Wrighton appears in pro-transit spot as election nears

| Staff Reporter

Proposition M might not have passed, but voters in St. Louis County have another chance on April 6 to increase funding for St. Louis Metro with another referendum: Proposition A.

As the April 6 election loomed, advocacy commercials for the region’s transit system debuted during the Winter Olympics. The first advertisement, which aired during the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Feb. 12, features testimonials from multiple St. Louis businessmen and personalities, including Chancellor Mark Wrighton. In the commercial, Wrighton cites how public transit such as MetroLink carries 25,000 of his students, faculty and staff.

Proposition M failed on Nov. 4, 2008, by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent. If it had passed, St. Louis County would have raised the sales tax by half a cent, bringing in $80 million per year for Metro. According to the Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance, an advocacy group working to improve Metro service, Proposition M’s failure has led to “agency-wide layoffs, a transit fare increase on January 1, 2009, and massive service cuts on March 30, 2009.”

Proposition A also aims to increase sales tax by half a cent. This tax, according to the Transit Alliance, will cost the average family $50 per year. The Transit Alliance is basing its campaign on the slogan “Some of us ride it. All of us need it.”

“Great cities have great transit systems,” says the Transit Alliance’s Web site, www.moremetrolink.com. “MetroLink is one of the most successful light rail systems in the country with 70,000 riders per day on a typical weekday and reaches as many as 100,000 on days with special events. Without MetroLink, St. Louis would not be at the level it is today.”

According to the Transit Alliance, although annual ridership for the MetroLink rose from 15.4 million people to 19.7 million people from fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2008, the number dropped by 300,000 for fiscal 2009. Ridership for all forms of the Metro fell from 53.8 million in fiscal 2008 to 52.8 million in fiscal 2009.

There are also many opponents to Proposition A. In response to the new commercials, Citizens for Better Transit, a group which opposes the tax increases in Proposition A, wrote a new blog post on its Web site, stoptheprop.com.

“I’ve now heard radio commercials and seen television commercials for the Metro Tax increase we’re supposed to vote on in April, and can say with a straight face it’s not truthful…No matter how the vote goes, we will still have Metro,” the site reads.

Opponents from this group believe that the tax increases will be used for expansion of the Metro, not for sustaining the services the region already has, which they believe to be problematic.

“If the Vote Yes on Proposition A people won’t even bother to tell you the truth about why they want the money, how can we trust them to take care of the money when they get it,” the site reads. “The loss in Metro services that will occur when the stimulus funds runs out is still going to occur. This tax won’t fix it.”

Students have noticed the drop in MetroLink service after the failure of Proposition M in 2008.

“The trains close earlier and are much less efficient than they were before,” sophomore Aubrey Murray said. “[The failure of Proposition M] has been devastating.”

Murray, who is originally from St. Louis and uses MetroLink regularly, said that she will vote for Proposition A.

Some, including freshman Chris Bell, registered to vote in St. Louis County as a result of the University’s campaign for Proposition A.

“The Metro is adequate,” Bell said. “Nothing’s perfect, but to keep service at the current level, Proposition A has to pass. I would not like to see the service decrease at all.”

Non-St. Louis County voters share similar sentiments about Proposition A. Although sophomore Annie Pinnell is registered to vote in Kansas and has not used Metro this year, she nevertheless believes in the cause of Proposition A, and would vote for it if she were registered in Missouri.

“I think it’s a worthwhile tax increase, because a lot of people need to use the Metro,” Pinnell said.

In addition to the commercials, Wash. U. has sent out e-mails to students with instructions on how to register to vote and encouraging student volunteers to help with voter registration.

The deadline for St. Louis County registration is March 10. Even if students are already registered to vote in St. Louis County, their address must be the same as it was the last time they voted, so students must register even if they have only changed dormitories or moved to a different part of campus—otherwise, they may only vote provisionally.

  • Adam

    Malik, what I complained about was the fact that Burns was not identified as the spokesperson for the anti-transit group in the original online article (which, BTW, has now been corrected by StudLife after my complaints). Courtney clearly indicated who she worked for, as does Adella, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. My concern was simply that people be informed about who’s making the claims.

  • Malik

    What a joke. This Adam kid gets ticked off because Burns is a spokesman for Citizens for Better Transit. Well, metro has paid employees who blog in favor of Prop A.

    Courtney, seen above, is one of those paid bloggers. My guess is that Adam knows this, but doesn’t care about facts. Here’s the proof of what and who courtney is:

    http://www.nextstopstl.org/about/blog-team/

    and oh, oh, oh…this just came out today, too.

    All News Editors, Reporters and Producers:

    Beginning today, Monday, March 1, 2010, I will be taking a leave of absence from my day job at Metro, and I will start devoting all my time to the Advance St. Louis, Proposition A Campaign!

    I am very excited about joining an impressive team of grassroots supporters, like Chesterfield Mayor John Nations, Urban League Executive Director James Buford and Washington University Chancellor, Mark Wrighton, who are working toward the Tuesday, April 6 passage of a ½ cent sales tax to support transit stability and growth in St. Louis County.

    Keeping St. Louis newsrooms informed, coordinating media interviews and providing updates from the Advance St. Louis Campaign will be my top priorities. Yes, I am back in my old media coordinator seat. Some things never change!

    I can be contacted at the following phone and e-mail address:

    [email protected]
    314- 917-2027

    The Campaign will officially roll out this week. Advance St. Louis Steering Committee members and Campaign leadership will be available for interviews. Be on the lookout for more information about the roll out later today.

    Thanks,
    Adella D. Jones

  • http://nextstopstl.org Courtney S.

    Hi, my name is Courtney and I work for Metro, and wanted to be able to clarify some points discussed in the article and provide information. We need to educate St. Louisans as much as possible about how we operate and make decisions. Transit planning is a very dynamic process, and as an agency are trying to better reach out to the community to educate and engage.

    The service that was restored last August using stimulus and CMAQ funding will end on June 30, 2010. These funds replaced approximately 30% of service lost in March 2009. Without additional funding, we will have to cut further to about 50% of service that was available March 2009, and have a fare increase scheduled for July 2010.

    Metro’s long-range plan, which was adopted by East-West Gateway recently, shows a blueprint for short-term and long-term sustainable models for transit in St. Louis. Contingent upon additional funding, the immediate plan is for service restoration to March 2009 levels for MetroLink, Call-A-Ride, and MetroBus. The schedule of priorities for system improvements and expansion are laid out in the plan according to year and are based on six months of gathering transportation research and community input.

    The ultimate decision of large transit projects falls to our elected officials via East-West Gateway Council of Governments, our regional transportation planner. Metro’s long-range plan does, however, provide our suggestions for what these options could be based on research and community input.

    All of this information can be found at http://www.movingtransitforward.org. Please check it out!

    I hope this provides some information for readers. If anyone has any questions about Metro or our planning process, please contact me at clsloger AT metrostlouis.org, and I’ll be happy to provide you info.

    Thanks!

  • Brandon

    To the last paragraph about voting, I would like to add a little more specific information:

    (1) If you are already registered to vote, you only have to re-register if your mailing address has changed–not you physical dorm location. If you moved dorms but kept the same campus box number, then you do not have to register. However, if you moved from the South40 to the Village or from the Village off campus, then you will.

    (2) If you are already registered to vote but need to change your address, you may file the “change of address” registration cards up to the day of the election, and legally vote the day of the election as a provisional ballot.

    (3) You can register to vote on-campus at either the Campus Y or the Gephardt Institute.

  • Tax Me Some

    He’s a link that some of you might find interesting. It explains the tax structure for Saint Louis County. http://www.co.st-louis.mo.us/taxes/muntax.html.

    PLEASE NOT THAT THIS WEB PAGE IS AN OFFICIAL SAINT LOUIS COUNTY WEB PAGE.I

  • Tax Me Some

    When you talk about tax increases it is always helpful to include what the current tax rate is and how it compares to the surrounding areas. Normally when cities wish to raise revenue for transit they tax those items that the citizens of their town don’t use. A half cent or more sales tax on hotel and car rentals is usually the best route to take as it does not directly affect the citizens. It affects visitors and visitors don’t vote in local elections.