Friday, March 27, 2009



Metro OKs buses to job centers
By Ken Leiser

Buses will continue to roll to employment centers in the Chesterfield Valley through the end of the year under a tentative agreement announced today.

Massive service cuts will take effect on Monday and were to cut off bus service west of Interstate 270. But Chesterfield Mayor John Nations today pledged more than $173,000 to create a new route that will reach employers along the Highway 40 corridor.

That will represent the local match for a federal job access and reverse commute grant, said Metro Ray Friem, Metro's senior vice president for transit operations. Fare collections will cover the remainder of the cost.

Metro's board of commissioners authorized its top executive, Bob Baer, to negotiate details of the agreement with Chesterfield and others who are working to maintain bus service to far west St. Louis County through Dec. 31.

"Public transportation is an extremely important element of building a good business climate and consequently creating a good quality of life," Nations told reporters after today's Metro Board of Commissioners meeting.

The new route would begin at the Clayton MetroLink station, then go to the Ballas bus transfer center and points west along Highway 40.

Nations said there are 26,000 jobs in Chesterfield alone and public transportation is "an integral part" of that effort. It is critical to the nursing homes, hospitals and service sectors.

Chesterfield's pledge could include a mix of public and private money from businesses that have so far agreed to cover part of the cost, Nations said. Businesses may wind up funding the entire local share.

Some Metro commissioners expressed concerns about authorizing the 11th-hour deal without all of the specifics in hand. But others said it was important to prevent a disruption in bus service to parts of the region.

Metro, the region's largest transit agency, will dramatically scale back the reach of its bus system - wiping out two dozen bus routes and modifying others. Beginning Monday, service will be suspended to 2,300 of the 9,000 bus stops and bus shelters in the Missouri half of Metro's system.
MetroLink trains will run less frequently on both sides of the Mississippi River during peak commute periods.
Buses and trains that remain are expected to be more crowded.

This is significantly less service than there is today, but it is service that will reach the retail centers, nursing homes, and hospitals that were about to be cut off from public transit.

I applaud the hard work of The City of Chesterfield and especially Libbey Malberg, the city's Assistant City Administrator for Community Services & Economic Development. This is a rare example of a city government (Chesterfield, NOT St. Louis) working hard and committing resources in order to maintain jobs and quality of life for its citizens.

Of course, Metro has not posted official word of this deal or released the final route map and schedules. If this route starts Monday, they've got some quick work to do, something they aren't always known for.

In any event, this is a little victory, and for that I am thankful.
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