St. Louis Suffers From Pedestrian Disinvestment, New FTA Policy Statement May Bring Improvement

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The excellent NextStop blog brought this to my attention: St. Louis has been named one of the top 25 most dangerous cities in American…for pedestrians. It’s not easy to judge the relative safety of pedestrians in others cities, but I’ve long felt that much too little is done in St. Louis to accommodate pedestrians and people die as a result. We may be an auto-centric region, but every single one of us is a pedestrian.

And the number above are not annual, they’re for FY2005-FY2008. Four years, $1.78 per person in the State of Missouri. That’s less than $0.45 each year. What could we do with a cool $1 per person per year? Many needed amenities are fairly simple and right in front of us. We have ignored simple solutions and connecting public transit to commercial districts and neighborhoods is particularly important.

There may be good news on this front. The Federal Transportation Administration is reconsidering the distance from public transportation that one can be considered to be likely to walk “safely and conveniently”. To quote the FTA, “Relying on this guidance, in most circumstances FTA has considered pedestrian improvements within about 1,500 feet of a public transportation stop or station to be functionally related. Improvements beyond a 1,500 foot radius were considered functionally related to public transportation only if they satisfied a test of activity and use.

But the FTA is now leaning on a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that showed Americans who use public transportation spend a median length of time of 19 minutes daily walking to and from public transit. In more dense areas the amount of time is 30 minutes. This has led the FTA to state that 1/2 mile is a “conservative estimate” to consider a “safe and convenient” distance to walk to public transit. And the distance considered for bicycles is proposed to extend to 3 miles.

What would the increase from 1,500 to 2,600 feet mean to a system like MetroLink in St. Louis? The map I put together very quickly below shows the impact on just a few stops near Forest Park. If I had continued west you would see that nearly every stop on the Blue Line is within 1 mile of another stop, making the entire distance between a “safe and convenient” walk per the new definition.

View 1500 and 2600 feet from MetroLink stations in a larger map
{orange outline = ~1,500 ft and blue outline = ~2,600 ft from MetroLink station}

Of course this only makes sense, but today use of federal funds for pedestrian improvements are limited to the 1,500 feet unless they pass other requirements. The simple codification of the reality that people do walk further than 1,500 feet to ride MetroLike is incredibly important and resets expectations for future development.

Dangerous By Design and FTA documents are below:

Dangerous by Design: St. Louis Pedestrian Safety

FTA-Proposed Policy Statement on the Eligibility of Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements Under Federal Trans…

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