St. Louis County voters voiced their strong support for mass transit in the St. Louis region, approving a 0.5% sales tax increase to support Metro operations and possible future expansion. The approval of Prop A means that a like sales tax of 0.25% approved by St. Louis City voters will go into effect. The approval of Prop A means that for the first time in Metro history, the transit agency has a substantial, dedicated local funding source. Local funding support is often determinative in federal transit funding decisions. Metro will begin resumption of bus routes eliminated during the most recent round of cutbacks soon.
There are many deserving of congratulations and Citizens for Modern Transit leads the way. Executive Director Tom Shrout fully committed CMT to the Prop A effort and while many people and factors contributed to the ultimate success, CMT led the way by building a case for support and creating a network of influential and hard working supports. Of course the work continues. Click here to learn how you can join CMT's ongoing efforts.
Now that Metro has a stable funding source what changes should we expect? First, service to more than 2,000 Metro bus stops cut in March 2009 is scheduled to be restored beginning in June. MetroLink lead times, the wait between trains, will likely be reduced back to 10 minutes, down from the current 15 minutes, and third, Call-A-Ride service will be restored. Call-A-Ride primarily serves the elderly and disabled who do not have access to other means of transportation. About half of the approximate $75M of revenue produced by Prop A and the City sales tax will be committed to restoring and maintaining Metro service. The remaining amount will be targeted toward service expansion, bus, MetroLink and possible Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines. For reference, mixed traffic BRT, such as that proposed by Metro for Grand Avenue costs $500K-$1M per mile. Learn more about BRT here (PDF).
The MetroLink Blue Line cost roughly $84M per mile, or almost $676M for 8 miles. This means that extending a current MetroLink line, or building a single new North-South line is a mid-range (5-10 years) goal while BRT has the possibility of becoming a significant part of the St. Louis transit system. See images below for established MetroLink and BRT alternatives. The passage of Prop A also likely means enhanced transit stations and bus stops. Plans for a greatly enhanced Grand Avenue Transit Plaza are already on paper. As the Grand Avenue bridge is replaced, Metro funding will ensure that transit is addressed in the process.
Preliminary Grand Avenue Station transit plaza plan.