St. Louis was proud to announce the opening of the new “Cross County Connector” last year after going over budget and the scheduled completion date. I really saw no need to celebrate–despite being a passionate believer in mass-transit. Why? The route the Cross County Connector takes is so stupid and counterproductive as to be worthless. Take a look at a map of the extension; it literally makes a 90 degree turn and then heads back in almost the same direction as it was coming. Why? Because Metrolink takes the easy way out, whether for the original line or the future by following old railroad lines. But it saves money right? Sure it does, but it also causes Metrolink routes to follow old, incongruous freight lines instead of going where it should. Take Metrolink through the center of St. Louis some time and you’ll realize that it largely passes through railyards and industrial areas–not surprising since it follows old railroad tracks.
The most likely next expansion–which is needed–will probably be the North South Connector, linking downtown to North and South County. It will loop around downtown–another major mistake as can be seen in Baltimore’s light rail line down Howard Street. Expect long delays at red lights if Metrolink travels aboveground in downtown. Here’s a crazy idea–place Metrolink in a newly refurbished Tucker Blvd tunnel. You know, the one that is collapsing and has closed portions of one of the most important streets in downtown.
Take a look at the two branches here. It is a tale of two lines: the north branch logically follows a major commercial artery and consequently will provide a real alternative to driving. The south arm continues the sames mistakes of the past by following a circuitous route through south St. Louis, instead of simply going down Gravois, the most direct route.
We need better thinking at Metrolink.