulfill what the people truly want.

    On a side note: Can an “edit” feature be added to this blog in case we make a “blooper” (spelling mistake) and wish to change it? I have that feature on a cycling site I post to.

  10. Jennifer says:

    We’ll look into it, Jeff!

  11. RTBones says:

    I’ll second Jeff’s call for an edit button. 🙂

  12. Jazzy Jeff says:

    Very good posts on both counts RTBones! Yes we need both City and County to work together!

  13. Jazzy Jeff says:

    Good read: Metro sales tax is likely to be on April ballot, says adviser to county executive

    http://www.stlbeacon.org/region/metro_tax_may_be_on_april_ballot

  14. Jimmy Z says:

    You need good, specific plans to convince voters to support a tax increase. It took Denver’s RTD three tries to get it right, but now they have a full 1% sales tax dedicated to expanding transit there, compared to the ¼% Metro tries to live on (on the Missouri side) . . .

  15. Jazzy Jeff says:

    And this…with some meaty details:

    Metro weighs big changes in long-term plan

    http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2009/09/28/daily26.html

  16. RTBones says:

    Interesting read. I was unaware that Metro was actually thinking of commuter rail. I havent seen Austin’s system, so it looks like I have a weekend research project. 🙂 I look forward to seeing a draft of the plan in December.

    I just hope that if the tax DOES make it onto the ballot in April, that the language is precise enough to get the tax passed.

  17. mjschmitz says:

    I would love to see a system where the rail system (metrolink) and the bus system work together almost seamlessly. When I visit Chicago, I can get anywhere by using a combination of their L-train and their bus system and it is very easy to understand. I have absolutely no need for a car in Chicago.

    1. Courtney says:

      MJ,

      What makes it easy to understand for you? How does it work well for you? (I lived in Chicago in 2003 and have my opinions, but am interested in what you think.)

  18. RTBones says:

    Courtney,

    I can second MJ’s comments about Chicago’s bus/rail connection being easier to get around than here. My own thoughts…

    1) By and large, signage is better. There is also a phone number on the bus signs you can call if the bus is late or you are unsure which one to take. While iPhones and Blackberries are more common these days, not everyone has access to the web 24/7.

    2) SIDEWALKS…you can actually WALK to the bus stop, and not have to worry about walking on the shoulder of the road. One of my biggest problems with transit here is that there are many stops with poor signs and no way to actually WALK to the stop without having traipse (sp?) across a field, walk down a shoulder of a road, no way to cross at a crosswalk, etc.

    3) Connections…my experience has been that transit in chicago is built around the TRAIN. Buses feed the train. Here, Metrolink – while nice – is almost an afterthought.

    3a) Connections part II — I generally dont have to wait 1/2 hour after getting off a train to get on a bus. There is enough service that the longest wait (at least that I have experienced) during normal hours is about 15 minutes.

    4) Cabs … there are times when trains and buses just cant get you where you need to go. In chicago, there are plenty of cabs that take up the slack. While a taxi is usually my last choice, it is nice to know I am not going to get stranded.

    5) Did I mention there are SIDEWALKS? You can WALK?

    Chicago transit is not a panacea…but it is markedly better than here.

    I would be very interested in hearing your comments (as someone who lived there) vice mine (as someone who visits).

  19. RTBones says:

    A follow-up to my comment from yesterday. Waiting for the bus, noticed the bus stop sign 1) had a number but no list of where the route goes 2) a blanked out route (with destination listed) on the back of the sign 3) a phone number, and 4) a website listed. I have a blackberry, so I tried to pull up the website on it. All I got was an error, and directed to a site that allows you to buy passes (which didnt work). No way to look up routes/connections. So I tried Google Transit. WAP friendly page, and was able to look up some connections. Even listed a phone number — which was different than the one listed on the bus stop sign. Have not tried the number yet.

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