Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

E. St. Louis Starring in Metrolink Station's Ridership Shows Up Skeptics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

E. St. Louis Starring in Metrolink Station's Ridership Shows Up Skeptics

Article excerpt

Jack Leary Jr. heard the question about MetroLink so often that it still rings in his ears: "Who is ever going to ride from East St. Louis?"

Leary, head of the Bi-State Development Agency, said skeptics had predicted that few people from the Metro East area would be willing to drive to the East St. Louis station to catch a MetroLink train.

He had suspected they were wrong. Now he knows they were.

"As it turns out, the top station on the line is at Fifth Street and Missouri Avenue" in East St. Louis, Leary said Tuesday during a talk at Belleville Area College. "We built it with 135 parking places and 900 automobiles showed up."

Leary said ridership up and down the line has been remarkably high.

He said MetroLink now averages 23,000 riders a day - double what had been predicted for this point in light rail's life.

"Two days last week we topped 30,000 riders," Leary said. "That tops our year 2000 goals."

MetroLink opened July 31. In short, he said, "it has been a resounding success."

On May 14, a second East St. Louis station will open on the Mississippi riverfront, near the gambling boat Casino Queen, Leary said. On June 25, MetroLink will open its station at Lambert Field, he added.

Revenue from the unexpectedly high number of riders is being plowed mostly into added parking near MetroLink stations, especially in Illinois.

"The Illinois commuter group is the largest single commuter group," Leary said. …

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