One item should be top priority for any employer and the region: Transit. You may not ride transit, you may not know anyone who uses the bus or MetroLink; however, Missouri needs transit. Transit creates, maintains and sustains JOBS that Missouri cannot afford to lose!
Investing in transit will improve Missouri’ s economy. Transit provides access to work, it creates economic development opportunities, it creates livable and sustainable communities, and it puts money back in Missourians pockets – Missouri needs transit. Any funding mechanism for transportation in Missouri moving forward must include funding for transit projects.
According to the American Public TRansit Association, for every dollar that Missouri invests in public transit, there is a $4 return to the state. Since MetroLink opened, we have tracked more than $16 billion in development around the light rail infrastructure. This has a direct impact on Missouri’s economy. There is much more to come with millions in investments at Cortex, and other areas along the alignment. In this economy, there are very few investments that are demonstrating that return for our dollar.
The current level of state support for public transit is inadequate. In 2007, MoDOT’s Long Range Transportation Plan identified the need for an additional $200 million annually to address Missouri’s unmet public transit funding needs. In 2012, Missouri’s transit funding was $560,000 for 33 service providers across the state – that ranks us 45th across the country in transit funding. This is the same amount that was recommended in the Governor’s Budget this year.
This funding has been on the decline for more than a decade- In 2000, state funding was about $8.4 million. Today, state support after it is divided up does little to help Missouri gain jobs, improve access, compete for federal dollars for an expanded transit system and build economic development opportunities for our residents through public transit. Moving forward any transportation plan in Missouri must look at a total transportation package. Equitable funding must be provided to transit.
In St. Louis each day, more than 140,000 individuals board a Metrobus, train or van amounting to more than 53 million rides a year – providing access to jobs, personal trips and much more. Metro’s Call-A-Ride service provides more than 2400 trips each day to people with disabilities and the elderly. People use public transit in Missouri to get to jobs. Ninety-seven percent of all jobs in St. Louis City and St. Louis County can be reached by riding Metro transit according to the transit agency.
Public transportation plays an integral role in not just the urban areas but the rural areas of this state as well. St. Louis and Kansas City are utilizing light rail, buses, and bus rapid transit to move people to jobs, create economic development opportunities along the alignments, and build job centers adjacent to transit. Oates service in the more rural areas provides access to healthcare and other necessary trips for Missouri’s seniors and the disabled community Intercity passenger rail is servicing both the rural and urban areas of the state with service for residents and tourists alike. Without this vital infrastructure, Missouri would be moving backwards.
As the discussion on the proposed one-cent sales tax for transportation moves forward, we must ensure that public transit receives its fair share on the list of project priorities included to be funded. If this is a local decision, our local elected officials must ensure that public transit projects make the list.
St. Louis needs more MetroLink and an expanded and integrated bus system. Without state funding for these projects, we will never be able to move our system forward – limiting the ability of Missouri to move forward. Without state funding for transit, Missouri will have a hard time competing for federal dollars for transportation in the state. As our previous education campaign stated, “Some of us Ride, but all of us need transit!”