As we wrap up Fiscal Year 2015 at Citizens for Modern Transit, we can’t help but highlight some of the successes this year as an organization and for transit in this region. A little more than three decades ago CMT began its mission to introduce MetroLink to the St. Louis area. This year we had the distinct honor of celebrating those 30 years of advocacy in this region. No matter where you look for the definition of advocacy, it is always defined the same – to publicly support or recommend a particular cause – and our cause at CMT is public transit.
Highlights from CMT’s FY15 included:
- Award of a $10.3 million TIGER grant to Metro in September to expand light rail with an infill station at CORTEX with the help of the Feasibility study led by CMT in 2014;
- The release of CMT’s Transit Funding Study findings commissioned last fall with Transportation for America;
- Public discussions with elected officials and key stakeholders on the next transit priority for the region and funding sources to move that project forward;
- A record 2,700 St. Louisans giving transit a try for their work commute for the first time through the CMT Try & Ride Program;
- Record membership levels in the organization topping membership goal by 10 percent;
- Record levels of participation in events including CMT Great Race and Metro Markets;
- Successfully secured two new grants – a Missouri CMAQ grant in the amount of $735,000 and an APTA Local Coalition grant to expand CMT’s work on the Try & Ride Program;
- New Program Associate Lisa Cagle on board;
- Opportunity to work with the Economic Inequity and Opportunity working group of the Ferguson Commission;
- Exceeded all earned media levels in the past year;
- Celebrated 30th Anniversary of the organization;
- Introduced new programs to increase transit ridership including the Transit Crush and Metro Markets;
- Achieved goals outlined in the OneSTL report; and
- Received a What’s Right with the Region Award in May.
This year, CMT events sold out time and time again including our upcoming Annual Meeting on Sept. 11. CMT members and friends demonstrated their desire to participate in events surrounding the St. Louis transit system ensuring transit continues to move forward in this region.
So where do we go from here? The Highway Trust Fund is hanging on with yet another extension through October of this year. The ever looming question of financing hangs over the St. Louis region and Missouri. St. Louis County voters successfully passed Proposition A, 1/2 cent general sales tax in 2010 for transit, which also triggered the 1/4 cent sales tax passed in the City of St. Louis in 1997 to begin collections. These initiatives generate about $78 million locally for transit operations and capital (65 percent of the County’s Prop. A revenues are used for operations). This is not enough.
CMT’s Transit Funding Study identified some possibilities, and FY16’s challenge will be to help the region, our elected officials and stakeholders come to a consensus on what is the region’s transit priority and the necessary funding source(s) to move those projects forward. Right now, we have a list of ‘illustrative’ projects, but what project tops the list? Which of the options should be prioritized for the region? Where should resources go if funding for public transit infrastructure becomes available? CMT’s “job one” is to find a funding mechanism which works for this region and to build much needed support to ensure transit connects us to our communities and each other.
We know the benefits of an expanded, integrated transit system in our region include improved access to jobs and educational opportunities, greater economic development, and reinvestment in under resourced parts of our community. Our goal is and will continue to be moving the transit discussion forward in this region, advocating for good public transit, including the next priority project and funding mechanism to make that project a reality, and demonstrating to the residents of St. Louis they need transit whether they ride it or not.
And Here’s What You Can Do in 2016
As we head into 2016, CMT will be focusing its efforts on these two fronts – funding and prioritization of transit projects for the region. We will continue to keep our members and friends updated and advocate for the best possible options. In the meantime, you can:
- Contact your local and state elected officials about the importance of transit and how transit projects can and will move this region forward. Use CMT’s talking points to help craft your message.
- Join or increase your membership level with CMT to be informed, show your support, and help move transit forward.
- Join CMT at its events to participate in the discussions, celebrate transit and its benefits in the region.
- Ride transit and bring your friends on board.
We are honored to partner with you to improve the St. Louis Region with transit in 2016. We would not have the opportunity as an organization to achieve the highlights above without the support our members, friends and volunteers. Thank you!