The changes to MetroBus service to be implemented next Monday complete a significant redesign of transit service that no other agency in the country has accomplished in such a short time, Metro Chief Operations Officer Ray Friem said.
“Metro is delivering what is essentially a new transit system that has been designed using state-of-the-art transit planning and a massive amount of input from customers and the public,” Friem said. “This is not a reproduction of the same service the region knew before the cuts in March 2009. This is a redesigned approach that rebuilds Metro’s geographic reach while delivering even better overall service, optimum operating efficiency, and a new responsiveness to customer needs and regional realities. This is the improved, efficient, fiscally responsible service we promised St. Louis.”
Metro is staffing information buses and tables at various Transit Centers this week to provide information and assistance to customers as the agency prepares to roll out service changes on Monday, August 30, 2010.
“There is no blueprint for the kind of system overhaul that Metro has undergone over the last two years,” said Friem. “No transit agency has ever reduced service and then redesigned its system to restore service as quickly as Metro has – all completed three months ahead of schedule.”
Friem said the changes today involve 53 MetroBus routes across the region, with 41 routes restructured to be more responsive and efficient and 12 routes getting changes to time schedules to improve service.
• Some of the busiest routes were divided into two or three routes to improve on-time performance and relieve overcrowding on some buses. Splitting those routes also improved efficiency because it required fewer buses and operators on each route each day.
• Other routes were redesigned to meet the changing needs of employment centers and retail areas, as well as shifts in populations.
• The boundaries for eligibility for Metro Call-A-Ride service for customers in the disabled community and the elderly were expanded, making more people eligible.
• The sizes of buses used on some routes will reflect ridership demands.
This phase of Restoration 2010 completes what Metro began on June 28 with changes to 20 bus routes and an increase in MetroLink train frequency to 12 minutes from 15 minutes.
Friem said Metro will continue to make adjustments to the transit system as needed in the months ahead, but one goal of Restoration 2010 was to re-establish transit stability. “Making transit service stable and reliable will help rebuild customers’ faith in the system,” he said. “That will help rebuild ridership.”
Friem predicted that ridership will reach about 50 million boardings in Fiscal Year 2011(July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011) from 47 million in Fiscal Year 2010. He said Metro would have hit 60 million boardings in Fiscal Year 2009 if service reductions had not been necessary, and that target will be reached in the next few years.
The redesign of the regional transit system became Metro’s top priority after voters in St. Louis County approved a half-cent sales-tax increase in April. That triggered a quarter-cent sales-tax increase passed by voters in St. Louis City in 1997 that could not be levied until the County passed an increase. Those two new, long-term sources of income are projected to yield annual revenue to Metro of approximately $80 million, making it financially possible to restore service to the levels that existed before 2009.
Friem said the Agency is hiring and training operators and mechanics to support the restored service – a total of 120 new employees by the end of the year. In addition, new buses are being ordered to replace many in the aging fleet. That will give Metro even more ability to respond to consumer demands. The first new buses are expected to arrive early in 2011.