KC Light Rail

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Car-Free & Carefree, Part 3: MetroLink

By Joe Medley

As I said before, sometimes the world can be downright hostile to pedestrians. The St. Louis Amtrak station turned out to be isolated. I debarked to find no MetroLink station and no bus stop. What was worse, the Amtrak station was in middle of a construction zone with no pavement and no sidewalks on the street near the station. Yet there were plenty of cab drivers willing to take my money. Fortunately, an Amtrak employee told me that the MetroLink line was less than a block away.

Unlike Kansas City buses, the St. Louis MetroLink uses off-vehicle ticketing. The vending machine in the photo above sells MetroLink passes for varying amounts of time. It even sells multiple tickets in a single transaction. The strange thing is, to get on the MetroLink, I didn't need to show my pass to anyone or pass it through any kind of reader. It didn't look like anyone else did either. I suspect St. Louis is getting the short end of the stick on this.

The boarding platform of a typical station is shown above. Trains are identified by the place where they terminate. To navigate, I locate my destination on the schematic map. I scan along the route line until I find a red or blue termination flag. That flag tells me which train to board. Then I wait for the train labeled with that termination point. For example, lets say I wanted to go from Civic Center to Wellston. The map shows that Wellston is on the line that terminates at Lambert Airport, so I would board the train labeled “Lambert Airport.” On the other hand, if I wanted to go to Grand, I could get on either the “Lambert Airport” train or the Shrewsbury train because both pass through Grand before they diverge at Forest Park. This probably sounds more complicated than it is. The good news is that when Kansas City gets light rail, this will be easier for area residents because we know our own geography.

In case you still thought it was an open question, yes, light rail lines can go around sharp corners, as the picture above shows. It's hard to see in the photograph, but this looked like a 90-degree turn to me. The caveat is that a train cannot take this very fast or it will jump the tracks. It's not a problem here because this bend is right next to a station where a the train has to stop anyway.

4 Comments so far

  1. Adron April 6th, 2008 2:10 am

    People think light rail can’t go around turns? In Portland we have them going down our rather tight short blocks (200ft vs. a traditional 400+ft for most cities). They turn from small 2 lane streets to other 2 lane streets without problem. Sure, they go kinda slow, but if you arent’ driving a nice Miata, Subaru STi, or something of that nature you’re going to be turning just as slow in a car.

    But I find it funny you mention that, because the turns above are nothing if not gradual for a light rail system.

  2. Jim July 4th, 2008 11:33 am

    St. Louis MetroLink doesn’t have any turnstiles to go through with your ticket, but guards inspect on trains frequently, and if they find anybody without a validated ticket riding on the train, they either arrest the violator or fine them with a big fine.

  3. Jim July 4th, 2008 11:38 am

    The guards arrest people based on how many times they’ve violated. If it’s a first time offense, they may just give the violator a fine. If it’s a repeated offense, the offender may get put in jail. I personally would much rather just pay $2.00 for a pass than get fined over $100 or go to jail. I know for a fact that there are people out there who like to push their luck, but they always get caught eventually! >:)

  4. Jim July 21st, 2008 8:56 pm

    Do you remember if the Ticket Vendors sold day passes?

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