Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bus Routes around St. Louis Could See Overhaul as Metro Seeks Public Feedback

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bus Routes around St. Louis Could See Overhaul as Metro Seeks Public Feedback

Article excerpt

A proposed revamping of Metro Transit's Missouri bus routes could mean big changes for riders as soon as next year.

The agency is seeking feedback on the draft plan at a series of public "open house" sessions beginning Tuesday.

A key goal is increasing MetroBus frequency and reducing wait times on its 12 most popular routes during times of maximum use.

Meanwhile, all or part of some low-ridership bus routes would be replaced with vans or other small vehicles that could be summoned by phone. Running small shuttle vehicles on a fixed route is another option.

On the 12 high-usage routes, buses would roll by each stop every 15 minutes -- or sooner -- on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 7 or 9 p.m., depending on the route.

Now only Metro's busiest bus line, the 70 Grand, routinely gets such every-15-minute service.

Thirty-four routes dubbed as "locals" would operate with every-30-minute service in weekday peak-use periods. Those periods would vary from route to route.

Now the gaps between buses can be as long as 40 minutes in peak periods and longer at other times.

"The goal is to redesign the system to make it more efficient, faster and cost-effective," said Jessica Mefford-Miller, a Metro assistant executive director for transit planning.

The focus, she said, is on concentrating resources "in places that can enhance ridership."

One bus line slated for discontinuation in the plan is the 210 Fenton Gravois Bluffs route. It connects the booming Gravois Bluffs business area with the Shrewsbury MetroLink station but draws only about 250 passengers on a typical weekday. In contrast, the 70 Grand gets over 7,000.

The potential on-demand services replacing low-ridership routes could be operated by Metro, private companies or even Uber-type ride-hailing services. If private contractors were used, Metro would cover some of the cost.

The plan also calls for many bus routes to see changes in streets used and some would get new names.

Under the plan, Metro says, 74,500 riders a day -- 86 percent of the overall transit system's total, including MetroLink -- would have access to the every-15-minute service. That would be up from the current 48,600.

Metro officials emphasize that the draft plan, the product of a yearlong planning process called Metro Reimagined, is subject to revision following reaction from bus users at the upcoming public sessions.

The meeting Tuesday will be at the North Hanley Transit Center, where Metro staffers will be on hand to answer questions and explain maps and other route information from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Mefford-Miller said the goal is to make the changes with existing sources of revenue. It's also aimed at helping stem a nearly 15 percent decline in MetroBus ridership from mid-2014 to mid-2017.

In addition to the 70 Grand, routes getting the every-15-minute, peak-period service under the plan would be the 4 Natural Bridge, 10 Gravois-Lindell, 11 Chippewa, 16 Metro City Limits, 35 Rock Road, 61 Chambers Road, 73 Broadway-Carondelet, 74 Florissant, 90 Hampton, 94 Page and 95 Kingshighway. …

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