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County Voters Approved Proposition A For Transit Three Years Ago

April 6, 2013 Featured, Public Transit, St. Louis County, Taxes 16 Comments
ABOVE: The westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left, for now.
The westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand.

It was three years ago today that St. Louis County voters approved Proposition A, activating a sales tax previously approved by voters in St. Louis City.

Proposition A, a ½-cent sales tax in St. Louis County, passed on April 6! It will provide revenue needed for continued operation and expansion of the transit system including MetroLink, Metrobus and Call-A-Ride services for the disabled. The County tax will raise approximately $75 million annually – and now triggers a matching quarter cent sales tax that was passed in the City of St. Louis in 1997 which will add an additional $8 million a year to the program. (source)

In the last three years Metro has been able to restore MetroBus service to areas where it had been cut due to lack of funding. St. Louis County is holding back some of the tax revenue generated  each year, to use for local match for an expansion of MetroLink light rail.

But where?

  • South from the Shrewsbury end?
  • North along I-170?
  • Out to Westport Plaza?

I haven’t kept up with the long range planning so perhaps the next route has been selected already, anyone know?

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "16 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nothing selected for MetroLink. Metro is focused on BRT in I-64, I-70, I-55 and I-44 corridors. Completed first round of public meetings Friday.Personally I skeptical of a market for BRT in these corridors. Metro has tried it before without success. What has changed? Even more reverse commuters than 20 years ago with poor transit/pedestrian connections in the county and fewer downtown employees.Best project being discussed in my estimation is the central corridor streetcar being proposed by the Downtown Partnership.

    • JZ71 says:

      Agree on Metro’s plans, disagree on your assessment for “best project”. Compared to Denver (and many other cities), the biggest problem / challenge here is one of perception – “choice” riders rarely choose to ride the bus, any bus, while they may, or may not, ride Metrolink. We will never, ever, get rail based transit to even 20% of potential destinations, especially with our growing suburban sprawl, so making bus travel attractive is something that needs to happen, and quickly, if Metro is to become more than something that just poor people are forced to use. That gets into that old chicken-and-egg conundrum – you need riders to justify frequency, on any route, and you need frequency to attract, and retain, riders. Building a rail-based system that runs less-frequently than a bus is counter-productive (and way more expensive). Clean buses (which Metro already has) that charge attractive fares (ditto) and run every 10 minutes (the missing component) will do more, long term, to attract riders than in rebuilding a streetcar system that was deemed a failure and unsustainable back when a higher percentage of the population were actually using public transit!

      BRT is a broad term, and covers many potential solutions. LA’s Metro Rapid (http://www.metro.net/projects/rapid/.. ) is one successful system that would be worth emulating here. It supplements local service on surface streets (not on freeways) and addresses the one big negative on most existing bus routes – it simply takes too damn long to go any significant distance! Most of us have no desire to triple our commute times, every work day, and that trumps any alternate vehicle choice that Metro might offer (“you can’t get there from here”). Until Metro becomes more attractive as a Transit System, any focus on random light rail lines is misplaced. If the County really wants “better transit”, they should be holding out for / insisting on / subsidizing bus service that runs more frequently than every 90 minutes (midday) to places like Gravois Bluffs (route 210) or every 40 minutes (midday) to West County Mall (route 57). And while it would be difficult (given our existing primarily radial highway system), finding a way to implement a grid route structure (BRT along 141?) with timed transfers would go a long way in making cross-county trips more doable. Not everyone wants to go “downtown”, they may just want to go from Maryland Heights to Ballwin (and no, that’s not a “reverse commute”, it’s a trip!).

      • JB says:

        When was the streetcar system deemed a failure? St. Louis streetcars had high ridership until the last line was ripped up. Ask any older person who remembers the streetcars if it was a mistake ripping them up and they will overwhelmingly say yes.

        St. Louis also has one of the most successful light rail systems in the country. I actually believe St. Louis would and should have higher ridership than either Minneapolis or Denver, but the problem is that we get virtually no funding from the state of Missouri or MODOT. Until MODOT actually functions like a respectable transportation agency and state stops being ran like a rural backwater than local transit will continue to lag behind other metropolitan areas.

        I personally feel Metro and the local community has gone above and beyond many other cities with light rail locally, but it just looks sad because we have bad planning policy and a state government that is adverse to urban issues.

        As far as expansion……no more expansion in the county until we get zoning changes! I’m not worried about future expansion in the county anyway, because a Westport line is the antithesis of what it takes to get light rail funding in 2013 and would never be competitive on a federal level. I’m not against Westport, because it does have potential with the right zoning, but St. Louis County’s municipalities have done everything in their power to not have good access and supportive land uses around their stations. Things may be changing with this recent planning boom we are seeing in the region, but I’m overall skeptical most of the county will get it within the next couple decades, unless it is some how forced by federal policy or connected to federal funding in a big way. Also dont hold your breath on St. Charles supporting Metrolink as long as people who think “black people will hop on a train to steal their tvs” are still alive.

        Grand BRT, Northside-Southside Metrolink, and central corridor streetcar should be the focus of any transit “expansion”.

    • tpekren says:

      I think some limited Express Bus service worked with the downtown stop on Wash Ave being looked at. However, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better served by underwriting a private coach service with wifi on a yearly basis to provide coach service. You see this service all over San Fran for large employers. Wy not try a private public relationship. If it is viable, great. If not, part ways.
      Another thing being pusued from what I understand is new and larger buses for Grand. The Grand bus line has ridership and S. Grand/SLU/Grand Center is seeing continued growth. I think this is a good step towards a streetcar line. I just don’t know if the new Grand Ave Viaduct was built structurally to support a fixed transit line in the future. If not, another short sighted infrastructure prooject even though the dedicated bus stop lanes and new metrolink station is a plus. Believe Steve has more info on that concern.

  2. Justin S. says:

    South city could use Metro stops…Hampton, Kingshwy, Grand, Gravois…

  3. tpekren says:

    Don’t have the ballot langauge on hand, but didn’t it specifically allude or express that expansion will happen in the county first, that being the Daniel Boone (Westport Line). I voted yes but can’t recall the workding. If not, I believe the hand shake deal amongst city and county elected officials is that Westport line will be the first to be looked at. I do recall the langauge required a federal match for any expansion of metrolink using Prop A dollars. In that respect, I think their is some room on where expansion actually happens as the Westport might might not necessarily meet Fed benefit/cost or ridership requirements. Esesntially disqualifying it for Prop A funds.

    What I think the near term transit plan should happen and can be supported with Prop A, Federal New start funds and a downtown/central corridor Transportatino Development District jus as the loop trolley is the following plan. Plus the plan could be implemented in a much more agressive manner and/or phased approach. Heck, the downtown par

    1) Full speed ahead on Central Corrido Streetcar that Thomas Brought up & a streetcar feasibility for Grand Ave.

    2) Extend Cross County along Des Peres River Greenway to I-55 offering south county mobility to Galleria/Clayton Central Business District/Wash U

    3) Rebuild Lambert metrolink stations and extend metrolinks to Earth City/Harrah’s casinon. That would tie in Lingbergh & Maryland Expressway bus routes while offering a tie into one of county’s employment centers in Earth City.
    In other words, work it in parts instead on another big build out of one specific fix transit corridor. The county and muni’s can’t even come close to getting the cross county to its potentional and stopping short in Shrewsbury limits it even more for south county residents. The inner suburbs are still fighting over who is going to give the next big box store developer the biggest tax break instead of using Metro to build density, population, demographics as cities from Minneapolis, Denver to Salt Lake.or doing with their fixed transit systems.

    Heck, who knows. Maybe St. Charles count would at least see a viable reason for extending metrolink across the river to old Noah’s Ark site redevelopment and onto Mid Rivers mall. That thought or mentality isn’t going to happen until county wants to take metrolink past the airport. Unfortunately, I think dead ending metrolink at Lambert is just as much of short coming of St. Louis county and city just as St. Charles county not joining Metro in the first place. Lambert is a regional transportation hub with great freeway access in every direction but only one direction for metrolink. I think metrolink extending west is a step that is needed even if it years before any meaningful tranist is established west of the Missouri.

    • Here is the ballot language:

      “PROPOSITION: Shall
      the County of St. Louis impose a countywide sales tax of one-half of one
      percent for the purpose of providing a source of funds for public
      transportation purposes including the restoration, operation and expansion of
      MetroLink, MetroBus, disabled and senior transportation, in addition to an
      existing sales tax of one-quarter of one percent for the same purpose?”

      There was no handshake agreement that I am aware of. The County wants MetroLink to Westport, but the Northside/Southside proposal scores better as a transit project, thus the impasse. What you recall is a resolution that the County Council passed either just before or just after the passage of Prop A that requires any MetroLink expansion to be supported with federal funding.

      Extending MetroLink west from the Airport was considered in 1995 when St. Charles residents turned down a sales tax for MetroLink expansion. Not much discussion about it since.

      I agree. MetroLink should be extended further south from Shrewsbury. Hopefully there would be a way of doing at grade and therefor for less money.

      • tpekren says:

        Thanks, voted on it but couldn’t recall the language.

      • JB says:

        Dooley came out against the city’s central corridor streetcar because he felt it would “hurt the Westport deal” as if he was positive it was a go soon. I personally dont see how a Westport line would be competitive at a federal level considering the sprawled land use, lack of transit dependent riders, and lack of political support in west county. As I missing something? I was told a couple years back, after prop A passed, by Maggie Hales that pretty much everyone agreed the N-S line would be the most competitive and the region could only afford 1 major line by 2020, which she assumed would be the city line. Has something changed?

      • dempster holland says:

        METRO itself apparently has decided not to proceed with the Westport route since it has given
        the land it had along the inner belt to the greenway project. There was no public discussion of
        this change. Metro and east west have apparently given up on using the rail line through S St
        Louis . There is really little prospect therefore for a metro linkwith its own right of way in St
        Louis–despite what the voters may have thought when they approved the extra sales tax.

    • JZ71 says:

      The biggest challenge with the federal match part of the equation is that, with increased competition, the local portion has increased from about 10% (when Metrolink was first constructed) to more like 40%, these days. And with light rail costing at least $15 million a mile (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_rail#Costs_of_construction_and_operation .. ), that means the local match will need to be at least $6 million a mile, thus the county’s desire to “keep something in the bank” . . . .

  4. RyleyinSTL says:

    I live in South City near Kingshighway and Chip, and as of Monday, work at the Wash-U Med School/BJC. I should be a prime candidate to take the bus to work. I want to take transit to work and conceptually it seems like it should work, after all it’s only 3 miles north of me on KSHW, but there are a few issues/drawbacks that keep me from doing so…

    1) It only takes me 10 minutes to drive – Bus (#95) only runs every 20 minutes and the trip takes ~15min. I understand that public transport is a compromise but possibly quadrupling trip time is silly.

    2) No way to track busses. In other cities you can download an App and check the bus location on your phone/computer in real time This minimizes the time you need to be outside waiting at the bus stop and lets you know just how late or early the bus is running. In STL, where busses don’t run very often, this would be particularly useful.

    3) Weather – Winter is fine but June to September’s oppressive heat is a problem. Waiting 20 mins for a bus, in the sun, in July…I can’t very well show up to work soaking wet with sweat.

    4) Parking at Wash-U/BJC is about $5.00. Bus fair is $4.00. Savings are not a motivator.

    5) Other riders – Again, I know compromise is necessary, but it seems that a great number of riders on the #95 just make me uncomfortable or just make things plain terrible. Some talk to themselves (perhaps argue with themselves), others smoke at the bus stop (even after I politely inform them they are violating a city ordinance), there is always one guy every day who needs a bath and often a mother that has absolutely no control over her 5 kids (nor makes anything . I know that we are all living different lives and some people are exceptionally poor but there is a certain decorum that I would think the average person should expect from others in public…such as bathing, not smoking and being in control of your children.

    Bottom line for me is that improved frequency would vastly improve service.

    • Both Wash U and BJC subsidize employee monthly passes. So over the course of a month the savings for using the bus would be considerable. Metro can track its buses on gps now. Surely they will come up with an ap to share the information with their customers. On time performance of Metro is above 90 percent. 20 minute waits should be infrequent.

    • Fozzie says:

      Exactly why pipe dreams of expanded mass transit will never be viable in this community

    • Give it a try for a few weeks! Metro has excellent on-tine performance so your time spent waiting for the bus isn’t that long if you time it right. Sure you can meet some colorful characters on the bus but they’re rare.

      • Eric says:

        Being relatively near the beginning of the route, bus times should be pretty consistent, at least northbound.


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