Posts Tagged ‘Transit’

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Modern Streetcars could be coming to Downtown Kansas City

August 23, 2011

Today, while randomly exploring Kansas City, I walked into Union Station during a Open House event featuring a modern trolley that KC leaders would like to see downtown by 2015.  The model on display, courtesy of Kinkisharyo, was a new ameriTRAM designed specifically for American cities wishing to bring back streetcars.

ameriTRAM on Display in Kansas City, MO

Its bragging points include a 100 percent low floor and an “e-hybrid” system designed to run on overhead power or lithium-ion batteries for up to five miles.  Even while operating on batteries it has several security cameras, wireless internet, and lcd information screens.   The light weight cars will not necessitate bridge replacement on the proposed routes through downtown Kansas City, and will help to lower the cost of laying track.  Because the plans include only routes that are around two miles long, overhead wires are unnecessary, eliminating not only a possible eyesore but also the associated expenses.

Map of Proposed Streetcar Routes in Downtown Kansas City

Coincidentally, the length of the Loop Trolley in St. Louis is approximately two miles long as well.  Could our local streetcar project use the ameriTRAM?  Could completely eliminating overhead power help lower the price tag?  One of the first things that this blog did was come out against the Loop Trolley project.  I still don’t think that this particular implementation is a great addition to our transit system because it does little more than duplicate the coverage of the Metrolink and the 97 Delmar Bus.  Other critics have argued that it just connects Blueberry Hill to the Pagent.  If the project is perceived as a failure, it could help prevent new investment in more substantial public transit infrastructure in the future.  On the other hand, streetcars are awesome, and the potential for this project to spur expansions is too exciting to ignore.  To best take advantage of this opportunity, we must make sure that the Loop Streetcar is effective and well received.  One easy and substantive way to make this project more legitimate is to use cutting edge technology – the latest modern streetcars.  In my opinion, a sleek, modern and attractive streetcar will be even more enticing to the curious pedestrian or motorist than a replica of a historic trolley.  I think it’s an option worth considering.  The advantages are considerable.

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Light Rail in Denver and Salt Lake City

September 5, 2010

I recently spent some time in both Denver and Salt Lake City, both places that have many examples of urban planning successes and failures that serve as great learning experiences.  Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Salt Lake’s “The Gateway” and City Creek Center developments represent large downtown projects worthy of serious study.  One thing that all three of these developments have in common is the fact that they are served by light rail that runs on city streets.  Both light rail systems are also very similar to ours in St. Louis (we use Siemens SD-400 and SD-460, while Denver and Salt Lake both use the SD-100 and SD-160).  The main difference between St. Louis’ Metrolink and TheRide in Denver/UTA Trax in Salt Lake City is the height of the platforms and the lack of a dedicated right of way (at least in the center city).  Because the platforms are basically just the sidewalks in Denver or sidewalk-like medians in Salt Lake, entering the train requires walking up steps (like getting onto the bus).  To accommodate people with disabilities or parents with strollers, etc.,  both systems have ramps leading up to elevated platforms at the front of each train.

18th and California Station - Denver, Colorado

The elevated section of the platform can be seen towards the back of the above photo.  Below is a picture of a UTA Trax Train approaching a platform, with the accessible section towards the lower right of the photo.

UTA Trax Train in Downtown Salt Lake City

A view from the platform itself provides a better idea of how this raised section really works.

UTA Trax Accessible Train Entry

Seeing this system firsthand was a really good experience for me, because it served as confirmation that a new  Metrolink lines could run right down the middle (or edges) of our excessively wide avenues in St. Louis.  In particular, the new North-South line could run through downtown on Tucker (12th Street) and extend South along Gravois (which Tucker turns into) and North along N. Florissant (which Tucker also turns into).  On the North side, the line could make a Westward turn onto Natural Bridge from N. Florissant to provide a more central route.  Because Tucker is currently being torn up and replaced just North of Downtown, this would be a great place (and time) to begin the project.  The route could connect to the existing Metrolink line with a Viaduct stop similar to the Grand Station, or riders could simply walk the two blocks to 14th street or the 4 blocks to 8th street to change lines.  Maybe it could be the Green Line!

Possible Future Metrolink Map?

I know this idea is not by any means new, and a similar route is what most of us have been hoping we’ll get in the near future (particularly since the passage of Prop A), but I really think that this line on existing city streets would be most affordable, and would have the potential to do the most good.  Extending Metrolink along Highway 55 is silly to me, because the areas around the highway are not pedestrian friendly.  Gravois could really use some pedestrian activity to activate businesses that already exist and create a demand for more businesses along this street which essentially serves as a high speed thruway.   The addition of light rail to this corridor will also reduce the auto traffic.

On the North side this line would serve as a much needed catalyst to spur development along the largely abandoned shoulders of N. Florissant (many of which are clean slates for new construction) and would also connect the steadily improving Old North St. Louis neighborhood with Downtown.  Although Buses will remain the centerpiece of our regional transportation system, expanding our light rail increases the visibility of transit, the likelihood that it will be used, and that the neighborhoods it serves will be explored.

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Bus Stops In Philadelphia

April 29, 2010

I am currently in Philadelphia for my very first time and am discovering how wonderful this city is.  So far, one of my favorite features of the city is its varied collection of Bus Stops.

A Bus Stop in Philly

Some stops are very visually appealing with beautiful colors and designs making a bus commute much more attractive (literally!).

Ornate Modern Bus Shelter in Philadelphia

In addition to being visually appealing (and providing shelter), Philadelphia’s bus stops also offer history lessons.  Each bus shelter includes a photograph of its location at some point in the past, along with a few paragraphs discussing the significance of the block at that time.

Great Information in a Great Place - On a Bus Shelter

St. Louis has such an incredible history that a similar program (which would likely be fairly easy/cheap to carry out now that Metro is looking pretty stable – I’d volunteer to help!) could really boost civic pride and even provide a new reason to ride the bus.

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City Sound Tracks

March 24, 2010

This Saturday is a great time to use Metro.  Union Station and Tom’s Bar and Grill near the Central West End station will both be hosting all day concerts featuring a long list of performers in an event called City Sound Tracks.  I will unfortunately be out of town but encourage everyone to attend this event to show support for transit, local music, and the homeless (the event is sponsored by What’s Up Magazine).  Learn more on the event’s facebook page.

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Vote Yes on Prop A April 6th!

March 16, 2010

Today I spent some time at the Brentwood Metrolink Station.  I was shocked by the large number of people who were both registered voters in St. Louis County and direct consumers of transit, but were unaware that Prop A is on the ballot.  Luckily I had some great conversations with Metro riders and hopefully convinced a few extra people to make it out to the polls.

Metrolink in Clayton

Due to my very positive experience today, I would like to encourage everyone who uses transit and is a proponent of Prop A, to start conversations about it.  Transit users have great motivation to vote on April 6th, but they will not make it to the polls if they are unaware of what is going on.  We need every vote we can get so take Metro to the County and start a conversation!

UPDATE:

An excellent editorial and cartoon appeared in today’s Post-Dispatch (Sunday March 21st) on the subject of Prop A.  I highly recommend giving this a read and spreading the word.

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