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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 towards creating great streets. An effective transit system often solves many of the issues raised by the competing interests of vehicular roadways, pedestrian facilities and bicycle facilities.

Transit network refers to the comprehensive function of a transit system that considers the role each type of transit corridor plays in the larger structure. Much like functional classification, transit networks can be thought to consist of transit corridors that operate as arterial, collector and local roadways. In St. Louis, MetroLink is considered a transit arterial, as are bus routes with the highest passenger volumes and frequencies. They carry transit passengers the most efficiently and often serve the denser commercial and mixed-use areas. Collector transit routes are those routes serving secondary arterials, or collectors, and often connecting with the MetroLink system.

There are also local bus routes, with frequent stops and less frequent service that may deliver transit passengers to less dense residential areas, for example. Achieving the balance between safety and mobility for all modes and access to adjacent land uses 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.

St. Louis bus
Credit: Metro

MetroLink is the backbone of the St. Louis regional transit system. The Forest Park station is a major junction in 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 complements the MetroLink system by providing improved access to light-rail and serving areas not located along the MetroLink network.

Transit adds capacity to a 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 benefits Dedicated bus lanes and/or Bus Rapid Transit could be considered in arterial corridors for long range person movement capacity. Transit measures such as these are especially effective in areas with relatively 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 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 iPods, sleeping, working on a laptop, or socializing with other passengers.

Transit Planning in Mixed-Use Districts

Transit oriented development (TOD)
Credit: CH2M HILL

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of mixed-use district and 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 of development is often moderate to 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 guide for 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.

Design all streets for transit.Transit routes change over time and it is important to recognize that although a street may not be served by transit at the time of (re)development, it may become a transit route in the future, particularly if the (re)development includes an increase in density of either commerical or residential uses.

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. Bicycles are allowed on Metrorail,
  • The movement of transit users as they transfer between bus and light rail should be anticipated and accommodated to facilitate safe and efficient movement. Some MetroLink transit stations are 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 the next bus is due in just a few minutes, pedestrians are less likely to make the "mad dash." There are, however, many factors to consider before increasing transit frequency including demand, vehicle supply, budgetary constraints and facility capacity.
  • 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. Sufficient lighting for pedestrian safety is key if they are to rely on transit after dusk.