Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MetroLink Celebrates 20 Years of Light-Rail Service

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MetroLink Celebrates 20 Years of Light-Rail Service

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * To say there were doubters that the fledgling MetroLink light-rail service would catch on with riders back in 1993 would be a monumental understatement.

"When we set out to convince the people of our region that there was a need to bring MetroLink transit service to our region, there were many individuals who said, 'No one's going to ride MetroLink. It's not going to be successful,' " recalled former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, a Democrat from Belleville.

Costello also recalled how Washington "bean counters" assured locals that "there is no way that you will meet your ridership numbers." By contrast, he said, MetroLink exceeded the projected 10- year levels within two years.

Nearly 20 years after the first trains shuttled passengers between the North Hanley station in St. Louis County and the then- Illinois terminus at Fifth Street and Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis, regional leaders celebrated the milestone Friday.

"This has been a highly successful system," Costello said.

John Nations, president and CEO of the Metro regional transit agency, expressed confidence about future expansion. The agency has studied five potential MetroLink routes in its long-range plan, he said, but no decisions have been made.

"It's going to take continued ridership growth and it's going to take the resources necessary to make that happen," Nations told reporters following an anniversary program at the Grand MetroLink station.

Nations recalled how a 1987 report predicted light-rail ridership in St. Louis would be about 3 million by 2000. That year, he said, people boarded trains more than 14 million times.

MetroLink now logs more than 17 million boardings a year many of them commuters and students. Regional leaders also credit light rail with spurring residential and commercial development near stations.

"With MetroLink now such an important part of our region's transportation infrastructure, it's hard to imagine a time when you couldn't jump on the train and head to Forest Park, the Gateway Arch or Busch Stadium," Nations said.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley and St. …

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