The Wheels on the Bus go to Maryland Heights
The St. Louis public transportation is essential for some who work in Maryland Heights.
Like millions of Americans, St. Louis City resident Tameka Johnson relies on public transportation to bring home a paycheck.
“I guess it’s fine, it gets me where I want to be,” Johnson said when asked about riding a St. Louis MetroBus to work on a daily basis. “I would say the bus is a pretty good service.”
Johnson takes MetroBus, a service that is a part of the Metro Transit system, from St. Louis to the Comfort Inn in Maryland Heights. Her bus ride is 30 minutes and includes several stops. Johnson owns a car, she said, but the bus allows her to save transportation money.
Metro Transit has an economic impact on the St. Louis region, serving as a method of transportation for people such as Johnson who are looking to save money, as well as those who don’t own a car. It serves a population area of more than 2 million in Missouri and Illinois, according to its website.
The system represents a $1.8-billion-dollar investment in regional infrastructure, said Metro spokeswoman Patti Beck. Forty-seven million people boarded the Metro system in 2010.
The number one reason people use the system is to go to work or school, Beck said. Metro conducted a survey in 2008 that found 50 percent of those who rode MetroBus had no car, while 79 percent of those who ride the MetroLink light rail service have just one car and 21 percent have no car, Beck said.
Henry Shaw, also a St. Louis City resident, takes MetroBus to work at a Westport area hotel daily. He boards MetroLink in the city and then travels to Wilson Bus Station, where he catches MetroBus.
“It’s something that gets me to work,” Shaw said.
Metro’s Web site called fiscal year 2010 “a pivotal year.” The previous year proved to be a challenging one for the service due to a failed St. Louis County tax initiative on the 2008 ballot.
Metro laid off employees and reduced the frequency of trains. The cuts impacted the lives of those without access to a car. People who worked in restaurants, sporting complexes and retail stores were left without a way to get to their job, according to Metro’' Web site.
The state of Missouri granted $8 million dollars in emergency fund that allowed Metro to restore some of its services in August 2009. In addition, the St. Louis County Executive and St. Louis County Council placed Proposition A on the ballot, a one-half cent tax raise on the ballot in the spring of 2010. The passage allowed Metro to restore services to pre-cut levels by November of 2010.
“Some people missed work and medical appointments and some who didn’t think they needed public transit missed the service because people had no way to get to their jobs,” Beck said.
Public transportation serves as a cog in the economies of suburban communities such as Maryland Heights. Maryland Heights City Administrator Mark Levin said those concerned about the impacts of the cuts made their concerns known to the city.
The Maryland Heights economy produces a total of 50,000 jobs for the St. Louis region, Levin said. There are 3,600 hotel rooms and 50 restaurants in the city and many employees rely on public transportation to get to work, Levin said. He also said that the local service industry was in contact with the city at the time of the cuts to communicate the negative impact they would have on the city’s economy and that those who rely on public transportation for work transportation showed up at the city council meetings and voiced concerns.
In addition, colleges with satellite campuses in the area voiced concerns regarding how some students would get to class without public transportation.
The economic impacts of the MetroLink system extend further than taking retail clerks and restaurant workers to work, as there are more than $2 billion dollars of commercial space adjacent to MetroLink Stations, Beck said. For every one dollar invested in transit, four dollars is returned in local economic activity, Beck said.