Thursday, April 19, 2007

St. Louis and The Space Race

I decided it might be time for a space race update so lets take a look at St. Louis. Often this Midwestern city is overlooked but it has frequently showed its thriftiness and ability to attract riders. The most recent success is that of the newest metro link line, the Cross County or Shrewsbury Line which opened in 2006. Ridership along the new line rocketed the total system ridership up to 63,000 and plans are for further expansion.

The first light rail line opened up in 1993 and fortunately was able to take advantage of an abandoned freight subway. An expansion opened up in 2001 into Illinois. In 2003 the Illinois line was expanded further and surpassed 2015 ridership projections upon opening.

An interesting thing about the Metro-Link is that it is a true light metro. It operates with very few grade crossings and has a subway segment through the city.

Now expansion plans are slated for a north south line that would bisect the existing east west axis. Studied in 2006 this line is supposed to receive funding for further study. Officials are also considering a tax hike in order to pay for expansion to the system.
The timing of any tax proposal will depend on whether Metro gets $20 million this year from the state. When the time comes to go before voters, officials believe more MetroLink — not just maintaining current operations — needs to be included. "We don't think you can talk in the county about support without talking about expansion," said Jones. "The opportunity to expand is critical to the support of the existing system."
While not as high profile as some of the other Transit Space Race entrants, St. Louis has quietly and methodically expanded its transit network. Some might have the glory, but this system has guts, pulling the system ridership out from the gutter and bringing new people to transit. If you get a chance, check out the expansion advocacy page of Citizens for Modern Transit.

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