Up To Speed

After 20 years of results, it turns out that transit skeptics in St. Louis were wildly wrong

After 20 years of results, it turns out that transit skeptics in St. Louis were wildly wrong.

Hamilton County residents voted on a half-cent sales tax in 2002 that would have transformed the region’s transportation options. Through that new funding, the region would have completely rebuilt and restructured its bus service, built five light rail lines, and several streetcar lines. Much skepticism, touted by opponents and not unlike what St. Louis voters experienced in their own public vote 20 years ago. The difference is that St. Louis voters approved their measure while Cincinnatians did not. It turns out that the opponents and skeptics in St. Louis were wrong…wildly wrong. More from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

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…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.

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.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.