Coalition of Metro supporters unites around ballot measure
With the April elections just around the corner, the fate of St. Louis Metro is once again at the mercy of another proposal after the failure of last year’s Proposition M. And this time around, the coalition of transit supporters is more determined than ever as it prepares its campaign.
The new sales tax measure, Proposition A, calls for a half-cent sales tax increase in St. Louis County to support MetroLink’s operation, expansion and restoration.
On average, a state contributes approximately 23 percent of its budget for public transit. Missouri currently contributes less than one percent to the Metro.
Proposition M, a similar tax measure, failed last April by 3 percent or 16,000 votes. Nearly 50,000 people who voted in the election did not vote for Proposition M. Consequently, Metro operations were cut drastically. They were then reinstated through $12 million in state and federal funding during August. Since that funding runs out in May, Proposition A is important if Metro is to avoid cutbacks.
If passed, the tax measure is expected to generate $75 million for Metro. MetroLink will use the extra revenue in a three-phase, 30-year plan to finance both the immediate and long-term goals for transit upgrades and development.
The plan in the first five years is to restore service that was cut in March 2009, improve amenities for a more convenient and pleasurable Metro experience, begin planning light rail and commuter rail transit expansion and implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. The five- to 10-year plan will be devoted to constructing light rail, BRT and transit centers. Long-term goals include continued construction along with technological and strategic land-use research.
The coalition is composed of citizens from all over the county, including the students and faculty of various universities such as Forest Park Community College, Saint Louis University, Washington University and Webster University.
Chancellor Mark Wrighton, who believes that public transit is critical to the vitality of St. Louis, is a major proponent of the proposition. Thus far, Washington University has contributed a total of $50,000, with $25,000 going toward last year’s Proposition M campaign and another $25,000 for this year’s campaign.
“The Metro is very important because so many people without cars depend on it,” sophomore Sheri Balogun said. “For example, most undergraduates like me don’t have a car, so without the Metro we would not be able to take advantage of all that St. Louis has to offer. Also, limited public transit means the use of more cars, which is not environmentally friendly.”
Other students agree with Balogun on the importance of the Metro to Wash. U.’s students.
“I think the Metro’s a big way for students to get around the city, and it’s important for students to be able to get off campus,” freshman Marilee Fisher said.
Generally, voter turnout for an off-year April election in St. Louis County is between 15 and 20 percent. In order for Proposition A to pass, 40,000 to 50,000 votes will be needed. The coalition will focus a major part of their efforts on channeling college campus activism and getting as many students to vote as possible.
The coalition stresses the importance of getting registered to vote before the March 10 deadline. If the voter has moved within the country since the last election, he must change his address. In addition, the coalition provides organizer training and human resources.
Senior Sam Shevick, who probably will vote for Proposition A, hopes that many Wash. U. students will turn out at the election.
“I think [many students] might [vote], but [it] depends how much visibility there is on campus because I think they do use the Metro…it depends on how much word is put out there,” Shevick said.