I’m sure many (okay…most) would still opt to drive rather than take Metrolink to Downtown, Grand Center, CWE or points West, but the numbers at least show that there is a large traveling workforce to be courted. With stops in the neighborhoods and attractions listed above, the South Side line could easily turn into a sustainable and, dare I say it, successful Metrolink branch.
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So with the answer of “Why?” framed, the question then, is “How?”
My map shows nine sure-fire stops whose location fits one or more of the following criteria:
- taps directly into dense neighborhoods and communities.
- adjacent to or nearby popular attractions or public spaces.
- links to active streets with existing/future Metrobus service routes.
These stops are, from north to south: Forest Park Southeast, MoBot/The Hill, Tower Grove Park, Morganford, Gravois, Delor/Gustine, Carondelet Park at Grand, Loughborough Commons and Patch/River des Peres. Each of these stops represents a distinct piece of south St. Louis City and, for the most part, intersects with one or more main streets. [Note: In orange, I’ve also included potential ancillary stations at Northampton, Chippewa and Bates — but I doubt those would be warranted]
It’s interesting to see how perfectly this line caters to the neighborhoods and attractions which abut it. The existing freight lines have basically served as a boundary between neighborhoods in the past — and now they can be re-utilized as a seam that instead stitches them together!
By virtue of its industrial nature, there is ample space around this line for smart and effective Transit-Oriented Development. The Tower Grove Park stop, for instance — which I centered along Reber — has a wide swatch of open land adjacent to it, and is positioned so that it would lead directly into the park’s western entrance (Here, a case could also be made for locating the station stop along Arsenal or Southwest Ave, but I liked the symmetry — and open space — at Reber).
At the Delor stop near Gustine, the land to the east of the line could see heavy reinvestment and serve as a new entrance to the Dutchtown South neighborhood to the east and just a bit of a walk to go get some Ted Drewes on Grand.
And then, of course, you have Loughborough Commons — a sea of concrete anchored by a Schnucks and a Lowe’s, which will serve as a park-and-ride for all those South County commuters who always balk at a city-county train but will nevertheless ride this one.
By my count, there are 14 at-grade crossings, with the most notable located at Shaw (n. of Vandeventer), McRee, Delor, Gustine and Bates. Most of these crossings, however, are along poorly-maintained industrial roads or dead-end streets. In these cases, a simple black fence divider would do the trick. For the rest of the route, the line either goes below surface streets (Arsenel, Kingshighway at Daggett, Morganford, Loughbourough) or above (Chippewa, Gravois, Kingshighway n. of Fyler). Perfect.
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It really seems like the De Soto line offers the most practical and financially-sound solution to getting a line to St. Louis City’s southern tip (and beyond?!). It runs in an existing right-of-way, hits many of the great south side attractions and neighborhoods, better connects bus routes, encourages public transit among individuals and families, and would hopefully lead to some contextually-sensitive Transit-Oriented Development around the station stops.
It really is the definition of a no-brainer, and the obvious next step for the City of St. Louis and Metro St. Louis. Hopefully this plan will be the next big announcement as we further embrace alternative transportation in our region.