Claiming It Would “Divide Us”, Stenger Opposes North-South Rail Transit

North-South rail line_Cherokee vision

Solicited by City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to support a grant application to further study a north-south rail line, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has instead sent a logically confused letter (below), opposing the application.

Fixating on the issue that a north-south line would likely use a different technology than existing heavy rail MetroLink, Stenger states, “Transportation should not divide us. A light rail decision that would further fragment our region is not in our best interests.” This is a logically torturous, myopic, and simply wrong view of the function of transit.

One of the more interesting moves by Mayor Slay in recent weeks has been his vocal support for a north-south running light rail line that would traverse the city and reach north and south St. Louis County.

The push seemed to dovetail with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s selection of north St. Louis for its new $1.75B headquarters, and the mayor, who recently announced he will not run for a fifth term, appeared freed to push for a bigger vision.

Stenger supported the city’s NGA bid, over the St. Clair County, IL site, but also ahead of two sites in St. Louis County that had made the final cut of four considered locations. It appears that cooperation will only go so far.

It seems so basic as to be painful to state, but a transit system of varied modes and services is exactly what smart regions seek. It’s the network of varied busses, rail, bike lanes, and more that comprise a transit system. In Boston, the Silver Line hybrid BRT doesn’t run on “T” lines. Other buses can’t run on the Silver Line. The ferries in Boston Harbor can’t use bike lanes, and cyclists aren’t allowed to pedal on rails.

The assertion that a north-south rail line would act to divide the region is preposterous. Not only would the line connect the most densely populated and traveled parts of our region, it would catalyze more development than other options. One needs to only look at the car dealerships springing up adjacent to the $500M Blue Line to see the folly of rail expansion in St. Louis County.

So what in the hell is Stenger thinking? He’s playing the classic role of political “leader” in our fractured region. He hangs his argument on representing “more than one million citizens” and St. Louis County being the largest local funder of Bi-State. In short, it’s ours-ours-ours and who cares about what a transit system is, or how it could affect the region. In that respect, his opposition is somewhat predictable, and yet still absurd.

Leaving other arguments alone, a north-south rail line reaching, and likely extending into, north and south St. Louis County, is by far the wisest transit investment for the county. While central and west county are economically successful, increasing poverty, declining jobs (and so access to jobs) both north and south present massive challenges. Connecting these areas to jobs and education, preventing economic decline, is the challenge of the coming decade.

Slay and others are seeking a $500K grant to fund a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) study, an important step toward development of a full funding model for the project. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt sent supporting letters, and joining Slay in signing the regional letter of support to the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), were the following:

  • Jim Wild, Executive Director of East West Gateway
  • John Nations, President & CEO of Bi-State Development Agency
  • Joe Reagan, President & CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Otis Williams, Executive Director of St. Louis Development Corporation
  • Don Roe, Director of the St. Louis Planning & Urban Design Agency
  • Erica Henderson, Director of the federally designated St. Louis Promise Zone
  • Thomas Irwin, Executive Director of Civic Progress.

In the decade since the 2006 opening of the Blue Line, the next rail extension has been widely studied, contemplated, and debated. The Loop Trolley not withstanding, the region is on the verge of a 20 year gap between light rail expansion, a time period that puts it well behind other places.

While MetroLink in the St. Louis region largely functions as commuter rail, the vision of a more urban rail line has received significant attention. Back in 2007, the East West Gateway Council of Governments, the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO) studied and selected a locally-preferred alternative for a future north-south rail line.

A potential route for the north-south rail line:

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

That study and any extension plans floundered for years. Then, in 2010, St. Louis County voters overwhelmingly approved a 0.5% sales tax increase to fund transit system operations and expansion. That vote put a 0.25% sales tax increase passed years ago by St. Louis City voters in effect as well. Stenger believes that because more local funding comes from the county, any light rail extension should be considered there first.

The issue of expanding light rail is quickly becoming the absolute essence of how St. Louis harms itself. What divides us is the lack of regional leadership, and its failure to understand none of us live within our municipal confines. The rest of the nation and world also do not care about our political divisions.

While not offering absolute opposition, Stenger is opposing the FTA grant application and other efforts, “until a thorough analysis of all possible routes is completed.” By this, he largely means a MetroLink extension to Westport.

Last year, Stenger announced that $1M from the county’s transit funding stream would be spent to study MetroLink expansion in St. Louis County. Officially, the routes to be studied include, Clayton to West Port, Lambert to Florissant in North County, and Shrewsbury to Butler Hill Road in South County. There has been no progress to date, and Stenger’s letter dated June 15, 2016 states the county “is about to proceed with feasibility studies.”

The north-south rail push by Slay, and Stenger’s opposition, would appear to be a blow against the St. Louis Streetcar effort, which studied an east-west line from the city’s Central West End to downtown.

In 2010, Metro engaged in Moving Transit Forward, a public planning exercise meant to gauge political and public opinion for transit expansion and lay the ground work for future work. That process identified the county lines Stenger says he will study, and the north-south line identified by East West Gateway as the locally preferred alternative in 2007.

In 2014, a preliminary Transportation Oriented Development study was completed for a possible north-south rail line. That study was funded by a grant as part of the OneSTL initiative. Now in 2016, we continue to argue about which lines could be further studied.

What Scott Ogilvie, 24th Ward Alderman for the City of St. Louis wrote on nextSTL at the end of 2014 remains true: “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.”

Stenger Opposition LetterStenger Opposition Letter_2

Regional Letter of Support for N-S Metro_1Regional Letter of Support for N-S Metro

15949979025_0624f14776_o2010 Metro Moving Transit Forward_MetroLinkNorth-South MetroLink map_June 2016

  • Dahmen Piotraschke

    Stinger has no idea what is good for the city…he is a county suburban uneducated turd, The proposed plan would not divide but connect all of the city and even N & S counties. Although this is a big investment is proof that it is the most intricate and best idea out of the other plans…like many other cities, like Minneapolis…the modern streetcar..which is being built now is an investment that I do not UNDERSTAND….people hanging off and jumping onto the old timer street car seems to me asking for illegal play and horsing around by the bored kids in the area surrounding ng the new streetcars..tourists will not feel comfortable..WATCH!!! But Mayor Slay who knows the needs of the city…of all people..the new modern streetcar Metrolink is safer..and will help the bustling South City to get to the city and North easier and quicker..

  • K

    It’s St. Louis, of course we’re so far behind other major cities in terms of transportation. It’s a dying local economy. We’re a small city with politicians and leaders who drag their feet in any sort of substantial decision making process. This is a complete joke and will be 10 years until they actually decide what to do…Complete joke. We will never be a competing city. And not to mention the metro is already substantially unsafe to ride. Can only imagine how unsafe it will be when people from north city just jump on the train without paying for a ticket and come down to south city with no good intentions…WE ALREADY HAVE THAT PROBLEM NOW. Address the current issues with the system we already have in place, fix those issues, then we can start talking about a north-south rail line…I can see it now What a demise and almost laughable no pun intended

    • Adam

      We can read “thoughtful” comments like this over at STLToday. Don’t need them here. Go away. (Oh, and no pun made as far as I can tell.)

      • Alex Ihnen

        Right. Deleting in 3…2…1…

  • John R

    Looking at the “June 2016” N/S locally preferred alternative map, it appears that it goes much deeper into South County, all the way to Meramec Bottoms Road/JeffCo border. If so, the N/S line appears to propose more miles within the county than any of the three other segments Stenger is pursuing, yet he wants to deny study of it until the others are completed. Sad!

    Also, Alex, I believe per the Post-Dispatch that the $1M County study you mentioned of the three non N/S lines has been completed with no clear favorite a result… this would be $3M more to study the three routes further. A study upon a study, if you will.

    • rgbose

      I thought the polling showed no clear preference among respondents so they decided to study all three.

      • John R

        Looks like you’re right but something is odd about this… from this article from June 1, 2015, it appears EWG was supposed to study all three with the $1M from the County and then likely make a recommendation from that:

        But now it appears that people only were polled on preferences and with no clear winner the County wants to spend $3M to have EWG study all three. My questions are how much was spent on the first go-round? Who was polled? Were meetings held? Just don’t understand how no progress was made in the past year.

        • rgbose

          My guess is ~ $0 was spent in the past year.

          • John R

            yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised that nothing was done and Stenger rushed this latest out to battle N/S momentum.

  • Ice_Burned

    Here’s my case for the proposed Westport alignment aside from Stenger’s unconvincing statements.

    1. As needed and noble as the aspirations of NS-SS are, economic development should not be the primary justification of a major transit project. Slay: you should be investing in economic development directly if that’s your city’s problem. Huge requests for transit investment from the Federal Transit Administration should be creating a solution to a transportation problem first and helping with economic development problem second. This is reflected significantly in FTA project selection criteria for big projects. NS-SS has this backwards. The added employment of the NGA campus does help some, but you are still looking at a city practically covered by existing bus routes where auto travel times between North/South City and the big centers of employment (Downtown and CWE) are just not that convincing for the justification of $1Billion in rail investment.

    2. Westport is the next large employment node in the region not connected by MetroLink (disregarding light rail obstinate St. Charles County). With a MetroLink connection to Westport you would then have Downtown, CWE/CORTEX, Clayton, and Westport all connected by exclusive guide way transit. Those are the biggest job centers in what should be a single county of St. Louis.

    3. There is a compelling transportation problem traveling between Westport and the aforementioned job centers to the east. It’s far away. Delay on I-270 and I-64 is moderate to severe during the peak commutes and unreliable. The bus service is meandering, plagued by suburban design, and delayed by the traffic. Like it or not, the auto and bus commuter delay metrics here are rather favorable to making the case to FTA as to why light rail should exist. Why? Because it could offer a competitive alternative by saving work commuters time and reducing emissions in a region that is not attaining air quality standards.
    FTA also makes you prove that your proposed fixed guide-way service could provide a substantially better transportation service than enhanced bus service in the same alignment. The Wesport alignment can make a more compelling case for why LRT could provide better service than BRT. The NS-SS alignment w street running vehicles is hard pressed to out compete a BRT alternative in terms of service.

    4. If designed well*, Westport has high ridership potential both as a suburban auto origin for commuters trying to get to jobs east and for urban living workers traveling west to professional and service jobs along the Westport line. Cross County and the Illinois extension don’t have as strong a claim to bi-directional ridership as this, they function more like feeder lines to the core.

    *A Westport line needs to have much better station design than Cross-County for success. St. Louis can’t afford a repeat of the poor performance of the pushed-to-the-fringes Clayton stations, the Sunnen Station debacle, or the allowance of the wall that Deirberg’s built at the I-64 station. Westport line stations will need to transform the surrounding suburban environment and create convenience for pedestrians while also making park-and-ride available strategically. Too difficult? It can be done with the will to uphold design standards and to embrace transit stations next door as an asset.

    • John R

      Westport is a “nice to have” line that could finish off a true system but it won’t garner federal funding as it won’t attract significant ridership, even with WWT’s growth and probably others to follow. (compare with Cortex… it makes sense to spend $10M to add a stop to that growing district, but it wouldn’t make sense to commit to miles of new track to reach it as an expansion priority if it wasn’t already adjacent to the existing system.)

      Having a N/S rapid line otoh is essential to creating a true system. Getting rapid transit to the folks who live in our densest areas and are most likely to use it is crucial to success.

      • tpekren

        Not necessarily in favor of Westport but don’t quite understand the argument for a true system?
        North and South city/county could definitely use better transit whether it better bus routes on shorter headways (think Grand), BRT (who says you couldn’t server county residents with just as well), streetcar (probably served city residents better and was widespread when city was much denser) and yes light rail. I just don’t see how the current N-S line extending that far south in the county and the amount of money it would require to build it out for street running in the city is the best option going forward.

        • John R

          I’m not sold on light rail as a must either; my strong belief though is that we must prioritize a rapid transit alignment resembling the N/S route that passes through the dense areas of likely riders in order to have a true rapid system… what Stenger has under study are mere spurs/extensions into areas of decreasing density and increasing questionablity.

      • Alex Ihnen

        IMO – the big issue is that people correlate the relative (sorta) job density at Westport w/ transit ridership. First, Westport and the route to it, are neither density populated, nor dense job centers that would justify rail transit. Second, there’s (with near certainty) no comprehensive buy-in to completely re-zone and re-plan land use along the line. Third, even with some job density, the scatterplot of where these employees come from would be huge – that is, there’s no focused commute pattern to Westport, further making a rail investment an ill fit.

        • John R

          Precisely right. The Central Corridor is the only reasonably “dense” jobs center that we have in the region. Westport is a mere outpost and trying to get expensive rail out to serve it likely will be a liability upon the whole system. The goal now clearly should be to attract jobs along the existing system and reach our densest neighborhoods of likely riders with rapid transit.

        • gmichaud

          I think your analysis is largely correct, however the comprehensive buy-in to support transit should be a requirement to justify the millions upon millions spent.
          If the communities along proposed lines have no intention of supporting them then the investment should go elsewhere.
          That’s the first question to ask of each community. East West Gateway should have a pamphlet for governments to explain urban planning concepts that support pedestrians and transit.
          I don’t care about the individual munis, but there is no reason to proceed with transit investments if the individual munis have no intention of supporting pedestrians and transit. That’s about as basic as you can get.
          The willingness of community support should help determine viable routes. That physical commitment should be the first step before any work begins on actual studies or plans. What is the point of transit if the target community ignores it and pretends it does not exist?

          • rgbose

            Amen! Any of the studies should include the willingness of the munis to change their codes to support leveraging the new transit.

            Weight should be given to what portion of the studied route already supports compatible land uses in the already built environment and zoning codes that support future compatible development.

            Also consider the track record of the muni in building infrastructure compatible with transit use?

      • Patrick Goodson

        If Westport was a stop with the last stop being Hollywood Casino/Amphitheatre would be alright, but you are right, Westport does not have the ridership.

  • Tim E

    OK, my alternate going forward would make the assumption and believe it is the correct assumption that Prop A funds will be spent on County extension. In other words, we can daydream all we want that the county will magically change its mind and start the N-S because E-W Gateway says so. For all intents purposes Prop A funding can only support building N-S either mostly in the city, or South portion only or the North portion only. So the Alternate requires city leadership
    1) City Streetcar embracing the Jefferson/Choteau alignment for South City, downtown transit/bus hub, and takes the North City/NGIA alternate route to MLK. Routing can also splinter for future routes rather it be Central Corridor or Soulard/Broadway or different N. City alignment past the NGIA, etc.
    2) City puts bond or sales tax measure on ballot to pay for capital cost, can go separate fair structure like Loop trolley or simply operate on general fund/street funds. Embrace city streets as multi-modal including a city served streetcar
    3) City put support for future N-S line embracing UPRR/Desoto routing for S City/County and a separate Old North City, separate MLK ROW for N City/County.
    My alternate plant for city leadership deals with reality of city residents wanting to support a city centric system but at same time accomplishes a good transit option for residents as well as lays ground work for a system for low floor street running system connecting the regions denser neighborhoods while complimenting existing metrolink system
    In my wishful thinking, County would put its support using Prop A funds to pursue a cross county extension to I-55 and then south first. Utilizing River Des Peres Greenway along county/city line that gives TOD opportunities and aligns with major arterials such as Gravios. It builds upon existing line and can utilize existing train sets or at a minimum requires lot loss capital investment in new train sets. Which also keeps operational and maintenance costs lower. Bringing Cross County down to I55 and going south also makes it easier for future support of N-S to tie downtown into I55 routing via UPRR right of way.
    Unfortunately, the county political power will have a lot of business pressure from WWT(LHM Westport group), Dansforth and the likes for a Daniel Boone line. Centene/Clayton CBD groups would probably favor Daniel Boone pick over cross county extension. Unfortunately, see a series of short spider like metrolink web in the county with none of the lines really meeting expectations and becoming a greater operational burden on overall metro funding. The burden will take a hit on future bus routes and frequency for everyone.

  • Nancy Robison

    Being someone who does not have a drivers license it is terribly difficult for me to get to the south city. the bus lines are ridiculous as most do not exist. I dream for the my days in Paris where I could get anywhere in the city and beyond with a “subway” system.

  • Adam

    Okay so I really want N-S to be built, but looking at the “preferred alternative” map kind-of kills me because there is just a MASSIVE swath of south city—including some of the city’s densest neighborhoods, e.g. Shaw, Tower Grove South, the Hill, Southwest Garden, Northampton, Southhampton, Bevo Mill, Princeton Heights—for which the proposed N-S line will be mostly useless. I know it would cost more out-right due to added infrastructure work, but I don’t see that part of the city being served in my lifetime (at least another 50 years I hope) if not with this next expansion. And I still think that running it so close to the river is a waste of potential rider shed.

    • Adam

      Sorry, buy “it would cost more” I was referring to a Gravois alignment.

      • Adam

        “by” not “buy”. sigh…

  • brickhugger

    Here is one idea I had:

    • brickhugger

      The light blue line along 170 was an idea being tossed around at one time, and is now long gone. I would also extend the blue line into O’Fallon north of I-64, and southeast from the Shrewsbury station through Des Peres Park (on piers) to River City casino.

      • brickhugger

        I might also suggest running the line from Chesterfield to Natural Bridge, then along Natural Bridge (in a tunnel) to Kingshighway, south on Kgshwy (again in tunnel) to CWE and cortex stations, then connecting with what is now (on this map) the purple line.

      • TM B33

        I like this idea. I would add the line towards St. Charles would have stops at Hollywood Casino, the amphitheater, Ameristar and then terminate at Family Arena or at Page and Upper Bottom Road (theres a parking lot on the NW side of the bridge). I still prefer over any additional expansion of light rail.

        • Ice_Burned

          St. Charles County would have MetroLink RIGHT NOW if they had wanted it. It’s a shady history of covert and plain daylight obstruction. The commute patterns and federal funding were a slam dunk as far back as the late 90s for an extension from the airport. St. Charles County literally blew up an old rail bridge to prevent it from happening. You might be able to guess the reasons.

    • SnakePilssken

      I would assume World War 3 would wipe out humanity before this plan would ever happen… seriously though, it would take STL maybe another 100+ years for this. I have a better chance dating the ghost of Patsy Cline.

      • gmichaud

        What, Patsy Cline is dead?
        Seriously though some good thoughts here and elsewhere in the comments. This is what I was saying previously that St. Louis needs to start over, the drawing above by brickhugger is a good starting point.
        Yet the problem runs deeper, how in the hell can we be 6 years out in what is supposed a major remake of the northside without a discussion about the role of transit and city planning in the success of the northside. Then you add in a new rail system, isn’t that part of the total system? What is the plan here, just run buses down whatever roads are built, is that it? And now a heavily planned and expensive rail system will be attached to this broken system of transit planning.
        The lack of sophistication, the seeming lack of concern by city government is reflected in how weak Mayor Slays arguments were for transit. And yes NGA changes things, but the governing process has been a huge failure long before the NGA project.
        Transit is not a priority for Mayor Slay or any other public official. They don’t act like it, not when they don’t support transit by building pedestrian and walking friendly neighborhoods that form the foundation of successful transit
        A large proportion of the projects built, even in the city, are auto centric, suburban style and generally unattractive to the pedestrian.
        Until city government truly makes transit a priority, even in day to day actions, not just with multi billion dollar projects, yes it could take a 100 years.
        One last thing, I have been looking at the cities of San Francisco, London and Helsinki, none of them have such an incompetent and mediocre planning process. All have an integrated planning system in which transit and pedestrians are a central concern in city design. This is especially true of Helsinki and London.
        What goes on in St. Louis is unbelievable, something has to change.

    • Dom Goszewski

      This is a fantastic idea. I have been longing for the day I can get around town quickly in stl since I was a kid. The amount of time it takes currently to either drive from north county around the interstate loop to south/ Jefferson county is appaling. Let alone try and figure out bus / train transfers to get there. I am a local musician whose band mate travels from Florissant to our practice space off telegraph road by soco mall. And dear god, when his car was in the shop for a couple weeks last year. It actually would take him close to three hours to get there. You could nearly drive to Kansas City in that amount of time!

      Ive loved modern transit systems and their usefulness since I was pretty young, and I envy cities I’ve visited like New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and DC for their systems that are just light years ahead of stl.

      I do not know what happened in the past 100 years or so specifically in the Midwest as I have read all about the rivalry between Chicago and STL both vying to be the jewel of the Midwest. And it seems on the point of modern transit and city connectivity St. Louis just fell asleep while chi town made the proper adjustments to their infrastructure and now boast an extremely useful city subway (L-train) , metra (county connectors) , and rta trains (regional) as well as Amtrak and many other forms of transit all beautifully intermingled within the Windy City.

      I feel as though this is just proof of what we river city dwellers could be using on a day to day basis if we had just started back when things were first proposed. And maybe by now we could much more connected as a city literally (by transit) and socially.

      • rgbose

        Those other cities built significant transit systems before the government worked to spread out cities with highways, redlining, subsidies, etc instead of reinvesting in them. They didn’t loose as much population. A lot of the heavier rail in those cities held on while STL’s streetcars and commuter lines were abandoned.

        It was on the mind of leaders back then. Anyone know how many people lived within that area at the time (~1905)?

        Lion of the Valley – James Neal Primm wrote:
        “The mayor also argued that since rapid transit could never be achieved on the street surface, subways should be built, one along the central corridor from Third Street to Jefferson or Grand Avenue, and a north-south line from Chouteau to Cass Avenue (about twenty blocks). Wells conceded that subways cut through solid rock would be expensive, but well within the city’s capability, especially if the Eads Bridge tunnel could be purchased and used as a nucleus for the system. Unfortunately, the free-bridge controversy that erupted during Wells’s second term relegated this idea to obscurity.”

        Vienna has an excellent system. No doubt they spend way more and get support from the Austrian gov’t. Another key factor is that 1.8M people live within 150 sq mi.

        We’re too spread out here.

        • Dom Goszewski

          I definitely agree for cities like New York and others on the east coast. But I take Minneapolis Minnesota for example.

          I spend a lot of time there back and forth for various reasons and they have one of the best light rail systems I have ever used. They run their trains on the surface along streets with regular traffic straight through their downtown! Connecting things like music venues, sports plexes, the mall of amarrica, airport, the city of St.paul across the river and many entertainment districts and neighborhoods.

          I think they’re a good example of what can be done with good planning and with unified support

      • Chicagoan

        A lot of the railways in Chicago were financed by private developers. They’d develop a part of the city and to aid their project, they’d build elevated rail through town. The Brown and Red Lines on Chicago’s northside are examples of this.

        Chicago also took advantage of the New Deal and won a grant from the WPA to build the Dearborn St. and State St. subways, at a time when there were ample federal funds but few cities actually had good projects put together.

        I’m not as well-read on New York, but that’s the story on Chicago.

      • Patrick Goodson

        The two main midwest cities that did not adjust timely were Detroit and Saint Louis. Detroit had the auto industry and the highway system coming. Saint Louis has not had good city planning in decades and still have no good regional plan.

    • Eric

      This system seems to have 6 different lines running through the downtown tunnel. That would make trains way too often downtown and way too infrequent on each of the branches. For this reason you need to rethink the map from scratch.

      • Dom Goszewski

        Perhaps that line in Illinois from Hartford through granite city ending in east stl could be its own line and not cross the eads into downtown.

      • brickhugger

        Not quite (admittedly it looks that way); the green lines are commuter lines that use same tracks as Amtrak, and stop at the downtown transportation center. Given that the 170 line is gone, you are correct in that this does need a re-think.

  • Bringing it back to Boston, the four MBTA transit lines there are incompatible with each other. Yes, that’s an old system, but Vancouver made a similar decision very recently when it built The Canada Line using Hyundai Rotem driverless metro instead of UTDC/Bombardier SkyTrain.

  • gmichaud

    In many ways it is pointless to expand transit if basic city planning is not corrected. Take the recent announcement of a parking garage at Grand Center reported here. Grand is already a recognized street for transit, this project fails to support pedestrians and the transit they use. This turns up everywhere, both in the city and county. I know I don’t have to give more examples of autocentric development weakening pedestrian and transit uses. Until there is a commitment by whatever cities the transit lines extend to and will guarantee to build environments that compliment the success of walking and transit there is little point in building more transit lines.
    What’s just as bad is St. Louis keeps on calling out and building this route, or that route. What is needed is an overall concept, idea, design or something that projects how everything works together. The whole idea here is a transit system and movement from place to place is the key to a successful system. Proposing this brt line, that trolley, this light rail line does nothing to examine the connectivity. The transit plan is not unified, much like the region.
    The first question to ask from my perspective is what would a transit system to have to look like in the city limits to enable individuals to largely abandon cars in daily life? That same question could be extended to the inner ring of suburbs, say out to Clayton, or maybe even 270, although walkability breaks down quickly as you move from the inner core.
    Once some idea of what a successful system might look like is in place in turn it can help prioritize individual routes.
    But really none of it matters if you don’t create a pedestrian and transit orientated environment to help the investment in transit succeed in the first place.
    I mentioned before that getting someone like transit planner Jarrett Walker in here would be great for prying open this debate and making it public. It would be a far better investment to give him some of that 500 grand instead of yet another study for the shelves. Someone like him could help figure out as a region how to proceed. That is the discussion that is needed.
    And then, to top it off is climate change, and yes, that is part of this discussion too, Climate change makes it all the more imperative to stop muddling along.

    • jhoff1257

      “What is needed is an overall concept, idea, design or something that projects how everything works together. The whole idea here is a transit system and movement from place to place is the key to a successful system. Proposing this brt line, that trolley, this light rail line does nothing to examine the connectivity. The transit plan is not unified, much like the region.”

      We do have that plan. It’s called Moving Transit Forward. All of the BRT and LRT lines currently being talked about, whether in the City or the County, come from this plan. It was exhaustively researched and produced in 2010 with the passage of Prop A. It goes over everything from integrating the various modes of transit, funding sources, LPA’s etc. N/S for example was even studied and approved before that. LPAs were chosen by the community. None of this came out of nowhere. The City also released a massive TOD study for this exact N/S line on how to guide urban development around the system in 2013. I just read it yesterday.

      • gmichaud

        If this study was viable at all it would be cited by Slay or Stenger in the discussion of priorities. What I am talking about is rethinking the whole system, not dropping in already preconceived solutions and then justifying them. This is basically what the study does.
        Jarrett Walker for Houston devised a completely different system of routing than existed before. Questions like are extensive use of trams warranted might be considered. And like I ask above, what would a transit system say inside the city limits look like to make it convenient enough to use as a daily alternate to a car. I point out that you can extend that question further out, although the physical makeup of the region is largely autocentric and it makes abandoning the auto in favor of transit difficult, but it is still the central question to be answered. The study you cite does not attempt to answer those questions.
        The public can only react to what is presented to them, and if it is a narrow band of preconceived ideas it gives little room for creativity.
        I am suggesting that a broad analysis may yield that entirely different approaches that could eliminate or modify these various proposed routes.
        All I know is that I can go to other cities with excellent transit and don’t think twice about dumping the auto. Moving Transit Forward does not address that real world of daily use. To me that is the biggest gap in this whole discussion.
        Things need to be shaken up and a new starting point found. It is hard to convince me slapping more lipstick on the pig in the form of questionable routes is going to improve the current sick system. It seems to me the first order of business is to question and correct the current configuration of the system and then figure out new routes that will support those existing routes. Lets face it, the underlying problem here is not the lack of a NS rail route.
        And as I say above none of this matters a bit if government entities do not begin to encourage the design of the physical environment to compliment transit and pedestrians.

  • neroden

    Steve Patterson (UrbanReviewSTL) seems to have given up on the city and is planning to move. St. Louis, you’re losing.

  • Jeff Leonard

    While we argue among ourselves about who’s right (this blog is overwhelming anti- Stenger, but the comments left on STLToday are very much supporting his right to stand up “against” the city), other cities – including those in the rust belt – continue to methodically move forward. Case study: Columbus. The city was just awarded a $50M federal government grant to use Columbus as the national proving ground for intelligent transportation systems of the future

    Even more amazing, Columbus beat out San Francisco, Austin, Kansas City, Portland, Denver and Pittsburgh. How could they do they do that?? By acting like a UNIFIED region, one where business leaders, elected officials, institutions all band together to create a vision and then sell it. Successfully. And what do successes like that bring? Population growth (mainly from immigrants and youth). Job growth. Regional prosperity.

    We need to stop complaining on blogs like these and activate the disgruntled. We need to unify our positions and planks, and collectively hold each of our local governments accountable for the change this area needs. Waiting for others to solve the impediments that hold back this region is asking for another 50 years of stagnation.

    Columbus is supposed to add 500,000 more residents in the next 30 years. By the end of this century (or sooner), it’ll be bigger than St. Louis. So will Nashville. Is that the future we want???

    • Adam

      That sounds great. The perennial question is “How?”. 90% of the metro sees population growth as a negative, isolation as positive, and investment in the city as a waste of money.

      • neroden


        That attitude seems to finally be fading away in upstate NY, with most people in all metro areas recognizing the importance of their core cities.

        You’ve still got that attitude to *that degree*? Poor St. Louis.

        • Adam

          My attitude? What are you talking about? You just acknowledged via your NY comparison the same problem that I was pointing out: the majority of (metro) St. Louisans apparently care less about their urban core than even upstate New Yorkers. I’m simply asking “how” do we address that problem. Saying “we need to do it” as Jeff did is stating the obvious and isn’t a solution.

          • Jeff Leonard

            sOK Adam. I’ll be more specific about what I mean by “we need to unify our positions and planks, and collectively hold each of our local governments accountable” There are 7000 people who follow NextSTL. I’d like to see this group band together to form a constituency and voting block (think lobby). First we outline the key the changes we’d like to see across the St. Louis region. Then take those positions to our local elected officials and start advocating for change, one municipality at a time.

            What’s just one example of what specific change would look like? Why do so many of our municipalities have ward systems? A baby step (call it a confidence building measure) towards greater regional consolidation would be to eliminate wards and move to at large representation for our many cities. Crestwood, Ferguson, Chesterfield, Des Peres, Town & Country all have wards. Why?

            I moved to St. Louis from Columbus four years ago. The city there, almost a million people, is represented by seven at-large representatives. They do what’s best for all of Columbus, not just their neighborhood. I now live in Clayton, population 16,000, which is also ward based. Clayton’s six alderman can’t speak for the entire city?? I’m talking to my representatives there about what it would take to make that change. Clayton has a disproportionate amount of growth and prosperity. So why shouldn’t the change we want regionally start there? A pipe dream? Of course. But we have to show ourselves change is possible. That’s what I mean by taking action.

            SO WHO’S WITH ME??? If a dozen people respond to this post, and say they want to meet, I’ll organize a time and location. Sure, Better Together and St. Louis Strong are advocating for the BIG change. We should be engaged there too. But I think we have to tell our representatives where we live – Overland, Maryland Heights, U. City, St. Louis city, Afton, Eureka – that we need to see change at a local level. We can’t wait for other areas of the region to make the first step toward change.

          • Adam

            Jeff, I wasn’t trying to chastise. My apologies if it came off that way. I was just trying to explain my comment to neoroden. I think your idea is great. It’s just that St. Louisans are notoriously difficult to convince/motivate. I hope you’re able to organize enough people to do something concrete. As for me, I’m “stuck” in Colorado trying to find a way to move back to St. Louis. (Okay it’s not the worst thing ever but I’d rather be there.) I would love to be on the front line of change in STL but I stupidly chose a career path for which St. Louis offers very little opportunity. I’m working on it.

          • Adam

            oops. i meant neroden. sorry, neroden.

          • rgbose

            I think there needs to be an urbanist PAC. Anyone have the money and skills to get that going?

            When thinking about moving towards at-large city council members, consider the affect on minority populations’ representation.

        • Adam

          Wait I think I misread your comment. If “You’ve” was referring to St. Louis and not to me personally then sorry for the tone of that last one. Are you currently living in upstate NY? I lived in Syracuse for a while… couldn’t wait to leave.

    • rgbose

      We heard much the same about Louisville today. The merger there resulted in the metro being able to speak with one voice.

  • Joshua Hart

    I just want to know what happens to those mansions on the west side of benton park, those are some of the nicest architecture inside the city

    • Adam

      Is there a reason they would be threatened?

      • Alex Ihnen


        • Joshua Hart

          There would have to be loss of park or houses between gravoid and Cherokee, the street is pretty narrow there

          • Alex Ihnen

            If by narrow you mean 75ft (five traffic lanes and two parking lanes). There’s no reason either homes or parkland would be lost.

  • Patrick
    • Adam

      Not gonna look at the comments.

  • Steve Kluth

    This is less about Stenger being opposed to the specific project than being pissed at Slay’s arrogance. Slay dissed Stenger after Stenger backed the city keeping NGA. Slay thinks that he can decide what is best for the region without asking the county what they think is best for the region. Whether you agree with Slay is irrelevant (and I think something like the preferred alternative Slay supports is the most logical expansion option and I live in South County). Slay was wrong to go ahead without working with Stenger and this is Stenger giving a big FU back at Slay. It’s why we can’t have nice things.

    • RJ

      Absolutely correct in your assessment of the political games which shows the lack of cohesive leadership in our region. These two clowns should have discussed all the options including expanding with all four lines, plotting strategy in getting more state money for public transit and how to sell the community on increasing taxes or finding additional funding methods that would increase our local match for larger federal funds to build a 4 or 5 billion transit system. The residents of Denver and Seattle have voted to pay a much larger share for better transit and St. Louis needs to do the same.

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  • Pat-Rice Kramlove

    When Slay originally proposed this I was excited, and still am – but I am wondering why the route runs down Jefferson and not Grand. Looking at a map, wouldn’t Grand make more sense and be able to collect more people within walking distance? I am curious as to the decision here.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not sure it’s clear that Grand would reach more people than Jefferson. The ridership capture is ~1/4mi, maybe 1/2. I think the Jefferson line better connects with downtown, and the rail line at the south end of the city reaching into the county. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

    • pat

      Jefferson can get up to about 100ft wide in parts vs 80ft on Grand. Sound Grand is even narrower, like 55ft. There’s a lot more space available for dedicated ROW on Jefferson.

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  • Alex Ihnen

    If I’d wanted to keep writing, I could have included this map of North American transit systems. It shows that STL’s MetroLink already spans a distance equal to that of New York City, Washington D.C., and Chicago. Any expansion of the system must add density to be functional. A system that relies on passengers taking a 45min-1hr train ride each way simply doesn’t work.

    • HawkSTL

      I’m not sure that is a fair comparison. The two farthest western stops for Metro are Lambert and the Clayton CBD. The farthest southern stop is Shrewsbury. The farthest north is again Lambert. So, that is not too far out (and is probably not far enough north, west, or south). However, Scott Air Force Base is far east. That accounts for almost all of the mileage sprawl. I don’t think one destination stop means that MetroLink has too much sprawl.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Even without going into Illinois more than two stops, the system already sprawls west as much as Chicago’s. Are you saying that the best system in STL would go further west, serving more low-density suburbs, than in Chicago?

        • HawkSTL

          Is your STL to Chicago example apples to apples? Let’s take NW to NW on both cities’ systems. Metra runs about 80 miles from Harvard, IL to the Loop. MetroLink runs 15 miles from Lambert to downtown STL. Chicago’s system, by comparison, has much more sprawl even if you do include the MetroLink stops in IL.

          • Metra is not an apples to apples comparison as it is a peak hour service. E.g. Of the 32 weekday Chicago bound trains, only 3 serve the Harvard stop.

            The ‘L’ is the comparable service. At it’s largest extent, the system stretches ~25 miles from north to south; MetroLink stretches ~30 miles. Earth City to the Fairview Heights stop would be ~25 miles.

            Regardless, a great transit system is one served by many intersecting lines, not a single line stretching from one edge of a region to the other.

          • HawkSTL

            My point was: are we talking metro area to metro area rapid transit, or is the data being manipulated? Metra is heavily used in Chicago. To exempt it is not making an equal comparison. Note also that Chicago has 2 different train authorities to govern the systems. With the N/S MetroLink route, using different technology, and the urban vs. suburban emphasis, I’ve not heard anything about creating an agency separate from Metro to run the new line. If that is in the cards, it also will cause the budget to significantly increase. So, drawing lines on maps is one thing. Making the system work and having a working operating budget is another thing entirely.

          • Chicagoan

            Metra and MetroLink aren’t apples to apples.

            Metra goes way out into the boonies: Harvard IL, Kenosha WI, South Bend IN.

            But, few trains actually go out that far. For example, I used to ride the Kenosha line (Union Pacific North) and very few trains make it out there, as most stop at Waukegan, which is about fifteen miles less distance.

          • HawkSTL

            Rapid transit is rapid transit. Putting up a map and not reflecting a major part of the system is not helpful. Just acknowledge and move on b/c it hurts the point you’re trying to make.

          • Rapid transit is just another euphemism for (usually) rail-based public transit. However, the standard usage of the term assumes fast and frequent all-day service which excludes commuter rail operations like Metra (there’s a reason commuter rail systems have their own separate page on Wikipedia).

          • HawkSTL

            Right — I forgot that the rule was to always go by Wikipedia.

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  • Hugh Scott

    I’m not sure how the City plans to come up with the matching money needed to fund its portion of the North/South Connector. Obviously, the County can’t use its “stockpiled” money earmarked for Metrolink expansion for any portion of the project which will be built in the City. Even if the City figures out a way to tap into the County money, I doubt the County taxpayers would stand for it.

    • Tim E

      The other question, does County have a stockpile of money to start with. The county under Dooley admin made a loan to Bi-State in order for them to pay off the Cross County extension bonds. I believe county is now paying themselves off with the tax revenue collected to day from Prop A.
      Someone can correct me if I misunderstand that loan. It certainly wasn’t a give me and can see where you get one more thing that upsets the local politic apple cart between the city and county.

      • lisa c

        Cross County extension bonds are slowly being paid down by money loaned to Bi-State by County’s Prop A funds, but those funds are still being collected and amassed every year.

        County doesn’t have tons of money for a transit build out, but they do have designated funds for Metro expansion (beyond mere Metro operating expenses), and the City does not.

        • Tim E

          That’s kicker in my opinion. County/Bi-state gave themselves a lot more latitude on the Prop A funds then I think people realize.. Bi-State went along because the Cross County bond payments were crushing Bi-State..
          I just don’t buy the fact that x pot of Prop A money is ready to be spent on metrolink. In other words, I think they created the fuzzy grey legal area between public agencies. Heck, they county could have easily spent the $1 million on studies shortly after Prop A was approved. Is it good or bad? open question as Cross County extension debt had to be dealt with no matter if you expand or not.
          To me Dooley hurt transit just as much or more by his actions and non actions after Prop A was passed. Stenger you could argue is least willing to look at it even it might not be the best option for both the city and county.

      • Hugh Scott

        I am not current on the situation with the Prop A money and St. Louis County. However, I believe that lisa c is substantially correct. Money that can be used as matching funds for Federal grants or other expenses to pay for Metrolink expansion is accumulating at St. Louis County.

        It would be good to know how much Prop A money is now being held by the County.

  • There’s no reason to parse Stenger’s letter as closely as some of you are, he’s not freaking Foucault. We all know his angle. He was elected to maintain the status quo- no Metro expansion, no municipal reorganization, no city-county merger. He’s doing his job.

    The bigger question is what Slay thought he was doing by opening this can of worms when he’s effectively a lame duck. Is he trying to keep the spotlight on himself for his next run (rumor has it, for state rep district 80)?

    And finally: everybody over 30 repeat after me, “Metrolink expansion will not happen in my lifetime.” The state and local forces aligned against it, combined with a Republican Congress, mean that it is ridiculously unlikely. You can make all the maps you want, but they may as well be of Narnia. The N-S Metrolink is destined to be St. Louis’s Second Ave Subway.

    • I apologize for the mixed metaphor. It’s early. Maybe the duck is eating the worms? Ugh, terrible writing.

    • Andy

      Legit LOL @ the Narnia reference.

  • Charles Means

    I have to ask, How does the N/S proposed route help the county?

    Why should county tax dollars go to fund what is primarily a replacement of what looks to be a city bus route? This plan look to move people around the north and south city much more than linking city and county.

    A better use of funding, would be to put forth plans that would alleviate traffic congestion on the highways. The N/S route would do none of that. We need to move primarily people from the population centers to the job centers and back. This needs to be done quickly and efficiently.

    Extending the Lambert run further into north county like Hazelwood and Florissant, with limited stops, would serve the Airport well as well as move people from north county to the city for work. An extension from Shrewsbury down to 55 and 270 would also serve well.

    Maybe a cross county route to get north and south county to link to existing routes in and out of the city.

    The proposed N/S route is more glitz than usefulness in moving people around. If St Louis would like this, then have them fund a street level trolley system for themselves, and have the city pay for it. If the county would like to help extend it to certain points in the county, then have the city ask the county.

    I always thought an extension to Earth City would work, as well as getting St Charles involved and run trains out there. This would help alleviate 70 traffic.

    If we want to grow as a region, then we must think of the region. The N/S is nothing more than a city plan.

    • Alex Ihnen

      IMO, extending existing lines or adding branch lines is a poor planning decision because a) they would serve relatively sparse population and job centers, and b) travel times become so long as to be prohibitive. Extending the Blue Line to Shrewsbury looks good, but that ride from there to downtown would be close to an hour and be a very poor competitor to simply driving.

      The essence of rail transit is to connect people to places, and this only works with a particular density. The N/S route connects these areas of density. The county routes do not. Also, I don’t believe that the purpose of a light rail project should be to reduce highway congestion. In a sprawling place like St. Louis, it’s simply not going to work. However, the N/S line provides the best connection to the County’s vulnerable populations, connects them to the region’s most dense areas and provides the best opportunity to build more density.

      • TIm E

        Extending Cross County from Shrewsbury to I55/South County primarily would server Clayton CBD in my mind and not a bad choice considering Centene is about to add another +10000 jobs and space. I see this extension as truly a county extension and alternative to the South County Connector that would primarily serve the same crowd.

        • HawkSTL

          Agreed — getting to Clayton from areas south is a big headache. And, if you build the line south from Shrewsbury, the existing need for a route to Clayton also will allow commuters to get to downtown because the MetroLink system will be connected (as opposed to the N/S route concept). My guess is that the old City/County political divide is at play. Slay wants more miles of track in the City. Stenger wants tracks in the County and to connect to Clayton. Self-interest.

          • thomas h benton

            Slay at least has logic and lots of study on his side. The two current routes for Metrolink generally run east-west. The proposed north south route would go through areas that are densely populated. Stenger and his constituency may want a more County centric line, but I don’t think anyone who understands how transit is supposed to work would think a new line through low density suburban areas like south county or west county is a good idea.

          • HawkSTL

            There are a ton of S. County residents that are ripe for mass transit use (similar to the Metro East’s use of MetroLink in St. Clair County, which is heavy). There is no interstate, parkway, or other main road that directly connects Lemay, Mehlville, Oakville or any other S. County area to Clayton. Hanley is the only route, and, after it turns into Laclede Station, it dead ends at Gravois. The newest MetroLink line ends at Shrewsbury because there was not enough money to extend it further south. The ROW is largely there. It has always been in the works — it has ridership and relatively cheap construction and operating costs as compared to the other alternatives. Sorry, but this is the City trying to pull a power play on the County. That’s why Stenger sent the letter. And, this comment is coming from a City resident. It is a shame that we are resorting to regional politics (again).

          • Tim E

            I would beg to differ on some of density wihen it comes to extending Shrewsbury line to I55 depending on how its routed. A River Des Peres route would accomplish the south county goal as well as include a more dense population nearby, south city, stations at Watson Road (great TOD opp), Gravios and so on. I believe an BNSF RoW route will be significantly more expensive and should have less stations as well as tougher to justify the ridership as you point out. At the moment, Cross County extension can act as a commuter option for South County residents to Clayton CBD but has to least get to I55 with a stop or two farther down the line. It is now in no man’s land pretty much nullify a big chunk of $650 million infrastructure investment in the county..
            Second, I think density also has to be built in mind of the system itself. I currently live in the Bay area, where you got combination of BART & CALTRANS (heavy rail), Light rail in San Jose (More like St. Louis), and MUNI (streetcar) in San Fran. The BART station near my home in Lafayette, which is not so dense, is well used and trains are packed. Where as MUNI is built as a very much a streetcar system in a heavily dense area. That is why I have trouble with a N-S light rail line as currently envisioned because it has a big streetcar, mullti stop presence in the city while trying to be more of a commuter function for county.
            Expand Metrolink as an transit commuter option to job centers/node while taking a serious look at streetcar – bus frequency in the city.

        • Eric

          Shrewsbury to South County is the only MetroLink extension that is justified. This is because it’s cheap (the ROW already exists), and should have relatively high ridership because there’s no freeway in parallel. Zoning should be changed to allow parking-free development around the stations.

          As for the city, it definitely needs better transit. But building an expensive light rail line on one corridor is not the solution, when for the same money you could massively improve the bus service on many different corridors.

          • thomas h benton

            It doesn’t matter how cheap the Shrewsbury to South County route would be if people won’t use it. Those are later-developed areas that developed with car use in mind. They are not dense enough and people living in those areas are not going to walk to Metrolink, let alone drive their cars there, then park and ride.

      • HawkSTL

        Whether you are “for” or “against” the N/S MetroLink route, the planning is the problem. First, the N/S route is not compatible with the existing MetroLink infrastructure, which will significantly increase the operating costs. Metro will be required to operate 2 different systems. Second, Metro has an image problem with security. The last extension tried to take MetroLink to neighborhoods and business districts (U. City, Clayton, Maplewood Shrewsbury) where more affluent people work and live. The N/S route focuses on poor neighborhoods. That’s not a bad thing. But, it will further hurt the image and security issue. There should be better balance. Third, regional leaders publicly taking different positions on the N/S route is not helpful. If they are not on the same page, then no public announcements should have been made. The past couple of weeks have been a giant step backward.

        • Eric

          The different technology will increase the maintenance costs somewhat, but it will decrease the construction costs a lot. This is because modern light rail has low floors, so it can be boarded from a normal curb. Our first MetroLink line was unfortunately built just before low-floor light rail was developed, so it has high platforms. These long high platforms are basically incompatible with a city street, so you have to use either old railway ROWs or subway tunnels (existing Metrolink does both). On the North-South route there are no good rail ROWs, and tunneling would be extremely expensive.

          • HawkSTL

            The low floor light rail requires streets to be ripped up, rail to be put down, and then the street to be reconstructed (similar to Loop Trolley). Old railroad ROW has open space to build only street crossing to worry about. That’s why the original MetroLink line was built on railroad ROW — it was cheap.

    • rgbose

      I think if we want to grow the region we have to put people and jobs closer together. We can;t afford our spread-out road and other infrastructure already. Adding transit on top of it is digging a bigger hole.

      Building transit amongst development patterns that are at car density just won’t work due to last mile issues (getting from the station to work, like a station in Earth City won’t be close enough to a lot of the employers) and it won’t go faster than a car can.

      None car modes work when the trips are of shorter distance

    • onecity

      No one is going to drive ten minutes to a collector lot, ride the train an hour from a remote muni to the city center, then walk another fifteen minutes to their final destination. That is why county routes, which may sound good on paper, don’t really make a lot of sense. Are you going to spend 1.5hrs making a 35 minute trip? No, and you shouldn’t. It makes a lot more sense to design a system in which each route, end to end, is 20 or 30 minutes max, which means primarily in the city and higher density inner ring burbs (inside 170). If the system isn’t fast, what’s the point after all? I think what needs to be sorted out is whether Metrolink is more like Metra or the El. Because the El is all about Chicago city limits and immediate inner ring, while Metra is all about getting people from outside Chicago into the main employment centers.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Very well said.

      • Tim E

        Throw in the fact that St. Louis offers cheap gas with cheap cigs if you want them and not that big of a personal tax bill to own and run around in a used car. Heck, I kept my ford focus in St. Louis for my mother in law even though I don’t reside there. The ford focus doesn’t cost us a whole lot but terribly convenient at times for her.
        Plus the last time I drove around the city without using a full tank. About half the cost of taxi ride from Lambert to my house in Shrewsbury. I know metrolink is a cheaper option but had my young son and arrived after 11 pm after several delays.

      • Charles Means

        Why spend 2.2 billion on a proposed route that will not generate the economic outcome needed. If you truly want a North South connector, then design a proper north south connector. What is designed is nothing more than 2 glorified bus routes with too many stops. Also make the system compatible with the rest of the line and interface properly. Not a whole new design that is set to service basically north and south city, with little benefit to the county.

        The question is, why should county tax dollars go to a project that will have little impact for the county. I would not hop on a train that is going to wind through the city on what would be a 35 or forty minute trip just to reach the core. I think ridership in the county for this would be minimal.

        A better route would be, come out of Florissant, follow 367 to 70, then follow 70 up tip the core. Limit the number of stops. Maybe 8 stops within the city instead of 14 before it hits 40. On the south side come up from Bayless and follow a 55 basic line. again, maybe 8 stops inside the city instead of 10 or 12. All the proposed stops would make the trip longer. with 10 or 12 stops total on either side city into county) then we could limit the transit time to 20-25 minutes from Florissant to the core and from Bayless to the core. I would also interface it with the new bus metro bus station just built in florissant, maybe making it a park and ride…

        • onecity

          So, you propose having people drive 10 minutes, park, wait for the train at a big parking lot, then take an “express” route that’s 20-25 minutes long, then walk another 15 minutes to their final destination so they can make a 25 minute trip 45+ minutes long? That still makes no sense, and there will be low ridership at those far out locations, which will make the economic case for further expansion even weaker. The fact is the county was built wrong, and lacks the density, except in the Clayton/RH/Maplewood zone, and *maybe* Webster/Kirkwood, to make Metrolink expansions in any way efficient. The city, on the other hand, has the right density and infrastructure to make this succeed, and with global demographic trends pointing to increased urbanization, it’s pretty hard to argue convincingly against the N-S line. The region needs its central city and economic powerhouse – The City of Saint Louis – to keep rebuilding itself, and fixed route transit is an important piece.

          • Charles Means

            So you feel that the city is important enough to take tax dollars from the county for something that will have very little benefit for the county?

            I think that you are putting to much importance on the city, considering most of the workforce for the core comes from outside the city itself. And the new urbanites are living close enough to the work, that the train would not get much use…

            Regardless of what you feel about the county, it is the county that is putting in much of the tax dollars for the metro system. whether you feel it was built wrong or not, we are still thriving here and in St Charles. The county s not going away, and if transit was built correctly, the entire region could expand.

            My opinion, the metro train system was designed wrong from the start. The train should have been designed to alleviate the highway congestion. The first run should have been straight out along highway 70. It should have been designed out to Wentzville.

            The second line should have went out 44 all the way to Six Flags

            The third line should have followed 40 all the way to highway 70

            The 4th should have followed 55 down to Arnold

            All should have been designed high speed with limited stops.

            The Metro bus (St Charles transit and Jeffco transit) should reorient and service the metro trains

            This is how you move people around, clear traffic and help the environment.

            If St. louis then wants to build a St. Louis trolley system, then they can do that on there own…

          • onecity

            I do think the city is important enough to take tax dollars from the county to build out its rail system, except I think it benefits the county by making the web of business more dense and therefore more likely to generate wealth through increased efficiency. What you are proposing generates more sprawl, more time wasted in transit, more infrastructure liability, more being house poor. By the way, I don’t live in the city. But I do recognize how important its success is to the region. And it is succeeding despite what the nightly news tells you, and in my opinion it is very close to a tipping point in perception.

          • TIm E

            I think Charles makes a very fair argument and why Slay really messed up on his approach in my opinion. Those two, Slay and Stenger messed things up politically for another couple of years going forward. But Slay even more so with I have nothing to lose approach. Slay has nothing to lose but he just screwed whoever is elected mayor.

            I also can’t help but think that N-S is still stand alone system as envisioned and really think a step back and take a look, would a city N-S streetcar that ties in south city to downtown/NGIA & near northisde and county metrolink expansion really be that bad of a path forward.
            In the meantime, include a south county extension from downtown via UP-Desoto ROW – I55 ROW in the study group.

          • rgbose

            Is the DeSoto ROW unused, abandoned, or for sale? Doesn’t the Amtrak Texas Eagle use that to and from points south?

          • Mike Williams

            The UP Desoto sub is still in use. I am a railfan and watch trains on that sub often. The Eagle still runs everyday over that line as well.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Yes, I think MetroLink wasn’t designed well. However, it was built with virtually zero local money (the Red Line), and so it is what is is. I contend that a north-south line would be of the greatest benefit to the county by stabilizing and investing in its north and south extremities where investment isn’t happening. West County is doing OK, with or without rail transit.

            Finally, this idea that the city is taking county money isn’t correct. I mean, it’s a “true fact”, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The county blights and TIFs area’s like Brentwood and Richmond Heights to build retail, to lure (in part) city residents to spend money. They take that money and then claim it’s all theirs and they won’t share. This is the epitome of our political boundaries preventing us from acting like the 2.8M person region we are.

          • rgbose

            I disagree that the county is thriving. Its population has been about 1M for 40 years. There are more people in poverty in the county than in the city. There is a lot of mounting infrastructure maintenance liabilities and numerous towns can’t provide minimal quality services.

            If we put the city in the county, would the NS line be OK then? If they build the line to Westport can west and south countians complain that their tax dollars are going to it?

            Spreading out the region enabled by highways has driven up how much infrastructure each of us in on the hook for. Doing the same with transit would be all that worse. Plus waiting for a train in the middle of a highway is miserable.

            I don’t think transit should compete with a highway. Transit can’t win on highway terms. Why drive to the station at the highway to transfer when you can just drive onto the highway and keep going? Ours aren’t that congested and if some drivers did switch to the transit in the middle of the highway, induced demand would fill up the highway soon enough. Transit and other modes win when the trips are shorter in distance (transit can operate more frequently if it doesn’t have to go as far for example. You’ll get to your destination in the same amount of time even though the mode is slower). We all win when people, jobs, amenities, etc are closer together. See for more on that.

          • Charles Means

            You misunderstand. I am all for a N-S connector. I am just against the current proposal. The planned route is nothing more than a glorified trolley system with 24 stops within the city. It uses a different train. It will not interface with the current system.

            If you want a NS connector, then design it properly with what is already installed on Metro. Service Florissant as proposed. Service South county as proposed. There isn’t a need to have 7 stops from Goodfellow to Parnell along Natural Bridge. No need to have 6 stops on Jefferson from Park to Keokuk. There is a better way.

            I am actually opposed to the Westport run. I do not think that route would have very good ridership. I do agree with onecity, that the other 2 proposed routes would probably not be very effective due to longer transit times to the city,

  • Phil Sutin

    Sorry. I will try again to put in my two cents.

    • I agree with one of the commenters that the region should have more bus service, particularly in the area that the Northside-Southside would serve. That light-rail line would almost entirely run at grade with automobile traffic. Blocking the center lanes of West Florissant, Natural Bridge and Jefferson avenues so MetroLink could run entirely on its own right of way would ruin the mainly small businesses along those streets. Traffic signals and left-turning traffic would slow trains so they would be in effect oversized buses. The trains probably would run on a schedule similar to MetroLink which calls for 20-minute waits off-peak hours, timing which may ease, but not eliminate, the long time many transit dependent people in the Northside-Southside corridor endure in transit trips. Bus service every 10 minutes would better serve people in the corridor, but it is a very costly continuing expense.

    • Metro has not delivered on promises made in 2010 to provide bus rapid transit and MetroLink expansion. One bus-rapid-transit option in 2010 was a line, whose buses would be at stops more often that those on regular lines, generally along the north part of Northside-Southside. Metro did explain that a MetroLink expansion was well into future because of limited federal money. Surely in six years Metro could provide a bare-boned bus rapid transit that would limp along until more money became available.

    • Stenger is following pretty conventional political logic. South County’s residents have been paying Metro sales taxes for years. The only MetroLink thing those taxpayers got is a station in Shrewsbury which can be considered West County as well as South County. Stenger has indicated he favors extending the Blue line southward. But that idea has sat on the shelf for about a decade because of serious environmental, design and cost problems. I agree with commenters that a strong undertone of racism exists in opposition to MetroLink expansion in the county.

    • Adam

      “Blocking the center lanes of West Florissant, Natural Bridge and Jefferson avenues so MetroLink could run entirely on its own right of way would ruin the mainly small businesses along those streets. Traffic signals and left-turning traffic would slow trains so they would be in effect oversized buses.”

      I’m pretty sure there are numerous examples of trains and/or street cars that run in the center of commercial corridors. One that comes immediately to mind is Boston’s T running down the middle of Commonwealth Ave. I’m not buying that allowing more people access to the businesses along West Florissant, Natural Bridge, and Jefferson would ruin them. Also, as in Denver for example, street lights would likely be timed to give the train the right of way. This is all stuff that’s been done for years in other cities. It’s not rocket science.

    • jhoff1257

      One thing people need to understand. It is NOT Metro Transit’s job to deliver on BRT or even MetroLink. East West Gateway not only funds but also plans and designs where and what type of system will be built. Metro simply operates the system that EWG builds. Metro has no final say in what will be built and where.

  • Phil Sutin

    Let me add my two cents:

  • Ben Harvey

    This is an absolutely great conversation here in the comments.

    My two cents, I agree with the person below that said that our metro system should be increased in smaller stages. Adding to the system four miles at a time will allow us to focus on serving more areas with high demand. Each project would also be individually cheaper and easier to pass in the long run than a 2.2 billion dollar mega project.

    Plus, a constant stream of projects will keep the public more excited for metro compared to a long single project followed by decades of hiatus.

    I also don’t understand why needing to buy different cars for a N/S line would be an issue. Any addition to the system will require purchasing new cars, who cares if one lines cars don’t fit on the other line? As long as they get me from A-B

    • Tim E

      Same here, I believe the N-S as currently envisioned never share the same tracks as the current metrolink system so why does it have to be the same nor will it ever extend into IL or exburbs.

      Which also brings up your point, why not embrace the smaller extensions in the county such as cross county from Shrewsbury to I55/South County or getting metrolink past Lambert and worry about a smaller system in the city that can be extended into the county or compliment a different vision.

    • HawkSTL

      Why does buying different cars for a N/S line matter? Cost. It is not just cars, but maintenance of different electric lines, cars, tracks, etc. The operating cost of using one system vs. 2 different systems is huge. A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a planning non-Metro engineer working on the N/S extension. I asked her if the planning group was talking to Metro’s leadership (finance, budget, operations, and maintenance) about creating a different system. She said “no” and asked why it should matter given that her group was only in charge of the big picture. I gave her the same response – cost. She acknowledged that they were not thinking about operating costs. Evidently, no one in planning is still talking to the operator. That is really, really bad planning.

      • Alex Ihnen

        The real expense is in building a system that doesn’t serve people.

        • HawkSTL

          No, the real expense is if you build a new line that Metro can’t operate on its budget. That is basic planning.

          • Tim E

            I think you guys are talking one in the same at end of day. Transit like all transportation infrastructure is subsidized at one level or another. Build something that attracts ridership, use, and or indirectly benefit to others (say a few more cars off the road during rush hour) and the revenues & support to run it will get there… Build something that doesn’t attract any ridership, use, and or doesn’t have perceived benefit to non-user and you got big expensive white elephant to run in long term. Fixed rail transit is brutal in that regard.

            I believe that is the perception became of cross county extension took a left at I170 and abruptly ended at Shrewsbury with little or no way to generate much more ridership. Build it little farther south and get some ridership to Clayton CBD job center from south county because it gets better in competing time wise (especially when Sunnen is adding another light on Hanley) and you might change some of that perception at least in the county..

            Go down River Des Peres greenway and you might actually see some benefit to city residents and transit access to jobs.

      • The only notable difference between the two systems would be the vehicles. Overhead wires, tracks, station platforms, payment systems, etc would all be functionally the same on both lines.

        • HawkSTL

          That’s not accurate. But, let’s accept it at face value. The cars need to be serviced at a Metro service facility. That facility is just west of Union Station. It is not large enough to handle a large new line of cars for the N/S route. And, the cars can’t get to the facility because the two systems are different. The N/S line has no dedicated right-of-way because it runs in the middle of the street. So, to solve that, the engineers have to create another large maintenance facility with different technology and service. Oh, and you have to acquire new dedicated right-of-way to get the cars to the new maintenance facility (off the street) as well as acquire the property to build and funds to build it. Have your calculator out? The price tag is going way up.

          • The 2008 Northside-Southside study included a very short non-revenue track at Civic Center that would allow vehicles on the N/S line to maneuver onto the existing line and access the Ewing maintenance facility, which they would be able to do as they use the exact same power source. The only thing different about the 2 systems is the platform height of the vehicles and the specific parts.

            May I point out that more miles of rail-base public transit requires more vehicles regardless of whether they run on new or extended lines. More vehicles require more space at maintenance facilities. Lack of space may require the construction of an additional maintenance facility to house additional vehicles.

            If I’m not mistaken, the MetroSouth studies included the possibility of another maintenance facility being required in South County due to the need for additional vehicles to operate on the extended Red Line.

          • HawkSTL

            Right — you need more maintenance facilities the more miles of track you add. If you’re talking bang for the buck, extending the line north from Lambert or Hanley, west from Clayton, south from Shrewsbury, or north from East. St. Louis does it. That was the point of ending the new line to Clayton and then south to Shrewsbury — multiple logical points from which it could be expanded. Instead, the N/S line proponents want to create a different system and graft it onto the old. Regardless, that is going to cost more to build more miles of track and more in maintenance. It is basically scrapping the idea that has already been built. The “why” has not been explained because there really isn’t a “why.”

  • Tim E

    My summation of how things got to this point.
    First, start with county and city voters supporting Prop A metrolink expansion. I believe most voters pretty much were under assumption that those dollars were going to a county metrolink extension as sales tax dollars by and far from the county make up most of the revenue. Nor do I believe that perception has changed a bit with anyone who voted in the county. Second, county under previous leadership does a nifty loan to Bi-state and recent Prop A tax dollars go to pay off bonds for Cross State which in itself an epic failure of previous Bi State leadership to build without federal funds.

    Fast forward a few years. County along with state supports City retaining NGIA and its expected/estimated $1.6 billion dollar investment in north city. A little bit later in the timeline the county announces it wants to go forward with funding metrolink county expansion studies. The final decision is made and city retain NGIA. So what does Slay go do soon afterwards with nothing to lose is tweet N-S metrolinik.

    County response is prompt. Hell no, we are not going to support federal dollars going to both the NGIA and N-S metrolink alignment with majority of its initial routes miles and stations in the city and will benefit by far the city. Heck, wouldn’t be surprised that any CVC plans for ballroom expansion and convention upgrades to the dome are put on political hold. Slay might have made a statement on the best option but a bad political play going forward..

    • RJ

      Sounds like an ugly soap opera but politics as usual in the St. Louis region. This is a glaring example of the dysfunctional fragmented government that has held St. Louis to mediocrity and slow growth. These situations are so frustrating because St. Louis has much to offer but is wasted because of political idiots.

  • rgbose

    Can we run some of the buses more often?

    • Eric

      Yeah, there is no justification for the city to spend its money on a light rail line than will serve one corridor, when the same money could massively upgrade bus service on many different corridors.

      Federal money is often reserved for construction rather than operations, but the city’s money should only go to the most cost-effective purposes.

  • Joel Steele

    I am in favor of a more connected (in many ways) region in general and specifically like the idea of being able to get around better without having to own a car. The North-South Metro line would go a long way towards that becoming a reality.

    However, it’s likely that a much better way will come to fruition by about the time a new rail line would be in service but for a fraction of the cost and rolled out by private entities instead of relying on 90+ inept local governments to agree on something.

    Uber estimates that it will be able to roll out a completely driverless fleet by 2030 and that average wait times for a car will be about 35 seconds while also reducing the total fleet size by 99%. We could all get rid of cars, yet poor and rich people alike could inexpensively and quickly get anywhere they need or want. This would be MUCH more efficient, flexible, customizable and scalable than any public transit system could ever hope to be.

    I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and simply do nothing hoping that something better comes along. But I also don’t want to wait on any public entity to make something happen. Instead of spending $2.2 billion on a line that could be obsolete by the time it opens, StL could be forward thinking and get Uber, Lyft, Google, Apple, Tesla, GM, etc. on the phone and offer to work closely with them to get a driver less fleet rolled out in exchange for being the first city to have one.
    We’re trying to be a tech city…this would help.

  • TM B33

    I wish NEXTSTL would do a story on Skytran. Light rail is the most expensive and obtrusive of many options. Skytran could serve the entire region for less than a N/S line. It gives people what they truly want in rapid transit, to go where they want, when they want and in privacy. There is no way I would use the light rail with my wife. She uses a cane due to MS and is a victim in waiting for the crowd on the metrolink. I wish we could use it to go every where and park the car but it simply isn’t safe enough. Skytran is a perfect solution but no one will promote it because the romanticize riding the train and the light rail lobby is strong. STL needs to be innovative and a leader.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Thanks for this comment and others about skytran. I’ll be sure to take a look. I hope others check out the link above as well.

      I’ve looked at various personal rapid transit systems and other ideas in the past. Some systems are in place, some are theoretical, and each has its ups and downs.

      In regards to light rail, it certainly doesn’t work for everyone, but riding MetroLink is no more dangerous than driving/riding in a car. In fact, the chance of death or injury in a car is much greater. I recognize the perception is different, and somehow we happily ignore the death and personal injury inflicted by vehicle crashes.

      The other argument some make for light rail is the cost – as a positive. A big transit investment can invite other investment because it is expensive, introducing relatively long term predictable development focus.

      • TM B33

        Those are good points. I am not anti Metrolink, it just will no longer work for us. I realize driving is also a dangerous task but you do have some control of your surroundings. You can avoid troubled areas and troubled people by adjusting the route to your destination. Skytran has a joint venture with NASA. One thing we should be able to agree on is that light rail is under utilized along with bus service. We need a system that will be used by everyone in the region. Could you imagine a person in Wildwood walking two blocks and getting on a pod then traveling straight to Scottrade for a Blues game. Skytran could actually be implemented into existing buildings and businesses. I think some businesses and venues would make the investment to have a station in their facility. I understand that the goal is not to make money on transit and that is to provide a service, reduce traffic, provide transportation opportunities for those that do have them and basically improve quality of life while reducing stress to our infrastructure, but until you can get the entire region utilizing a system and especially middle to upper middle class white suburbanites to use the system, it will come at a cost much greater than it is worth. This is why I think Skytran is a viable alternative. I think for 2.2B, the entire greater STL region could be served by Skytran and get you to within 1/8th to a 1/4 mile to directly to any destination you desire without stops.
        I think it is worth some coverage. A new mode of rapid, mass, transit is going to be developed and will serve the masses better and more economically than light rail.

  • Mark Loehrer

    In a 2014 Lindsey Toler piece for River Front Times, regarding Stenger’s opposition of Value Village (a fantastic thrift store chain) relocating out of Kenrick Plaza into nearby Affton, Steve was quoted as saying:
    “Affton is poised to join other inner-ring suburbs like Brentwood, Maplewood and Richmond heights that are taking advantage of their convenient locations and quality school districts to draw new residents and vibrant businesses,” Stenger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last year. “I grew up in Affton, and I want what’s best for it and I don’t believe Value Village is a good fit for the area.”

    I did some follow up on that story of my own and according to two managers, Stenger stated openly and loudly at a meeting with VV (attended by all managers including owners), that he was afraid a “certain element” would “creep into affton” if VV were to locate within the town. The N/S connector meanders just southeast of Affton thru Bayless. I have no doubt in my mind the only thing that could override the logic of this route, not to mention the power players standing behind it, is base south county racism.

    He knows he’s not getting reelected, this certainly didn’t help him any, especially if I hear correctly from others that Clay is about to come out in support of this route…Clay, the man who delivered on election night when Stenger nearly lost to Rick Stream.

    • SouthCityJR

      Completely agree about the racial element. I grew up in S County and there is an unbelievable amount of racist undercurrent. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard S County people say they won’t shop at the Galleria because Metrolink “ruined” the area by allowing that “certain element” easy access.

    • DCWind

      I love how Stenger states in his letter that he represents the interests of more than a million people. I would like to first point out that, while his statement is true, the extensions that he says the county is “studying” are county only routes, which have not relative benefit for the city, and therefore the region (I am so infinitely exhausted at both the city and the county forgetting that they are both part of the regions, its problems and successes). The irony behind his statement of support for his 1 million+ constituents is that the alignments he proposes (with some respect given to the Florissant line) do nothing to address the populations in the county that are in the most need of adequate mass transit connection. So, in essence, let’s ignore the segments of those “1 million+” people that would most use and be best served by the N-S extension that Stenger opposes. That seems to be the definition of talking out of both sides of your mouth.

      The Metrolink cannot continue to be seen by county residents and leaders as just an expensive rail line that can sometimes serve the airport and our area attractions. It has to be seen as a composite of event transportation, commuter transportation, and a mode of transportation that gives access and mobility to individuals who, either by choice or socio-economic confines, have difficulty traveling long distances without some level of convenient access to mass transit. The populations served by the N-S extension would accomplish all of those goals. The southern end of the N-S extension would add a much needed commuting alternative to south county commuters, while the northern end would finally give north county locations a higher speed method of travel to the city center, as well as the seat of county governement and regional attractions.

      And I find it highly ridiculous that Stenger says that a different type of rail line (low platform) will “divide” our region. That is borderline offensive as it shows a blatant disregard for the litany of information out there, scholarly and not, that shows how diverse modes of transportation (biking, walking, light rail, tram, highway, etc) are a key to healthy cities. So many cities have figured this out (Chicago, for example), why can’t St. Louis. In the political climate that we see around us, there is so much vitrolic banter about how disadvantaged populations, regardless of race/color/creed, should just get off their butts and find work. The single biggest hurdle to overcoming that goal is getting from home to work and back. The N-S extension would give some of those disadvantaged populations much needed transportation options, while also serving both the city and the county. As it stands, Metrolink currently serves 11 stations in the metro-east, 11 stations within the city boundary, and 15 stations within the county. To my eyes, this a pretty even spread across the entire region. And while the N-S extension would have more stops in the city, I would argue that is NEEDS more stops in the city. I am not saying that the N-S extension, as it stands, should be implemented, but this is the type of route, including the necessary connections, that needs to be funded for our city, county and region.

      If expanding Metrolink is truly a regional consideration, as he points out several times in his letter (and to which I whole-heartedly agree), then Stenger should provide feasibility studies for new proposed alignments that include both the city and the county in the route. Alternatively, if the county would like to implement their own extensions, footing the bill itself, then have at it. But the proposed extensions under study by the county will be far more divisive and have far less regional impact than the N-S extension supported by those individuals that signed Mayor Slay’s letter. Stenger needs to realize that St. Louis city may not have the population of the county, but the city is the regional center. As such, it needs the most extensive connections and transit accessibility. I could go on with more, but this should suffice.

  • citylover

    Would it be easier to get funds for N/S if we had greater ridership and TOD on existing metrolink?

    Shame on Stenger. I feel bad that Slay, the state, and all the people behind N/S metrolink have to put up with such an egotistic county executive.

    I love the picture of the streetcars and arch in the background. Do I see the kiener garages replaced with residential units? 🙂


    No thanks…

  • jhoff1257

    Lots of things running through my head with this one…

    First: The last paragraph of his letter notwithstanding, Stenger isn’t exactly wrong. It is likely that platforms and cars will not match up with the current system. Having said that, I wonder if there couldn’t be a compromise here somewhere. Take Denver’s RTD for example. Much of that system, like ours, runs with freeway rights of way or old abandoned rail rights of way. It’s not really until you get to Downtown Denver do they start running in streets. My question would be is it possible to use the same cars we do now with lower platforms for the street running sections? Like Denver you’d have a handicap accessible ramp at one end, and everyone else simply steps up onto the train. Then once it hits the 55 right of way and heads further south you could have the same platforms we do now. I’m not an engineer but I bet there is a way we could make N/S compatible with the current system.

    Second: If Stenger was pushing for the Florissant or Metro-South expansion, I wouldn’t have much of an issue here. It’s the idea of a Westport line that bothers me. There is not near enough population density in that area to support transit. There are lots of jobs to be sure but the current system doesn’t stretch far enough into dense residential areas to make that a worthwhile investment. Metro-South on the other hand isn’t all that terrible. It largely skirts the southern city limits (dense) and then links up with the proposed alignment from the N/S line at the southern tip of the city. Florissant isn’t terrible either as it hits an area with more transit dependent folks then other parts of the region. Westport can work, but it cannot be first.

    Third: People calling for transit out to West County or especially people calling for a line down 40 need to stop. Transit works with density. West County and especially the areas surrounding Ladue, Frontenac, etc do not have the population density to support what will most likely be a billion dollar investment regardless of which option is chosen. As someone who lived in Chesterfield for 20 years (and would LOVE to see trains out there) there is not near enough people out there to ride it. Again, lots of jobs, but those jobs are significantly dispersed. A major component of transit that lots of folks tend to forget about is that last mile. Sure a train might get you to Chesterfield, but then how do you get to your final destination?

    Fourth: If there is any silver-lining here it’s that both the City and County are pushing for light rail expansion, now if we could just get them on the same page.

    Fifth: Build the North-South Line.

  • lisa c

    Also, we ALL KNOW a North-South expansion is what is desperately needed! Let’s focus on that. A real leader gets everybody at the table. Would love to see someone actually doing that.

  • lisa c

    Stenger’s letter was opposing the way the decision about priority project was being made, not explicitly saying that choosing the NS-SS extension as the regional priority would be divisive. That is how I read the letter anyway. The City hasn’t gone about this the right way either. They cry out “Parochialism!” but don’t actually try to work across regional boundaries. I’m disappointed in all actors involved. No real leadership in this region. But that’s nothing new.

    • Adam

      That’s weird because he made no reference to the way the decision was made, only that he disagreed with it. He also didn’t bother to address any of the actual points of the study, including that the N-S route would by far serve the most people in need of transit and stands to generate more development and economic activity than a county full of light rail stops surrounded by car dealerships.

      • lisa c

        Regarding your 1st point: Stenger references “the Principles” included in the letter — principles that support the NS-SS (as currently proposed?) as a regional priority.

        Stenger wants his studies (Ihnen says out to Westport, but also acknowledges there are other proposed routes to be studied, including in North County) to be put forward on equal footing at the NS-SS study when deciding upon region’s priority project. This seems to me to be a process-oriented complaint, as he cannot complain about a final decision yet (as one technically hasn’t been made, but the original grant-seeking letter suggests it has been decided).

        Regarding your 2nd point: I don’t think he addresses the benefits of the proposed NS-SS line because he wants to be able to cite the benefits of his own studies.

        AND I think we’re sliding in our discussions between someone questioning the NS-SS expansion, and someone questioning a N-S route. One can be in favor of a N-S expansion and not think that the proposed NS-SS line is necessarily the best one.

        • Adam

          Well, I think it’s odd of him to reference “the Principles” but then go on to play the funding card and complain—arbitrarily—about what he perceives as integration issues without actually specifying “the Principles” with which he takes issue. Add to that the fact that he’s only expressed interest in studying routes that primarily serve the county and I think it’s pretty obvious that his intention is to sabotage a N-S city line so that one of his preferred routes can be built first, despite the E-W Gateway study demonstrating the obvious: that the N-S route will serve many more people in need of transit. His proposed routes are not on equal footing for this very reason, and every official but him realizes that.

          • lisa c

            I am in favor of a N-S line that goes through both city and county. And I’m not trying to defend Stenger. I AM saying that there’s a lot of semantics here, and the City’s letter is playing fast and loose with some of the language about “locally preferred routes” and “regional priority routes”.

          • rgbose

            In EWG’s Connected 2045 NS Metrolink is listed under “Illustrative Tier I” while the others are under Tier II

          • lisa c

            That is true, but they are ALL listed as “Illustrative,” and none were included among actual planned investments or deemed priority transportation projects for the region. Many of us were pretty upset that EWG DIDN’T list a priority project in the report, as it seems that they would be an appropriate organization to do so.

            The language of “locally preferred routes” has been used by planners to indicate which route in a particular corridor is preferred. That is, a whole corridor is studies, several routes are proposed, one is selected as best. But “locally preferred route” doesn’t say anything about which corridor is targeted/selected as priority.

            This stuff won’t matter in the end because nobody cares about the nuance. I just think that there’s lots of legitimate reasons to complain about the County’s decisions on various things, and this one is being blown up in the media as Stenger being racist/parochial/short-sighted, etc. I think there’s better evidence to use than this particular letter if you want to accuse him of these things.

          • Adam

            “I think there’s better evidence to use than this particular letter if you want to accuse him of these things.”

            True. And semantics aside, this letter to the FTA—as opposed to those other instances—has the potential to ruin St. Louis’ chances for much-needed transit funding for an expansion that very obviously serves the most people in need of transit.

          • lisa c

            I disagree. I think that while the letter was er… um… not helpful t, to say the least, what mars our chances for transit funding is our inability to work together. And that’s not JUST a Stenger issue. The City is coming off smelling like roses on this, and that’s completely absurd.

          • Adam

            What would working together have accomplished in this instance? Stenger has made it clear that he does not support the most effective (demonstrably) choice for the next extension. His disdain for the city is no secret.

  • stenger hater

    Is it really a one or the other situation? Why can’t we have the north-south line through the areas with sidewalks and the parking lot lines in the county at the same time? Any expansion anywhere improves the whole system. I think the county executive’s selective approach to regionalism on one of the most important public projects St. Louis could tackle should get him thrown out of office.

    • RJ

      I’ve been watching Stenger to see what kind of leadership he might provide and so far I’m not impressed as he appears to be more of the same. We so desperately need regional leadership. I agree with one of the other posters that mentioned City politicians didn’t handle this process very well either. There seems to be no consensus between leaders another by product of our fragmented governmental structure. We should be striving for all three metrolink extensions to Westport, Florissant and especially the N-S route. I do agree with Stenger’s criticism of using a different system than the current metrolink which means as a community we will have to purchase different rail cars than what were already use. What about safety running light rail cars down city streets? The problem is what is proposed isn’t a light rail train (which has its own right of way and access) but rather a trolley line that goes down the street with vehicular traffic. This type of transit isn’t as safe nor as fast as light-rail. Since we are going to be rebuilding infrastructure such as streets, sewers, utilities in large parts of north city, why don’t we build this line underground (like a first class city would do) at least in sections thru the city. I realize it costs more but can’t we do it right the first time. Proceed in stages with 4 mile segments. Denver, Dallas and Seattle started their systems much later and have blown by STL in rail lines. As a community we need to decide to up the ante and spend some more money to get our rail system done right.

  • Adam

    “A selective approach to regionalism will alienate St. Louis county from our partner governments in the region.”

    The hypocrisy is just beyond words.

  • Is it bad if I agree with many of points Steve Stenger made in his letter?

    Regardless of his good points, the last paragraph is brutal and sending this letter directly to the FTA is akin to putting a knife in the heart of regional public transportation planning.

    • Riggle


    • Alex Ihnen

      Well, you ARE “Gateway Streets” and not “Gateway Transit”. 🙂

      You make a good point though. Stenger could effectively do exactly what he’s doing but not opening oppose the city (and north/south county) line, nor use insanely tone-deaf language.

      • At least I’m not “Gateway Roads” or “Gateway Highways”!

        • John R

          I’ll give you $10 if you change to Gateway Stroads.

  • TimJim

    I would support pretty much any expansion of Metro Link, but I too question whether the North-South connector is the best next step. Except for the part that goes through downtown, it seems to carefully avoid places where lots of people go, e.g., Soulard, the brewery, South Grand) in favor of connecting impoverished areas of North County with similarly impoverished areas of South City. It builds on the St. Louis-held notion that mass transit is for the poor. Transit-oriented development sounds good in theory, but in practice it has not happened here — see Wellston and Rock Road stations on the Red Line. I would focus new lines on routes that already see a large amount of car traffic, or at least consider all the alternatives before picking one. I’m surprised Slay didn’t get Stenger on board before settling on one. Having said all that, if the choice is between North-South and doing nothing for another 20 years, I’ll take North-South.

    • Josiah

      I believe it has to go through improvised areas to qualify for the federal funding, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong I just thought I read that somewhere

      • You are referring to “social justice”. No, it is not necessary to go through economically impoverished areas, but it must be demonstrated that they are not being neglected or excluded from plans.

    • Adam

      I don’t think it’s “trying” to avoid anything. Possible routes are limited by available/practical right-of-ways. For example, if it’s going to be street-running then there are only certain streets wide enough to support it. If it’s going to use an existing rail right of way then you have to deal with notoriously difficult rail companies. I actually think that the 2007 locally preferred alternative is better than the revised Jefferson-running route since it cuts more centrally through south city, but from what I’ve heard the Jefferson route is more technically feasible because Gravois’ width can’t support it.

    • Colleen Kirby

      Disagree – I’ve got a basic familiarity with the majority of the neighborhoods that N-S and the existing red line go through, and N-S touches FAR more populated areas, with a decent number of pockets of stability which would greatly benefit from walkable light rail into jobs centers, than compared to the red line (which I really see as the airport/tourist/medical center access, primarily). Truth is, nearly 1/3 of the city’s population is considered in poverty.

      But you raise a good point – when people who’ve used the system here have only seen the train go through sparse areas on former railroad ROWs, through low income communities, it is hard to imagine bustling TODs popping up. But this N-S route holds a lot more potential, not least of which is the major arterial ROWs it’s routed on.

      • TimJim

        Fair points. I just wish we were thinking bigger than simply connecting “pockets of stability” and instead aiming to change a large number of people’s driving habits by offering light rail on or near the most heavily traveled routes.

    • Riggle

      Soulard has about 4,000 people, and its not a job center, so it really isn’t a priorty for light rail. That said, Soulard market is one mile from stadium metrolink station and there are five buses that connect Soulard to metrolink (downtown).

      On the South side alone NS would connect Lafayette sq, the gate district, mckinley heights, fox park, benton park, benton park west, gravois park, marine villa, Dutchtown, mount pleasant and carondelt. Some have high poverty, some do not and most have high population density, which is what really matters.

      • “…and most have high population density, which is what really matters.”

        Thank YOU! Strangely, this is oft-forgotten — that the purpose of public transportation in a City is to…well, transport the public. But for a small beltway, the vast majority of St. Louis’ citizens cannot make use of the Metrolink, and even those that can are largely limited to “attractions”.

        A southside Metrolink — in whatever configuration (I prefer a DeSoto subdiv. route) — provides access to sooooo many people, and a significant racial/economic mix at that. TOD opportunity does exist too, but only to the extent that the City dictates it — I’m talking severe cuts on parking requirements, focused facade stipulations, density standards, and public way enhancements.

      • 30Soulard

        Yeah I’ve lived in Soulard for a long time and have been car-less for a couple of those stretches. There may not be a neighborhood that needs MetroLink less than Soulard. Downtown Clayton, BJC, the Airport and soon Cortex are all reached very easily, there are something like 4 bus routes that can get you from Soulard to the downtown transit center, and then it’s an easy connection onto MetroLink. Those aforementioned bus routes provide easy access (i.e. no connection necessary) to a ton of other city neighborhoods and downtown as well.

        That’s not to mention all of the private transit options as well. There are almost a dozen shuttles running to all of the major events downtown, and other than the airport there may not be any other place in the region where you can count on reliable cab service.

        • Riggle

          Please tell the Nimbys in your neighborhood this, they are fighting high density development due to lack of parking (there is unlimited free parking in soulard).

    • Adam

      Sorry, I misspoke. I thought the 2007 study had it running down Gravois but it recommended Jefferson.

    • Don

      ” I’m surprised Slay didn’t get Stenger on board before settling on one.”

      Francis knew how Stenger felt. They speak very frequently, and this has been a hotly discussed issue. My guess is that if there was surprise, the tone of the letter versus the opposition. They had decided to go forward without Stenger’s backing and hope for the best.

      I have my suspicions as to Stenger’s real reasons for opposing.

      • Tim E

        Curious on what you think they are?? I think a big part is a play on county getting its a share of federal dollars in the region.
        But also can see the validity of the we don’t want crowd in South County because it brings access to people even though all they have to do is jump in their car. Anyone notice like I do that most violent, drug related overdoses and petty crime revolve around the car in St. Louis.
        Also, agree that Slay didn’t go into this ignorant. I think it was a bad play that will back fire on him if he was sincere on his tweet. Othewise, a good conspiracy theory is Slay giving Stenger some political fodder, in house support for Westport from county residents – if we don’t go forward with this the city will mentality – as well as the opportunity to make it clear to local congressmen and a Senator that the county is next in line after the NGIA final decision.

  • Adam BT

    This needs to happen for Saint Louis to become competitive