Updated: Jan 6, 2019
While we await the final reports, plan and construction of the more than $667 Million Northside-Southside MetroLink line, it has been brought to my attention that a cheaper, faster, cleaner and more innovative alternative is in the works in cities across America. The concept is known as Transit X and the first pilot line could be ready in 2020 in the area surrounding Atlanta, Georgia. But for St. Louis, a preliminary proposal plan has been created by Transit X and has been shared with me and, quite frankly, seems pretty interesting.
I know what so many of you are thinking, "This will never happen because it is an entirely new concept" and some may even be thinking, "The MetroLink is fine as it is and an expansion is on the way". Say what you will about MetroLink but it requires a hefty amount of public money to get it done, and while it connects neighborhood to neighborhood and so forth, it also brings noise and a current system serving the same route from Forest Park Debaliviere station and on. While the Northside-Southside line will attempt to connect neighborhoods on the North and South sides, it still won't reach into other highly populated areas of the county or city without hundreds of millions of extra dollars (public and private) to make it a reality. MetroLink is a great asset but something that needs to eb looked at from a financial perspective moving forward. But enough of me talking about MetroLink, let me talk about Transit X.
It is easier for me to list the reasons why Transit X is better for St. Louis overall than MetroLink as the future comes racing towards us. I compiled a list of reasons which can be found below the rendering of the Transit X Pod System in Downtown Boston, the city where this is based.
First point: No public money is required to be poured into Transit X. It is a concept that is entirely paid for utilizing private capital by the company itself. So to special tax districts, sales taxes or any of that. It pays for itself.
Second point: It's green and clean. Transit X will run off of solar panels which not only reduces it's carbon footprint but also means that it won't tap into the local energy grid to power it which means no increase in power consumption.
Third point: It's elevated. The current MetroLink lines utilize their own Right of Way (RoW) for speed and consistency. The new Northside-Southside line will utilize street running rail which, if a RoW isn't utilized, will mean these will operate at a slower pace. Transit X will be elevated and run on a RoW in the sky.
Fourth point: It's quiet. Due to it running as an electrical system, it will be really quiet and the fact that both the rail and pod are super light weight makes for an even quieter ride and a quiet integration into a downtown or residential neighborhood.
Fifth point: It's fast. With a top running speed in normal areas of 45MPH, you'll get to your destination faster. Along interstates and other highways, speeds can reach over 120MPH. You'll also run express past the 360 stations as you don't pick up anyone unless you are stopping at a station.
Sixth point: It's cheap (both to ride and build). The Northside-Southside MetroLink line will cost $667 Million to build a roundtrip fixed route total of 16.4 miles of track ($40.7 Million per mile) with 16 stations. Transit X line will cost $319 Million for a 54 mile fixed route ($6 Million per mile) with 360 stations. That 54 mile route is Phase 1 by the way. Fares are expected to be on par with Metro's, which are already fairly cheap.
Seventh point: No maintenance yard or parking garages/lots will be required for this as the pods can be stored on dedicated sidings and a majority of the stations will be within a 5 minute walk for about 15% of the region's population.
Eighth Point: Revenue returned to the city and other municipalities. Because the system would have to practically rent out public property for the RoW supports, Transit X would have to be a yearly rent. For St. Louis, that is estimated to be nearly $30 Million sent back to the region and can be used for other improvements along the way.
Ninth point: Neighborhood improvements. In some neighborhoods, power lines are unsightly so, according to Transit X, power lines can be embedded in the track to make neighborhoods look nice. The system will also promote more development near the stops.
As you can see in the points above, the good outweighs the bad here and even the map of their route here is interesting as it connects The Airport, North County and City to Downtown and South St. Louis, at what appears Gravois and Hampton, to Downtown and the Airport. There will also be a major transit center connection in Downtown where users can transfer to the normal MetroLink, but a separate fare would have to bought unless a deal were to be reached with Metro.
Some of the pods used will be able to seat a wheelchair, a single person, 4 people and even transport freight throughout the region where the system reaches. The pods are compact and really light weight according to Transit X. They are also autonomous. It really is an innovative way of doing things. Not only will you get to your destination faster, but you'll avoid the traffic headaches and other problems that you come across while driving.
Will This Happen?
I'm unsure if it will or not. Quite frankly, it needs to be talked about around St. Louis so elected officials can support a land lease when it comes down to it. In the end, it ultimately depends on if the community supports it and a full plan is specified. For example, if people get serious about supporting this project and even the local governments support it this year (2019) and into next year (2020), we could have this thing up and running by Late 2021. Personally, I see no problem with the governments supporting it. The good outweighs the bad and the city and municipalities will be making money in the process. Neighbors, who will live right along the lines, also may support it as it is quiet and doesn't cause a headache at the street level.
I encourage everyone to read more into this project and visit their website (which is linked below. Also included is WSB-TV Channel 2 Atlanta's story on the project. That story has a video.