Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One is Such a Lonely Number

Reader [killsonjastrauss] asks:

What about the 97 bus?

How can you justify adding a trolley line that duplicates the 97, when the 97 isn't even at capacity?


Adding the Loop Trolley along the same route as the 97 is justifiable for at least two major reasons:  The Loop Trolley will be more convenient than the 97 as a choice for riders in the Loop.  And, it may seem odd for a streetcar-advocate blogger, but I believe that the Loop Trolley will increase the number of riders on the 97; thereby benefiting the public transit system as a whole.

The 97 is a principal East-West MetroBus line that starts at the Clayton MetroBus Center on the west side, and downtown on 14th & Spruce on the east side of its route.  A significant portion of the 97's route follows Delmar Boulevard, traveling through the Loop.

When the Loop Trolley begins operation, it will most likely operate side-by-side with the 97, and the 97's ridership will doubtfully increase or decrease.  Additionally, the 97 will most likely be the best public transit option for riders who already use it, because the access it provides from Clayton to downtown.  From the map, above, I have placed a thick red line along the 97 route, showing the portion of the route the 97 and the Loop Trolley will overlap.  You can see that it is not by much.  Moreover, there is the possibility that riders will not be able to transfer between the bus and the Loop Trolley; riders will have to buy two separate tickets.

The Loop Trolley riders, however, will most likely find the Loop Trolley to be a more convenient transit option, because it is projected that Loop Trolley riders can catch the Loop Trolley every 10-15 minutes, whereas a 97-rider has to wait 30 minutes between buses.  That's 3 Loop Trolleys for every 97!

Therefore, in the beginning, and for several years, the Loop Trolley may not be an alternative to taking the 97.  However, as a whole transit system, the Loop Trolley shall benefit public transit.  Metro is projecting that the presence of the Loop Trolley will increase public transit ridership along its route by 50% to 60% over the use of a bus traveling the same route [the 97].  From that, there is always the potential that some of those 50% to 60% will become more comfortable using public transit, and may consider riding the 97 from University City to Clayton or to downtown; thereby increasing the number of passengers on the 97.

In the future, the 97 and the Loop Trolley may compliment each other.  The Loop Trolley may attract more riders to our public transit system.  I, of course, think that the streetcar is the most environmentally friendly option to replace buses as public transportation.  I believe that any transit option, however, that increases ridership and reduces trips taken by car is successful and justifiable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is Being Self-Serving Necessarily Evil?

In Yonah Freemark's blog post, "St. Louis’ Loop District Gets Endorsement from Feds with Grant for Streetcar" (http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/07/26/st-louis-loop-district-gets-endorsement-from-feds-with-grant-for-streetcar/), Yonah makes the case for Joe Edwards' self-serving interest in the construction of The Loop Trolley by conflating the mobility aspects of two entirely different modes of transportation: the light rail and the streetcar.  Although self-serving aspects of The Loop Trolley are arguable and not necessarily evil, the reality of the mobility benefits of The Loop Trolley stand alone in comparison with the regional mobility provided by Metrolink.

In a previous blog posting, I described the difference between a light rail system and a streetcar system.  Briefly, there exists a difference in service-scale between a light rail system and a streetcar system.  A light rail system connects regions and a streetcar system connects neighborhoods.

Yonah debates the effectiveness of access gained by the existence of the streetcar along the current proposed alignment:  

"From an operations perspective, the project won’t do much to improve access, since its most distant station is less than a mile from an existing Metrolink stop. With nine proposed stations on the short line and vehicles running only every ten minutes, it will in many cases be faster to walk."
Because I live within several blocks of the proposed alignment, the "access" metric does not accurately measure the benefit the streetcar will provide for persons wanting to travel from the Forest Park Metrolink/Trolley stop to the Delmar Loop.  From the Forest Park Metrolink/Loop Trolley stop, to the Loop, the alignment will travel through an undeveloped portion of Delmar Boulevard most persons would take pause to travel by foot.  Many persons, however, may be more apt to travel this route, using a streetcar from the Forest Park Metrolink/Loop Trolley stop, to the Loop.  

Additionally, there is not a significant time difference between trains on Metrolink and the proposed Loop Trolley. The Loop Trolley proposes 10 minute lead times between streetcars, not significantly different than the lead times experienced on Metrolink:

"[The Metrolink], [a] fleet of 31 electric Light Rail Vehicles provides service every seven minutes during rush hour and at 10 to 15-minute intervals otherwise from 5am to 1am daily.  (APTA: Does Transit Work?  A Conservative Reappraisal, Weyrich, 2009, page 1)." 

Finally, Yonah debates Joe Edwards' vision for extending the Trolley toward the City of St. Louis, using old streetcar alignments:

"Edwards, the neighborhood developer, has been a proponent of eventually extending the streetcar route all the way to the riverfront, mirroring the route of the city’s old trolley network. Yet this would needlessly duplicate the services already provided by Metrolink. Rather, extensions south along Big Bend Boulevard, passing by the University City Metrolink Station, the two campuses of Washington University, and reaching Richmond Heights, could be truly valuable since it would encourage transit use by students for local-area commutes and connect dense areas with a corridor not currently serviced by rapid transit [emphasis added].
 Again, from Weyrich, "Metrolink crosses the Mississippi River on the Eads Bridge, built in 1874.  It passes under downtown St. Louis in an old railroad tunnel, opened at the same time as the bridge.  Most of the rest of Metrolink runs on the right-of-way of the former Wabash Railroad."  Old railroad alignments were not meant to serve residential communities, they were aligned to move freight.  Moreover, "Metrolink's availability is excellent in terms of destinations.  However, the line does not serve many residential areas directly....(ibid. at 1)." 

Yonah concludes, "Moreover, whether transport planners like it or not, these systems are in reality a lot more oriented towards fulfilling economic development goals than providing increased mobility."  I do not believe the two goals are at all mutually exclusive, and in fact, the sum of the two may produce something even greater.  That is at least the policy objectives of the Obama administration and  the HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which recently awarded The Loop Trolley $25 million. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities

The above link is a link to the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities!  We must challenge St. Louis Metro to incorporate these policies into future planning and spending decisions! 
From the HUD website, 

"The Partnership for Sustainable Communities established six livability principles that will act as a foundation for interagency coordination:
  1. Provide more transportation choices.
    Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.
  2. Promote equitable, affordable housing.
    Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.
  3. Enhance economic competitiveness.
    Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers as well as expanded business access to markets.
  4. Support existing communities.
    Target federal funding toward existing communities - through such strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling - to increase community revitalization, improve the efficiency of public works investments, and safeguard rural landscapes.
  5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment.
    Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.
  6. Value communities and neighborhoods.
    Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods - rural, urban or suburban.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Will The $44 Million Loop Trolley Project Bring $2.8 Billion of Investment to St. Louis?

 Today I received an email from the St. Louis Urban Corps regarding taking a poll about The Loop Trolley.  There was one question, and my answer was as follows:
"Will the St. Louis Trolley Project yield benefits for the city worthy of the $44 million price tag?"

I chose answer: "Yes, I believe it will."

The other answer choices were:  "No, I don't think it will." and "Not sure, but it's worth spending money to find out."

I derived my answer from what Portland experienced as a result of investing in a streetcar project for their city.  From the Portland Streetcar Concept Plan, the first 2.4 miles of the Portland Streetcar system was constructed at a cost of $55 million:

In Portland, in 2001, they opened the first 2.4 miles of their modern streetcar line.  By 2008, private developers had invested $3.5 billion within two blocks of the alignment, including over 10,000 new housing units and 5.4 million square feet of office, institutional, retail and hotel construction. [Portland Streetcar System Concept Plan, 1-1].  
 The Loop Trolley is different than the Portland system, because Portland's first alignment connected two employment centers:  Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Portland State University.  Obviously, The Loop Trolley is connecting leisure and entertainment centers:  Forest Park, the Missouri History Museum, and the Delmar Loop.  

Therefore, private money may not flow as fast along The initial Loop Trolley alignment.  Weekday ridership may be more attractive to private investors.  The Loop Trolley ridership may be elevated only on the weekends, and not during the weekdays.   

A few brave investor souls, however, may invest in developing office space and housing units along the initial Loop Trolley alignment, especially along the eastern section of Delmar Boulevard, past the Pageant to DeBaliviere.  Thereby, increasing ridership during the weekdays. 

Portland's initial investment of $55 million essentially appreciated 63.63% to $3.5 billion of investment along their streetcar alignment.  Can St. Louis realize an appreciation of $44 million to $2.8 billion?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Proposed Model for the future Loop Trolley

Memphis Streetcar

In July of 2009, the East-West Gateway Council, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, decided to move in a different direction than the vintage streetcar models stationed at the Missouri History Museum and on Delmar Boulevard in the Delmar Loop. 

The streetcar, above, can be fitted with ramps, operable by the streetcar operator, to allow for passengers with special needs to board the streetcars. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is the "Livability Initiative"?

What is Livability?

 "Livability is about tying the quality and location of transportation facilities to broader opportunities such as access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safe streets. This includes addressing safety and capacity issues on all roads through better planning and design, maximizing and expanding new technologies such as ITS and the use of quiet pavements, using Travel Demand Management approaches to system planning and operations, etc."

Congratulations, Loop Trolley!

"U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced nearly $25 million in federal funding for the St. Louis Loop Trolley Project on July 8. More than $400 million was awarded nationally through the federal Urban Circulator Program which is part of Obama administration's "Livability Initiative". The City of St. Louis is the sponsor on the project."