St. Louis Bus System Disintegrating

St. Louis Bus System Disintegrating

Due to a driver shortage, Metro is cutting bus service on 27 bus lines starting November 29th. Over the last several months bus runs have been cancelled leaving riders waiting, transfers busted, and ruining riders’ day if not worse. The decline in reliability has led to a crisis of confidence. Now the system will be shrunk in an organized and planned way at least.

St. Louis on the Air – Bus drivers and riders alike are frustrated amid Metro Transit worker shortage

Current frequency of bus routes being cut
After Nov 29 service cuts. Courtesy of Bus Riders United STL

As transit consultant Jarrett Walker often says, frequency is freedom. With frequency so goes the practicality of the system. The more often, the more likely it will work for a trip to arrive on time instead of late or wastefully early. Missing a bus is less costly because the next one arrives within a tolerable amount of time. Transfers are more efficient. Higher frequency has higher than linear return to network utility.

Human Transit – How Frequent is Freedom?

Joe Chestnut, ITDP – Frequency is Freedom

Meanwhile the passage of the federal infrastructure bill has sparked the conversation of Metrolink expansion, especially the North/South line that’s been on the drawing boards and studied for decades. Understandable that the politicians who supported the bill would want to trumpet the things we’re going to get as a result. The previous studies are now stale. Given where we’re at, a new Metrolink line is 8-10 years away.

Friday we learned, because one man wants them, the Bi-State board is considering a plan to add turnstiles, fencing, and cameras to Metrolink stations. The budget is $52 million. The Metrolink System-Wide Security Assessment completed in 2019 did not recommend turnstiles. I’m still waiting for calls for turnstiles on the area’s interstates, where shootings and criminality are more frequent, but that’s fodder for another article, so I digress.

At that meeting almost all the comments from the public were in regards to the bus service cuts.

A word cloud of the comments. Courtesy of Bus Riders United STL

The discussion of Metrolink expansion, its alternatives, the futility of turnstiles, and the return on investment of it all I’ll leave to other articles. What is disconcerting is while these are getting attention, our bus system is disintragting. All Bi-State can muster to preserve the system is an attempt to attract drivers with a $2000 signing bonus for a job that hasn’t had a pay increase in several years. A job that came with a high exposure risk during the pandemic. A system with many terrible and dangerous bus stops to gain access to and to wait at. A system whose utility is in free-fall coercing more people to spend money on driving, while the cost of fuel and cars are surging. It’s cruel, when numerous St. Louisans are struggling to pay for food, to increase their already high transpiration costs.

Streetsblog – St. Louis Stunner Runs Away With the Vote for America’s Sorriest Bus Stop

StlToday – ‘It can’t go on forever’: Surging food prices start to hit St. Louis food banks, pantries

The policy failure of encouraging people to use the most inefficient, dangerous, and expensive mode of transportation to accomplish an ever increasing portion of life’s everyday tasks is especially acute in these times. Rendering more and more people captive to high transportation cost volatility through the collapse of our bus system is simply malicious. At a time when bus service should be increasing, Bi-State needs to redouble its efforts to restore service as soon as possible.

CBS – Most Americans can’t handle a $500 surprise bill

NextSTL – 2014 – Limiting Personal And Regional Vulnerability To Energy Price Shocks

What driving coercion looks like-


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