Northside/Southside MetroLink Expansion and Transforming Transit in St. Louis

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Earlier this year I wrote about the lack of a coordinated, consensus plan to expand transit within the St. Louis region. While different groups are pursuing a variety of projects, Northside/Southside MetroLink expansion remains the one corridor with the promise of transforming transit within the region. While the project has lacked a political champion, nothing else on the drawing board in the region comes close in terms of capacity to move people, stabilize population, and anchor redevelopment.

MetroLink has been a hugely successful endeavor and St. Louis residents want more of it. More than $15 billion in public and private investment has occurred around MetroLink stations since the first line opened in 1993. 60,000 people ride it every weekday, and 95% of people within Metro’s bus and rail system are traveling to school and work. MetroLink provides a spine which anchors the bus system.

Kingshighway TOD before_after{envisioning a new future for a Kingshighway station in North City}

During the last census period between 2000 and 2010 within the City of St. Louis, only the central corridor, and specifically areas near MetroLink, (or about to be, like Cortex) added population. In St. Louis County a combination of bad zoning, misplaced incentives, and crummy municipal government have reduced the positive effect on neighborhoods that MetroLink could have achieved. Nevertheless, Clayton, Washington University, and UM-St. Louis are capitalizing on the Blue and Red lines in St. Louis County. Much more could be achieved along Blue Line with a change in development practices.

The MetroLink Red and Blue lines were never intended as an endpoint. These lines are the foundation of a more useful system. Transit benefits accrue faster and to more people when the network expands. 21 years after opening, MetroLink remains primarily an east / west system. The Northside/Southside line is like the roof over the foundation – it gets the region much closer to a complete system.

Natural Bridge TOD before_after{envisioning a new future for a Natural Bridge station in North City}

MetroLink expansion is not a gamble. Light rail works in communities across the country. It stabilizes and increases adjacent property values, it gets people to work and school, it shortens commutes and lowers transportation costs. Light rail focuses development in existing communities where other infrastructure, both physical and social, already exists.

A good transit system provides people with an essential transportation option. A great system moves people to prefer transit over driving. We don’t have a great system, but Northside/Southside MetroLink is the right investment, and building it will be a quantum leap forward towards a quality network, connecting tens of thousands of new people to where they want to go each day.

Northside/Southside MetroLink TOD - St. Louis, MO{mapping area around a possible Kingshighway station in North City}

There’s a persistent myth that St. Louis area residents don’t want more MetroLink. System expansion has been stalled not by opposition, but by lack of a regional political consensus and cost overruns during Blue Line construction. But our political leadership should be less timid about expansion. Residents in the region have voted multiple times in the last 20 years to increase the local sales tax to fund the Metro system. St. Louis County voters approved the Proposition A sales tax with 60% voting yes in 2010. Surveys of the region consistently show residents rate transit expansion highly.

Last year I heard a rather prominent local radio personality puzzle, “Trains seem to work better in Chicago than they do here.” No kidding. Why? The Chicago region has 385 stations between its two passenger rail systems, compared with 37 stations in St. Louis. While the Chicago region has 3.5 times the population of the St. Louis region, it has 11 times the number of rail stations, and 10 times as many light and heavy-rail transit routes. What Chicago has is the network effect. More lines reach more of the region. There are more convenient places to board the system. There are more connections between transit lines. Transit does work better in Chicago, but it’s not magic. They simply have more transit access and options per person than we do in St. Louis.

The Northside/Southside MetroLink line would be a leap forward for our system, transforming it from an east-west alignment to a network that reaches many more people where they live. The new route would connect primarily residential and local commercial corridors in north and south St. Louis to major employment areas in the region like Downtown, the Central West End / BJC, Clayton, UMSL, Lambert airport, and Scott Air Force base.

What would a Northside/Southside system look like? It’s a street-running system. You can call it a modern streetcar or light-rail, but it’s not a trolley. It’s an electric system with overhead power that runs in its own right of way, primarily in the middle of the street, with signal prioritization at intersections. Stations are located at primary intersections like Jefferson and Arsenal, and are accessed by crossing at the crosswalk.

Northside/Southside MetroLink TOD - St. Louis, MO{mapping area around a possible Cherokee Station in South City}

A just built, apples to apples comparison is the Green Line which opened in Minneapolis and St. Paul in the summer of 2014. Within 4 months of opening, the line was meeting ridership projected for 15 years into the future. Close to 40,000 people per day are already riding the Green Line – fully 2/3rds of MetroLink system ridership over only 11 miles of track. The Northside/Southside line is comparable in a number of ways – a street running system which intersects with an existing transit line and connects residential areas to downtown. We can expect it will be similarly successful if built.

{the Green Line in Minneapolis opened this summer – image by Michael Hicks on Flickr}

Both north and south St. Louis were built around an extensive streetcar network, and the dense building stock and fine grained pedestrian environment are largely still intact and ready for transit to return. It’s easy to see the capacity for re-investment all along the corridor: at Cherokee and Jefferson, at Grand and Natural Bridge, and most pressing recently, along West Florissant in Ferguson.

How do we pay for it? Because of different state and federal funding formulas, light-rail is unfortunately more difficult to pay for than highway expansion. Despite a price tag likely north of a billion dollars even for a partial build, with political focus there’s a path to paying for the project. Northside/Southside is the only route within the region likely to receive federal funding. St. Louis County has unencumbered revenue from existing Metro sales tax which is not being spent. St. Louis City is authorized by the state to raise the sales tax for the Metro system by an additional .25%.

A substantial portion of the Northside/Southside route travels on MoDOT controlled roads, allowing MoDOT to contribute funding for certain infrastructure components. And let’s not write off the state. While Missouri has been MIA on transit funding for years, other red-leaning states have evolved past looking at public transit funding as a partisan issue. A few have recognized that it’s nothing less than the difference between survival and irrelevance for aging urban areas.

We’ve been here before – there were steeper hills to climb before the first MetroLink line was built. But 20 years from today, we’ll look at the Northside/Southside route as the most essential part of the system. It will be difficult to imagine St. Louis without it. Lets get started.

Northside/Southside MetroLink expansion map - St. Louis, MO

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  • Ronald Nelson

    Yes, I would definitely use the southside route shown. I would board at Reavis.

  • citylover

    Does North-South metrolink have better chance with NGA decision favoring North City? Are there any new routing options for the train or is it consistent with Jefferson and Natural Bridge? Comments from here suggest the County won’t support a North-South line. I find it confusing that Stenger favors the West County line. I feel like the county would be wasting money and encouraging corporate campus sprawl in West Port. Does West Port flow through Blue/ Red line or would you have to get off the train then reboard?

    Also, metrolink connection to Westport could influence corporations to move from Clayton to Westport, then we’d have three central business districts, more sprawl, and more mess. I think North-South is the best metrolink option, if county does not agree then the project is going nowhere. Maybe the rail line could sweeten a route to go through somewhere more favorable?… I don’t understand what the county wants. I rather have stations in North and South County going into the Main Central Business district rather than a 3-station route that leads to suburban sprawl and unwalkable suburbs of West County. (Frustrating that WWT thought it was best to move to Westport. They’ll sure get good view of a stormwater lake and Highway 270).

    Anyway, I hope NGA influences metrolink expansion. To see metrolink on Jefferson would be beautiful.

    • SnakePlissken

      I realize this probably means nothing to folks but a trusted source of mine says Stenger will never endorse metro expansion. Further, and this may already be well known but he hates Slay and the City. Losing Dooley was a huge set back for County/City relations. My personal feelings are that Stenger is most definitely a 1 and done county exec.

      • jhoff1257

        Stenger hating the City and Slay does not surprise me at all. If, like this post states, the city is already authorized to raise the sales tax another .25% then they should do that and apply for funds to build the portions of line within the City limits. Screw the County. I do think that if a MetroLink expansion were to take hold in the St. Louis area the County would be forced get on board with N/S or get left behind. As it was stated, the N/S line is by far the best candidate for federal funding. Not to mention no part of North, South, or Mid/West County where Stenger’s 3 proposed lines are have anywhere near the population density to support transit. N/S is a slam dunk.

        • rgbose

          0.25% generates $11.5M per year. Not enough.

          • jhoff1257

            Of course not, wasn’t implying that it was. But it’s a start.

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  • Hugh Scott

    Scott’s ideas are terrific and he makes very good points. It is not feasible to consider doing a project without significant support from the state and federal government. We made this mistake with the Metrolink Cross County Extension and ended up with a great system which cost the community dearly. Therefore, in order for this process to get started, several things need to happen. They are: 1)Support from our MPO (E/W Gateway) 2) Request for a matching funds grant from FTA 3) Support by Metro for this alignment as its highest priority 4) Endorsement by the City and County including the pledge of matching funds.

    All of these need to happen before any real progress can be made. Currently, Metro is not in line with FTA with a grant request. Not much can happen until E/W or Metro submit a proposal to FTA. Even then, our proposal will be put at the bottom of a long list and could take years to approve.

    There is no time like the present to get this started. However, we must remember that it will take at least a decade to get it completed.

    • John R

      Hugh, my concern about waiting for more Metrolink is, as you say, the extremely long time frame that it will take. I’d like to see the region commit as quickly as it can to a N/S route and follow up with decent quality BRT (with its own ROW as much as possible). If we ever get the means to do light rail, then perhaps we could replace the BRT in future years. But if we commit to BRT now, we could probably get boots on the ground by the end of the decade on the same streets and at the same speed and stations as contemplated for Metrolink.

  • Alex Devlin

    Any updates?
    I know this is a VERY slow process but havent seen any big pushes by political leaders or advocacy groups.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’m more optimistic than in the past. There’s a lot of work and new ideas happening in the background, and proponents haven’t found too much internal opposition. It’s a huge effort and political (and public) will (and $) would need to be reoriented to get it done. Short answer: it’s alive and kicking, but still a long way off.

  • kjohnson04

    I’ve debated on whether to comment on this or not. I’ve decided to. I tend to agree with Scott Olgivie on quite a few things, but on this I have to disagree. MetroLink is too expensive a solution for this. A bus rapid line (or lines) that cover this area would be a far better use of money. Bus now, MetroLink later.

    In other words, BSDA needs to act more like an economic generator and go big. Unveil a comprehensive mass transit plan for St. Charles, forcing it to integrate with the rest of the region. Do, don’t ask. The agency’s own studies show that there are potential riders outside of St. Louis and St. Clair counties. Serve them. Build commuter stations in Franklin and Jefferson counties that capture that ridership and make it attractive to those outside of the core to come in, and those inside the core to come out.

    The major project that keeps being shoved under the rug that should already be operational is the Eureka-Downtown-Alton heavy rail commuter line. By second hand equipment from Metra, build the stations and get it going.

    We don’t need a northside-southside MetroLink line, we need a better bus system. First.

  • kjohnson04

    I’ve debated on whether to comment on this or not. I’ve decided to. I tend to agree with Scott Olgivie on quite a few things, but on this I have to disagree. MetroLink is too expensive a solution for this. A bus rapid line (or lines) that cover this area would be a far better use of money. Bus now, MetroLink later.

    In other words, BSDA needs to act more like an economic generator and go big. Unveil a comprehensive mass transit plan for St. Charles, forcing it to integrate with the rest of the region. Do, don’t ask. The agency’s own studies show that there are potential riders outside of St. Louis and St. Clair counties. Serve them. Build commuter stations in Franklin and Jefferson counties that capture that ridership and make it attractive to those outside of the core to come in, and those inside the core to come out.

    The major project that keeps being shoved under the rug that should already be operational is the Eureka-Downtown-Alton heavy rail commuter line. By second hand equipment from Metra, build the stations and get it going.

    We don’t need a northside-southside MetroLink line, we need a better bus system. First.

  • Mike

    Does anyone have before and after photos of current metrolink stations and its surroundings?

    • jhoff1257

      Wouldn’t make much of a difference. Nearly all of the current system was built in abandoned freight railroad rights of way. Many stations are underground, below grade or elevated. Before and after shots aren’t really required to see the effect of the MetroLink on the areas of St. Louis where it currently runs. In addition to the nearly 70,000 people that use it daily, every neighborhood in St. Louis City that surrounds or is adjacent to the system had increases in population. The Central Corridor has been booming and it has both lines running through the center of it. Even East St. Louis has seen a few developments near stations. We could always do better (looking at you Mini dealership) but over all the system is attracting riders and investment in many neighborhoods.

  • slocaverbob

    Northsouth is useful but so would be farther west and St Charles Co as well. Who clogs up 270, 64 and 70 every day.

  • JZ71

    One, I support public transit and I support investing in transit. Two, transit, at its core, is boxes on wheels, used to move multiple passengers to their destinations. Three, the big discussion needs to be on creating an integrated system that serves the entire region, not random, individual lines, and one that includes identifying stable, predictable funding sources. Four, the focus needs to be on the riders, the daily users, and not on developers, unions or politicians. Five, travel times are always balanced by dwell times. And six, in the St. Louis region, there’s a huge need to destigmatize bus travel, since it will remain the core of Metro’s operations for the forseeable future.

    I support investing in appropriate solutions. I do not support investing in solutions that won’t offer a good return for our tax dollars. Street-running transit will never operate at speeds quicker than the surrounding traffic, and multiple-unit vehicles will have to stop at every designated stop. Using light rail on these corridors, if it ever happens, will prove to be painfully slow. More-frequent bus service and/or modern streetcars would be better, more-cost-effective solutions.

    Many transit advocates love “bigger and better”, while most actual users are more interested in more frequency and better connections. Our current system is focused on downtown because our streetcar system was focused on downtown. Our economic system used to be focused on downtown. Now, jobs (and housing) are spread over a much larger region. Transit needs density to work well, and denser developments are easier to serve with public transit. Ignoring the suburbs (or giving them just token service) does nothing to encourage denser development.

    Tax dollars are finite. We can spend X dollars and build Y miles of light rail. We can spend X dollars and build 2xY miles of modern streetcar. We can spend X dollars and build between 3xY to 5xY miles of true BRT. Or, we can spend X dollars and increase bus service by a factor of ten, either miles served or increased frequency, or a mixture of both. The two current streetcar proposals do absolutely nothing to improve the current bus service, and will distract the discussion from providing better service, systemwide. The same goes with this proposal – it’s a slightly-better bus, at a huge cost.

    Finally, we need to get past the fear, usually unspoken, around here, that better transit service will bring crime to the suburbs. Until transit is viewed (and used) as something everyone uses, not just poor, black people and “millennials, the creative class, and city-minded transplants”, finding any significant funding will be a real challenge. (And without funding, dreams like this one will never happen . . . . )

    • “Street-running transit will never operate at speeds quicker than the surrounding traffic, and multiple-unit vehicles will have to stop at every designated stop.”

      Kind of my thinking in supporting the DeSoto route option (IF, of course, a deal could be worked out with UP). It doesn’t quite hit the density peaks a Jefferson route does, but you’re trading that for existing grade separation (it runs at street level at 12 or so south city intersections) and a smoother, more consistent travel time. Presumably cheaper to build out, too, if you can get UP to vacate the line entirely.

      The radii its station stops touches are dense enough and, if the will is there, there are several adjacent former industrial sites that a smart developer could turn into some hearty mixed-use nodes. This would be further strengthened by consistent east-west bus routes as well.

      • JZ71

        I agree! The challenge RTD ran into in Denver is that UP does not like to share right of way, and if you want to buy their ROW, the price is high, since they know that a transit property has few, if any, other options. And sharing a rail corridor now requires reinforced, crash-resistant vehicles, not the traditional light rail vehicles we’re used to.

        • My understanding (or, more exactly, the understanding of one of the commenters on my original blog post) is that UP primarily uses its DeSoto stretch through STL to send empties south, while its river-hugging Lesperance stretch handles the larger share of its freighting.

          NOTE: I think Amtrak may run on DeSoto too, but I’m not sure (I’m always taking it north, never south).

          I’m curious a) how much UP thinks they need DeSoto, and b) how many St. Louis businesses need the DeSoto for their industry. With the coke plant redev building steam, maybe there’s an opportunity for STL to incentivize rail-reliant businesses along DeSoto to relocate to the coke site and its Lesperance line.

          This then serves the triple-duty of retaining STL businesses, strengthening the new Carondelet industrial complex, and further vacating the southside DeSoto route, making a long-term lease or buy-out from UP more viable and transit-adjacent multi-use more attractive.

          I imagine any money spent on the land-lease/purchase from UP is made up in the reduced cost need of grading/separating/demo for a new street-running system.

  • Why does everyone seem to think Gravois is some super wide highway that could accommodate MetroLink with room to spare? It can actually be quite narrow, only 80 feet wide building to building in many places. Jefferson Ave, meanwhile is 120 feet wide for its entire length from downtown to I-55.

    • onecity

      Grav is 6 lanes wide, and it was originally a streetcar route. There’s totally room for a light rail or streetcar in the middle and it would alleviate a lot of car traffic. Probably not space for a heavy rail like the red/blue Metro lines.

      • JZ71

        depends on where . . . .

      • The funny thing about MetroLink is that it is light-rail, not heavy rail and uses the same types of vehicles as Salt Lake City. When MetroLink was being built, light rail vehicles were selected as the designers of the system anticipated a need to run some segments in the street with traffic.

        There’s also nothing inherent about light-rail vehicles that requires a wider right-of-way than streetcars despite the propensity of engineers to design them that way. If absolutely necessary, it’s possible to squeeze 2-way dedicated lanes for streetcars or light-rail into only 22 feet of width. However, the typical width is 27 to 30 feet.

        As for Gravois, it may have a right-of-way width of 100 feet or more east of Grand, but west of Grand the right-of-way shrinks to 80 feet which is the same width as Grand going through the South Ground commercial district. Squeezing dedicated transit lanes into only 80 feet of space is a serious challenge that cannot be achieved without making serious sacrifices to sidewalks or left turn lanes.

        • onecity

          So sacrifice the left turn lanes. Bam.

        • Steve Kluth

          Gravois widens again south of Bevo Mill. Between Bevo and Grand, the route could run either south on Grand to west on Chippewa then south on Morganford, or south on Grand to west on Delor. To be really out-of-the-box, a route could even run west from Gravois on Potomac/Beck or Utah to Morganford then south to Bevo.

          • Actually, no, Gravois does not widen south of Bevo Mill. The Gravois right-of-way remains 80-ft in width from Grand all the way to almost Hampton/Germania. Chippewa is also 80-ft wide. Morganford, surprisingly, is only 60-ft wide, the same width as Euclid, Taylor, Newstead, etc. in the Central West End.

            This is not to say that inserting light rail into these streets cannot be done, just that its difficult to build a “regional” rail line when the transit vehicles are stuck in the same lanes as traffic.

          • Thomas Leonard

            I think this needs to be looked at from a wider perspective. This was simply a proposal. This was nothing concrete, nor official. I am 100% sure that the civil engineers who do this as their jobs will address the situation appropriately. If they can figure out how to design and build one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in North America across one of the widest rivers in the US, I’m pretty sure they can figure out how to fit a light-rail line on a measly road

            Also at this point in time, instead of focusing on any specifics of route options or stations, Metrolink, the State, and the City need to work on funding and meeting the 35 year plan they established in 2000. Likewise to the NextSTL group; never buy a saddle before the horse.

  • Brad Mosbacher

    Connecting North City to South City via Metro Link rail is a really, REALLY bad idea….

    • Alex Ihnen

      What is really being done is connecting North City to the region’s largest job, transit, and activity center, and connecting South City to the region’s largest job, transit, and activity center. I support North is then connected to South and vice versa. After all the population and job loss, after all the abandonment and disinvestment, surely this wouldn’t be the death knell of St. Louis. Unless I’m missing something.

    • onecity

      IF you want N City to remain a cut-off island of poverty, and hold its excellent built environment (that which survives, anyway) back from the gentrification it deserves, then yeah, by all means, no N-S line. Otherwise, an N-S line could significantly kickstart much needed investment along one of the major N-S arteries in N city. I’d love to see KHwy and Union/Hampton get N-S lines.

      • Alex Ihnen

        It’s interesting how South City is portrayed as in need of nothing. There are massive challenges in the Bevo area, Patch, and on into South County. MetroLink would make those places more economically vibrant/resilient in the coming decades.

        • onecity

          Absolutely. Money needs to be poured into Meramec, Gravois west of Jefferson and east of KHwy, and south Broadway. And, there should be 3 N-S lines. Jefferson, Khwy, Hampton/Union. Maybe Broadway as a 4th. And a Page line, and a Gravois Line.

    • Adam

      Why?

    • JZ71

      I agree. Light rail works best for medium to long-haul service, with stations at least a mile apart. If you want to add a rail connection between North City and South City, a moden streetcar would be a much more appropriate technology choice.

      The biggest knock against buses, other than they’re not sexy, is that they stop too frequently and it takes forever to go longer distances. Compare the proposed station locations between Broadway and Union with the existing stations on the Red and Blue lines – they’re twice as many / half as far apart – they’d take the rapid out of rapid transit!

      The other part of the equation is frequency. If Metro can run a larger vehicle on a route, they can run them less frequently ro move the same number of riders. But if you’re the rider, bigger ain’t necessarily better, if it means you have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for the next one to show up, instead of 10 or 15 . . .

      • Adam

        The full N-S line from Florissant Valley to Telegraph looks to be comparable in length to the combined MO/IL E-W portion. Do you contend that the E-W portion isn’t “long-haul” enough? Its substantial ridership doesn’t seem to care.

        • JZ71

          Streetcar, not light rail, if you want to have stops every half mile, or less! Light rail needs a dedicated right of way, not running down the middle of surface streets!

          • Adam

            It would be impractical to ride a frequently stopping streetcar from Flo Valley to Telegraph, or even half that distance. We need multiple modes. These two light rail lines would serve as a backbone from which more local, frequent service could emanate.

          • JZ71

            Once you get to Goodfellow, all the way down to Broadway, you WILL be stopping frequently, with the stops shown on this plan and the need to adhere to existing urban speed limits!

          • Adam

            Much easier to reduce the number of stops as a more fine-grained system is built out than to replace a streetcar with something more “long-haul” in the future.

          • JZ71

            Good luck with “taking away” someone’s stop! We should abandon the Wellston, Rock Road and Sunnen stops on our existing lines, alsong with several in Illinois – that ain’t gonna happen . . . .

          • Adam

            “…as a more fine-grained system is built out…” meaning one that addresses the gaps, locally, between the decommissioned light rail stops. E.g., buses or streetcars.

          • JZ71

            http://www.post-gazette.com/local/south/2012/06/26/Port-Authority-closes-11-light-rail-stops-forcing-riders-to-adjust/stories/201206260191

            Light rail stops are the opposite of taxes – everyone wants to keep “theirs”, so take away “someone else’s”. Let’s play what-if – there are seven stops planned in South City, Truman, Park, Russell, Gravois, Cherokee, Keokuk and Broadway. What if we need to remove two or three of them, to make the larger system work more efficiently? Which ones are less relevent or less needed than the others?!

            The simple answer is every other one, either Park, Gravois and Keokuk OR Truman, Russell and Cherokee. However, EVERY station has a constituency (otherwise each one wouldn’t be being planned now), and every constituency can argue the “need” to keep each station. Plus, there’s that implied promise that no station will ever go away, one of the big arguments for investing in a rail-based system (to say nothing about the “waste” of investing millions in a station, just to abandon it within a decade or two)!

          • Adam

            JZ, this hypothetical discussion is getting pretty pointless. I’m not talking about abandoning any rail-based systems. And I don’t think it’s useful to speculate about a constituency’s reaction to changing the form of (NOT eliminating) service between light rail stations. I’m talking about integrating a “long-haul” system with a finer-grained system over time. The point is that the finer-grained system, as it is brought on line, would replicate the “abandoned” service between the remaining light rail stations such that someone who used to embark at station “B” would now take a trolley or a bus to station “A” or “C” instead. Again, a permanent streetcar running the entire length of the city would be too slow to be useful for people needing to get from one end of the city to the other.

          • JZ71

            What you see as “pointless” is the nuts and bolts of designing and running any transit system. Glossing over these hard questions discredits the fundamental argument that investments in rail transit are needed to spur (re)development and private sector investments.

          • Adam

            It’s pointless for us, here on a blog, to pretend like we’re going to do justice to the nuts and bolts of designing a transit system in two or three sentences per post. It’s not so much “glossing over” as being realistic about the limits of this forum. There’s just no point in arguing over a bunch of hypotheticals, particularly when organizations like E-W Gateway and Citizens for Modern Transit are performing actual feasibility studies. I’m out.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Yep. We’re 100+ comments in and most of it is a back and forth about what definitively does or doesn’t work. I wonder if we were only to answer, “should STL persue more urban rail lines?”, what the answer would be.

          • Adam

            And I’m certainly guilty of some back and forth. Guess I’m finally starting to burn out. 😉

          • Ian W.

            I agree with that statement. While there is always going to be debate about exactly how these things are implemented, the core question remains. And, I think in the long run pursuing more urban rail lines would be a good thing for the area. And, I wouldn’t just stop at this plan, but of course things have to be taken in little bits and pieces over time.

          • Or, at the onset, you designate some stops as Express and some as Local — primary and secondary.

            During morning/afternoon rush hour, you hit every stop on the length, during off-peak, you express to only the primaries.

            Another option is running a 2-1-2-1 system, where you run two expresses consecutively and exclusively to the primary stations, then one hitting the secondaries. Or vice-versa. And repeat.

          • JZ71

            Unless you add passing tracks at local stations (more $$$$), ain’t gonna work. Dwell time and safe spacing between trains conspire against mixed service in a corridor like this one.

          • onecity

            The Twin Cities have a light rail line down the middle of University Ave from downtown St. Paul to the U, and that seems to work just fine.

          • JZ71

            cool video, but way too many non-station stops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou7fH_IjhfE

          • onecity

            Most riders probably aren’t going from one end to the other, but more likely from Central to Lexington or East Bank to Warehouse/Hennepin or East Bank to Snelling. But it allows for all of those. If you haven’t been there, the “urban/city” part of the Twin Cities is a lot bigger and a little more dense than that of STL, so there are large parts of the cities in which you can do most things within a mile or so of your residence. Imagine 15+ South Grands / Loops.

  • Terrence Keenan

    Why not champion an updated bus system? Less glam, maybe, but cheaper and way more efficient.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The impermanence of buses are the good and bad. No institution or business is going to invest in a project because of a bus line – it’s not a permanent investment. I completely agree that a better, more robust bus system is needed, but I also think having a permanent north/south transit line is very smart and would anchor a BRT/bus network.

      • Terrence Keenan

        “No institution or business is going to invest in a project because of a bus line – it’s not a permanent investment.”
        Is that a theory or fact?
        St. Louis needs to be fleet-footed in lean times, permanent infrastructure that could soon be outdated because of demographic change is a bad idea financially, especially if the city foots the bill (which the Feds won’t let happen, we just do football teams). Throw up some fancy separation curbs, an Ikea’ish glass shelter every mile or so, purchase some fancy Green buses with free wi-fi…. cost less, more adaptable, doesn’t tie us down to a “permanent investment”.

        • JZ71

          Around here, “No institution or business is going to invest in a project because of a bus line”, period! It’s an unfortunate reality, that’s driven more by demographics than any specific investments, made or not made, by Metro.

        • The excuses made about buses in St. Louis carry persistent and unfortunate racial and class biases (which often get heaped on MetroLink, but not as often). I think that the social stratification of St. Louis holds back serious consideration of upgrading the bus system — and that is a detriment. Even with the N/S MetroLink line there are huge parts of the region only served by buses, and we can’t ignore the needs there.

    • O’Toole has never missed an opportunity to disparages rail-based transit systems. I would not put much stock in his opinions. As for an updated bus system, I highly suggest looking at the <a href="http://www.humantransit.org/2014/05/houston-a-transit-network-reimagined.html"bus system reimagining that has been proposed in Houston.

      • JZ71

        Or Denver’s Fastracks investment: http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/main_1 . . There needs to be a comprehensive plan for better service to all parts of the region, not just trying to replace existing bus routes, at huge cost, with fancier rail transit that won’t run any more frequently. Yes, buses aren’t as sexy as rail, but to real transit users, a seat is a seat, and more frequency and shoter travel times trump fancier vehicles, any day. Light rail investments need to be used to move large numbers of riders long distances, quickly, in dedicated corridors. Buses need to be used to provide FREQUENT, fine-grained service in local areas. And, there needs to be seamless transfers between the two!

      • John R

        You only have to read the Cincy and KC development news to see an impressive number of projects getting announced by developers who are citing under-construction streetcar lines as part of the reason for their investments. And Cleveland’s BRT line also has led to significant investment. So street-running rapid transit has helped spur development not only in supposed millennial wonderlands like Portland but also Midwest backwaters like ours as well as If moving people quickly is the only goal of public transit then maybe street-running rapid transit would score less compared to traditional bus investments, but I think a few well-thought lines are important for the future of our city and region.

        • JZ71

          Cleveland’s BRT line replaced an existing streetcar line, that was still functioning ten years ago! Instead of reinvesting in rail, they choes to invest in a “dumbed-down” fancy bus system!

          Again, modern streetcars and BRT are not the same thing as light rail / Metrolink. Modern streetcars are much closer to articulated buses than they are to light rail vehicles. Streetcars are more appropriate for running at street level, in traffic, while light rail vehicles, especially the type St. Louis uses, are more appropriate for running in dedicated rail corridors.

          Bigger picture, yes, public transit suports denser development, but it does not create the demand for denser development. Running a new rail line along Natural Bridge or MLK will do little to spur development when the larger area remains economically depressed and marked by high crime rates.

          • John R

            There was no streetcar on Euclid 10 years ago. Or 20. Or 30. Maybe 40 but I don’t think so. And, yes, the HealthLine BRT has indeed helped spur redevelopment. You are correct that rapid transit by itself won’t create demand but it can certainly serve as a strong incentive. Saint Louis Streetcar or BRT no doubt would help lift Midtown, for example. And a N/S line would make quick gains in South City and, eventually, help North City.

  • Thomas

    While the idea of a north south line is great, that alignment is about the worst possible pick at least in south city. The line in south city should be built in areas that are already dense and up and coming not areas that are expected to become that way if the line is built. I know that may not be what metro-boosters think happens when a new line is built but honestly, look at some of the stations we have now. There are a number of underutilized or inconvenient stations built in or next to industrial zones with no built in existing populations to up the ridership right away. What metrolink shouldn’t try to be is the silver bullet for the city/region. If it serves existing density well, it will get the clout it needs to do further expansion.

    So instead of having it go down Jefferson and following the river / industrial areas, send it down gravois from downtown over to chippewa and connect with the Shrewsbury station. You hit dense existing neighborhoods and also areas that have a lot of dense yet blighted building stock. This would be an excellent incentive for developers to convert a multitude of existing buildings near that route. You also get close enough to key virbant areas that the wealth of those successful areas might creep over to the route. We have so many dormant neighborhoods still intact that we shouldn’t try to reinvent our own wheel with a metro line.

    • PeterXCV

      You’re ignoring the fact that neighborhoods along Jefferson like Fox Park, Benton Park, Benton Park West, and Gravois Park, are quite densely populated already (each with 7000+ per square mile) also that Gravois avenue is incredibly auto-oriented.

      • JMedwick

        Short-sighted. Gravois is auto-oriented now. Take that 6 to 8 lane behemoth and slim it down to 4 lanes (2 auto and 2 parking) with center running BRT and you have a completely different experience.

        • JZ71

          I agree. I’ve lived in a city where light rail was jammed onto an existing commercial street (Denver, Five Points line, NE of downtown), and it was not (and is not) very pretty. The vehicles, especially in combination, are too big, in scale, for the existing urban fabric, and the businesses, between stations, lost a lot of on-street parking, while gaining few, if any, new customers. Few new riders were attracted to the line, because it stops less frequently than the previous bus route, yet it is no quicker than the bus, once you’re on board, since the LRT does stop at every station along the line! (Think Sunen, here.)

        • John R

          I’m thinking a transit-line, bike lanes and a horse riding trail can all go down down Gravois with enough room to spare for autos! I think Gravois would be great for at least dedicated BRT lanes if not the full monty.

      • Thomas

        I agree that the alignment on Jefferson works but the problem I see is that once it continues to go straight south you are dealing with serving more and more a population that will be primarily on one side (west) of the line. You see the failure of this with the grand station trying to serve the residential population primarily north of the station. Putting a line on gravois and Chippewa, while it is a fairly auto oriented area, it is dense enough that people still do walk around to get their daily tasks done for a lot of those neighborhoods. Those are the kind of areas that should be served by a metro line, the ones where the neighborhoods themselves have sufficient density to survive on their own but the residents are forced to get in their cars for their jobs or larger tasks.

        • Right — if you “center” the line, the existing (and new) east-west bus routes will feed people into the system from both sides of it.

          A DeSoto route, either following the existing rail line from Kingshighway or a straight push south through the train yards — then buried under TG Ave, the park and Morganford — before rejoining the existing rail line at/near Fyler allows you to “center” the line for riders/residents/businesses east and west. And, like I said upthread, east-west bus routes have a larger role to play in feeding that line.

  • JZ71

    Poor alignment – duplicates existing bus service, with no significant improvement in travel times. We need a master plan for multiple, integrated lines, including streetcars, not just random, individual lines, especially lines that duplicate existing lines downtown. As other posters have noted an alignment along Grand makes far more sense than one on Jefferson does. I get it, everyone wants a line close to their home and place of employment, but given finite financial resources, we need to do a much better job of improving transit service outside the CBD to justify ANY future investments.

    • jhoff1257

      Technically a line on Grand would be duplicating existing bus service as well. But I do agree. Grand makes more sense for South City as this current alignment kind of hugs the eastern edge of the city. I do think Natural Bridge is a good candidate for a North Side line. I would also suggest connecting Civic Center and Delmar along 14th so you could run trains between the North and South sides without having to loop though Downtown.

      • John R

        We know a new Metrolink line will take a decade or more to come to fruition so I’d much rather just put in more investments into the 70 bus line that can make real gains within the next few years. Making it more BRT-like (all the bells and whistles but w/o the dedicated lane) can be accomplished rather quickly. It could also serve as a bit of “proof of concept” for Metro to seeing how much improvement can be made by this type of more modest investment. Let’s get things moving. If we wanted to, we could build out a pretty strong BRT network by the end of the decade…. BRT-like on Grand, real BRT up and down the N/S alignment and $$ to spare for more BRT like a Gravois line over what it likely would cost for LRT years from now.

      • John R

        We know a new Metrolink line will take a decade or more to come to fruition so I’d much rather just put in more investments into the 70 bus line that can make real gains within the next few years. Making it more BRT-like (all the bells and whistles but w/o the dedicated lane) can be accomplished rather quickly. It could also serve as a bit of “proof of concept” for Metro to seeing how much improvement can be made by this type of more modest investment. Let’s get things moving. If we wanted to, we could build out a pretty strong BRT network by the end of the decade…. BRT-like on Grand, real BRT up and down the N/S alignment and $$ to spare for more BRT like a Gravois line over what it likely would cost for LRT years from now.

    • Kiki Fogg

      Grand is too narrow already, though; it can’t afford to lose a lane like Jefferson (or Kingshighway?) can.

      • JZ71

        The fundamental challenge is that downtown St. Louis is no longer the center of the region, while most of our transit is focused there (primarily because it always has been). Far more trips start and end outside of downtown, and we need to focus on creating a web of service, not enhancing a hub-and-spoke system.

        As for “losing a lane”, when it comes to light rail, I agree, and not just on Grand. But not because a lane might be lost, but because running light rail outside of a dedicated corridor significantly degrades service. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with 5 minute headways, would provide far better service than LRT, with 15 or 20 minute headways.

        Think of transit as a hierarchy of services, with local bus routes and demand-responsive (call-a-ride) services, along with walking and biking, for short distances / “the last mile”, streetcars, express bus services and BRT for medium distances, and over-the-road (Greyhound-type) coaches and LRT for longer distances.

        Bigger vehicles take more passengers to fill (duh!) and operate efficiently. For “real” transit users, more frequent service trumps a fancier vehicle any day, and since funding is, and will remain, limited and finite, we need to focus on providing the best trip for everyone, not just building a “Taj Mahal”, just to spend more money to do what we’re doing pretty well, already, with boring, dumb, buses . . . .

        • Alex Ihnen

          You’re right, but downtown St. Louis remains the single largest job center in the region, and had much more density in services, jobs, now even residents in some pockets. The population center of STL is west of I-170, but there’s no viable option out there for mass transit. So whether existing, or potential, it makes sense for downtown to be the focus on regional transit.

          • JMedwick

            Or the CWE…At least in that area you have a growing job center.

          • JZ71

            Correct – the quickest way out of poverty is a job or a better job, and the biggest rap against Metro, here, is that it takes too long to get anywhere, outside of downtown. More frequency on existing routes and more routes with better connections, creating a web of service, not a hub-and-spoke system, would better serve more people.

            One recent example is the two new outlet malls in Chesterfield – neither one is served by any of Metro’s transit services! It can be easily argued that the developers “should” have picked locations that are adjacent to existing transit lines, but it can also be argued that Metro is doing a huge disservice to its transit-dependent customers by not figuring out how to provide service to both locations, before they opened. The cost of doing so would be miniscule, compared to the cost of extending light rail, but doing so would have opened up far more job opportunities.

          • Alex Ihnen

            It’s impossible to both create a web of transit service with short headways and reach places like the Chesterfield outlet malls. OK, it is possible with say $10B in local transit funding, but it would be a huge waste given the job density out there. One of the crippling challenges of Metro is that as a regional transit agency, the priority is to connect as many people and jobs across a low-density sprawling region. Instead, the region would be best served by a dense, effective transit system concentrated in areas of urban form.

          • JZ71

            Yes, but how do you expect to fund it?! If you don’t provide some form of service in the ‘burbs, ain’t no reason for said suburbanites to vote to tax themselves to support transit (and you can’t get enough in the way of new taxes out of our current “areas of urban form”)!

          • Alex Ihnen

            This is more of a political question than a financial one. STL City is surprisingly wealthy – we simply chose to fund other things. The city pays the Rams $6M per year, city taxpayers voted to pay $6M per year for the Arch grounds project. Existing law allows the city to raise its transit tax from .25% to .5%, generating perhaps an additional $15M per year. A $390M TIF was given to NorthSide, 10s of millions in bonds were issued for city parks, another $200M bond issue was close to passing last year, with $25M in it for the area around Pruitt-Igoe.

            Now perhaps an argument can be made that given existing taxes, there isn’t room to tax more. That may be true. But it’s not that difficult to see how the city could come up with $25M or more per year for transit funding. That would effectively get the North/South line started.

          • John R

            Excellent point about our funding priorities for the region. I’m also hopeful we can still get a Saint Louis Streetcar route down Olive/Lindell largely based on an additional tax w/in a TDD and from institutional sponsors. Detroit’s under-construction line would not be possible w/o the equivalents of Wells-Fargo, SLU and BJC directly contributing to the project. If we could get a largely self-sufficient Saint Louis Streetcar line we would also have room for a more tax-supported N/S line.

          • JZ71

            Let’s see if the city can find the money for 120 more cops, then we can look at finding more money for transit – in the eyes of most residents, crime is a much bigger issue!

          • Thanks. Not sure of the path to a N-S line, but the means to do so, I feel, will need to come almost exclusively from the City of St. Louis itself. Be that special-use taxes, TOD districts, or a hard look at what is being budgeted and what isn’t, both from the general fund and federal grants/allowances.

            This “regionalism” obsession our Mayor likes to tout only lessens the city’s ability to act/build/improve independently. If all your decisions must go through some far-flung citizenry who enter the city fifteen times a year for sports, festivals and work outings, you’re never going to get the growth its your job to try and produce.

          • JZ71

            Ahh, the classic chicken-or-egg transit argument – the suburbs aren’t dense (because there has never been much transit), so transit will never work there nor will there ever be any density.

            My point was that we already have light rail serving downtown, and that it would make more sense to run any “north-south” line in the city further west, closer to the physical center of the city and/or region. People who live in Ferguson, Fairgrounds Park, TGE or Carondelet are just as likely to be employed in Clayton or Scott AFB or Chesterfield as they are to be employed downtown, and they have little or no desire to travel THRU downtown to head west, south or north, every work day.

            Instead of parallelling the existing line on the north side, and hugging the river on the south side, running on surface streets, we would be better served if a) BRT ran more fequently on the same streets, and b) our current light rail lines, in Missouri, were extended further west (to Chesterfield), south (from Shrewsbury to South County) and north (to Earth City). We would have a better transit SYSTEM.

          • onecity

            Why would you extend rail lines west to Chesterfield? That’s like 20 miles out of the city. There are almost no urbanized areas west of 170 to support the ridership required for that kind of mileage to pay for itself. Plus it encourages further sprawl into a floodplain. The harder it is to get there, the better. The best plan is to double down on the city, because that is where the growth will be. Young, educated people want to be near one another, and next door to everything. Even north city will come back, because it has a great street grid, commercial arteries waiting for a reason to do business, and an awful of lot of excellent surviving housing stock. Give employed people a reason to be there, and change will come swiftly, bringing with it a real, vibrant city. However, I do agree a more central and straight KHwy or simiilar N-S alignment would make more sense. I just think phase 1 should be the first 2 miles N and S of the central corridor and nothing more. There should be another N-S line at Jefferson, and another at Hampton/Union.

          • JZ71

            Why improve transit service to Chesterfield? Because that’s where the jobs are! I get it, people SHOULD work and live in the city, support density and walk everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s not the world (or the region) we live in. The deciders decide to build where they build, the residents decide to buy or rent where they want / can afford to, and transit can either adapt to those changes or become increasingly irrelevent to more and more local residents and taxpayers. And why should that matter? Because taxpayers are the ones who fund 80% of EVERY trip on public transit. You may not like the sprawl (I sure don’t), but if we don’t “throw them a bone”, “they” have no reason to support increased regional funding, and it makes it incrementally harder for poor, urban, transit-dependent riders to access jobs throughout the region!

          • John R

            Chasing low-paying retail jobs to far-flung reaches should be on Metro’s agenda but not in any way a priority.

          • onecity

            Metrolink isn’t about serving the poor. It’s about catering to the tastes of millennials, the creative class, and city-minded transplants – the groups that have been bringing America’s cities back from the brink for the past twenty years. Is STL in or out?

          • JZ71

            Government is NOT in the business of “catering to the tastes” of any group, it’s in the business of delivering needed services to all citizens as efficiently and equitably as possible. I see few millenials using Metrolink at the Shrewbury station or in north county. I do see workers with subsidized passes and I see poorer, transit-dependent riders.

          • Adam

            Yeah, gonna have to disagree with you on that one. The E-W line certainly wasn’t about that, and the N-S line shouldn’t be about that. It’s about commerce: getting people (including poor people) to and from their jobs, and to and from the places where they spend money.

          • onecity

            Do you want a great city or not? Do you want your kids to want to stick around? If you do, then fixed transit (which tells developers their properties will be on the ___ line for years to come) is a high priority.

          • Adam

            onecity, i’m not disputing the need for the N-S line. i’m a fan. i’m just saying the motivation for building the E-W line was not, and the motivation for building the N-S line should not be, about “catering to the tastes” of a well-off segment of the population. You can’t build a city that ignores its poor. We’ve seen/are seeing haw that works out.

          • onecity

            Cities were never intended to be warehouses for the poor. They were intended to be cultural, economic, and educational centers par excellence, or should I say they evolved to be that. As such, they should have a disproportionate share of the wealthy, educated, and ambitious, and a somewhat lower share of the poor. What we have seen is a city overwhelmed by the needs of a poor population it simply doesn’t have the resources to support, which is entirely an accident of a short period of American history – migration of a huge refugee class from the south plus misguided federal policies that subsidized suburbanization at the expense of cities. The future of a city is strongly tied to how well it caters to the needs of the creative class, and we will come to see many of the issues of the 20th century as a blip on the radar. What we are seeing in Ferguson and Staten Island and many other places is what happens when suburban places that grew used to not having poor people or minorities suddenly find themselves thrust into a new world they thought they had fled from.

          • Adam

            okay. i disagree. i think the future of a city is equally tied to how it accommodates its working class and its less fortunate citizens.

          • JZ71

            Your phrasing about catering “to the needs of the creative class” smacks of eltism and inequality. That attitude will never persuade “the masses” to vote to raise their taxes for something that they see as something they would never use or “be allowed” to use. A much better attitude would be trying to figure out how to create an integrated system that provides better service and more options for everyone. That’s how the leaders in Denver convinced the voters to invest in Fastracks, “a multi-billion dollar comprehensive transit expansion plan to build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 21,000 new parking spaces at light rail and bus stations, and enhance bus service for easy, convenient bus/rail connections across the eight-county district.”

            The reality, in Chicago, is that rail transit hasn’t changed much in 50 years, but the neighborhoods surrounding transit have. The same holds true in Brooklyn. The projects in Denver, as in other “new starts” cities, are all playing “catch up”, and are driven more as alternatives to rebuilt, wider freeways, as ways to deal with congestion in economically-strong areas. Historically, St. Louis has invested in freeways – three recent projects have been the I-64 rebuild, the Musial bridge and building 364 in St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

            To create a viable transit SYSTEM, you need to focus on more than just “the creative class”, you need to make it attractive to commuters of every economic level, by not “fixing” congested freeways and by making land too valuable to be providing “free” parking. Most people don’t drive because they’re in love with the idea of SOV commuting; they do it because it’s either the best or only option available to them! If you want to get more people on board, both literally and politically, with the idea of transit, you gotta make it a better option, for them, personally. They really don’t give a sh*t what works for other people, it’s what works for THEM!

          • onecity

            Taxpayers (and not just gas taxes) pay for 100% of every roadway mile used for your car. So if transit pays for only a few % of itself, it’s still a win.

          • JZ71

            Vehicle owners pay 100% of operating costs for their vehicles

          • JZ71

            And the way to make multiple N-S lines reality is to do the math – one light rail line costs about the same as two streetcar lines or four or five BRT lines! We have finite resources – use them wisely!

        • Kiki Fogg

          I wasn’t even thinking in terms of downtown or of fancy vehicles, but rather in terms of Grand being only 2 lanes everywhere north of Lindell & south of Arsenal. Laying tracks there, you have 3 choices: eat the left turn lane, eat the parking, or eat people’s homes.
          (Keep in mind that some jobs require non-public motorized transport: Anything that goes into subdivisions or across county lines, anything that involves moving heavy equipment/cargo, et cet.)

  • Presbyterian

    There is a race angle to this proposal.

    Metro has proven its ability to spur private sector investment and jobs. The North-South line runs through Fetguson, Dellwood and Jennings, as well as the heart of North St. Louis and the racially diverse neighborhoods along Jefferson in South City.

    I would think directing investment toward these communities would be a top priority for both federal and state governments.

    • JZ71

      “Metro has proven its ability to spur private sector investment and jobs.” And those would be? And, at what cost? Did the Loop redevelop because of Metrolink or because of Joe Edwards? Did Mini of St. Louis invest in a new dealership because of light rail? How much private investment has happened around the Wellston and Rock Road stations?! Yes, the government has a duty to invest in “these communities”, but a huge investment in rail transit is no guarantee of success. Ask the people who live there – their biggest need is to get to (better) jobs, throughout the region. It shouldn’t have to take three or four transfers, and having to wait 20 or 30 minutes between buses. People don’t use transit, now, because it either doesn’t go where they need to go or it simply takes too damn long! If we want to throw more money at transit, we need to make it more comprehensive and more frequent, NOT just spend millions and millions of dollars, per mile, to replace one moderately-used bus line with more capacity that won’t run any more frequently or quickly!

      • Luftmentsch

        Honestly, we’ve got to get past the wishful thinking and look hard at what lightrail has and hasn’t accomplished in this region. Look at the stations along the Shrewsbury line! The great Dierberg’s disgrace (where you exit the train even with the store entrance, but then have to walk 100 yards in the direction of the loading docs), the Boulevard St. Louis fiasco (an entire “urban strip” that turns its back on Metrolink), the Maplewood desert, and then…..the piece de resistance…the Mini dealer that replaced a neighborhood and cut off Sunnen Station from the Dear Creek shopping mall. If this region is serious about Metrolink, then someone would do something to correct these collosal mistakes.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Yes. IMO – this is why a Westport line, or something to Chesterfield, is crazy. IF a line is built, it should be in the city where land use is much more dense. There are shortcomings there too, for sure, though much of it is due to the original line being built on a heavy rail corridor.

          • JZ71

            In the city, a modern streetcar would be a far better solution than light rail (yes, there is a difference), IF it can be proven that investing in rail is a better decision than investing in BRT!

  • RJ

    My preference would be to eliminate the curved section from the Civic Center station to the Busch Stadium station by covering the existing below grade section at Union Station and running the line underground down Clark to Broadway, north on Broadway to Cole and west to 14th creating an underground downtown loop run. The existing line down 8th would be extended underground south from Busch Stadium to Chouteau and west to Jefferson. The north line would go underground down 14th to West Florissant and continue with the suggested route. This would mean you would have to connect to other trains in the CBD, which is a common practice in other cities but connects more area’s of downtown. I think a trolley line running south down Broadway and north on 4th from Laclede’s Landing to the Lemp Brewery complex would create a good option for Soulard and the area’s immediately south of downtown. Bus and trolley service would feed into metrolink.

  • STLEnginerd

    I really hate the route choice through down town. A train running north south on 9th is essentially duplicating current service through the central bussiness district. A southside line that runs from Jefferson to Washington and follow washington to the current tracks across Eads bridge would create two shared stations from which to transfer onto the current route as well as additional service to the east side.
    A Northside line should cross on the Tucker viaduct and terminate at Soulard, with eventual plans for an expansion on Gravois all the way to Affton (even though that would not be part of this plan) Such a plan would only add a few miles of track but would open service to a significantly greater portion of downtown and potentially spark investment in some of st. louis’ most obvious low hanging fruit Downtown West, and Downtown South (PeabodyDarstWebb)

  • One interesting option based on the alignment picture shown above — connecting the Delmar station stop to the Civic Center station stop would create a downtown circulator. Similar to the way the Green (west and south), Brown/Purple (north/west) and Orange (south/west) Lines share trackage in Chicago’s downtown, a similar circulator configuration in that of St. Louis could makes separate lines feasible.

    Theoretically this could reduce headways by having shorter “full” routes for a separated southside line and northside line. Also, it potentially doubles the presence of downtown trains, further encouraging business development and ridership. [Edit: Okay, probably doesn’t reduce headways without an increase in the fleet)

    So, a southside train arriving at Civic Center continues counter-clockwise through downtown, turns south at Delmar, hits Civic Center once more and continues on toward Loughborough. Likewise, a northside route arrives at Delmar and circles downtown (also counter-clockwise, presumably, to reduce needed trackage) before swinging back north.

    The most obvious negative response to this configuration is cries of segregated train systems, but I call bull-hocky on that. There would be plenty of transfer points in the downtown circulator.

    • jhoff1257

      I came here to say nearly this exact same thing. You can have individual lines for the North and South sides without the “segregation” suggestion. With an extension between Civic and Delmar you can have a train that runs from one end to the other without circulating Downtown. Uninterrupted North/South travel.

  • illusion87

    I think two vitals stops in south city should include Soulard Market and the Bud Brewery.

  • SnakePlissken

    Well, it appears all the studies have been conducted over the last few years, what hurdles remain? Money is no doubt the largest but what if anything is currently being done to move this forward? I’m all for Facebook groups and comment sections but other then cheerleading I haven’t heard of any concrete steps moving this project forward.

    • John R

      Seems to me this is something the new Stenger administration and NoCo community is going to have to get behind. My understanding is that the current County interest was for a Westport extension before N/S.

    • Mike

      One hurdle is that Metro wants no part of building it….

      • John R

        But is that only b/c the County doesn’t want it? I think if the policiticians get behind N/S, Metro will fall in line.

        • Mike

          It’s $, not just to build it but then you have to maintain it. and they would prefer to just build the S- portion but there gets nowhere politically.

  • Mike

    Scott,
    I think one thing is clear there is NO chance of this happening without Federal funds and we know that New Starts funds are pretty much committed to about mid 2020’s, has there been any exploration with our Senators and Reps about earmarks or other federal funds?

  • Bert

    Love the idea of a north south metrolink. However I wish this could run down tower grove or grand instead of Jefferson (on the south side of the line) It seems like the heavily populated shaw, tower grove east and tower grove south neighborhoods (among others) could greatly benefit and would support such a line .

    Either way a north south is a must for stl!

    • John R

      As a TGSer I’d like that but I think it would be better to just put more investments into the 70 line… more frequent service, some nicer shelter stops with arrival info and signal prioritization, etc.. And perhaps an Express Service with limited stops at peak hours. So maybe a $50 million or so project that would substantially enhance service within just a few short years.

  • RJ

    While I agree that expansion of metrolink should be a priority and the north-south line should be first in line I don’t agree with the: “Its a street-running system. You can call it a modern streetcar or light-rail, but its not a trolley. Its an electric system with overheard power that runs in its own right of way, primarily in the middle of the street, with signal prioritization at intersections. Stations are located at primary intersections like Jefferson and Arsenal, and are accessed by crossing at the crosswalk.” I’ve been a member of CMT for years and have followed all the studies and plans for expanding metrolink and too many decisions are made too build the cheapest system money can buy. Initially that was the only option for the red line because at that time no one was interested in rail transit and there were no funds available but that has changed.
    The great rail systems in major cities were not built overnight nor on a dime. To do it right it takes decades and billions of dollars but this is an investment in transit infrastructure for our community. This expanded line definitely should have its own right of way but not down the street in vehicular traffic with passengers crossing streets to get to the trains. Most of this line in the city should be underground and if planned properly in conjunction with the northside redevelopment. That plan includes rebuilding the infrastructure with new streets, sewers and utilities so what better time than to dig a tunnel for this transit line? It is a known fact that light rail lines that run down streets with vehicular traffic have higher accident rates and a more difficult time meeting schedules. I would expect this with a trolley line but not light rail and the difference between the two is light rail has its won access and doesn’t deal with automobiles.
    I’ve been advocating for the original system to eventually try and eliminate the existing at grade crossings especially in the CORTEX district with construction of the new Boyle Station. At what price do we account for safety? You can’t just build a cheap system at the risk of safety concerns and as far as I’m concerned it may take longer and will cost more but lets do this right and build it underground like a first tier city would.

    • John R

      I’d love to see a re-routing and tunneling of the existing line from Union Station to the CWE so it would better serve midtown, Grand Center and CWE… having actually convenient stops at places like Grand & Lindell and Euclid and Forest Park would be so very awesome and rocket ridership. It would also eliminate the need for a Saint Louis Streetcar but I suppose it would cost more.

    • STLEnginerd

      ^AGREE 100%, at least for everything from Florrisaant Road to roughly Jefferson and Gravois. Street running from there on is an acceptable compromise. Also doesn’t necessarily need to be covered the whole way, just below grade.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I think hoping any portion of this line would be underground, is a sure fire way to kill it. Tunneling, or even trench-and-cap is exponentially more expensive than at-grade. Also, at-grade systems work remarkably well. A lot of the milage in Boston is at-grade for just one example (there are lots), and those portions mirror the existing and hoped-for density of any St. Louis North/South line.

      • RJ

        I realize the cost is higher and will take longer that is why I mentioned in my comment that great transit systems were not built overnight and on a dime. The truly great transit systems took time and cost a lot of money but I am more interested in investing in a first rate transit system not the cheapest money can buy. If you have to build one mile at a time and it costs more and takes longer, so be it, but in the end you will have a much safer and better transit system. Anything built in the CBD should be underground and you need to look at this issue as a long term investment in transit infrastructure. There are issues with at grade transit as accidents are higher, we just had one in the CORTEX district with a truck going around the gates and there have been incidents on the Blue Line In Los Angeles and transit systems in Houston and Portland. Sure they work and are cheaper but at what level do you sacrifice safety issues. The new Minneapolis Green Line is rife with delays and from reading the blog many people are not happy with it because its too slow.

        • Alex Ihnen

          I completely understand what you’re saying, but just disagree that an underground system is preferable. Transit is extremely safe, even at-grade (just imagine this conversation with cars and highways). Part of the reason MetroLink expansion has paused here is because of the crazy costs of the Blue Line – those were driven up by demands by homeowners next to the line that it be underground. That was a big waste, and harmful to the region’s transit future.

          • RJ

            Actually Metrolink expansion has paused because there is not enough funding to expand the system and we get nothing from the State of Missouri for public transit. I’ve had conversations with Ray Friem at Metro and he informs me it will be ten years before we will have enough of a local match to get 50% from the Feds for any future expansion. There needs to be a major push to get the state to allocate a lot more money for public transit, if so then the timeline would be five years for expansion. The cost overruns on the cross county expansion were because of all the changes made by Metro to the contractors because of the demands of local residents who wanted the line to go underground rather than be subjected to the noise of trains, which is another item to consider. How does the public feel about trains running down streets?. Actually the estimated cost for the cross county line was $ 430 million but ran over $500 million for an 8 mile line with 9 stations and one mile of subway which given todays costs really wasn’t that bad. Perhaps an increase in the fuel tax can be allocated for roads and a smaller increase in the sales tax would be used exclusively for public transit will push any north-south line expansion, otherwise we’re looking at a long wait for any expansions.

          • JZ71

            Expecting our legislature to support local rail transit is an exercise in wishful thinking. We’d be much better served by figuring out how to give Metro the ability to levy taxes directly, instead of relying on appropriations from local governments. If we can’t convince local voters to support higher taxes, how do you expect to convince voters in counties that have NO transit service to support higher taxes (or redirected revenues)?!

          • RJ

            Many other states support public transit and Missouri does nothing. Besides most of the voters live in urban areas. This tax wouldn’t be just for St. Louis but include Kansas City, which is trying to develop a trolley system, as well as Springfield and Columbia, which could upgrade their bus systems. I don’t expect rural Missouri to support anything but guns. I have yet to see any public transit system that is financially self supporting and all of them require some subsidies from their respective local and state governments. The recent Amendment 7 sales tax measure failed because the voters felt it should be a users tax and to increase the fuel tax. Unfortunately the fuel tax can only be appropriated for roads not transit, so in order for public transit to receive any funding a sales tax increase would be needed. Perhaps if the legislators put a new measure on the ballot which would increase the fuel tax for roads and a smaller increase in sales tax for public transit the measure may have a better chance of passing. The money has to come for somewhere otherwise were just wasting our time posting on this forum.

          • JZ71

            Ding! Ding! Ding! You nailed it! “The money has to come for somewhere otherwise were just wasting our time posting on this forum.” But whether it’s transit, police or redevelopment, there seems to be a mindset, especially in Missouri, that a) higher taxes, for anything, are “bad”, unless, of course, b) “I” don’t have to pay them! That explains the focus on increasing sales taxes, statewide, maintaining the earnings tax, in the city, and creating TIF’s to fund pretty much any new commercial development, instead of increasing local property taxes to fund local services. Yes, the state “should” help fund local transit, just like the state and the feds “should” fund the replacement of our failing infrastructure and “should” provide “affordable” higher education for everyone, but there is truly no “free” money – somebody, ultimately, pays for it. We need to quit expecting “someone else” to pay for everything, we need to figure out what our priorities are and how we’re going to pay for them ourselves! Illinois is one of those states that has state funding for public transit, and its budget is a mess . . .

          • RJ

            You are absolutely on point about the mindset in Missouri that someone else should pay for it and there is a lack of social responsibility in dealing with our local issues. If I don’t use public transit then why should I pay for it? Well it might benefit the entire community and create a region where people will want to live and work, thus raising the value of your property (home) which is your biggest investment. Why pour money into education and then your children leave the area to find more opportunity somewhere else, but that’s not our responsibility. How often have you heard: “I left the city to get away from those issues.” The money has to come from somewhere and the misers in Missouri always expect someone else to pay for it. You would think the people in St. Louis would want this city to be better instead they run away from it to suburbia. Of course the problems just follow them to suburbia and this reverts back to the racial issues in this community. As for Illinois, you picked a doozy for comparison, that political machine, which is basically run out of Chicago, has the biggest crooks in the country and their damn proud of it!

  • Joe

    I don’t understand Bayless… funding from the county? the last stop should be at Loughborough before the line swings back up along river DesPeres to the Shewrsberry station why not create a loop like the plans in ATL? This would be a great oppo to collaborate with funding for sewer repairs, river restoration, green infrastructure, and bike paths around the river

    • Loughborough makes a good stopping point if for no other reason than that South Countiers can use the massive Commons lot as a park-n-ride to head downtown.

      If the will is there though, I don’t mind it touching down at Bayless — simplifies the process of eventually getting south county buy-in for a true extension (continuing the line straight through) or, more likely, a connector (forcing folks to get off and re-board a different train.

      Also, I assume there’d be some support from River City and, presumably, a consistent shuttle from the Bayless terminus.

      • TransitPlanner

        You’re 100% correct about extending the line to Bayless simply to get the County’s buy-in. It is always better to cross a strong political line (like the City/County boundary) as soon as possible, otherwise it will be a much bigger hurtle in the future if you stop just short.

        The same thing happened with the light rail line in Phoenix. The City of Mesa was unsure about the success of a light rail line in such an auto-dominated area, but kicked in a little money to have the terminal of the starter line just within their border (even though there was a more logical terminal location just outside of their border). Now that the system is a huge success (far surpassing ridership projections), Mesa has a 3 mile extension under construction and another two mile extension funded and well into the planning stages. If they hadn’t kicked in that initial bit of money, the residents of that city would not have been able to experience first-hand the benefits of light rail and extensions would have been extremely unlikely. Now the city is using light rail to attract new residential, office, and education institutions to their downtown that had all but faded away before this investment.

        • STLEnginerd

          best thing to do is for St. Louis City to re-enter the county. Then we are all on the same team.
          That said the political realities is why i support a complete buildout of a southside line prior to r starting on the Northside. The southside may have a higher income but it not exactly Chesterfield, and has a significant minority population to boot.
          I support funding both but i don’t see why they have to be tied together.

  • JMedwick

    The comparison of the north-south line to the Green Line in the Twin Cities is anything but apples to apples. What are the transit anchors comparable in size to downtown St. Paul, the Minnesota state capital, and the main University of Minnesota campus that are not part of the current light rail system in St. Louis? I don’t see similar anchors anywhere along the north-south line.

    With the major employment centers (the central corridor) already in the system, it is now all about connecting those centers to the places where their workers live. Does the proposed north-south line do that? The greatest densities of downtown workers live in south St. Louis, so at least one part of the line seems to help in that area.

    My main concern with the north-south line, however is cost and speed of development. Places like the Twin Cities have used the success of their initial line to quickly move forward on the development of other key corridors. St. Louis, in its conservative style, wasted ALL of the momentum from the initial line, taking way to long to build and extension. When that extension was built, it was plagued by cost overruns and delays, further damaging support for transit.

    If the region is going to build new fixed route transit, whether BRT or LRT, it must be a route with strong initial ridership that can be built without cost-overruns and will not need another tax increase to support operations. Given the much much higher cost profile for LRT vs. BRT, I am just not sold that St. Louis’ next foray into fixed route transit should be LRT. We need a quick win to build support for future extensions and nothing about the north-south line looks quick or cost-certain.

    As an alternative, why has a Gravois/ Chippewa BRT route never gained traction? I would serve the same southsiders working downtown, would likely cost less, could be developed in a way that would connect with the existing LRT system at multiple points (downtown and in Shrewsbury), and would go a long way to making a wide barrier street into a much more urban friendly corridor (rife with redevelopment possibilities too).

    • John R

      I agree we need to look at BRT as a fallback…. and I’m not convinced street-running LRT would be that much superior to a street-running BRT as long as it has its own right-of-way.

  • robert

    Pet-peeve: A lot of “Its”es that should be “It’s”es. This is a great article, but I think presentation is important, too. A lot of errors can be distracting.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Sorry about that – wasn’t Scott’s fault. A cut and paste into WordPress ate the apostrophes. It has now been fixed.

  • Thank you for writing this, Scott. I assume this will be something you stay on and fight for within City Hall on a weekly basis too.

    It just makes too much sense not to be done and, frankly, to not already have been done. While it’s not a cure-all for St. Louis’ woes, it’s the only project that addresses all the issues in small or large ways — economic development, racial equality, connectivity, embracing millennials, lessening car culture, re-centralizing the region, investing in neighborhoods, etc.

    I’m living in Chicago right now working in the Chamber of Commerce/community development realm, and the level of buy-in for public transportation up here is amazing to see. Now I’ll always want to get back to St. Louis City and begin working for its future, but there are plenty of transplants up here who are waiting — who need — for the City to take that next progressive step. The longer a large swath of the city remains unconnected via a train-based system, the harder it becomes for them to justify that move back. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand/respect their hesitancy.

    I don’t think it’s hyperbole, really, to say that as the Northside-Southside Line goes, so shall the City.