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Metro Transit to overhaul public transportation services, routes in St. Louis region

Jessica Mefford-Miller of Metro Transit (right) hands a rider a pamphlet on Metro's suggested service plans at an informational meetin. April 3, 2018.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio
Jessica Mefford-Miller of Metro Transit (right) hands a rider a pamphlet on Metro's suggested service plans at an informational meeting on April 3.

Metro Transit plans to offer more frequent bus service, altered bus routes, text and email notification services and small vehicles along lesser-used routes in the St. Louis region.

Metro officials will revise the plan’s current draft in May, after seeking public comments throughout this month.

Pilot programs are scheduled to start by fall, if the Bi-State Development Agency approves Metro’s proposal. The agency plans to update routes and service from 2019 through 2022, according to Jessica Mefford-Miller, assistant executive director for planning and system development at Metro Transit.

The plan would not require any tax increases or outside funding, Mefford-Miller said. Instead, it would reallocate existing resources from the agency, which has a $283 million budget for fiscal year 2017.

To make that money available, some routes and stops will lose service. Major routes will lose stops and become more direct. The agency is considering taking large buses off some routes and replacing them with smaller vehicles that run during busy periods or carry riders to employers.

“Greater frequency is the No. 1 request that we receive from our customers,” Mefford-Miller said. “People want to wait less. They also want their bus trip to be more direct.”

The plan would give 86 percent of transit riders access to buses that arrive every 15 minutes, Metro officials said.

The Metro Reimagined program is reevaluating public transit services on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region. The current draft is based on rider feedback and studies collected by Metro last year.

Metro produced this map of routes under the drafted plan:  

Metro officials are seeking rider feedback on the initial plans through early May. Riders can fill out a feedback form online or attend informational meetings at transit and community centers. To find the meeting nearest you, check the plan website. Public hearings will take place on April 18 and 19.

Under the Metro Reimagined plan, the agency would:

  • Increase standard bus frequency on major routes. Buses would come every 15 minutes or faster along 12 main corridors, during the day.
  • Increase standard bus frequency in neighborhoods’ supporting routes. On most routes, buses would come every 30 minutes during the day. Some routes and early morning or late-night buses would come every 60 minutes at most.
  • Alter express bus routes. The existing express bus routes would arrive at least every 30 minutes, or make several trips during peak commuter hours. Some routes would get shorter or have fewer stops.
  • Provide special service in select neighborhoods. Less-used, fixed routes would be served by smaller buses scheduled to run when people need them. To cover such areas, Metro may use employer-focused shuttles, on-demand service or buses that only run during peak hours, Mefford-Miller said.

Metro Transit would install benches and shelters at some bus stops, according to Mefford-Miller. Riders can also expect to see updated branding and different vehicles, like electric buses on busy routes or shuttles on smaller circuits. The agency will also expand its email and text-based payment and trip planning systems. 

MetroBus at North Hanley Transit Center on April 3, 2018.
Credit Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio
Under the plan, MetroBus will have updated routes, different vehicles and fresh branding.

Depending on public response, the entire plan could be revised. Mefford-Miller said Metro is particularly interested in hearing what people think about decreased route coverage and less-traveled fixed routes converting to other types of service.

“We want to know whether those are acceptable options — whether and where,” she said.

Metro officials also want a better understanding of how and when people ride buses in less popular routes, so they can determine how best to cut costs but continue to serve riders.

“We’re really rethinking public mobility,” Mefford-Miller said. “We have a lot of options, like mobility on-demand, that are available that simply weren’t available in our market five and 10 years ago.”

She said the St. Louis region may repeat this process in about 10 years.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Correction: The Metro Reimagined program is reevaluating MetroBus services on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region. The MetroLink schedule would not be changed by the proposed plan. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report misidentified the scope of the project.

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.