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Commentary: Market Highlights Possibilities Around MetroLink

St. Louis Public Radio

What better way to show potential development in an area than to actually have that development “pop-up” for all to see. That was Citizens for Modern Transit’s idea when it launched the Metro Market at the finish line celebration of CMT’s Great Race on May 8 at the Shrewsbury-Lansdowne MetroLink Station.

Dining? Shopping? Entertainment? A sea of cars? What kind of development would be attractive to current and new transit riders at the stations? Citizens for Modern Transit has worked to help the region understand the benefits of building livable, walkable communities near light rail. Our efforts include a national lecture series, the creation of form-based overlay zoning, station area studies, real estate spec sheets for each of the 37 stations and a policy brief on strategies for development in a slow growth market around transit. Additionally, the organization recently led a study to add a potential new station to the MetroLink alignment to spur development. 

The best next step would be to put the development idea into action. The Metro Market served as a live visioning session showcasing what could be in terms of shopping, eateries and entertainment at this, and other MetroLink stations, if the community invested in transit-oriented development.

Hundreds of individuals passed through the Metro Market shopping, dining, and enjoying the food trucks, MySci Investigation Station, a boutique truck, a farmer’s market, live music and more. The station is located at the border between the city and St. Louis County and serves an inner-ring suburban area with a mixed development pattern.

“This is exactly the type of destination I would like to see along the MetroLink. We would love to have more places to go like this by using transit and biking. I have three small children. We need a mix of opportunities, which are family friendly. Right now we are five minutes from this station but only come here to board the train to go somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be great to make this station and others destinations in themselves?” said Carrie Jokerst, an Affton resident.

“I want to see grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, entertainment at as many stations as possible! I am a grad student at Washington University without a car, and I rely on transit every day to get around. The more we can build up around our stations, the more opportunities for people to use transit, to build synergy between stations and neighborhoods and the more chances to gather support for more transit,” said Lisa Cagle, a St. Louis resident and a daily user of transit.

One attendee stressed the need for elected officials to get on board more with public transit and support development around the stations. Whether through policy or zoning change, she said, tools need to be in place to ensure good development can happen. The station, MetroBus transfer loop and the 800-space park-ride lot occupy this 12.8 acre parcel owned by Metro. There are eight connecting MetroBus routes increasing accessibility into the communities significantly. Metro has indicated there are opportunities for ground lease and air rights available for the development community. 

Whether for work or play, the Metro Market provided CMT the opportunity to meet with constituents through a live visioning session on the possibilities around the light rail system. Transit riders are a built-in market at stations where they get on or off trains one to two times daily. One overarching theme we heard was that destination stations are much more appealing to St. Louisans than a sea of parking. Once we think outside the ‘box’ around transit, the possibilities are endless.

Kim Cella is executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.