Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Loughborough and Gravois

I noticed the old plumber's supply building and 7-11 appear to be undergoing some interior work. Let's hope for the best. Anyone know what's going on?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Metro Service Cuts

Now that I'm actually using Metro, I am becoming more interested and aware of it's issues. When it comes to voting for tax increases to fund public transportation, I'm a ho. It's kind of like funding for libraries, park service, fire trucks, more just seems like the right thing to do. I can't vote no, even though I consider myself fiscally conservative.

Anyhow, Metro employees were handing out pamphlets at the various Metrolink platforms to inform users of the service cuts in light of Prop M failing. Let me make this clear: St. Louis could not vote on this! St. Louis county voted this down. It's fair to say that the county has no faith or need for it's public transportation system. St. Louis does and that's a major divide for our region.

Rant over. So what info was in the pamphlet? Who loses service? Does the county suburbs/exurbs loose (rightfully so)? Or, does St. Louis suffer as well?

Here are my opinions on 2 key points in the pamphlet they handed out.

From Metro (effective March 30, 2009):

"We sincerely regret the negative impact that these changes will have on you and the entire region. We will continue to seek funding necessary to restore service as soon as possible."--Mark says: thanks a lot sprawlers!

"MetroBus service in Illinois is not affected because St. Clair County Transit purchases service from Metro and pays for the routes and frequency they choose. Currently, St. Clair County Transit plans no bus service reductions."--Mark says: maybe St. Louis county should take this approach....fee for service....then St. Louis could focus on expanding it's services to the people that want and use buses/trains/shuttles. And St. Louis counties 91 cities could pick and choose the service they want on a city by city, route by route fashion.

Metro Epiphany

So I was lucky enough to make a transfer in my company to a place much closer to the city. My progressive employer is generous enough to run shuttle buses from it's west county campus to the Clayton Metrolink stop. I am overjoyed with the service I've experienced in the month I've been using public transport.

  • clean as a whistle
  • bounty of parking spaces at Shrewsbury Metrolink stop
  • lots of other riders = safe environment
  • amazingly on-time
  • nice people
  • nice metro employees
Regarding nice metro employees, I witnessed one "ticket checker/station attendant" come onto the train right as it was departing to ask everyone how their morning was going. He proceeded to wish us a good day and let everyone know that he won't be around the next couple of days because he was taking some time off to visit with his Grandma. He smiled and said, "see you good people on Monday". Many on the train had a smile. I know that's kinda hokie, but it was sweet. It was something that separates St. Louis from the short times I've spent in Boston, Chicago and New York riding their public transport. In STL, you get a more personal touch. In STL, you are part of a club if you use public transport.

Regarding nice people: I can't help but overhear some conversations. One day, Metro was handing out the revised service routes due to the Prop. M ballot measure that failed in St. Louis County. Many riders were bitching at "the County" in general for voting down the Metro funding. It was interesting to hear many inner suburb residents and riders dissing the outer reaches of St. Louis county as public transit haters. It just goes to show there is very little solidarity amongst municipalities in the burbs. Unfortunately, St. Louis suffers as a result of this.

Anyhow, I am ashamed to say that I have lived in St. Louis for 14 years and have never ridden a Metro bus. Once I-64 reopens, my company will be discontinuing it's shuttle service from the Clayton Metrolink. I will consider my bus options to hook up from the Clayton stop to the place of work. It's a little daunting to try the bus, though. I know it's naive, but how do you pay? How do you stop the bus? These are all rookie questions that I hope to answer in the near future.

Baby Steps Toward A Simpler Life

The goal is to walk more and be less car centric and dependent. To truly enjoy the urban experience is too become independent of the suburban strip mall, parking lot, drive thru ways.

I have been making baby steps one by one that is getting closer and closer to my goal of having 1 car payment, eventually one car and a much lower petrol bill. I believe this goal is possible while living in St. Louis.

I started by purchasing a 49cc scooter. It was my first foray into 2 wheeled motorized vehicles, so it was a good learning experience. I rode this thing all over the city running errands and occasionally, to and from my job in Chesterfield which was a long ride.

Word starting getting out that some suburban municipality's police started hassling 49cc scooters by pulling them over and in some casing issuing tickets. Crestwood and Chesterfield were mentioned as having local laws that overreach the states rules on 49cc scooters. Mainly, if you ride a 49cc scooter, it does not need to be licensed, insured, nor do you need a helmet (by law). Now, I'd never ride without a helmet, but the idea of having a scooter as economical transit was highly appealing. The hassle of registering, inspecting, insuring a scooter just didn't make sense to me at the time. However, when hearing the the police were going to make it their business to pull over scooters, I thought I had better consider my options.
I decided to play by the rules. But if I am going to go the extra mile by registering/insuring a scooter, it will be a bigger one that goes 40 mph up a steep hill. I bought a used 125cc Yamaha Vino from a gentleman in Clayton. So now I'm legal in the suburbs and the city! The Yamaha get ~65 mpg on the gas, so it's very economical, and a blast to ride. It can ride 2 people and it has been very low maintenance.

However, the scooter does not work for year-round transportation for me. I don't enjoy riding in the winter months. It's dangerous and very, very cold. That being said, I now have the perfect, highly efficient, fun transit option for short trips and to/from work from mid spring through mid autumn.

Next step was to consider my career options closer to the city. I really like the company I work for, so a transfer from the exurbs to the suburbs was an option that I closely considered. I was lucky enough to make a job change the got me much closer to the city.

My new commute allowed me to shave off 24.48 miles per day! That is a big step for me. Another peripheral benefit is that Metro options opened up greatly. It's virtually impossible to get from St. Louis to Chesterfield using Metro. However, Olivette/Creve Coeur is much more Metro-friendly.

My progressive company has agreed to run a free shuttle bus service from the Clayton Metrolink stop to the company campus during the I-64 shut down. They also pay for a monthly Metro pass. This was an offer I couldn't refuse.

I was now able to trim my car commute down to 10 miles per day. That's another big decrease! Thanks company, thanks Metro! I now drive from the hacienda to the Shrewsbury stop. An 11 minute ride on the train to the Clayton stop, then a shuttle from the Clayton stop to the front door of my work place. Awesome! Relaxing, safer, more economical, responsible, etc. I am in hog's heaven. It only adds 12 minutes (on average) to my commute time when I was driving.

The next step is reducing petrol is warmer weather when I can ride the Vino to and from the Metro stop.

I plan to do a post on my Metro experiences shortly. All things considered, I think it's easy to get caught in the oil rut and routine. Feeling trapped by the convenience of your personal auto can be overwhelming. It took me some risk taking and stepping out of my comfort zone to reach out to job changes, public transportation, and scooters as option to a long ass commute. The end result (wife verifies) is a much more stress free life. Getting to and from work is becoming fun and one of the most relaxing parts of my day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another news station moves out of St. Louis

KTVI Fox 2 had a farewell program running on prime time last night. It was titled farewell to Berthold or something like that. Farewell to Berthold? Berthold is the street their studio is on. How about calling a spade a spade and say "farewell to St. Louis". They are moving to Maryland Heights, MO. Channel 11 used to be in St. Louis too, they've moved to more suburban pastures as well.

On one hand I am sad to see them go. I like having the news stations in the city they represent, not some far away tiny town in the burbs.

But on the other hand, I'll never have to see Tim Ezel on Hampton ever again. Silver lining indeed.