In the current election season, there are many decisions that we will make as a country that will affect our future in ways we can only begin to imagine. Yet inside our small microcosm of St. Louis County, we will be making a decision that will affect how the city and the regional area can grow in the years ahead.
Many of you have heard me rail on this topic in the last few weeks, promising a letter and more information about the upcoming vote on the sales tax hike. After recent publicity on the negative influences of Metrolink, it has become even more essential to bring this issue to the attention of county voters.
On the November 4th county ballot, there will be three sales tax increase proposals, including one very important half-cent tax increase to fund transit. Without this increase, Metro will find itself operating at a substantial operating deficit, estimated at about $45 million of the $226 million budget in 2009. As a result of the loss of federal and state funds, the difficult economic situation and what many call mismanagement, Metro, like so many other public transit entities, is searching for additional subsidies by regional users to stay afloat.
Unfortunately for Metro, as a publicly funded entity, it cannot advocate for itself to the voting population. Similarly, some of its biggest proponents (large nonprofits many of us are very familiar with) find it difficult to advocate on an institutional level on Metro’s behalf. It falls to the local media and the individual voters to educate each other on the extreme impact of this situation.
If this proposal does not pass on November 4th, Metro will implement cuts so deep that even regular business activities in the region will be required to alter dramatically. Details of these cuts are available on the Metro website, with a sampling below:
- Elimination of most bus service in far West, South and North counties outside of Interstate 270
- Reductions between 25 and 75% for large portions of the inner-ring county and extended city
- No service after 8 PM on bus or rail
- No special event MetroLink service for games, Fair St. Louis or other festivals
- Reduction in service hours and frequency of service on both MetroLink and MetroBus
- Reduction in Call-a-Ride availability and no Call-a-Ride in areas where service is reduced
Further information on these cuts are available online.
These reductions will be devastating to our region, with 50% of County residents losing all their service, and 41% of City residents losing at least half their service. The overall economic impact cannot be foretold, but 35% of jobs currently served by transit would lose all their transit services. The details on routes that will be cut and reduced (including the number of people served by each route annually) are available on the Metro website.
If this sales tax initiative passes, however, Metro will have an opportunity for expansion of bus service, venturing into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), increasing MetroBus availability and expanding the MetroLink to more areas that need it most. As gas prices continue to rise, and as more employers attempt to discourage employees from driving to work by increasing parking costs, the St. Louis region needs a modern transit system ready to expand and grow as our city grows. St. Louisians of all classes need access to safe, frequent and rapid transit to get out for work and play, and Metro is poised to become that successful and economically viable system.
I have no doubt that all of you will be voting in the November 4th election, but please take the time to also vote to support Metro. Many may argue that funding Metro’s mismanagement is just asking for more trouble, but without our support, Metro will never be able to improve beyond that image. Others may say that Metro is bringing crime to our safe neighborhoods, and while I can’t prove it otherwise, please weigh it in relation to the good Metro does for our region—providing access to jobs, downtown and reducing our carbon footprint.
Don’t waste all the good money that’s been invested in this system. Once Metro takes to a downward spiral of reduced service and access, it will be very difficult to change public opinion about Metro as a useable system. Many people (including some of you) rely on Metro for their primary mode of transit. Share this information with your friends throughout the St. Louis region, and protect our public transit on November 4th.
Thanks for supporting Metro and happy riding,
 Garrison, Chad. “Blood on the Tracks.” Riverfront Times. 8/20/2008. http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2008-08-20/news/out-of-control-shoplifting-at-the-st-louis-galleria-violent-attacks-in-the-delmar-loop-is-metrolink-a-vehicle-for-crime/#Comments
 Hampel, Paul. “3 sales tax hikes likely to be on St. Louis County ballot Nov 4.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 9/2/2008. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/A1194AAF68F646CB862574B80010B57D?OpenDocument
Lieser, Ken. “Metro’s plan to cut routes could leave many lost in the gap.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 9/2/2008. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/9EB21D61AF10D823862574B8000C61EF?OpenDocument
For more information please take a look at Metro’s website: http://www.metrostlouis.org/crossroads/default.asp
To get involved in public transportation advocacy in St. Louis: http://www.cmt-stl.org/
To speak your mind about Metro’s proposed cuts: http://www.metrostlouis.org/crossroads/publicHearings.asp