The Region 7 FTA office in Kansas City has promised that someone from the Federal office will be returning my call about Metro.
I started Occupy Public Transportation In St. Louis on March 24th, exactly one month ago. At the beginning I only wanted to stop the fare increase and to get Metro to listen to their riders' needs (better service, bathrooms, improved bus stops and sidewalk conditions, etc). But in the course of the last few weeks my research has led me to the conclusion that the entire agency needs an overhaul.
- First and foremost, Metro needs to be separated from Bi-State Development Agency.
- Metro bus drivers deserve a new bargaining agreement. I don't understand how an Agency that receives so much federal funding can be allowed to treat their employees this way. 6 years without a new contract! Not to mention the slow erosion of pensions and benefits, and the fact that new driver's start at $12 an hour is ridiculous! And even the top pay of $21 an hour is not enough for that job. It should be $25, and the starting wage should be at least $15. http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/rider-alert-metro-whines-about-one-day.html
- The entire current executive leadership needs to be removed. And it should be mandatory that ALL Metro executives use public transportation frequently. http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/03/do-metro-executives-ride-public-transit.html
- John Nations needs to resign as CEO or be fired. (And no CEO of Metro should be making five times what a bus driver makes! No more $250,000 a year executive salaries!)
- There needs to be public toilets at all Metrolink and major bus transfer centers. http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/bi-state-development-agency-is.html
- Metro has mismanaged funds: received large federal grants for Metrolink extensions without producing trains to those areas (because they did not do the work to build community support, and apparently did not anticipate how hard those communities would fight), and generally done nothing more than acquire real estate and line the pockets of a few corrupt developers and local politicians. They do not currently have any new rail lines in construction, just vague "plans" that seem to keep hitting snafus (and excuses). http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/again-metro-has-long-history-of.html AND http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-apalling-racist-fiasco-of-2005-and.html
- County Executive Charlie Dooley needs to be investigated and audited by the public. The same "Public Transportation" bond issue that failed before voters in 2008 was repackaged as a "Public Transit" bond in 2010. Far too many sources either hint or say outright that Metro-- having lost too many lawsuits regarding mismanagement of funds on the Shrewsbury Metrolink, and the barring of minority contractors- had to be given a 39.5 million dollar bailout (when their yearly operating expense was $42 million) for legal fees and settlements. Dooley did this only because Metro agreed to help "pull the wool" over voter's eyes in regards to Proposition "A".(I don't have court-worthy documentation on all of this yet, but it is coming.) http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/again-metro-has-long-history-of.html AND http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/what-metro-is-doing-with-your-money-and.html AND http://occupyurlife.blogspot.com/2014/04/occupy-saint-louis-county-executive.html
- The way that Metro does its survey and planning needs to change. Their data is general population and employment statistics. They admit that the buses are the bulk of their operation, and that north St. Louis city and county comprise their busiest transit hubs, yet they fail to survey the buses, or involve the communities in planning. When they do survey, almost always only once a year, and on the Metrolink, they do not gather the necessary information, or compute it accurately. Their starting point needs to be collecting the proper data on their riders-- who they are, where they travel and why, etc. (In other words, they should serve their customers, and not the other way around.) http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/04/what-metros-new-survey-should-be.html
- Metro needs to focus all of its Metrolink expansion in north St. Louis city and county. This is the area they admit has the most need and most transit riders. This is the area that is "incarcerated by lack of decent public transportation." There is plenty of existing rail, and plenty of room to develop more light rail. That they have not seriously addressed this, and continue to make other arrangements-- like the big buses for the Lucas Hunt and Natural Bridge bus routes-- demonstrates that they have no long term plans for this area. http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/03/brand-new-big-buses-for-4-64-and-70-but.html AND .http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/03/east-west-gateway-council-of.html
- More outreach needs to be done with street services in regards to bus stop placement and bus stop maintenance and needs (lighting, sidewalk maintenance). And Metro needs to improve all of its' bus stops generally (route and schedule information at every bus stop, trash cans, more benches and covered stops). People should be able to navigate their way from any bus stop, even if they have never ridden the bus before! http://optinstl.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-should-be-metros-new-bus-stop-plan.html
When they call me, I am going to ask them what I would need to know if I were to take over Metro operations tomorrow. To be clear, I know that this will not happen (I actually would never want the Metro job, and wish I wasn't even spending my time on OPTINSTL-- oh to live in a fair and honest world!), but in order to change anything I always start from the ideal and work my way back from there.
So, if I took over Metro tomorrow, what would I need to know and do to make the necessary changes outlined above?
Feel free to call the FTA and ask them these questions yourself. The more people that call, the more power we have, and the more likely we are to see changes. You can file a complaint with the FTA Inspector General anonymously, and receive a PIN to track the progress of the investigation on your complaint.
FTA Region 7 Office, 901 Locust Street, Suite 404, Kansas City, Missouri 64106. Telephone (816) 329-3920, Fax (816) 329-3921 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.)