With a mandate from the 63 percent of voters in St. Louis County who approved Proposition A on April 6, Metro is taking steps to restore transit services that were reduced in 2009 and is reviewing routes to determine which ones should be reconfigured or extended.
Robert J. Baer, Metro President and Chief Executive Officer, said one of the first steps toward rebuilding the public-transit system was to complete the screening, hiring and training of the best candidates for new jobs as operators, mechanics and others needed to restore and expand service. He said Metro would be hiring about 40 employees each quarter for the remainder of the year for a total of about 120 by the end of 2010.
Metro also immediately began removing the “Temporarily Restored” signs at bus stops where service would have been eliminated if Proposition A had failed. After services were cut last year, a one-time emergency appropriation from the Missouri Legislature enabled Metro to restore service temporarily to some routes. Those funds will be exhausted later this summer.
Baer said Metro will announce the schedule for restoration and reconfiguration of service at the April 16 Board Meeting.
Voters in nearly all parts of the County voted to approve Proposition A, which set a sales tax of one-half of 1 percent to fund public transit for the region. Prop A’s passage in the County also triggered a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax in the City of St. Louis that voters there approved in 1997. Metro estimates the revenue from the sales tax in the County should be about $74 million with about $8 million from the City. Those new revenues should begin arriving at Metro in the fall of this year.
“Metro wants to extend its sincere gratitude to the voters of St. Louis County for their vote of confidence in their transit agency and their trust in our vision for the future of public transit in the St. Louis region,” Baer said. “The overwhelming victory on April 6 demonstrates that the voters understood the important role public transit plays in getting people to jobs, medical care and important destinations, and the role transit plays in helping drive economic development and new jobs for the region.
“Proposition A means the region has preserved hundreds of jobs at Metro, and more importantly, has prevented thousands of people from losing transit access to their workplaces” Baer added. “Metro Call-A-Ride will be able to continue serving the elderly and disabled community, and students still have access to colleges, universities, and technical schools.”
Baer also said the new revenue will provide funds needed for the required local match to apply for federal funds. He said Metro has been forced to leave millions of federal dollars on the table because the Agency did not have local revenue to attract federal dollars for our region. Federal funds and state funds will be needed to create new Bus Rapid Transit and MetroLink lines.
Proposition A was only the third sales tax passed for Metro Transit in the Agency’s 60-year history, the others coming in 1974 and 1994. The funds provided under Proposition A will finance transit operations and expansions for at least the next 15 years.
Metro’s long-range plan that provides a menu of solutions for the region’s transit needs over the next 30 years calls for Metro to begin looking at service expansions and introducing new service to St. Louis, such as Bus Rapid Transit and commuter rail, after reduced services have been restored. The plan also calls for work to begin on a new MetroLink line when federal funds can be obtained for construction. Metro has also committed to demonstrating that it has the financial resources to operate proposed expansions.
In addition to expressing gratitude to the voters, Bob Baer pledged that Metro would continue to operate with complete transparency, public accountability and fiscal responsibility. He also offered the agency’s thanks and appreciation to the coalition that campaigned for Proposition A – a diverse group representing the faith-based community, the education community, civic and advocacy groups, healthcare, labor, business, and political leaders. Among the leaders, Baer cited:
• Mark Wrighton, Chancellor of Washington University and Chairman of the Advance St. Louis Steering Committee
• John Nations, Mayor of Chesterfield and Chairman of the Advance St. Louis Campaign and the Campaign Committee
• Tom Shrout, Executive Director of Citizens for Modern Transit, and other members of the Transit Alliance
• Local elected officials such as St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Congressmen Wm. Lacey Clay Jr. and Russ Carnahan