Monday, August 30, 2010

Metro Bus Restoration Is Here-Is Everybody Ready? Metro May Not Be

St. Louis Metro Transit Missouri System Map 08 30 2010
 St. Louis' Metro mass transit agency will roll out the final phase of bus service restoration since the passage of Proposition A, a sales tax increase to fund the agency, today.  The service restoration will bring bus service to thousands who lost it after the disastrous mishandled campaign and defeat of a much needed tax increase in 2008. It will also make getting around on the bus more difficult for some, as Metro had to make some hard decisions as to what changes would serve the most people the best.

 I've written much in the last few weeks about the challenges facing Metro and the immense number of hurdles they face in getting service restored today.  They have accelerated their original service restoration schedule and added more routes than even they thought they could have up and running by now.  Of course, that means they have issues of scale to deal with.  Not enough buses, not enough drivers who are fully trained, and a less than stellar promotional effort all are potential problems the agency must face and fix in order to make the transit restoration work the way the Metro brass wants it to.

I'll spare you the details, as you can find them elsewhere on my main blog, Mark Edwards Uncensored.  But as Metro has been ramping up for the restoration of service today, I've personally experienced reckless driving, new operators getting lost while transporting passengers, and drivers speeding 10 to 15 miles above the speed limit on a winding St. Louis County road on numerous occasions.  None of that bodes well for an efficient or pleasurable customer experience.

Metro has spent considerable time and effort educating its current users to the changes, but has done only a marginal (and I think that's generous) job of  informing people who DON'T use their system that there will be all this new service.  They've put up a few billboards that simply say GET ON BOARD, but doesn't even say something like "New Service Starts August 30".  They could have taken the billboard money and put a Mylar balloon on EVERY  bus stop sign that is on a new or changed route and gotten the attention of riders AND non-riders that a bus would be available for them to ride.  The agency's outreach to those who are not their customers already or who have a negative feeling about Metro was simply dismal. 

Metro COO Ray Friem said in a recent chat that the agency was some fifty buses short of what they need to operate and that they are aware of the problems with all the new operators they have hired.

Regarding the safety of our bus operators... we are very selective in those we accept into training. Then we put the potential operators through a rigorous training period. Included are defensive driving and customers service. All operators must obtain a commercial drivers license issued by the State and must pass written and on-the-road tests. We continue to monitor and supervise all operators. The new drivers may not be able to give you all the Metro system information immediately. That will take some days/weeks/months of on the job training.
Metro's own blog NextStopSTL wisely acknowledges that there might be problems as the transit restoration kicks in today.

What to do if you get lost or miss a connection?

Even with careful planning, there is always a chance you could get lost or miss a connection and need to figure out what to do next.  Here are some options to help you find your way.

1. Customer service. The Metro Customer Service line will be open as usual from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Missouri: 314-231-2345
TTY: 314-982-1555
2.  Email transit information questions to
3.  Via Twitter use “@STLMetro” with your question. We will be available with a Google Maps app and transit information to help Twitter users.
4.  Locate a Transit Service Manager throughout the system. TSMs and other available personnel will be out Monday to help customers.  TSMs wear yellow Metro polo shirts, and Metro ambassadors have white Metro polo shirts.
Also, please help one another.  If you find someone on your bus who is confused or needs some help, please consider reaching out and lending a hand.  You may just make someone’s day.
Please don't get me wrong.  I'm happy that the new schedule is now in effect.  I personally will benefit from the schedule, with the bus I take to work coming almost a mile closer to my home than it did before.  I'll have a bus that actually passes my office for the first time in two years, and that's a good thing as well.    But again Metro has failed to adequately prepare for the service changes and has done their usual amateurish half-baked effort to let the masses know what is going to be happening starting today.

I hope the buses are full, drivers don't get lost, nobody gets hurt, and the system, partially changed to make transfers easier as long as the buses are running on schedule, runs somewhere close to the schedules Metro's very devoted Planning Department has issued.

But I'm a realist, and this is Metro we're talking about.  Be ready for anything today.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In-N-Out Burger by Terry Richardson | FOODBEAST - Because we're hungry.

The colors in this photo really give a definition to why In-N-Out is so incredible. Terry Richardson, one of my favorite photographers known for his obscure random fashion photos, shot this. Not much needs to be said about this picture, so how about you just continue to drool. (Thx Wallychamp)

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Oh man, its a good thing there are no In-N-Out's in St. Louis. But I will be out West soon to find you, you fast food fantasy. Oh yes...

Posted via email from Mark Edwards 3.0

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FOLLOW UP 2-The Kiosk Of Shame

In an earlier blog post and chat from last week, the CEO of Metro mentioned he would remove the unsafe and embarrassing computer kiosk at the Ballas Transfer Center. Look what I found at 7:15PM on Tuesday, August 24. The SAME decrepit terminal. Right where it was when Ray Friem said it would be removed. Nice to know Metro keeps its promises.

Monday, August 23, 2010

FOLLOW UP: Buses Still Might Not Be Safe, But Metro Makes Brilliant Choice For New CEO

Well Well Well

This just in from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and

Metro taps Chesterfield Mayor John Nations as new chief

BY DAVID HUNN > > 314-436-2239 | Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 6:59 pm

Chesterfield Mayor John Nations has been tapped to head Metro, the taxpayer-funded regional bus and light rail agency, according to several close to the decision.

He will be announced at a press conference tomorrow morning.

Nations is a partner at the law firm Armstrong Teasdale, with an expertise in city planning and land use regulations. But he also just finished leading the successful campaign to pass the half-cent transit sales tax in St. Louis County, which is expected to generate $75 million a year and restore services cut more than a year ago. Without the funding, the region may well have faced a transit meltdown.

Nations did not return a phone call seeking comment. It is not clear who else was a finalist.

This is not the first time Metro leaders have reached outside of the agency, or even outside of the field, to choose their chief.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Metro picked Robert Baer, a retired United Van Lines chairman, to turn the agency around.


I still have my issues with Metro, and the agency needs a lot of work.  But I've worked with John Nations and respect his understanding of the importance of mass transit to our region and its residents, his strong will to keep the St. Louis region vibrant and attractive to employers and workers alike, and his willingness to fight for what he believes in.

I said in my previous post that the new person in charge of Metro is in for a bumpy ride, and I stand by that comment.  Mayor Nations is a good man, and I wish him well in what will be a very challenging new job.

Posted via email from Mark Edwards 3.0

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Metro St. Louis Bus Changes Are 8 Days Away. Are Riders Safe On The Buses?

The St. Louis public transit agency, Metro will be instituting the final phase of its service restoration program on August 30th.  That's eight days from today, and I'm seriously concerned that Metro has sacrificed customer service and safety in the interest of getting new service up and running ahead of the original schedule they gave their patrons.

My impressions of Metro's management and staff have gone up and down in the years I've used their system.  I do think there are some very committed and well meaning people in the plush offices Metro occupies on Laclede's Landing in St. Louis, but I think they're too concerned with getting the service we so desperately need  restored as quickly as possible and have less regard for the level of training of new employees and the conduct of existing operators than they should have. 

Metro wants to get their new routes implemented, but that's meant that they have had to hire a small army of operators, mechanics, and other personnel.  It also means that they're restoring the service with some FIFTY less buses than they'd like to have in order to provide service with the right sized, properly maintained buses they'd like to have. 

Maybe its just my bad luck, but in the last couple of weeks, I've experienced these disturbing incidents on Metro Buses:
  • I was thrown from my seat as a careless operator turned his bus at a high rate of speed, injuring my knee and having some of my belongings damaged.  After well over a dozen calls with various Metro people, this case remains unresolved.  In the interest of getting this situation behind me, I think I should not go into details of the accident or the calls with Metro employees.
  • A new driver had no idea where he was supposed to go, and despite the fact he was holding turning  directions in his hand, had to ask passengers where and when to turn.
  • Buses have been clocked going ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit on a busy winding road in St. Louis County on multiple occasions.
  • An operator completely missed going into a Park and Ride lot, part of the route he had driven for months.
I'm happy that Metro has accelerated their rollout of service changes, but have they done so at the potential risk of passenger safety and customer service?  I'm guessing I can't just pick up the phone and chat with the people who run Metro about this.  So I took advantage of a public bi-weekly chat the local newspaper runs.

Here's a conversation I had with Metro's COO Ray Friem during an STL Today Web chat last week. 
MarkE: I saw the same thing at the Ballas Center last night. That computer is an embarrassment, has been vandalized, and should be removed. On another note, are you comfortable with the level of safety your riders are experiencing based on the large number of new bus operators?

Ray Friem: We are committed to taking care of the kiosk you mention. Regarding the safety of our bus operators... we are very selective in those we accept into training. Then we put the potential operators through a rigorous training period. Included are defensive driving and customers service. All operators must obtain a commercial drivers license issued by the State and must pass written and on-the-road tests. We continue to monitor and supervise all operators. The new drivers may not be able to give you all the Metro system information immediately. That will take some days/weeks/months of on the job training.
 Do we have "days/weeks/months" to train people driving 40 foot buses?  How many other people get injured on Metro buses due to (what I contend is) operator error?  Would the same thing that happened to me be a bigger problem for an elderly person?  

Over the next week, Metro management and other employees will be taking time away from their jobs to promote the service changes.  Here's how their news release describes the campaign:
Metro will help customers prepare for changes to more than 50 bus routes starting on August 30 by delivering literally busloads of information to many of the Transit Centers across the region starting Monday, August 23, through Friday, August 27.
“Information Buses” – buses loaded with Metro transit experts, new route schedules and other information about the service changes that start August 30 – will be at many of the Transit Centers. Information tables staffed by transit experts with schedules and information to distribute to customers will be located at other centers.
I agree that it's important to let riders know what is about to happen to their bus routes and what kind of new service options are available to them.  But at a time when the COO of the organization admits that his employees are enduring "on the job training", couldn't these "Metro transit experts" be using their time to show employees how to drive safely and provide customers with decent service?

I want to ride Metro.  The new service on August 30 is a tremendous leap forward and will bring a bus much closer to my house and to thousands of other potential riders.  But I want to feel safe and confident that the operator knows what he or she is doing when I get on the bus.  Right now, I don't feel that way, and I find it hard to champion the work Metro is doing when I look behind the curtain and see what is really going on.

Metro is about to hire a new $200,000 a year CEO, perhaps before the restoration of service takes effect.  I hope this person has actually ridden a Metro bus as part of their research, because it looks like they're in for a very bumpy ride if the agency doesn't improve its safety and customer service.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roblox Gets It Right

I wrote a post earlier this week about the site and how they were carrying ads for a St. Louis casino.  That wouldn't be an issue, except Roblox is a site aimed at 8-18 year old kids, including my three sons. 
I have to say that I am completely blown away by the response from Roblox to this unfortunate situation.  I had a very frank and meaningful chat with David Baszucki, the Founder and CEO or Roblox, and he was every bit as bothered by this situation as I was, perhaps even more.  Roblox is a site that takes its commitment to child safety and obeying the myriad of laws that govern web activities by children, and Mr. Baszucki's response to me, and his action of taking all display ads served by outside networks off of his website was incredibly impressive.
I also got a reply from Roxanne Kinkade from Ameristar Casinos, and they quickly took steps to make sure the ads were no longer appearing on this kid-targeted site. 
Its somewhat long and boring to explain how some ads get  on websites, but it involves third party providers of advertising, and it seems that some third party ad network was responsible for the casino ads appearing on Roblox.  I know that Roblox has gone far beyond the call of duty to make sure something like this doesn't happen again, and I commend them for their actions. 
Let's face it, there are a lot of scumbags doing business on the Interwebz.  However, I stand corrected and can now say with complete certainty that Roblox is not one of them.  Kudos to them for doing the right thing and doing it quickly.  My youngest son, who was playing on Roblox when this incident happened, is back on the site, and with my blessing. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

REAL Casino Advertises on Kids' Game Site

'm no prude, and I've been known to visit casinos in my lifetime, but imagine my surprise when my 10 year old was playing on a supposedly kid-safe site,, and the screen looked like this:

I know things are tough at this particular casino in St. Louis, but is it really necessary to go after 10 year olds as you try to build your customer base?
I sent a complaint to through a link under every ad that lets you report ads.  Gave them my e mail address.  We'll see if I ever hear back from them.


NEW MLB BLOG POST! The Answer To The Cubs Woes

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Thanks for the notes. Finally feeling semi-human after infection onset Thursday. Hope to be up and around Monday.

Posted via email from Mark Edwards 3.0

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Fat Burger: XXXL Triple King | FOODBEAST - Because we're hungry.

Fat Burger is holding true to their name! This is their XXXL Triple King,  24 oz’s of pure 100% lean beef grilled to perfection, topped with cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes all in between two toasted buns! You trying to be the XXXL Triple King? Check out one Fat Burgers hot spots and take it down! (Thx Anita Scocs)

Sadly, no FatBurger close to me, which in this case is probably a good thing. Or is it?