Metro plans service cuts, reduces staff

| Staff Reporter

St. Louis Metro President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Baer announced a proposed plan to cut $36.7 million from the Metro operating budget, on Jan. 9.

The St. Louis Metro Operations and Strategic Planning Committee will consider the proposal.

If no cuts are made, Metro will lose $50 million in the 2010 fiscal year. As part of the cuts, Metro will lay off 600 workers, about one quarter of its staff, and will reduce service in some areas. The cuts, if approved, will take effect March 30.

Senior Vice President of Transit Operations Ray Friem said that the cuts are expected to result in 9.5 million fewer boardings. With the resulting reduced revenue from fares, the fares do not give Metro a way to sustain itself beyond the next fiscal year, he said.

Under the plan, bus service would be cut by 44 percent, MetroLink service by 32 percent and Call-a-Ride service by 15 percent. In addition, service to west and south St. Louis County will be cut, as will service outside of I-270. Cuts include the elimination or reduction of certain routes.

Specific time schedules will be made available later in January.

Fares were increased at the beginning of January and will be raised again in July to make up some of the revenue, but existing sales tax revenues are expected to drop due to the current economic recession.

Nick May, a sophomore from the St. Louis area, said that he doesn’t think further attempts to raise taxes to fund Metro will be successful.

“I feel like Proposition M should have been passed, but that’s just me. If that didn’t get approved, I don’t think any other taxes are going to pass since the increase in Proposition M wasn’t that much. I know there’s a lot of people who use the Metro, but there’s also many more that don’t, so [supporters] are outnumbered countywide,” he said.

While some students, such as May, have vehicles of their own, several students and staff at the University rely on Metro’s two MetroLink stops on campus and MetroBus for transportation.

“I’m not really worried about [the service cuts] for myself since I have a car that I can use if I need it. A lot of other people rely on the Metro, and I know it will affect them,” May said.

Initially, planners intended to reduce costs by ending MetroLink service after 8 p.m. Because the plan met opposition at public hearings held prior to the 2008 election, the proposals now include service at night.

Many students rely on public transportation to travel between the Danforth Campus and the medical campus for research, jobs and classes.

Sophomore Jenny Lee said that she and several of her classmates use the MetroLink to travel between the campuses as part of her Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research Associates’ Program class. Lee said that cutting hours would have created problems for students who take shifts later at night.

“I’ve done shifts that end at 8 or 10 [p.m.]. Normally people without cars take an earlier shift, but sometimes only late shifts are available. [Cutting hours] would limit the available times they could use,” Lee said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Sustainability Matt Malten explains that Washington University has been cooperating with Metro.

“We’re not expecting to have a full understanding of what the cuts to the Metro service will be until March or April, so at this time all the transportation elements in our transportation plan remain the same, but we are very closely watching what is going on,” Malten said. “We have already been working really closely with Metro to try and minimize the impact as much as we can for students and as well for our faculty and staff.”

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