Sunday, May 5, 2013


St. Louis, Missouri and MetroLink
By Chris Harpstrite

St. Louis and Metro have had a great relationship since its conception began in the 1960’s. Although it wasn’t known as Metro then, they completed several projects in the St. Louis region including: overtaking of fifteen individual privatized transit firms to make one cohesive transit agency, the purchase of Parks Metropolitan Airport in Cahokia, Illinois as a satellite airport for Lambert Airport, and lastly, Metro developed the tram system to carry visitors to the top of the Gateway Arch. (Metro Transit, 2010)

In the 1980’s the world-wide energy crisis helped to grow Metro’s bus ridership, however, because Metro was not prepared for such a dramatic increase in such a short amount of time it tended to strain the organization rather than bring in large profits.  Despite the financial burden Metro was under they were still able to introduce the Call-A-Ride service, this service ensured travel for customers with accessibility and disability issues. (Metro Transit, 2010)

In 1987, Metro and the East-West Gateway council, a metropolitan planning organization, discussed new options for transit improvements, including a light-rail transit system that would complement the bus system. By 1990, planning was complete and construction of the St. Louis MetroLink system was under construction. One thing that helped St. Louis and Metro get this public transportation system up so quickly was the reuse of unused rail beds and railroad right-of-ways. (Metro Transit, 2010) After three years of construction, in July of 1993, MetroLink debuted and in just one month had its one-millionth passenger board the light-rail system.

The fourteen mile, sixteen station rail line connected St. Louis County to St. Claire county, Illinois. Averaging 40,000 daily riders within its first two years of opening, which was twice what Metro had projected and even exceeding that 2010 forecast of 35,000 daily riders, MetroLink was deemed a success story. (Cervero, 1998, p. 431)

Since then Metro has expanded the MetroLink to reach out to Lambert Airport to the west, and South Western Illinois College in Belleville, Illinois to the east. In 1999, the federal government stopped providing funding for transit operations and MetroLink had to implement some cost-saving initiatives. (Metro Transit, 2010) Despite the economic downturn, Metro and MetroLink continue to thrive. It took ten years to implement a new tax initiative to help out the cash strapped Metro organization.

Today, Metro has invested over $1.5 billion in a 46-mile light rail system that connects from Lambert Airport in Missouri to Scot Air Force Base in Illinois. “Metro connects commuters to 97% of work location in the service area, and employers rely on public transit to widen their reach for talented workers eager to make a contribution.” (Metro Report, 2012, p. 03)

Despite the success the Metro has had, little economic development has occurred around these stations. For the most part, commuters will drive their cars to the closest station and then ride MetroLink or Metro Bus into downtown St. Louis. However, there are a few examples of TOD in the area:

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