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Transit is a modal choice that can increase our transportation system's capacity and at the same time provide additional choices for travelers while furthering the region's progress towardscreating great streets. A highly-functioning transit system often solves many of the questions raised by the competing interests of vehicular roadways, pedestrian facilities and bicycle facilities.

Achieving the balance between mobility for pedestrians and vehicular traffic, access to adjacent land uses, and safety for all travelers requires thoughtful implementation of transit and a development plan that supports the use of MetroLink light-rail, MetroBus and the supporting modes of access to the transit system, such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities and Park-Ride lots.

Transit ridership is on the rise in the St. Louis region and across the country. The recent opening of the MetroLink Cross County extension and an increase in transit-oriented development points to a growing demand for transit services. Transit is an integral component of St. Louis' Great Streets.

St. Louis bus
Credit: Metro

MetroLink is the backbone of the St. Louis regional transit system. The Forest Park station acts as the hub of the MetroLink system, which extends east to downtown and Illinois, and west to Lambert International Airport.

The most recent extension line, known as the Cross County extension, runs from Forest Park west to Clayton, then south to Shrewsbury (see the MetroLink map for details).

The MetroBus service augments MetroLink with over # service miles per year throughout the region. It extends the reach of the light rail service into communities not located directly on the rail line.

Transit adds capacity to an arterial street system without widening the street itself. Bus service can reduce the number of single-occupancy passenger cars on the street, resulting in better vehicular operations overall. Current studies show that a full MetroLink train in St. Louis removes an average of 125 vehicles from the regional road network during rush hour; a full bus removes an average of 40 cars during rush hour. Increasing ridership on our light rail and bus system reduces congestion on our regional road network.

Transit benefitsDedicated bus lanes and/or Bus Rapid Transit should be considered in arterial corridors for long range person movement capacity. Transit measures such as these are especially effective in areas with high-density land uses that can produce stable and consistent ridership.

Arterial corridors with heavy through-traffic having destinations beyond a downtown area, for example, are also great examples of corridors that should consider placing a higher priority on bus lanes.

Not only does transit reduce congestion, but it yields a variety of other benefits as well:

Cars in St. Louis release approximately 247,000 pounds of pollution each day into the region's air. Fewer cars on the road translate into cleaner air for our region.

  • Traveling by MetroLink or the bus saves the average commuter about 200 gallons of gas a year. When you also consider 'wear and tear' costs and parking costs, the average commuter could save approximately $1,500 per year by taking transit.
  • There are also health benefits that can come from transit use. Traveling via transit usually requires a larger degree of walking between destinations and mode transfers. Such activity offers health benefits to counteract the sedentary office environments typical for the general work force. Studies have shown that our nation's population is increasingly plagued by obesity, a major health risk and economic burden on the healthcare system. Incorporating more daily activity via transit into the lives of busy working adults can be a simple measure to help combat this growing health problem.
  • Transit commuting can provide an opportunity for commuters to do things other than driving during their daily commutes. One need only take a ride during rush hour to see the multitude of activities in which commuters engage: reading, listening to iPOD's, sleeping, working on a laptop, or socializing with other passengers.
Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Credit: CH2M HILL

Transit-oriented development (TOD)is an ideal way to support both the public investment in transit infrastructure and the places surrounding transit stops.

TOD can occur in a variety of forms, from new construction in an undeveloped area to infill of existing land uses surrounding a new or existing transit stop.

This type ofdevelopment is often high-density, mixed-use, and provides a variety of services for both those using the transit facilities and those living in the nearby neighborhoods.

In addition, the development takes special consideration of design elements that support transit, such as a high level of pedestrian and bicycle access and amenities. A variety of such development is happening along the St. Louis transit system.

The relationship between transit and adjacent land use is a powerful one and when planned appropriately, supports transit ridership and economic development simultaneously. Great Streets with transit-oriented development are the building blocks of great neighborhoods, and great cities. See the Choices & Guidelines section of this guidefor more information on the various design elements that contribute to Great Streets.

The presence of any form of transit increases the presence of pedestrians. Providing safe, efficient, and attractive accommodations for pedestrians waiting at transit stops, transferring between modes, and walking between adjacent land uses and transit services is a vital design element in promoting transit as a desirable modal choice.

Key points to remember when designing streets to promote transit use:

  • Provide good pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between transit stops, along the street and nearby neighborhoods. Continuous sidewalks, bike lanes, and ADA provisions are vital. Pedestrian crossings need to include appropriate signals, signage and lighting.
  • Secure, visible bicycle parking at transit stops can encourage users from greater distances to choose transit for commuting, errands, and other general purpose trips. Front end bicycle racks on buses, like those provided on most MetroBus, should be highlighted.
  • The movement of transit users as they transfer between bus and light rail should be anticipated and accommodated to facilitate safe and efficient movement. MetroLink transit stations are often located below or above street level. Safe pedestrian crossings within close proximity are important to discourage jay-walking. Jay-walking can be a particular problem for passengers transferring between modes. Increasing light-rail and bus frequency at key times and locations can also alleviate this pattern. When pedestrians know that the next bus is only a few minutes away, they are less likely to make the "mad dash" to catch a bus about to depart.
  • Clear, concise signing is very important in directing pedestrians to, from, and between transit modes. Signing facilitates the use of crosswalks, pedestrian signals, bus shelters, and other various passenger amenities by informing user how to access those amenities.
  • Bus drivers and train conductors can help to inform passengers of transfer options and how to access them. This greatly enhances the flow of passengers as well as the user experience.
  • Pedestrian-scale lighting is necessary for visibility and security. Pedestrians will be reluctant to rely on transit after dusk if sufficient lighting is not provided.