Monday, August 30, 2010

Metro Bus Restoration Is Here-Is Everybody Ready? Metro May Not Be

St. Louis Metro Transit Missouri System Map 08 30 2010
 St. Louis' Metro mass transit agency will roll out the final phase of bus service restoration since the passage of Proposition A, a sales tax increase to fund the agency, today.  The service restoration will bring bus service to thousands who lost it after the disastrous mishandled campaign and defeat of a much needed tax increase in 2008. It will also make getting around on the bus more difficult for some, as Metro had to make some hard decisions as to what changes would serve the most people the best.

 I've written much in the last few weeks about the challenges facing Metro and the immense number of hurdles they face in getting service restored today.  They have accelerated their original service restoration schedule and added more routes than even they thought they could have up and running by now.  Of course, that means they have issues of scale to deal with.  Not enough buses, not enough drivers who are fully trained, and a less than stellar promotional effort all are potential problems the agency must face and fix in order to make the transit restoration work the way the Metro brass wants it to.

I'll spare you the details, as you can find them elsewhere on my main blog, Mark Edwards Uncensored.  But as Metro has been ramping up for the restoration of service today, I've personally experienced reckless driving, new operators getting lost while transporting passengers, and drivers speeding 10 to 15 miles above the speed limit on a winding St. Louis County road on numerous occasions.  None of that bodes well for an efficient or pleasurable customer experience.

Metro has spent considerable time and effort educating its current users to the changes, but has done only a marginal (and I think that's generous) job of  informing people who DON'T use their system that there will be all this new service.  They've put up a few billboards that simply say GET ON BOARD, but doesn't even say something like "New Service Starts August 30".  They could have taken the billboard money and put a Mylar balloon on EVERY  bus stop sign that is on a new or changed route and gotten the attention of riders AND non-riders that a bus would be available for them to ride.  The agency's outreach to those who are not their customers already or who have a negative feeling about Metro was simply dismal. 

Metro COO Ray Friem said in a recent chat that the agency was some fifty buses short of what they need to operate and that they are aware of the problems with all the new operators they have hired.

Regarding the safety of our bus operators... we are very selective in those we accept into training. Then we put the potential operators through a rigorous training period. Included are defensive driving and customers service. All operators must obtain a commercial drivers license issued by the State and must pass written and on-the-road tests. We continue to monitor and supervise all operators. The new drivers may not be able to give you all the Metro system information immediately. That will take some days/weeks/months of on the job training.
Metro's own blog NextStopSTL wisely acknowledges that there might be problems as the transit restoration kicks in today.

What to do if you get lost or miss a connection?

Even with careful planning, there is always a chance you could get lost or miss a connection and need to figure out what to do next.  Here are some options to help you find your way.

1. Customer service. The Metro Customer Service line will be open as usual from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Missouri: 314-231-2345
TTY: 314-982-1555
2.  Email transit information questions to
3.  Via Twitter use “@STLMetro” with your question. We will be available with a Google Maps app and transit information to help Twitter users.
4.  Locate a Transit Service Manager throughout the system. TSMs and other available personnel will be out Monday to help customers.  TSMs wear yellow Metro polo shirts, and Metro ambassadors have white Metro polo shirts.
Also, please help one another.  If you find someone on your bus who is confused or needs some help, please consider reaching out and lending a hand.  You may just make someone’s day.
Please don't get me wrong.  I'm happy that the new schedule is now in effect.  I personally will benefit from the schedule, with the bus I take to work coming almost a mile closer to my home than it did before.  I'll have a bus that actually passes my office for the first time in two years, and that's a good thing as well.    But again Metro has failed to adequately prepare for the service changes and has done their usual amateurish half-baked effort to let the masses know what is going to be happening starting today.

I hope the buses are full, drivers don't get lost, nobody gets hurt, and the system, partially changed to make transfers easier as long as the buses are running on schedule, runs somewhere close to the schedules Metro's very devoted Planning Department has issued.

But I'm a realist, and this is Metro we're talking about.  Be ready for anything today.
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