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May 13, 2011 | 20 Comments

Study Ranks Metro Transit High for Access in its Service Area, Also Points to Need for Further Reach

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Metro transit riders have access to 99% of jobs in St. Louis City, 97% of jobs in St. Louis County and 92% of jobs in St. Clair County, which is why Metro ties for number one for access to transit in the regional core, according to a study released by the Brookings Institution which examined transit access to jobs in the United States.

The study points out what transit planners in this area have said for years – that the current lack of a regional approach to transit and transit funding has not allowed the system to evolve to meet the growing needs of the region.

“Metro areas need to craft comprehensive visions not only for how to create more jobs, but also how to link people to those jobs effectively” – Alan Berube, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow

The St. Louis region has transit service in five counties (St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County in Missouri; Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois).  Three of these counties are served by Metro Transit.  The Brookings Institution study examined 16 counties surrounding metropolitan St. Louis, going far beyond the Metro Transit service area to include cities like Warrenton, MO, Jerseyville, MO and Staunton, IL.

Brookings Study Map - Transit Coverage in 16 County Region

Brookings Institution Map shows areas with transit coverage in 16 county region

Areas like St. Charles County and Madison County have made some transit investments and they connect to Metro Transit for quick connections to downtown St. Louis, Clayton and the Metro-East.   This metropolitan area, like other regions, will continue to make decisions about the investments it is willing to make to improve the reach and frequency of the transit system they want.

A long-range transit plan developed by Metro Transit and the East-West Gateway Council of Governments also identified needs and opportunities for transit both inside and beyond Metro’s current service footprint.   The missed opportunities cited in the Brookings study provide another opportunity for our region to address how we want transit to evolve and expand to serve the growing needs of the region.

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20 thoughts on “Study Ranks Metro Transit High for Access in its Service Area, Also Points to Need for Further Reach”

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    Nice way to spin the report. Unfortunately, the unserved areas are where most of the recent job growth was and is happening. I think the Post-Dispatch did a better job of reporting the overall tenor of the report; this seems more like an attempt to put the best-possible spin on the current reality.

  2. mike says:

    Courtney,

    Did you get a chance to look at today’s Post Dispatch and Fox 2 websites? They seem to contradict what has been posted on this website. The reports by The Post Dispatch and Fox News shows the studies provided by the Brookings Institute indicated that St. Louis ranks low (68th of out the 100 largest metro areas) as far as mass transit usage, with only 24 percent access to jobs.

    You may want to look into this matter to see if the findings shown in The Post and Fox News were reported in error

  3. Jordan S. Wilson says:

    This study proves a point. Metro Transit needs to expand into St. Charles County and Jefferson County. What’s with the hesitation from the political leaders of their counties?

  4. mike says:

    Jordan,

    If I’m not mistaking, I believe Charles Co. turned down a measure similar to St. Louis County’s Prop. A, which would have helped funded Metro in providing service to St. Charles County. Courtney, can provide the particulars on that issue.

    Jimmy Z,

    That was a nice job of editing the Post’s report.

  5. mike says:

    Following up on my last comment in which I failed to hit the edit button:

    The taxpayers, if I recall, voted down a measure which would have generated funds to help support Metro transit service in St. Charles County. Again, Courtney can provide the specifics on that matter

  6. RTBones says:

    Mike,

    From what I recall, it seems like St. Charles County has twice voted down measures that would have funded Metro services into St. Charles County.

    There was a recent article in the Post that pointed out that the western counties are outside of Metro’s service area. The other main point was that less than one in four commutes in St. Louis via Metro could be done in 90 minutes – or roughly three times what it takes to drive the same distance.

    The article is here: http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/building-blocks/article_61959ac8-7cab-11e0-8b85-001a4bcf6878.html

  7. mike says:

    RTBones,

    Thanks for the info.

  8. mike says:

    In viewing Metro’s reponse, or the lack of it, to the public’s demand and need for improved bus service in St’ Louis City and County, after St. Louis County passed Prop. A, could Metro sell St. Charles County voters into passing a similar measure if it were to come up again in the future?

    1. Courtney says:

      I’m very sorry you feel that way Mike, and I know you have expressed as much before, but we do provide the service we 1) have available resources for and 2) try to get people to jobs and education across a large service footprint. That is, of course, a conversation we have touched upon many times. Regarding service expansion to St. Charles County (and I’m trying to dig up the exact dates of the votes – I was not here at the time), it is largely up to the elected leadership and residents to decide they want public transit services, then decide, as part of the regional conversation, how they want to do that, either through Metro or an independent system like Madison County Transit.

  9. mike says:

    Thanks for the info Courtney.

  10. mike says:

    Courtney,

    Apparently, there are others that feel the same way that I do. According the the Post Dispatch’s report, the study conducted by the Brookings Institution indicated that people chose not to use Metro because it was not an easy system to use.

  11. RTBones says:

    I’d be interested to see the reason the commutes take as long as they do. If I had to guess, there is an awful lot of wait times for transfers – all things we have talked about ad nauseum before. Goes back to headways, and lack of connections in St. Charles/St. Peters/South County. When commuting via transit takes three times as long as driving, its not a great leap to imagine folks just driving if they have the means to do so. I also thought it was interesting that folks think the system is difficult to use. Again, things we have talked about before.

    On a different note, last night I saw a TV spot advertising the 99. I shuddered. I still find it hard to believe that this…thing…is the image of transit in St. Louis Metro wants to portray.

  12. Jordan S. Wilson says:

    They have that SCAT bus service. It looks more like a shuttle service than a bus service. St. Charles County Has voted it down twice in 1997. It was voted down because the residents were never told on how transit would expand into their county. Now they have 360,000 residents in St. Charles County according to the 2010 Census.

  13. mike says:

    Just a note: Bi-State used to run an extension of the #32 Line (Wellston-St. Charles), on a regular basis into the city of St. Charles. I assume that service was discontinued when the measure to raise taxes to support transit in that region was voted down.

  14. Julie says:

    I would use the term “high access” very lightly. Having to walk 25 minutes to the nearest bus on a Sunday because 33 doesn’t run is not what I would call “high access”. Having to sit at the Rock Road station on the weekdays, longer than desired because the last two 33 buses that run have such a wide gap from each other is not high access.

    If Metro’s definition of “high access” is just getting you from point A to B but not paying attention to the details of how, then Metro is never going to improve.

    Do not waste funds trying to introduce Metro into areas without it. You need to fix the areas that use Metro first such as increased frequency, keeping it out longer at night, and so on.

    1. Courtney says:

      Thanks for your comment Julie! Very interesting perspective. I will be sure to pass along.

  15. RTBones says:

    Thanks, Julie! I’m glad it’s not just Mike and I that go on about wait times and headways. Or, for that matter, about longer service hours or a night service.

  16. mike says:

    Julie,

    You made a good analogy in your 3rd paragraph. Service enhancement should take precedence over service expansion, just like a building block. In addition, as you also hit upon, easier service accessiblity has always been one of my key points, which has fallen on deaf ears.

  17. RTBones says:

    I’m always amazed at some of the things Metro does or considers important.

    Many of the things highlighted in this study and highlighted in Metro’s own poll have been discussed before. If you ride the system at all, none of it is a surprise. The surprise will come when Metro changes its way of thinking.

    With respect, Metro won’t tighten its routes, won’t advertise its service to the region as a whole, won’t make its system easier to use, but has no issue promoting its parking lot shuttle (the #3 Forest Park bus) or the #99 Downtown bus. If you take a look at Metro’s own website – http://www.metrostlouis.org/Default.aspx – the changing opening image talks about the closure of Grand station (good – actually informative system information), tells you about all the money you can save by taking Metro (ok, but misguided), then hits you with the FP and 99 routes (which affect very few riders of the system as a whole). If you watch TV – lately after Cardinals broadcasts is when I have seen them – everything is about the 3 and the 99. Why is there so little talk about the system as a whole in Metro’s advertising? For that matter, on Metro’s own website?

    Want a couple minor tweaks you can do?

    On your website – highlight a different route every week or so instead of focusing so much energy on your painted buses or trying to tell us we can save so much money by riding. Include connections to the train in your advertising. You can only save gas if you have viable access to the system – which as we have discussed at length – the region as a whole does not have.

    If making the overall system easier to use by reducing headways, connection times, and at least some systems running later service (in other words, getting out of the commuter-only mentality) means cutting back or eliminating some low traveled routes, then do it already. You want more people to ride the buses? Then tell them about the SYSTEM – advertise the system as a WHOLE, not just your gimmicks. I’d much rather use a limited but highly integrated and functional system than I would the system with spotty availability and access that covers “more ground” on a limited basis.

    If you take nothing back to Metro planners and managers, Courtney, take this – in your blog (and I would guess Twitter and Facebook crowds too), you have access to the types of riders you want: pro transit, transit educated, with means to get around as they see fit. We want transit in the St. Louis region to succeed. We are also frustrated with what we have, and what we perceive as a lack of service (or lack of attention to our needs). They might choose Metro if it actually worked for them – but it doesn’t in many cases. If you want to keep us keep using and thinking Metro, then you need to fix the system.

    1. Courtney says:

      RT, thanks for your comments. I passed them immediately along to Marketing and Planning. As you know, I am a transit rider, and understand very well your concerns and share many of your sentiments. What I can do, what my job is, is to be the messenger or conduit between the community and the Agency. Comments on the blog are very important because while many of these suggested changes are small, some are large and would have to be evaluated within the context of the community. But we do appreciate the comments, and I do think together we can improve public transit in St. Louis.

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