I used to say, 'Blame Jefferson City for our bad transit system,' but that was before I got off the bus this morning at 14th and Spruce. The 14th Street transfer center was always somewhat of a joke; it's nothing more than a glorified turn-around stuck on a spare piece of ground next to a Metrolink station whose only point of merit is its adjacency to the Train/Bus Depot. This transfer center is totally underdeveloped even for the traffic it saw prior to the down-scaling of the bus system. Worse, it lacks any access to services such as a coffee shop, newsstand, or confectionary. I suppose some of these services exist in the depot, but what good is that to the commuter who now has to wait up to thirty minutes on a narrow strip of pavement stuck between a highway and its on-ramps.
All service east of 14th Street has been eliminated, and I'm baffled at how this could possibly save Metro any money. Buses that travel Broadway now make a detour to 14th Street to serve the Civic Center Station instead of continuing in a direct path that would take them to the Convention Center Station, adding time to the route and burning gas that needn't be burned. More critically, though, this removes service from the densest area of ridership without any logical justification.
At first, I thought Metro wanted to send a message to businesses that they need to push for better transit, but the sheer disaster of the 14th Street transfer center has me thinking otherwise. Nearly every bus that travels in the city of St. Louis converges on this grossly inadequate spot, where the sidewalks are two narrow for two people to pass, where pedestrian access crosses a highway on-ramp, and where there is absolutely no opportunity for commercial development to take advantage of the presence of so many pedestrians. It takes pedestrians away from a dense area with abundant opportunity for commercial development [not that the city's administration or downtown's property owners are smart enough to take advantage of their captive population of consumers].
This morning, as two other buses were discharging passengers to the same sidewalk, a bus driver was struggling to figure out to extend his wheel chair lift. Meanwhile, the man in the wheel chair was struggling to figure out how to maneuver onto a lift that extend most of the way across the four-foot wide sidewalk, between a cluster of bus shelters and a retaining wall that left him no room to move. Any reasonably intelligent person should have been able to look at the bus schedules, then look at the 14th Street transfer center and realize that this is an extremely stupid idea.
The only possible explanation that remains is that Metro is blackmailing the cash-strapped city for an increased transit allotment.
This isn't the city's responsibility. It's the state's and the federal government's. These are the entities that initiated the poor planning and development policies that made public transportation subsidy-dependent, so these are the entities that should be paying for public transportation.
If anybody from Metro is reading this: GIVE IT UP! Give up the asinine transfer centers, and give up your childish ploys to force subsidies.
St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills 76-90
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