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What the passage of Proposition “A” can mean for the St. Louis region

February 4, 2010 Politics/Policy, Public Transit, St. Louis County, STL Region 63 Comments

ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie A Dooley
ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie "A" Dooley, August 2006

Tuesday April 6, 2010 voters in St. Louis County will decide the fate of Proposition A — a 1/2 cent sales tax to match the same tax previously approved by voters in the City of St. Louis.  Revenues would be used to fund existing operations and expand service of our regional public transit.

I decided to put together list of what “A” can do for the region:

  1. Accelerate: strong transit will accelerate the trend toward filling in the core rather than pushing outward at the edges.  This helps ensure those folks who moved to the edge won’t be surrounded by new construction.
  2. Accessible: public transit makes going from home to work accessible to many.  This applies to those of us with disabilities as well as those without access to an automobile. Getting our citizens to work, school is important for a strong region.
  3. Accomplish: dedicated funding is critical to a healthy  transit transit system.  Prop. A will accomplish the goal of creating a dedicated funding source for operations.
  4. Achieve: St. Louis will be closer to achieving the type of transit system a strong region needs to have to compete in the 21st century.
  5. Activate: transit helps create activity.  Transit riders are often pedestrians on part of their total trip.  Their activity creates a buzz around stations & stops.  More transit and more riders that will activate our sidewalks.
  6. Adjust: we will adjust our ideas about transit and what it means to the region, even if we don’t use the system ourselves (or just rarely).
  7. Affirm: passage will affirm our commitment to a regional transit network.  This affirmation will send a strong message to companies and people considering the St. Louis region as a future location.
  8. Affordable: as we saw when service was cut back people couldn’t get to work.  Employers need their employees at work.  Our region can’t afford to not have a functioning transit system.  We can’t afford to not pass this tax.
  9. Attainable: with dedicated funding Metro can attain a decent level of service for the region through both rail & bus transit.
  10. Augment: we will be able to augment the current system to better serve the core of the region, including St. Louis County.

For more information the on Proposition A see the Yes on A website at moremetrolink.com.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "63 comments" on this Article:

  1. theotherguy says:

    Does anyone know what percentage the riders pay for metrolink? I like the idea of having metrolink, but I am not sure that it is fiscally sustainable to just raise the sales tax when Metro wants to do something. Don't the riders have to pay their share, too. Gas taxes certainly don't cover every public cost of driving a car, but I do wonder what Metro revenues are covered by people who directly benefit from it.

    I will also add that every board member who proceeded/did not settle the lawsuit should be put to the curb. I have every sympathy for someone who says that Metro is poorly managed and they deserve no more of the public's money or trust.

     
  2. theotherguy says:

    Does anyone know what percentage the riders pay for metrolink?

    Should have read, 'what percentage of metro's revenues are paid for by the riders?' I know all/most riders pay for metrolink, but what do their fares add up to in the grand scheme of the cost to operate a metrolink?

     
    • stlzou says:

      I'm not exactly sure, but I've heard about 20-25% of operating costs are paid for directly by passenger fares. That's compared to about 40% in Chicago. Of course the state of Illinois contributes at a rate of 50:1 compared to Missouri's public investment per capita on transit.

       
      • Thor Randolphson says:

        The rate varies by mode. Call-a-ride service is very low, less than 20%. I believe bus service is around 20% and metrolink is closer to 30%.

         
  3. Tim says:

    You forgot a word: abyss. We can throw all the money in the world at Metro, but until they start to operate efficiently, it will be like throwing money into an abyss.

     
    • Peter says:

      Uhhh, like they aren't already efficient, in the past year can you name what they have wasted money on? or as you say, have they thrown any money into the 'abyss' in the past year?

       
      • Tim says:

        See my reply below for a more thoughtful argument, but to directly address your point: I ate pretty healthy yesterday. Do I get to call myself skinny now? Similarly, a year is not long enough (especially during a recession) to tell how things will be managed going forward.

         
  4. Cheryl says:

    You forgot the “A” for Air as in protecting our air from both ground level ozone and from climate changing gases.

    I never understand why people are so concerned about making sure that Metro users pay their share at the fare box, but never any mention of whether car drivers pay their share of the costs of air pollution and the cost of climate change caused by all the mostly single occupant vehicles on our roads.

    Even if Metro users paid nothing to ride the bus or train, we should thank each rider for taking another car off the road.

    So, let's start by asking what percentage of the staggering environmental costs caused by private motor vehicles is being paid for by these same users.

     
    • theotherguy says:

      The reason I ask is I am concerned whether metro expansion is sustainable. If riders are not paying a significant portion of the costs, then the non-riders will continue to bear much of the costs, and that may or may not be palatable to non-riders(voters).

      I don't believe that St.Louis will become a mass transit region. It is too easy to get around by car. The penalties of using a car aren't high enough. Fairly easy to park most places, get to most places in the region in thirty minutes. I don't see people making the sacrifices that using mass transit entails even at $5 gasoline. More fuel efficient cars and carpooling, yes. Widespread use of Metro? No. (I also tend to think the gasoline issue will become more and more moot as better electric cars are developed)

      I would be all for upping the gas tax to pay for full road construction/upkeep etc. Monetizing climate change is interesting. Who collects the money?

       
      • Thor Randolphson says:

        In no US transit system do the riders pay a significant portion of the costs. I currently believe that light rail covers approximately 30% of its operating costs and bus even less (which raises a question regarding whether the slow creation of a multi-modal system replacing bus with rail is an improvement in “bang for the buck” for St. Louis City and County tax payers).

        Only in highly successful commuter rail systems (like NJ Transit) do riders pay anything above 50%, but such successful systems are built around moving peak hour riders into and out of a major center (NYC). St. Louis' diffuse land use patter, particularly as it relates businesses undermines potential collection rates.

        The inherent relationship between land use and transportation raises a question of whether state level support for transit in Missouri shouldn't be predicated on supportive land use policies, for example having the state pay for station construction along proposed new light rail or express bus lines if the municipality makes alterations to the local zoning code to ensure that the investment of a station “pays off” through increased ridership.

         
  5. Brian says:

    “More MetroLink” is a misnommer. The “plan” is really for more bus, with maybe one additional rail transit line in the next decade. And since it's the County's vote that's ultimately needed to bring in any cash, you can guess where that one added line will fully run.

     
  6. Christopher says:

    A few years back I read a study where the numbers were crunched as far as costs for motor vehicle use not directly paid by the car owner. The costs include environmental remediation, medical(accidents & affects on health of our population from pollution/funeral expenses, lost time in traffic, road contstruction/repair not covered by fuel tax, military deployed in middle east to assure access to fuel and a number of other costs.

    At the time the average price a person in the US paid for a car was around $18,000. If you would include the costs not directly paid by the car owner, the price of an average car would be around $50,000 according to the study. This would put the automobile out of the price range of a lot of people.

    Thus auto use in this country is subsidized to a great extent, though in ways that most people do not realize. However public transportation agencies have to beg for support because the 'playing field' is not level. User fees do not pay for the full cost of public transit.

    Another interesting point is the language used. During the legislative process the word 'subsidize' or 'subsidy' will be used when debating funds for public transit or Amtrak. When debate is occuring for road projects and highway interchanges, which now cost nearly $1bil each, you will hear the word 'investment' and never 'subsidy'.

    When you have a network of roads, be they interstates or state highways, once built they have to be maintained. As more new roads are built or existing roads are widened, more money is needed for maintence. This cost spirals upwards, especially when most money is alloted to new projects and maintenance gets less then it should. Neglected roads/bridges then need more. With the fuel tax not following the cost, this becomes a big problem. So this country has an enormous road infrastructure that is becoming increasingly burdensome on the people and government at all levels. Infact, there are a handfull of states that have switched some state highways back to gravel! Something that would have been unheardof a few years ago.

    So, is building another interstate interchange really a good “investment” or is it a subsidy we can do without?

     
    • Fenian says:

      I am not opposed to mass transit, however, investment in highways, bridges, etc is of a different nature than mass transit investment.

      By investing in an interstate highway system, for example, we are facilitating business and the movement of products. One benefit is lower costs in the checkout line of a retail establishment.

      Don't get me wrong, I think that mass transit is beneficial to lower income workers and can help lower pollution. However, they are apples and oranges when you get down to it. There is an argument for subsidizing both, but I believe it is a false equivalence to compare them head to head.

       
      • Good transit also benefits business. Rail can move merchandise between cities and local transit gets people to work. New York and many other cities would not function without transit. Many people in St. Louis use transit as their primary travel mode.

         
      • Thor Randolphson says:

        Ah, but in the modern US, our economy is less and less about producing goods rather than services and ideas. Therefore, any system which helps transport workers to jobs meets your broad goal of investing in the interstate highway system (facilitating business and the movement of products) as public transit is facilitating business and the movement of products (in this case human capital).

        Consider, my current job requires me to either drive 50 minutes each way or take the train/walk which would take about 1 hour 15 minutes each way. While driving is “quicker” I also cannot do any work while driving. On the train I can do work while also commuting, thereby increasing my quality of life (the commute is not lost time) and increasing business (my firm gets production out of me even while I commute).

         
      • moorlander says:

        Can we please get past this perception that mass transit is for lower income workers. In cities across the globe mass transit is the primary form of transportation for the middle and upper middle classes as well. Let's continue to add Metrolink lines as well as brt and commuter rail lines to add more options for the people. I drive to work because I HAVE TO not because I earn a higher wage.

         
        • Fenian says:

          I would be so bold as to say that the majority of mass transit users in St. Louis, Missouri, (not the globe) in the here and now, are in lower income brackets. There are exceptions, but most people here using the bus aren't using it because they want to. Sporting events, Mardi Gras, etc are exceptions, but I was referring to those who rely on it.

          St. Louis != Chicago or London and it never will be. Our layout is completely different from other cities that have effective mass transit. The middle class may regularly use those forms of public transportation, but they don't here. It could change, but my point was about today, not 20 years from now.

          Is it possible that mass transit here will take off? Maybe. However, inept Metro management, shoddy workmanship on existing MetroLink lines and living in a low tax state with the accompanying mentality are definitely not advantageous to changing the voter's minds.

          I plan on voting for Prop A. However, I won't be surprised if it doesn't pass. People have long memories and tend to vote for, better or worse, their own self-interests. The problem that the supporters have is showing people who do not currently benefit from mass transit, how they could benefit in the future. So far the Prop A supporters have not done a good job of getting the message across.

           
          • The Metro of 2007 is not the Metro of 2010.

             
          • moorlander says:

            I am interested to hear why you think St. Louis City is not set up for mass transit. I couldn't disagree with you more. St. Louis is a former street car city that would benefit greatly from new modern streetcar lines in tandem with Metrolink expansion.
            Middle and upper middle class residents do use metrolink and once expanded more and more people will find it convenient.
            Please provide RECENT examples for me as to why you believe has inept leadership. And not the issue with the CC expansion is not good enough. Project over runs happen at MODOT and you read about that in the paper.
            St. Louis may not be London or Chicago but there are plenty of examples of similar sized cities (ones that are much less dense than us) who have thriving systems. Denver, Portland, Dallas, Charlotte etc etc. Too many locals in the city afraid of change!

            The simple truth is, if we want to attract businesses and talented young people we need to have a strong mass transit people. A strong masss transit system is good for commuters, good for tourists, and good for the city. This is an investment in our community.

             
          • Fenian says:

            I'm intentionally stirring the pot to a degree, I'll admit as much. I think it can bring better debate and cause other to think. So, take what I say as being devil's advocate to some degree.

            St. Louis is a former streetcar city, this is true. However, that was when the City was the center and the inner-ring suburbs were the extent of real density. Do you think that the population shifts in the last 50 years in any way impact the viability of the resurgence of mass transit? Why would individuals in Chesterfield or Maryland Heights subsidize something they do not use?

            In regard to (very) recent examples of inept leadership of Metro, I really don't have any. However, the average voter who does not use mass transit or read urban blogs, remembers the last 10 years and beyond. To succeed in passing Prop A, one must try and change the views of the average voter. In my opinion, the supporters of Prop A have done a terrible job. I would imagine that most voters would remember shoddy workmanship of the original MetroLink, poor management of the past and a system that does not cater to their needs. Prop A supporters have a long way to go in this respect.

            I agree with you that this is an investment in our community. I would be willing to pay the extra half-cent for the potential growth that our community may have. However, I still think that the pro-Prop A people have a long way to go to convince the average voter in the County that a tax increase during an economic downturn is in their best interest.

             
          • Tim says:

            No doubt Metro has made great strides in improving the efficiency of their day-to-day operations, but the CC expansion is the last thing anyone has to judge how they will handle a significant expansion, which is what half the tax is for.
            I hear a lot of people asking for what Metro has screwed up lately. There are two problems with that way of thinking. First, they are asking for more money, which means the burden should be on them to show what they have done right, not the other way around. Second, with the economy tanking in 2008, it is hardly reasonable to point to changes since 2007 as evidence that any organization has changed. We simply have no idea how things might be managed if they had any resources available.

             
          • The recent service cuts last year were devastating to many people. If they can't get to work they businesses that need their labor will struggle. Metro is currently operating on temporary funding from the state legislature. For business in our region to function we must have public transit.

             
          • Tim says:

            I'm not sure how this counters the “Metro is not responsible enough to give money to” argument, but let's assume what you say is true (cause I kinda think it might be). Why don't those business support Metro instead of adding a new tax? One advantage to private funding is that it can be more responsive to needs. If Metro is not handling money in an efficient manner businesses are free to fund an alternative way to get workers around. However, if we pass a tax, that money is nearly forever, and always, committed to Metro. When a new need arises, we have to pass an additional tax.

            Business could support Metro actively by subsidizing passes (either fully or partially), advertising with Metro, or making straight-up donations. Even small businesses without the cash to burn could help passively by charging for parking (at least for employees).

             
          • Many businesses do help support Metro. But when we had recent service cuts it was a wake up call to many. Charging employees for parking is great but if they don't have a car and the bus route no longer exists it won't help. Our region & state needs dedicated transit funding to keep businesses running.

             
          • Tim says:

            “But when we had recent service cuts it was a wake up call to many.”
            If this is true, then why are they not properly funding Metro? What is the need for the tax if businesses see that funding Metro is in their best interest? Could it be that they are waiting because they know the taxpayers will bail them out? I say we call their bluff and see if the businesses have really woken up.

            “if they don't have a car and the bus route no longer exists it won't help”
            The point to is to encourage Metro ridership among those who otherwise would drive, thus increasing Metro funding. Or use the fees to support Metro actively.

            “Our region & state needs dedicated transit funding to keep businesses running.”
            so you're saying public transit is not viable in, and of, itself? Then let it fail and let someone come up with a better solution.

            On a related point, if we are really trying to discourage suburban sprawl, why are we concerned about how we are going to get all the city residents out to west county to work? If places like Barnes-Jewish West County can't get workers at there current location, then let them move closer to the employment base. It seems to me that Metro expansion is really subsidizing the suburban lifestyle as much as it is subsidizing anything urban. It allows those in WC to live their comfortable lives while the “poor urban folks” have to come to them to find work.

             
          • Alissa says:

            1. I don't understand how you expect business to directly fund Metro.

            2. The state of Missouri currently only provides $4 million in funding for public transit STATEWIDE. Illinois provides more funding for Bi-State than Missouri, despite receiving less of the service.

            3. There is not a public transit system in this country that is fully funded by rider fares. Similarly, there is not a highway system in this country that is fully funded by automobile drivers' fees. What is your “better solution” for public transit?

            4. Your suburban sprawl argument doesn't even parse. 50 years of federal housing and highway policy have already moved housing out of city centers and into suburbs. Are you saying that those in suburbs have no right to public transit? Are you assuming that the buses and trains are only running out of the city in the morning and back downtown at night?

             
          • Tim says:

            1. I think I put out some good starting points.

            2. “The state of Missouri currently only provides $4 million in funding for public transit STATEWIDE.”
            Then let's push for a statewide tax instead of a St. Louis city and county tax

            “Illinois provides more funding for Bi-State than Missouri, despite receiving less of the service.”
            They're also broke.

            3. You won't like my solution. I'd stop subsidizing roads too. Let the best mode of transportation win, Fight!

            4. “Your suburban sprawl argument doesn't even parse. 50 years of federal housing and highway policy have already moved housing out of city centers and into suburbs.”
            I didn't say it was the ONLY reason, or even the PRIMARY reason. I said that if our assumption that businesses cannot survive without public transportation to bring workers is true, then we are also subsidizing the suburban lifestyle.
            “Are you saying that those in suburbs have no right to public transit? Are you assuming that the buses and trains are only running out of the city in the morning and back downtown at night?”
            No, I'm saying they don't want it, which is why they keep voting down these taxes. And, yes, I am. Just like we generally assume that the highways bring cars in in the morning and back to the county at night.

             
          • Pro Prop A says:

            The half a cent sales tax is not just for a metro link expansion. The sales tax is to help pay for day to day operations of Metro as a whole. People that think this half of a cent is just for metrolink are misinformed. There will be even fewer busses running than when it didnt pass in november if this dosent pass this time.

             
          • Tim says:

            Good point, we often focus on MetroLink. Perhaps this should have been two Props: one to fun operations and one to fund expansion.

             
  7. gmichaud says:

    What does London or Chicago have to do with anything? The negativity is astounding, St. Louis can't be this and that, etc etc is absurd. The truth is an exciting, useful transit system will stimulate all classes to ride the system, just like Paris, London etc.
    We keep giving away money to support the car, what do you expect?, the costs of autos are enormous as mentioned above and include individual insurance, medical subsidies (for wrecks), police work, free parking all over the place and much, much more, on and on. Automobiles are subsidy central.
    Transit strategies need to be developed. In my view any additional long range trains are useless unless transit can be successful in the city and the inner ring of suburbs. The biggest gap that I see is the inability to create a transit friendly environment. This requires coordination with city planning and that is not happening.
    In any case it is false that transit cannot work in St. Louis, what the hell you think the city did before 1950?, for 200 years or more?

    Urban planning can correct the dysfunctional nature of the suburbs. And proper urban planning transit can utilize already existing city infrastructure to create a vibrant transit system available for all.

     
    • JZ71 says:

      There are few, if any, barriers to sprawl here. The streetcar-friendly St. Louis of the 1930's was a completely different environment than the St. Louis of today, with a lack of density (reduction by half), being the biggest challenge. We can argue whether subsidzing the SOV is better or worse than supporting public transit, but the vast majority of us choose to drive ourselves. The real answer lies in ridership numbers – if the Metro of today were carrying the same number of riders as the streetcar system of the '30's and '40's, then a logical argument can be made for more investment. But, for multiple reasons, the percentages continue to fall. Using the same logic, we should also be investing in hitching posts and watering troughs, since they were also once state-of the-art transportation, as well . . .

       
      • moorlander says:

        There are several very dense neighborhoods in St. Louis that would benefit from a streetcar line. We choose to drive ourselves because WE HAVE NO OTHER OPTION. Metro only has to ask for money because they get almost NOTHING from the state. Maybe someone can be so kind as to post a state funding comparison. MO pays so little it's shameful.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          Point by point . . . I'm assuming that all of these “very dense neighborhoods” already have some level of bus service. While streetcars offer certain advantages (a defined route that can't easily changed, some people will ride a streetcar who would never choose a bus, offsite electrical generation versus onsite diesel combustion), the bottom line is that buses are a more cost-effective and flexible solution for moving equal numbers of transit users – the capital investment is simply less. Two, most of us choose to drive ourselves because it's easier and quicker than trying to make transit work. Does it cost me more and does it have greater impacts on the local environment? Absolutely. But in my value system, the tradeoffs are worth it. Three, why should the state fund Metro? Just because Illinois does? Missouri is not Illinois. We do not have a concentrated metropolitan region on the scale of greater Chicago. We are more suburban and rural than urban. Should there be a better, larger and sustainable REGIONAL funding mechanism for public transit? Absolutely – look at DART in Dallas or RTD in Denver for workable models. But the reality is that we can't convince the voters in Jefferson or St. Charles counties to join Metro; why should we expect voters in Branson or Louisiana or Cape Giraradeau to raise their taxes to support an urban transit system here?! Finally, four – funding levels by state: http://www.statemaster.com/graph/trn_pub_tra_st… This is 15 years old, but it's the most current I could find. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, California and Ilinois compose the top 5, by a wide margin. After that, funding drops precipitously, with the last dozen or so providing little or nothing.

           
          • Jennifer says:

            One might argue that the State should fund city transit because Kansas City and St. Louis are the economic engines of the state. Most of the tax money generated in MO comes from here; and transit is an economic development tool that keeps those engines turning & burning for the rest of the state.

             
        • Jennifer says:

          How about this? Pages 22 & 23 will surprise a lot of people, I think. http://movingtransitforward.org/LinkClick.aspx?…

           
          • JZ71 says:

            Ahh, the old mean versus the average debate – when a few states like Pennsylvania and Illinois provide significant amounts, it “messes up the curve” for everyone else- it'd be interesting to see what the mean number is (most likely a single digit). Missouri has traditionally been a low-tax state, which, in turn, means limited state resources for things like public transit. While you can certainly argue that the state SHOULD fund city transit, for whatever reasons, others have argued with equal fervor that the state should fund more highways, pay more toward public schools and let the city control its own police department. All of them are equally rational, and all are as likely to come true (or not)!

            At its core, public transit is an urban, regional asset. Done correctly, it can take a little pressure off of MoDOT and its budget. But its usefulness to the rest of the state is hard to quantify – like most Missorians, I see no need to support public transit in KC or Springfield, since, if I go there I'll drive, and their success will be likely at our expense.

            I can certainly understand Metro's predicament on this issue. The Illinois side is already getting significant state support, and there appears to be no interest from St. Charles or Jefferson counties in supporting the system with higher local taxes on the Missouri side – from a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees perspective, then yes, the state and the feds are the “only” option. That's also why I keep pushing for a regional solution – as with everything else in transit, it's that viscious chicken-or-egg challenge of justifying taxes with actual service. Does Highway K need 30-minute fixed-route service? Probably not. But I can see demand for OTR commuter service between Wentzville, Progress Park, Chesterfield Commons and Clayton. Is this somethings OATS can pull off? Doubtful. Is this something Bi-State could sell to the voters there? Probably, and especially if it included a Cardinals/Rams shuttle component. Discounting a real regional solution, especially at this point, misses the point of modern public transit. It will be easier to go to Jeff City and convince them to “force” St. Charles and Jefferson counties to join Bi-State than it will be to convince them to make Metro a recurring line item in the state budget (can you say unfunded mandate?).

            Much like how we in the city need the county's taxes to support city services, we in the existing Metro boundaries need to add those parts of the region that are currently getting a free ride. Will they do it willingly? Absolutely not. But to expect the state legislature to come up with any sort of formula for supporting public transit statewide is equally far-fetched. Remember, we can't figure out how not to make the Lake of the Ozarks the world's largest cesspool, and that is more of “statewide interest” . . .

             
      • gmichaud says:

        Current state of the art mass transit systems that are available today are hardly comparable to hanging on to hitching posts and watering troughs. If anything it is the dated automobile is clung to by false policy measures designed to enrich certain business types.
        It is also faulty logic to expect the same number of riders today when urban planning does not accommodate transit. Instead all of urban planning has been geared to serving the automobile. When that changes, ridership will increase. If you study cities with successful transit you will also find city planning that recognizes transit priorities and balances those priorities with the automobile.
        It would be as if you designed a building with the only entrance on the second floor, making it impossible to use the building. Would the building be a failure?, of course it would. However opening a ground floor entrance would give that same building a chance for success.
        In the same way, (much more complex of course), the city is designed as an anti transit venture. Change that, utilize the various TIF and tax credit incentives to include transit planning and ridership will begin to change.
        In any case it is an enormous leap of logic to get to hitching posts and watering troughs.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          Agreed, land use patterns and higher densities support public transit. Where we disagree is on the why. You say current urban planning practices and business interests conspire against public transit. I guess I'm less cynical/idealistic – I believe that we get the urban environment, mediocre that it may be, that the majority of us want. Around St. Louis, we have denser urban neighborhoods, less-dense suburban developments, New Town St. Charles, Jefferson County and an eroding rural fringe. We vote with our rents and our mortgage payments, we have choices and we make them at various stages in our lives.

          Unlike San Francisco, Manhattan, Seattle or Vancouver, we're not physically constrained. Unlike Boulder or Portland, we're not politicaly constrained, either, by an urban growth boundary. We have plenty of land, both rural and urban, that can accommodate any foreseeable growth demands, without any significant increases in density. Are there costs and consequences to these choices and non-choices? Absolutely. But when our residential construction costs/sales prices are less than $100 per square foot, compared to the $500-$1000+ per square foot you find in “real” cities, the economics simply encourage “bad behaviors” and less-than-ideal choices for way too many buyers – it's simply way too easy to buy a new vinyl-clad 4-bedroom box on a quarter acre with a two-car garage, when the “smarter”, denser alternative ends up being smaller and significantly-more expensive (and I won't even throw schools into the equation). We can plan all we want, but until we're actually willing to stand behind the plans and require higher minimum densities, there really are few things we (as a community and/or a government) can actually do to force individual developers and builders to build at significantly-higher densities – the status quo, “bad” as it may be, simply works well enough for too many of us. If it didn't, don't you think there'd be a lot more pressure to make few changes?!

           
          • Sorry, I don't buy the who “what we want” BS. Too much has happened that shaped what we ended up with. Most are just just trying to earn a living a raise their family and are not passionate about their environment.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            THE fundamental issue is that the costs of operating the single-occupant vehicle, including parking it at both ends of the trip, remain relatively affordable to the vast majority of us! Using public transit means conforming your schedule to the system's, making origin and destination choices based on the system's limited options, and being willing to give up a certain degree of personal privacy and personal space. In exchange, you save money and, most likely, create fewer negative environmental impacts.

            Using a SOV (single-occupant vehicle), you can start pretty much anywhere and end up pretty much anywhere, including the middle of nowhere/suburbia, go whenever you damn well feel like going, stay as long or as little as you want to, and leave whenever want to. In exchange, you'll pay more, impact the environment more, have more privacy and, in almost every case, have a quicker trip (up to 300 or 400 miles).

            Add in our abundance of cheap land, but urban and rural, and you get our auto-centric development patterns, especially in the midwest. We'd much rather drive 2 or 5 miles further than to pay to park. We like our single-family homes because most come with single-family parking (unlike many older, urban, multi-family structures). We patronize businesses where we can easily load our purchases into our SOV's – you simply don't see very many shopping carts downtown, at least not being used for their intended purpose.

            You can make all the moral and ethical judgements you want about these choices, but the simple reality is that they WORK, better, for most of us! Sure, “Most are just trying to earn a living and raise their family and are not passionate about their environment.” They care about what works for THEM, on a daily basis, not some abstract academic model that should work better, but comes with multiple other “issues” . . .

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Part 2 – Accepting that we are now an autocentric society (I know, some some don't/won't want to), is there a place for public transit within it? Absolutely. There are three main areas where transit fills a major need, with the transit dependent, for daily commuting and for moving large numbers of people into and out of special events.

            There will always be people who are unwilling or unable to operate a motor vehicle safely. They may be too young, too old, too poor or too disabled. Without public transit, their options are family or friends, taxis or jitneys, or, as a last resort, calling 911. For them, especially in urban areas, public transit IS a life line. The only question is how much of a public subsidy is “fair”.

            The core of most successful public transit systems these days are daily commuters, going to and from work and/or school. Even in sprawling, suburban areas, their needs can be met with park-and-ride lots on the “home” end of the trip (creating virtual density) as long as their places of employment or their schools are properly located and appropriately dense. Locally, downtown St. Louis, downtown Clayton, the BJC campus, the UMSL and the Wash U campuses are all good examples, and most also have subsidized pass programs, as well. Less-good examples include SLU and many major employers, including A-B, Wells-Fargo, Ameren and Ralcorp, who are all sort-of close to transit routes, but apparently have made little effort to actually embrace transit. Then there's the whole range of potential destinations that are currently virtually inaccessible, with few, if any, future plans for better integration, including Lindenwood University, our community college system and our multiple suburban office parks. Yes, much of this lies squarely in the laps of the various institutions, but part of it also lies with EWGCOG and Metro, for investing in alignments that don't serve existing or future employment centers very well – sometimes, you're gonna have make the harder choice and move off an existing abandoned rail alignment.

            Finally, special events. Fortunately, many are well-served already – Busch, Scottrade, Jones Dome, Union Station, the Landing and the future BPV all have good infrastructure already. Their big challenge is that Metro simply chooses to no longer support added service for special events, citing the need to focus service in the other two areas. My response is penny wise, pound foolish – these special services are the only times many riders choose to use Metro every year, so while their numbers are small, they do vote, and every vote counts – money needs to be spent beefing up special services to justify higher taxes.

            Bigger picture, we, as a community, need to be vigilent as future and/or replacement facilities come online. Two of the newest venues, Family Arena and Chaffitz Arena, have no real transit connectivity. Whether this was done intentionally, or not, we'll probably never know. Yet, in the not-too-distant future, the Rams will be agitating for a new facility, and where it ends up will speak volumes about our region's commitment to public transit.

            Bottom line, there still IS a place for public transit in today's world. It won't be the same as transit was in the 1950's, the 1920's or the 1890's. Our world has changed and evolved, and transit needs to evolve, as well. But, like they say, change is good . . .

             
          • gmichaud says:

            You encourage developers to build at higher densities by making it a requirement before they receive TIF's, tax credits or other government help.
            As far as the notion that people “choose” the auto. It is as moorlander says above, there are no real options.
            As I say above the current transit/urban planning system is like designing a building that only has a second story entrance with no way to get to it.
            Design matters, it is extremely important. If the design results are second rate and do not serve needs of the users, then it the design will be as useful as a second story entrance without a means to get to it.
            Thus policy and its design aftermath in fact places hurdles for the end user to the extent that “transit usage is falling” results from poor design decisions.
            I won't get into whether these actions are intentional or not.
            The result is to reduce density and transit desirability. Well designed transit systems around the world have higher transit end usage and fewer auto owners than St. Louis. Not surprisingly there are also denser neighborhoods than in St. Louis. St. Louis has become auto orientated to its core.
            The long view has to come into focus. No matter what the future holds, establishing a more efficient means of movement, creating systems of movement that are multiple and layered, and establishing alternate choices with an eye to sustainability, balancing the automobile with all other transit modes are factors in coming decades and centuries.
            Transit takes decades to develop, but the principles need to be understood and put into place now. It comes down to whether to continue to design the city and urban environment for the automobile only, or to balance the auto with other modes of transit, including walking and bicycles as well as mechanical means. Then implementing the urban planning necessary to support those alternatives.

            It has nothing to do with the city being constrained physically. It is more of a cultural self discipline that ultimately makes the best decisions for the society.
            If that self discipline is not there, it does not matter how many mountains, rivers or oceans surround your city.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            We're trying to parse a difficult, complex issue. If you really want to believe that “It is more of a cultural self discipline that ultimately makes the best decisions for the society”, so be it. My perception is that the vast majority of people only act in their own personal self(ish?) interests. People will say they are altruistic, up to a point, but after that, their real actions speak louder than any rhetoric.

            Building denser, with better quality, always costs more than building less densely for the same amount of square feet. A mobile home is less expensive than a stick-built single-family home. A surface parking lot is less expensive than a parking structure. Buying 3 bredrooms and 2 baths in the loft district will cost you $300,000; buying 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in O'Fallon will cost you $150,000. Are they “equal”? Absolutely not, but they are, in many ways, somwewhat comparable. It IS about making choices. One option saves on transportation but costs more for education. The other gets you better schools in a “safer” neighborhood, but saddles you with longer commutes, time lost in rush hour traffic and higher transportation costs.

            If you want to believe that it boils down to “self discipline”, fine. I just don't know that many people, especially around here, that agree with you. They've either already moved to a “real” city, making the compromises necessary to live in one, or they're satisfied with the staus quo here. Sure, they'd like to see IKEA come to town, and they can't wait for the Nordstrom Rack to open, but they really don't care that Metrolink doesn't go to Florissant or Chesterfield, and they've never been on a Metrobus. And, unfortunately, this holds true at both the grass roots, local level and at the highest levels of regional leadership. Yes, all politics is local. Unfortunately, around here, it seems to be a lot about building walls and protecting turf, and not much about regional goals.

             
  8. JZ71 says:

    Like the quote says, “Make no small plans.” The biggest reason that the current tax increase 2.0 will likely fail, again, is that it's too timid and lacking in specificity. Nebulous plans for one more Metrolink line, in 10 or 20 years, along an alignment TBD, does NOT instill confidence in the voters. Be aggressive, define a comprehensive sytem that can be built out within a decade, with multiple defined rail corridors, THEN you'll see some progress (FasTracks in Denver; http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14345646). For the 80%+ of the voters here, who will see little or no benefit from the one new, undefined line in the current proposal, voting “No” just became a whole lot easier . . . .

     
    • Eric says:

      On the contrary, a 1/2 cent sales tax is likelier to pass than the approximately 5 cent sales tax that would be needed for your plan.

       
      • JZ71 says:

        Au contraire – Denver's doing their thing with a 1% sales tax (although they're looking at needing another 0.5%). An 0.5%-0.75% sales tax here will only stabilize the existing system, paying to restore recently-lost service and to consider incremental increases in BRT and Metrolink. Yes, a smaller increase is an easier sell, but since it offers little new, it's also harder for many voters to embrace – “You've been able to make 0.25% work for the last twenty years, what's changed recently?” Voters really don't care that all the creative financing of the last decade is now coming due; they just know that they're not seeing 100% increases in their own budgets!

         
  9. Ballwin says:

    Steve, I fully appreciate what mass transit can do for a city. I've spent time in Atlanta (MARTA bus system during the early 70's) and Washington DC (excellent light rail) and made full use of what is there. My problem with the St. Louis system is that the managers are incompetent, and given to lying their heads off. I know you personally don't much like the suburbs, but many of us live in the suburbs, finding it a much better place to raise children than the urban community. A mass transit plan needs to serve the entire metropolitan area if it wants money from the entire area.

    When light rail was first discussed here, I can remember the commercials on TV showing the names of various communities that would be served. Prominent among them was Chesterfield. Many years later the CEO admitted that there would never be West County service – no plan, no thought of ever doing it. We've just seen a major reconstruction of Highway 40/I-64 – no thought of right-of-way acquisition or provision for light rail 0 a great opportunity wasted. On top of Bi-State lying to get votes in the past, we've seen their incredible mis-management of construction projects lately. And their management has stated publicly what they think of the St. Louis area.

    Clean house, get new managers in that at at least somewhat competent, develop a plan for serving the entire metropolitan area, then maybe I'll support BiState. Until then, I will continue to vote NO every chance I get.

     
    • They have cleaned house and have been working on a new plan for the region. However, they can't do it without funding.

       
    • courtneysloger says:

      Ballwin,

      There has been large personnel changes at Metro in the last 4-5 years, including CEO, Chief of Planning and System Development, VP of Sales and Marketing, and many others, including a general loss of jobs or retirees after March 2009. Metro is like any Agency; it changes as necessary and as times warrant.

      We have developed a long-range plan, which can be found at http://www.movingtransitforward.org. It is our suggested plan for public transit in St. Louis region from now through 30 years. But it is very important to realize that while Metro does make suggestions for transit planning based on planning data and public input, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which is made up of our elected officials in Missouri and Illinois, make the final call on potential new routes, including light rail alignments. Metro does not solely make the decision where its serves; it is a region-wide decision.

      Also, if you are interested, we recently finished the Vandeventer Bridge demolition and reconstruction in six days, four days ahead of schedule. You can find information about the project and a time-lapse video of the project is here: http://www.nextstopstl.org/1784/vandeventer-bri

      We will be trying to provide the public with much more information about how we operate and what decisions we make and why at our blog, http://www.nextstopstl.org. If anyone has specific questions or information they would like to know, please email me at [email protected]

      Thanks,
      Courtney

       
      • Ballwin says:

        I obviously have not kept up with the personnel changes at Bi-State. I sincerely hope the changes have been for the better. The history of this agency has not been good. Quite frankly, the recent canceling of bus routes west of I-270 did very little to win Bi-State any friends. I acknowledge the temporary reinstatement of many of those routes, even though the process came across as one of blackmail. Why should a supposedly regional agency punish one area of the region? Routes should have been cut throughout the region, not just impacting one area. That again smacked of forcing us to pay for services not received. When you take these actions, why do you puzzle at the perception that Bi-State is primarily to benefit the inner core city area and of little or no value to the county as a whole? Apparently the west county representatives to East West Gateway are either non-existent on ineffective.

        My perception is you receive far more from St. Louis County than you deliver back in services. I challenge you to prove me wrong, and that County residents are not just being soaked to provide services to the inner city.

         
        • courtneysloger says:

          Here is a link to the December Moving Transit Forward workshops http://movingtransitforward.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=MmjXhJbIbsc%3d&tabid=61 that show the concentrations of population and employment density in the Missouri St. Louis area. The planning process of proposing where to put and not put transit service weighs heavily on these factors. Some routes are ridership routes (high ridership in dense areas) and some coverage routes (spread over less dense areas but feed into larger system or employment centers). Both are necessary, and both must be evaluated in terms of funding resources and service coverage. From this perspective, St. Louis City and County do not exist independent of one another, but area part of the overall picture of our region.

           
    • Jennifer_Metro says:

      I'd like to address the issue of no light rail along Highway 40, which comes up all the time. If you look at the Highway 40 corridor, what you see is the MoDOT-owned right-of-way (none of which MoDOT wants to give up) that they already had in place to accommodate expansion, and a whole lot of very expensive residential and some commercial real estate. High cost of obtaining right-of-way for light rail is problem number 1. (Not to mention the outrage if we had to take/demolish people's homes!)

      #2 – The population density between downtown and Chesterfield is not high enough to support light rail. Building light rail in a highway corridor is generally considered, by planners, not a great idea – there's no opportunity for transit-friendly development, it's harder for patrons to reach, etc. (See more on this principle here.) Plus, the area served doesn't contain a population of transit-using commuters. The federal government, before investing millions in a light rail extension, wants us to show that the project will have good ridership. Access to a light rail line here would have to involve people driving to big park-and-ride lots, which would further separate this alignment from the neighborhoods it should serve.

      #3 – the planning agency for the region, East-West Gateway, determines where transportation projects go. EWG sees that, with the new I-64, we now have an expanded-capacity transportation corridor that will serve the region for the next fifty years. Building light rail there is doubling up service in that corridor when you could serve the public's needs elsewhere.

      #4 – The long range plan (MovingTransitForward.org) recommends taking advantage of that expanded capacity by putting highway-running BRT there. This BRT would pick up in a densely-populated location (Chesterfield Valley) and run high-speed service into the downtown business district, taking advantage of the infrastructure (a brand-new highway) already in place there.

      You can hear more about Metro's reasoning for this corridor decision by visiting the Moving Transit Forward site's collection of media clips, and listening to the radio interview called “Chris and Jessica on NPR KWMU radio”. http://movingtransitforward.org/newsmedia.aspx

      One other thought – Chesterfield Valley to downtown would be a great corridor for commuter rail. Light rail isn't really the appropriate mode here.

       
      • Ballwin says:

        Gee – I guess Chicago/Cook County did it all wrong with their rail service to O'Hare. Has anybody told them what they did can't work? Differing between light rail and commuter rail is the ultimate picking of the nit when currently there is NO RAIL, and bus service is iffy.

         
        • Jennifer_Metro says:

          Well, I'm not going to criticize Chicago since I don't really know much about their system. I stayed in a motel out by the airport one time and road the L into Chicago – if that's what you're talking about, my train picked up loads of passengers at every station stop. If you look at this census map, it looks like the percentage of transit users along the blue line to O'Hare is pretty high for most of that trip, but this data is from 2000 so I wouldn't want to speculate what it's like now.

          I guess you could say it's picking nits, but if you're putting together a plan that contemplates spending millions of dollars to serve the entire region, I think it's a good thing to make distinctions between what modes best suit the service needs in a particular area. Just because we don't have any commuter rail today doesn't mean we can't have it in the future, right? there wasn't always light rail here, either, but we have it now. There's not BRT here now but there's a very real chance there could be some soon.

          Bi-State executives are not the ones who decide if there will be rail to West County; that's East-West Gateway. One of the preferred corridors for light rail that EWG has studied is in West County, out to Westport. And bus service is only iffy because funding is iffy. Mayor John Nations of Chesterfield thinks transit is pretty important, so I suspect he will do everything he can to ensure the buses keep running to Chesterfield.

           
        • As Chicago spread out so did their rail transit. Developing around rail is easier & more successful than fitting rail into existing development.

           
          • Ballwin says:

            Steve, you inadvertently make my point. St. Louis has always been a region where the sheer weight of plans and studies could sink a fleet of aircraft carriers. The single most notable result of these studies and consultant reports is a total lack of action. If developing around rail is easier than trying to fit rail into existing development, when exactly is rail going to be developed? Do you think it will be easier to add it in 10 years? 20? 30? Why has development not flocked to the nodes of St. Louis rail, as per your premise? Was Clayton there before light rail or after? It cost an incredible amount of money to put light rail there. In 30 years, how much will it cost to run commuter or light rail to Chesterfield? A factor of how many times more than it would cost today?

            Adding rail of any form to the Hwy-40/I-64 corridor would have been much easier and cheaper now than it will be in 10, 20, or 30 years. If I were to live so long, I would bet that it will never happen. Bus service to West County will continue to be intermittent and subject to political games (Bi-State Boardroom question – just how much money do you think we can extort out of John Nations next year?)

            Again, Bi-State historically has been almost criminally mis-managed. A bunch of you are saying you've got new, better management. So far, that management has shut down large portions of the regional service. You say it is based on service needs, I suspect politics. One result – West County residents and employers realize it is not a reliable service, and make other plans. Why hire city residents who may not be able to reach county employers using mass transit? Taking a job downtown forces you to drive or van pool due to a lack of reliable mass transit. That in turn requires more money spent on road building and maintenance, and leaves less for mass transit. Vicious circle, with the result that mass transit is not regional but urban only.

            No argument for regional mass transit should ever accept a premise that it will not offer regional service. Bi-State has done exactly that, with the current management in place.

             
          • Ballwin says:

            One additional comment, then I will shut up. As a student of business, many years ago I learned one of the base precepts of human behaviour – What's In It For Me? Bi-State & East-West continually seem to think that County voters will meekly accept that “they” know what is best for the region, and providing services to the County isn't on the drawing boards – not before, not now, likely not ever. To say that someday “they” might consider providing a bus-to-train service (after they have taught us that we should have no expectation of bus service) just is not going to fly. You will get another resounding NO vote on Proposition A if you do not answer the County resident's question – What's In It For Me? If the answer is “Trust us – we'll take care of you someday – maybe – or maybe not” you will be wasting money by putting it on the ballot.

            By the way – exactly where is Bus-to-train a resounding success?

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Metro IS trying to learn from their past mistakes, as well as those of other properties. The current Moving Transit Forward initiative IS an effort to quantify both regional needs and regional desires, obviously timed to support the passage of Proposition A. And like any governmental group, they are constrained in what they can and cannot do.

            The current poster child for putting big transit plans into place is the Regional Transportation District in Denver. They started doing light rail after St. Louis. They successfully completed TREX, a joint, design-build, light-rail extension and freeway reconstruction project, comparable in scope to the cross-county LRT extension AND the Highway 40 reconstruction project here. Finally, they convinced their voters to increase the sales tax dedicated to public transit from 0.35% to 1.00%, in an initiative called FasTracks. FasTracks was the third attempt to increase the transit tax. The first attempt failed for many of the reasons Prop A will likely fail – a lot of “trust us” and “someday” didn't instill a lot of voter confidence. The second attempt tried to nail down more specifics, but was torn apart by its critics on some shaky budget assumptions. The third, and successful, attempt included several very critical components, that may or may not be possible here (given the state funding disparities between Illinois and Missouri).

            One, EVERY part of the district got either a new rail corridor or improvements to existing corridors.

            Two, all work was assumed to be completed with 12-15 years after passage (would require financing much of the work, but the timelines were something most voters could get their arms around – anything more than twenty years out simply ain't believable to most “normal” people), plus there were no real “first” or “last” line to get done or delayed.

            Three, ALL corridors were taken to a 10-15% design point. People knew where stations would be, budgets were promised to be within +/- 20%, and there was a whole lot less for the naysayers to throw darts at.

            Four, the goal was an interconnected system, not just a bunch of radial lines serving downtown. It was as, if not more, critical to provide good suburb-to-suburb service.

            Five, because all the politicians got something, it was pretty easy to present a unified face to the voters, with little, if any, back stabbing.

            And six, a well-run, well-funded campaign, run by an appropriately “arms-length” campaign committee, including professional campaign staff, speakers bureaus, direct mail, TV advertising, GOTV phone banks and a cohesive, positive message. (What's missing here?!)

            Don't get me wrong, I have every hope Prop A passes. Unfortunately, I don't get a vote – I live in the city. The real challenge will be if/when it's defeated. There really is no fallback position for Metro, especially for any meaningful service levels in the county, and I doubt there'd be any funds or internal will to go back to the voters, again, any time soon,either, so yes, it really is do or die time . . .

             
          • Ballwin says:

            So far, the “changes” at Bi-State remind me of the song “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.” So far the County, in particular West County, seems to be viewed only as a piggy bank, and not as a service priority. This is not the first attempt to get money, it is the second. Are any of your six points – any at all – really in the works? So yes, there are trust issues here. So far, to the county communities, Bi-State is more of a nuisance than a benefit. Remember the bus stop shelters? How many of those got dumped into communities with no consultation with the cities, no consideration of blocked traffic sight lines, etc? The message to us – these are here because we can put advertising on them, not out of any thought of providing consideration to bus users.

            If there is a lot of hard work put into honestly addressing all six of your points above, and communicating that effectively (hard job since Bi-State has never concerned itself with “truth in advertising”), you might get a fighting chance at passage. But I certainly wouldn't bet the ranch on it – they are carrying a well-earned heavy legacy of distrust.

             
          • The original plan was to connect Clayton to downtown at grade. That made perfect sense. However people along the route objected and the costly decision was made to go into tunnels. Connecting concentrations of employment is logical.

             
      • JZ71 says:

        Point 1 – agree that a Highway 40 alignment is probably not the best, but what about parallel, active or abandoned, freight or interurban lines? The big advantage, other than using another public entity's property, presumably for free, a highway alignment offers is a reduced NIMBY factor- the friggin' highway is already there. Putting the old Creve Coeur Lake alignment back in service for the Westport alignment, for example, should be fairly-easily doable, except for the rich, screaming NIMBY's who haven't seen a train there in 40 or 50 years. Plus, we seem to have no problem taking multiple homes to build new shopping centers; why is it such a no-no to consider taking a few for an actual public good?!

        Point 2 – Disagree on the density assumption. Actual per acre density, maybe, but there's a huge catchment area that would support multiple park-and-rides that would create more than enough virtual density (by taking the last-mile challenge out of the equation). And jeez, what's with “the area served doesn't contain a population of transit-using commuters.” Could it be that they currently don't have many attractive, viable options?!!! Duh!

        Point 3 – Don't know enough about the dynamics between Bi-State and EWGCOG to validate or dispute your statement, but, at best, it seems like a cop-out, and, at worst, seems a bass-ackwards way of running a public transit system – they stick their finger in the wind, see what the politicians are willing to build/fund, and then leave it up to Metro to grovel for the funding to operate the latest photo op. Maybe looking at this dynamic, now, is as critical as trying to get Prop A passed – planning at a COG level never happens in a vacuum, and it's never pure, in an academic sense.

        Point 4 – agree that BRT has great possibilities, and not just Gumbo Flats to Busch Stadium. I really don't understand the local focus on creating evermore point A to point B routes. The best transit systems are just that, interconnected direct modes with timed transfers that offer multiple options to as many potential riders as possible! Would an express route from Chesterfield Commons to 4th & Olive develop a base of regular riders? Absolutely. But to really attract riders, Metro would be better off including stops at the existing transit centers on Ballas (hospitals) and Hanley Road (metrolink), to greatly expand the realm of relatively-high-speed transit options, and with that, potential riders!

        And finally, commuter rail – not! While an electrified LRT line may be (currently?) cost-prohibitive out to the Missouri River, don't rule out DMU's or potential hybrid solutions for providing more-frequent rail service with smaller consists than typical commuter rail service uses. You are partially right, this corridor “doesn't contain a population of transit-using commuters.” Expecting to instantly create a client base of even a 1000 is way optomistic – better to prove the concept between the new intermodal station and Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Valley Park and/or Fenton – at least Amtrak has some sort of track record (pardon the pun) in that corridor . . .

         
        • Jennifer_Metro says:

          Sorry I'm late to this response, but your thoughtfulness deserves a response, so here goes.

          1. Other public entities don't want to give up their ROW. Believe me when I say this. The freight companies own the freight tracks, and they have priority, which is why Amtrak struggles with their on-time performance. It is a possibility to explore, if the track upgrades were made by, for instances, the high-speed rail groups. That's the hope for the Chicago-St. Louis corridor – we can glom onto their upgrades and run commuter rail from Alton to downtown on their shiny new tracks.

          2. Yep, it's a chicken/egg argument for sure. Should we invest millions and hope they will come? Or try to change land policies to favor more density and greatly increase bus service, the way Charlotte did, before jumping straight into light rail?

          3. Maybe you think it's a bummer, but that IS indeed the system. Read all about it – EWG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization. http://www.ewgateway.org/trans/transportation.htm But good news! EWG is made up of elected officials, who are responsive to you, the voter. You have more influence over the process than you'd thought!

          4. Totally. A transit network is, at its best, a network. Commuters need to be served, but so does dispersion. That's why the multi-modal center – we got yer Amtrak, yer Greyhound, yer MetroLink, and yer Metro Bus center all in one spot.

          Commuter rail – Let's do both! How about rapid-bus transit all day long, and commuter rail mornings & evenings? Too bad you and I aren't king & queen, we'd whip this system right into shape!

           
          • JZ71 says:

            Thanks for the responses. Obviously, we're pretty close on many issues, and, unfortunately, neither one of us is royalty. 😉

             

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