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.

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