Starting Monday, St. Louis’ mass transit system will reduce service radically. The service area for this multibillion-dollar regional asset will shrink by two thirds, literally overnight.
The Metro transit agency faces an operating deficit of $45 million this year, which is expected to reach $50 million next year. Nearly one in every four of its 2,300 employees will be laid off in the coming weeks. Many highly skilled and productive employees already are being poached by transit systems in other regions.
Service will end at 2,300 of the 9,000 bus stops and shelters on Missouri’s side of the system; service in Illinois, which is fully funded, won’t be affected. A bus fleet of 320 will shrink to about 140. MetroLink light rail riders will see one-third fewer trains during rush hour. Call-A-Ride service for the disabled will be slashed.
St. Louis gets very little state money for our transit system, while Illinois funds mass transit very well even in southern Illinois just across the river. It’s worth noting that this isn’t just the fault of the Republicans, though they certainly share the blame. Governor Nixon has shown very little interest in increasing transit funding for St. Louis.