Public transit in the St. Louis region plays a key role in providing access and equality, creating jobs, building stronger economies and furthering the vibrancy of local neighborhoods. The strength of the local system is a result of the unwavering commitment of many local leaders, businesses and organizations – including Kimberly Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT), who was recently celebrated for 25 years of furthering public transit in the region. Her vision, tenacity and extraordinary leadership continues to play an integral role in maintaining a safe, integrated and affordable system for the St. Louis region.
A celebration was held in Cella’s honor on Jan. 30 at the BJC Learning Institute to recognize her for her many accomplishments over the past 25 years. Formal remarks were made by local transit industry leaders, before St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar presented Cella with a proclamation issued by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, naming it “Kimberly Cella Day” in St. Louis County.
“Kim has spent the past 25 years standing up for transit,” said Rose Windmiller, of Washington University in St. Louis, who served on CMT’s board for over a decade before being named to Bi-State Development’s Board of Commissioners in July 2018. “I’ve witnessed her many accomplishments first hand. She is fiercely committed to the mission.”
Cella joined CMT out of college in 1993 and served as business and marketing manager for seven years, helping to grow membership by 200 percent. She then served as program director for 10 years, successfully securing millions in grant funding and launching the Ten Toe Express program, which has grown to serve 8,000+ area older adults by allowing them to experience how easy it is to integrate walking with public transit use to get around town. She was promoted to executive director in 2010 and has made great strides in promoting and expanding access to transit.
Through her guidance as executive director, she helped secure a federal grant under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program to conduct the Central Corridor Feasibility Study, which laid the groundwork for the development of the newly opened Cortex MetroLink Station. More than 6,000 St. Louisans have overcome the perceived hurdles associated with using MetroLink and MetroBus by “test driving” the transit system through a program she created, called “Try & Ride.” She has also made strides to raise awareness about placemaking and transit-oriented development, helped spearhead the MetroLink Access Project to improve fare validation at three highly utilized MetroLink stations and significantly contributed to the work to improve the safety and security of the MetroLink system.
During Cella’s 25-year tenure, she is credited with raising more than $10 million in grant funding to establish and maintain programming to increase public transit ridership. These efforts have been recognized with several local, regional and national awards. Over these years, CMT helped build support for MetroLink extensions to East St. Louis, Belleville and Swansea and rallied support for Proposition A in 2010, which passed by 63 percent and restored service cuts and provided capital funding for future transit projects.
“Kim has heart and passion,” said Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development and current CMT board member. “Transit is a community that needs to be bolstered, loved and cared for. She is one of many talents making that happen, and I look forward to our continued partnership.”
Cella also serves as the executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association where she helps provide a unified voice for public and specialized transportation providers in Missouri and elevates the status of public transit as a national priority.