Saturday, April 5, 2014


This is a link to the original post, which was sent as the body of an email to Metro's Chief of System Planning and Development.

Talking to Metro executives is almost exactly like talking to their website.

The first time I spoke with this executive it was before the first Fare Increase hearing in City Hall.  I was furious (but polite, if demanding). So furious that I started this blog and printed up leaflets the day before.  I had called Metro to ask a number of questions, but my main one seemed like a "no-brainer".

So simple a question that I expected these Executives to be able to answer it off the top of their head.  (I then would have gone to immediately have a money wizard check to see if it was accurate, but I expected it to be an easy answer.)

My question: You propose three fare options?  How do they all equal up to 2.5 million dollars a year?  (I actually didn't know the 2.5 million number, my question was how do all these equations add up to x amount of dollars?)

Metro Executive's answer: "How is that even relevant?"

Dumbfounded.  Me. Really.  Almost made me speechless. (Almost.)

I'd spent the last two or three days (since seeing the sign posted that fares were going up) reading through their ridiculous website.  (They bought some used big buses from a place in California, and quoted the owner of the used bus company saying they were "great stewards of federal funds."  Because they bought buses from him.  Really.)

They site many population statistics and talk about growth and decline, but come to no conclusions on what they mean for determining the public transit needs of those areas.  They base their entire system-wide development on three "tiers" from a study done in 1989.   They boast about how great they are doing, while explaining that it wasn't their fault that they cut 24 bus lines in 2009 and twenty to thirty percent of other services.

Metro executives, you are "stewards" of HUGE PILES OF FEDERAL MONEY, plus MORE OF MY MONEY WITH NO SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS.  If you want me to buy your propaganda that you need 2.5 MILLION MORE A YEAR, please explain to me exactly how that is going to come about from each of these options?

(Accountants and money wizards, am I wrong?  They supply a spreadsheet in the answers section, but it doesn't show how they are computing it.  They don't seem to show any data on how many of these passes and train fares were purchased in the past.  Or who and how often rides the Metro and bus?   Plus ONLY 22% of their revenue comes from rider fares!!! I am against privatization of public transit for political and sociological reasons, but it doesn't appear that is going to catch on, anyhow!)

And based on looking through the website, there is almost no solid statistical data on who the average bus rider is, and what fares they pay, frequency they ride, etc.  SO HOW THE *&@! did you come up with those numbers?  Just some previous years data?  Hoping it will all plug in the same?

If you can't explain that to me clearly (see the response below for what they did send me) HOW DARE YOU ASK ME TO PAY FOR YOUR MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS?!!

Especially considering you do not seem very focused or aware of the people that need your services the most.

Most of this is just cut and paste from the website.  But it is worth reading.  The truth is, if they fired this Executive tomorrow, only the face would change, not the job being done.  If Metro hired someone that knew how to make things work, they would fire that person.

This entire agency is set up to provide mediocre service, funneling the most government funds to wealthy developers, and selling itself by comparing it to deplorable service in other cities.  

Below is the whole response.


Jessica Mefford-Miller
Chief of Planning and System Development


707 North First Street
St. Louis, Missouri 63102-2595
Ph: 314.982.1479


Dear Metro (in particular, Chief of Planning and System Development):
1) What funds are going into developing sanitation facilities (toilets) at Metro bus transfer centers and MetroLink stations?  What consideration is being given to this most basic of human needs?

Metro will make efforts to add restroom facilities at new construction projects.  Current restroom facilities on the alignment are made possible through arrangements with retail contractors.  For example, at Riverview Hall MetroBus Center, the owner of the convenience store maintains a public restroom as part of his rental agreement with the agency.  Similar arrangements will be sought at the facilities we are creating in north county and downtown.

2) You say that one million people ride public transit every year.  How do you count the number of individual people that ride?  I can see where it would be easy to count your 55 million boardings, but how are you counting individuals?  Do you do surveys? Do you know what neighborhoods use your services the most? What are your busiest buses?  What are your busiest transfer centers?  What are your least-used bus and train lines?
Metro counts individual boardings on its buses and trains using two primary mechanisms. On MetroBus, fare boxes count passengers boarding. Each time a customer swipes a pass or uses the fare box to insert currency or coin, or the operators inputs a boarding, that information is recorded. On MetroLink, Metro counts boardings using automated passenger counters, which are infrared sensors located above each door on each train. This information is uploaded to servers nightly. Metro reports this information, called ridership, on a monthly basis.

Metro also completes periodic customer surveys, in which we ask customers questions about how often they ride (number of days per week) and how often they transfer per trip. This information can be used to produce an estimate of the number of people who use Metro on a regular basis. In addition, the US Census long form asks respondents to report their usual mode of travel for their journey to work. This does not include everyone who ever uses Metro for any propose, but it is useful information.

3) You say that you are connecting people with jobs, yet your own maps (actually the East West Gateway Council of Governments' maps) of areas with the lowest ownership of cars are underserved, as are many of the areas with the most jobs.  The connectivity between the areas is also badly served in all but a few places (Central West End, Downtown).  Shouldn't that be your highest priority? What are you doing to change that?
Metro's highest purpose is to connect people with jobs, which is why Metro's routes are intended to move residents from home to work. Routes are designed with both residential and employment density in mind, as well as the specific characteristics of individuals who work/live in each place. Metro's service plan responds to these transit needs as budget permits. You'll find that routes are spaced more closely in higher-density areas, and are more sparse in lower-density areas and communities with relatively low utilization. 

It is critical to understand that Metro's ability to provide transit service is bound by available funding. The majority of the funds required to support transit service are provided by local sales tax proceeds. About 22% of the cost to provide service is supported by passenger fares, and even Metro's most productive routes require taxpayer subsidy to operate. 

4) When will more Metrolink service be available in north Saint Louis, and south city areas such as South Grand and Dutchtown?  Can you proved the public and OPTINSTL with maps of existing tracks, development plans, and feasibility studies?  If so, how do we access them?
Major capital expansion projects are the result of regional decisions led by elected officials who are members of the East West Gateway Council of Governments.  This body has not made a decision about the next MetroLink expansion.  Funding is a more immediate consideration.  Currently, the cost of light rail alignments averages $70 million per mile to construct.  Federal and State funding will be required for expansion. The St. Louis County Council passed a measure that mandates acquiring federal funding support for future projects.  The federal government also requires matching funds from the local community.  In the past, federal support for light rail projects required 50% from the local community.  Progress was made toward that end in 2010 when voters approved Proposition A.  Funds from Proposition A are being used for two purposes -- to support current operations and to build a matching fund suitable for an expansion project. 

5) You allow universities and employers to subsidize transit passes for employees, seemingly at their discretion.  You also sell "semester passes" to college students. Do you have any plans in development to offer passes at a discount to low-income people on welfare, and the unemployed?  Have you reached out to these agencies to look for ways to provide low cost passes to the disadvantaged-- which would seem to be your largest rider base?
Universities have the option of contracting with us for group discounts.  Social Service agencies are also able to purchase tickets at a discount based on the volume of tickets they buy.  We do not discount for employers.  Their advantage is found in the payroll tax benefit they get for subsidizing transit.  The student semester pass sold to individuals is available to full time students 23 years or younger regardless of their financial status.  

6)  Can you point me to the official story of how the proposed St. Charles MetroLink was rejected? What lessons did Metro learn from this? Also, why was a train put into Shrewsbury when north Saint Louis has the greatest need?  Can you offer any assistance to the public and OPTINSTL on how to make sure future trains are not blocked?

While many residents and some elected officials talk to us, on occasion, about expansion possibilities, the majority of St. Charles County voters have voted against bringing MetroBus and MetroLink into that county.  Those voters will decide when and if they want to tax themselves in order to operate Metro transit in their county.  

Major capital expansion projects are the result of regional decisions led by elected officials who are members of the East West Gateway Council of Governments.  The Shrewsbury expansion decision was a regional one and the next expansion will be the result of a regional decision as well.  The public, as it did with the Shrewsbury alignment, will have opportunity for input well before final decisions are made about future expansion.

7) Many of your bus stops are badly placed and many are not marked with the identifying information for the bus lines that stop there. None of them have schedules, routes, or fares posted.  There seems to be a lack of coordination and planning with the cities (who decide where the bus stops can be placed) on trash cans, lighting, sidewalk repair and so forth.  Especially in low-income areas where families with young children ride the bus, this seems like it should be an obvious priority.  What plans are in place to create better bus stops?
In particular, to post route, schedule and fares?  I have suggested two sheets of acrylic, three sided (the top would be sealed to prevent moisture from precipitation) with holes at the top and bottom, to be bolted to the metal poles that the bus stops signs are mounted on.  I was told it was too expensive.  Can you direct me to the feasibility study that was done that determined this cost was too high?
Metro has worked to improve bus stop spacing and locations. However, Metro does not own the land our over 7,400 bus stops are placed on. We do not have the authority nor funding to install sidewalks, lighting, benches, etc. at all bus stops throughout the region. However, we are working with our partners including MoDOT, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County to make improvements to bus stops throughout the region. We are completing this work through federal grants to the greatest extent they are available (which typically support 80% of project cost, matched by 20% local sales tax proceeds). 

Metro is also working to improve signage at bus stops. We have secured some funding to replace bus stop signs throughout the region, though we do not yet have enough grant funding to begin the project. As funds become available, we anticipate replacing existing bus stop signs with new, larger signs that include more customer information including: route(s) served, Customer Service phone number, Metro website and brief instructions on how to obtain information about next bus times. We are working now to implement several new features that will provide customers with more transit information, including real-time arrival information via desktop applications, mobile applications, text messaging and Metro's Transit Information call center. 

Posting print schedules at all MetroBus stops is not feasible due to issues of cost and durability. We do not have sufficient manpower to post schedule information at all bus stops (and re-post when schedules are damaged, stolen, or changed). A better solution is to rely on the channels mentioned above, as well as Metro's print timetables. Schedule information is posted at all Transit Centers and MetroLink stations, and could potentially be included at Metro's busiest bus stops as part of the signage project.

8) Are there any plans to extend the Customer service information?  It is nice that you started the phone and email alerts, but many low-income people do not have data service on their phones.  When people need to reach Metro the most, it is usually late at night and on weekends.
I understand your concerns about Metro's limited hours of Customer Service. We reduced our workforce in 2009 due to budget shortfalls and have not restored our manpower to prior levels. We do have a couple of options for improving our delivery of customer information, one of which would be to extend hours. This is the most expensive option and funding this increase in staff may be difficult. Other options are to provide more, better, and more timely information using the channels referenced above including subscription service alerts, text messaging, mobile applications and desktop applications. These channels require less funds to support, freeing up more resources for putting transit service on the street.

9) You are raising fares by 5%, but offer no explanation of how the three fare options all will equal the same amount of money -- 2.5 million dollars per year.  Can you direct me to the studies that were done, and how each of the three options totals up?
Metro staff reviewed a number of potential fare structures to identify several options that are estimated to meet revenue goals of $2.5 million per year in increased passenger revenue. Those scenarios, along with projected revenue increases are shown below. These are projections only.

10) You also own Downtown St. Louis Airport, and the Arch and Riverboat Trams.  How much of the revenues generated from those entities are used for public transportation?  Have you investigated selling these entities to private companies?  If so, have you done any discovery of what impact this would have on the public transit system?  Would sale of these entities provided you with needed funds to improve existing services?
The Bi-State Development Agency (BSDA) owns and operates the Downtown St. Louis Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats.  By contract with the National Parks Service, BSDA operates the Arch Trams, Arch retail operations and Arch Garage.  A fee from each of these enterprises is paid to the agency and thereby in part supports the administration of the transit operation.  These entities were purchased (or supported) by BSDA to do what the agency was created to do -- be an economic development engine for the bi-state St. Louis area.  The airport had been shuttered for several years. At the request of the region, BSDA reopened it and turned it into the third largest airport in the state of Illinois.  The boats were going to be sold to another city, leaving little on the riverfront for families to enjoy after visiting the Arch.   The region came to BSDA and asked the Agency to keep them for the St. Louis riverfront.  The Parks Service needed BSDA to help complete the vision for the Gateway Arch.  These are all very similar situations to when the region asking the agency to purchase 15 failing bus companies and turn them into what is now Metro transit. 

11) Can you explain why there is not more outreach work done-- such as rider surveys, and having Metro officials available on buses and Metrolink to make feedback more convenient to the riders?  To come to your hearings, those of us that don't have the money to buy bus passes have to pay to come, in addition to having our day disrupted.  And you would reach a much greater portion of customers by coming to them.

Metro has reached out to customers about the fare increase through the following mechanisms: Posting signage on buses, trains, MetroLink Stations and MetroBus transit centers; publishing news releases that have been covered by local news media; advertising in local newspapers including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Belleville News Democrat and St. Louis American; posting on Metro's website at; and via Metro's blog at; and via social media (Facebook and Twitter). 

Through these outlets, Metro has published that we are soliciting feedback not only at the four scheduled meetings, but also via a telephone hotline; e-mail; a web survey; and US Postal mail. 

12) Why doesn't Metro require employees that are not drivers or train operators to ride public transportation from the closest park and ride location from their homes, at least once a week?
Mandated use of transit is not a condition of employment.  However, we encourage employees to take advantage of the transit system and many employees do.

13) In 2009, a year after the economic collapse in the U.S., and after four years- by your own statistics-- of increasing ridership, you had to severely cut services.  Do more riders equal more revenue?  And how so?  Can you direct me to the mathematical algorithms and statistical models (excuse me if my terminology is wrong) that you use to determine how many riders and at what fare structure you need to increase services?
Metro reduced service in 2009 in response to an approximately $50 million budget deficit. This deficit was created after years of increased costs and service expansions without sufficient revenue to support those expansions. Without revenue to support service, Metro was forced to scale service back to a level that could be supported within the available financial resources.
As discussed above, passenger revenue supports only about 22% of the cost to operate transit service. The remainder of that cost is supported primarily through local sales tax proceeds. Passenger revenues could not have been increased to a level that would have sustained service in the face of this budget deficit.

Metro's policy moving forward is to grow passenger revenues at a rate that will keep pace with inflation, in part to prevent future service cuts (assuming other revenue sources including local sales tax proceeds and federal funding are not diminished).

14) Your website says that for every $1 a community invests in public transit, it receives $4 in federal money via Metro/Bi-State.  Can you explain to me exactly how that works?  Where does the $1 come from, and who gets paid the $4 in return? Also, is this true equally, for all communities?  And if so, does that mean that lower-income areas are lower served, because they have fewer dollars to contribute?
The American Public Transit Association ( reports that for every $1 invested in transit service, $4 in economic value are returned through development spurred by transit and wages generated by transit riders. Metro does not calculate these statistics, nor are they calculated by APTA for service sub-areas. 

14) The Loop Trolley Transportation District was just awarded $25 million from an Urban Circulator Grant.  The reasons for the Public Transit riders to oppose the proposed Trolley are numerous.  What partnerships are Metro building with local communities to put Urban Circulators in areas that really need them?  How much exploration has been done on Urban Circulators?
Metro is not working to advance the construction of any particular streetcar routes. Metro's long-range plan ( includes several options for expanding transit service. If Metro's funding partners, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County were to become interested in constructing a streetcar route to serve a particular transportation need, we would conduct a feasibility study.

These are the answers I can provide for you without requiring that you file a Sunshine request for research and compilation of documentation.  If you need such documentation, please contact Shirley Bryant in the agency’s Legal Department at

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