St. Louis agency studying the feasibility of health clinics at MetroLink stations

WHAT A SMART IDEA!

And St Louis is not BIG

Hope others catch on

U.S. transit agencies are always on the lookout for new amenities or services that will help make passengers’ daily commutes more convenient and comfortable — from free WiFi to bicycle-repair kiosks to coffee carts and food vendors.


Photo credit: Metro Transit-St. Louis

But in St. Louis, the parent company of Metro Transit is thinking along different lines: health care services. The Bi-State Development‘s research arm is looking into the possibility of opening clinics that would offer services such as basic  medical care, dental checkups and eye exams.

Late last year, the Bi-State Development Research Institute received a $41,900 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to study the feasibility of opening health clinics at some MetroLink train stations. The locations likely would be in North St. Louis County to help address the “growing need for quality clinics” in certain areas in the St. Louis region, according to a Missouri Foundation press release.

A 2011 assessment of the community’s health needs conducted by the St. Louis County Health Department found that North St. Louis County residents had less access to health care services and faced higher barriers associated with health care costs. When in need of care, 57 percent were more likely than other St. Louis County residents to use an emergency room for primary care.

“The lack of access and gaps in service have also led to a high level of hospital admissions for preventable conditions and higher costs for medical providers,” Missouri Foundation for Health officials said in announcing the Bi-State grant.

The study is evaluating issues to consider as part of a business plan for establishing basic medical services at a MetroLink rail station or, perhaps, a Metro bus transfer site, says John Wagner, project manager for economic development at the Bi-State Development Research Institute.

“The business plan would address the issues that a hospital or health care facility would need to know if they wanted to do something like this,” says Wagner, who is overseeing the study.

The research team is considering potential sites and whether services would entail a “bricks-and-mortar” facility or space for a mobile unit. Potential services offered could range from basic primary medical care, to dental care, to eye exams and pharmacy. Wagner anticipates the study will be wrapped up in May.

John Wagner
John Wagner

To be considered a potential clinic site, a station would need excess space available for development, and would be located in neighborhoods where residents depend on public transportation. Locations likely would be situated along the Red Line in North St. Louis County, according to Wagner.

Wagner envisions passengers using a clinic at a MetroLink station before or after work, or during their lunch hour — in other words, at times that are convenient for working adults.

“We want to locate the clinics closest to where the transit riders are going to be,” he says.

Currently, only one MetroLink station is located next to a major health care provider in St. Louis: The Central West End Station is near the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and BJC Hospital.

“Central West End is the busiest station,” Wagner says. “A lot of the hospital employees use it.”

Lack of access to transportation is a common barrier to many low-income patients getting the care they need, says Rob Fruend, chief executive officer of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, a nonprofit group of local and state health providers that work together to improve the health of uninsured and underinsured residents of St. Louis city and county.

The St. Louis region has several community health centers that serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. The problem is that for some patients — especially those who don’t have a car — getting to those clinics can be a challenge.

“We have a pretty good transportation system in St. Louis, but it doesn’t go where everyone needs to go,” says Fruend. “Especially for low-income folks who rely on transit, sometimes it takes a long time to get from point A to point B.”

Locating a health clinic at a train station could be good for patients and passengers alike depending on who is selected to run the clinic, and whether that provider is electronically linked with the patients’ regular doctors, Fruend says.

“One of the things we [the health commission] think about is the concept of continuity of care,” says Fruend, adding that the concept means patients have a “medical home” — or a regular primary care provider who knows and tracks the patients’ medical histories.

“Hopefully people will not be getting their routine medical care from a train stop,” says Fruend. “But if it’s done in partnership with patients’ medical homes, opening these clinics could be an excellent idea.”

As far as Wagner can tell, Metro Transit would be the first transit agency in the nation to initiate the opening of a health clinic on rail-station property. The Bi-State Development Agency wouldn’t be involved in operating the clinics. But as part of the study, Wagner intends to speak with local health care providers to gauge their interest.

“One way to look at this is that we’re taking care of the business plan ahead of time so that a health care provider can look at our study and say, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to do this?’ “

WMATA’s rail turnstiles will no longer accept paper fares

Beginning March 6, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority‘s (WMATA) Metrorail fare gates will only accept SmarTrip cards.

The move marks a milestone in the agency’s yearlong phase-out of paper fares, WMATA officials said in a press release.

Since December 2015, WMATA’s 450 blue fare vending machines have been dispensing SmarTrip cards instead of paper ones. Today, paper farecards account for less than 0.5 percent of all Metrorail transactions, agency officials said.

WMATA maintains that SmarTrip cards are more secure because they can be registered online. If a card is lost or stolen, any unused value can be transferred to a new card. Additionally, the new cards are more resistant to moisture and demagnetization.

Customers with paper farecards may transfer the value to a SmarTrip card through June 30.

Indiana port handled second-highest annual volume since 1994

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in 2015 handled its second-highest annual volume since 1994.

The port handled 2.8 million tons of cargo last year, which was down from 2014’s record total. Increased shipments of heavy-lift project cargoes (up 96 percent), carbon products (up 37 percent), limestone (up nearly 12 percent) and oils (up 72 percent) contributed to the 2015 total.

“Our port continues to be a major inland hub for heavy-lift cargoes as our terminal operators handled nearly double the number of large dimensional shipments during 2015 over the previous year,” said Port Director Rick Heimann in a press release. “The port has received multiple shipments for regional breweries in recent years, including 36 beer fermentation tanks in 2015.”

A key driver for the 2014 record, steel shipments declined last year but were “well ahead of the five-year average,” port officials said.

“We continue to look for new opportunities to grow and diversify our product mix to withstand market swings and further improve our business,” Heimann said. “Nearly $2 million was invested in port infrastructure in 2015 to increase cargo-handling capacity and improve multimodal connections for our port companies.”

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is operated by Ports of Indiana, a port authority managing three ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan.

MTA to sell $500 million in ‘green’ bonds to fund infrastructure upgrades

It is ABOUT TIME. The stock market gave us the New York Central Railroad, the New Haven Railroad and the NY Subway system.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Feb. 17 will issue its first-ever “green” bonds to raise funds for infrastructure renewal projects at New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

The agency expects to net $500 million in proceeds from the bond sale, MTA officials said in a press release. The money will go toward projects on the three railroads that began during the MTA’s 2010-2014 capital program.

Also known as climate bonds, green bonds provide a means for raising capital for climate-friendly projects, including transit.

“By leaving their cars at home and embracing mass transit, New Yorkers play a dramatic role in reducing carbon emissions,” said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast. “These bonds recognize the ways in which mass transit and commuters work together to keep carbon out of the atmosphere.”

The MTA’s green bonds were certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international not-for-profit organization that supports financing for projects aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change. To be certified, a bond offering needs to meet “rigorous criteria” regarding reporting and transparency and the environmentally-friendly characteristics of underlying assets, MTA officials said.

Eligible projects funded with the bonds need to be clearly identified, and sellers must set up internal processes and controls to ensure tracking of proceeds. Additionally, the issuer must commit to ongoing annual reporting of assets funded with green bond proceeds.

Today, the MTA is launching a targeted marketing campaign aimed at encouraging New Yorkers to consider purchasing the bonds.

The sale of “green” bonds is becoming more prevalent in the transit industry. Earlier this month, the Ontario government issued its second green bond and raised $750 million (in Canadian dollars) to support environmental friendly projects, including two transit-rail initiatives. And in August 2015, Sound Transit sold nearly $1 billion worth of the bonds to fund transportation projects in Seattle and neighboring regions.

Early Railroad History From 1843

February 6, 1843 Through service begins between Albany and Buffalo with a gap at Rochester. The journey over several rail lines takes two days, with an overnight stop at Syracuse eastbound and Auburn westbound to avoid night running in winter.

Find out more about the Original New York Central Railroad

FINAL: Comets 4 vs Marlies 0

The Utica Comets came out of the gates firing on all cylinders Friday night, striking twice in the first period, on their way to defeating the Toronto Marlies 4-0 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Joe Cannata stopped all 33 Marlies shots to send the American Hockey League’s top offensive team off with their first shutout loss of the season.

Darren Archibald (2-0-2), Ronalds Kenins (1-1-2), Alex Friesen (0-2-2) and Andrey Pedan (0-2-2) lit up the scorer’s sheet with multi-point efforts, and Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) scored his 11th of the season in the win. The Comets league-leading home penalty-killing unit went a perfect 4-for-4 to improve their success rate to 91.7% at The AUD.

Utica got on the board early with a goal just 3:09 into the first period. Friesen carried the puck down the left side of the ice and sent a perfect pass to Grenier who rifled a one-timer into the back of the net for his 11th goal of the season.

The Comets scored again a little over eight minutes later to double their lead to 2-0. After taking a pass from Carter Bancks, John Negrin skated the puck behind the Marlies net, and sent a pass to Ronalds Kenins who was parked in the crease. Kenins initial shot was turned aside by Antoine Bibeau, but Kenins gathered his own rebound and finished it off for his second goal of the season.

The Comets extended their lead 14:46 into the second when Archibald brought the puck down the left side of the ice, cut across the slot, and fired a rocket over the glove of Bibeau to make it 3-0.

Archibald connected for his second of the game in the third to cap off the scoring. Pedan sent the puck towards the net, Archibald fought off a couple of Marlies defenders in a scrum and poked the puck past Bibeau, making it 4-0.

Utica finished with 28 shots on goal and Toronto had 33 shots on the night. Bibeau made 24 saves for the Marlies. With the win, the Comets improve to 28-19-5-3, while the loss drops the Marlies to 43-11-4-0.

The Comets will stay at home on Saturday as they welcome the Springfield Falcons to the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.