In a surprise move that will further solidify the urban-suburban split in the St. Louis region, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann announced the formation of a transit authority independent from Metro, that will be tasked with building a comprehensive light rail network in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.
The St. Louis-St. Charles Transit Authority (SLSCTA) hopes to capitalize on public sentiment reflected in a recent bi-partisan poll showing that nationwide 69 percent of suburban and rural residents agree that "increased transit investment would help their community." The result included 74 percent approval by suburbanites and 55 percent by rural residents. When asked if transit should receive more federal funding the numbers dropped, but 59 percent of suburban and 50 percent of rural residents answered in the affirmative.
Armed with polling that appears to show broad support for additional transit funding, Dooley and Ehlmann said the time was right to build transit. "Look, people are clearly stating that they want more transit, that they want better transit options." Dooley stated. "I think it's time we give them what they want." There has not been a similar survey conducted in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties specifically, however a transit tax proposal commonly referred to as "Prop M" was defeated by St. Louis County voters in November, 2008.
"I believe that our suburban residents want transit, they want light rail, but they don't want it connected to the Metro system that's basically in St. Louis City." Ehlmann said. "I mean, where does it go? Downtown, Forest Park, the airport? Sure, but you can't get to Bahama Breeze or West County Mall and there's only one Best Buy on the line."
You should vote "YES" on Prop A because you recognize the value of having choices when traveling.
Many times driving a car is the best option. Need to buy a week's worth of groceries for your family of five? Yeah, you're going to want the family truckster. But for some shopping trips, for getting to Forest Park, for your doctor's appointment, for your daily commute, Metro is an option. For the most significant events in the St. Louis region, the Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race, Live on the Levee, Komen Walk for the Cure, St. Louis Marathon, Tour of Missouri and the 130 or more professional sporting events each year, Metro provides an option.
For some Metro is the only option. Some do not want to own a car. Some cannot afford to own a car. Some aren't able to drive a car. What are they to do without transit options? Cutting bus routes and reducing frequency of service will severely impact these individuals. It will also tell those looking for apartments, homes or jobs near transit that their options are few, that to live in St. Louis you really must have a car. St. Louis enjoys a comprehensive Interstate and highway system. We also pay billions of dollars for it. Providing transit choices means directing just a small percentage of our region’s overall transportation spending to mass transit.
So vote "YES" on Prop A, provide yourself and others choices other than driving to live and work in St. Louis.
You should vote "YES" on Prop A because you think 197% is a good return on your investment.
MetroLink's Red Line began in 1990 and the original line cost $465M to construct. St. Louis was able to provide $117M in funding and leveraged this support to earn $348M in additional federal funding. That's a 197% return on investment. How many of you have done better than that in the past few years, or ever? There are additional arguments to be made regarding ancillary economic benefits, transit-oriented investment, etc., but I won't address that issue here.
Some critics point out that however much the new transit tax generates (estimates are near $70M/yr.) it won't be enough to build another MetroLink line or introduce Bus Rapid Transit in the region. They have a point. However, they ignore the power of local financial support. Communities seeking to expand and improve transit options must demonstrate commitment to that end. If and when that happens additional funding is possible. It's not a sure thing, but one can easily see a financial path to better transit. Without the additional local funding there is no such path.
So vote "YES" on Prop A, invest in St. Louis and realize an incredible return on investment for the region.
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