It's about our community and our spirituality!

A Great City Needs Good Public Transportation

Today is voting day in St. Louis.  One of the most contentious issues on the ballot is Proposition A, a half a cent retail sales tax increase across St. Louis County to fund the public transportation company Metro.  Metro is appealing to the public that it needs to raise about ninety million dollars in revenue in order to maintain bus and light rail services.  Without the tax increase, Metro is threatening to cut more than six hundred jobs and extend further cuts to services already significantly cut when a proposal to raise the sales tax across the county failed back in November of 2008.  Some services previously cut are bound to be reinstated if the measure passes.

Like I said, this is a contentious issue.  Just yesterday, while I was driving home from work, I was listening to the local National Public Radio station broadcast a string of recorded snippets of people who were asked their opinion about the measure.  One woman’s response struck a chord in my brain.  The woman said that she never rides the Metro and she doesn’t know anyone who does so why should she vote to spend another six hundred dollars in taxes a year to keep Metro running?  The woman’s callousness and selfishness wasn’t really all that remarkable.  But nevertheless, the coldness of her response really bothered me.

A half a cent sales tax increase would have hardly resulted in the woman spending an extra six hundred dollars.  According to the Metro website, the average extra expense to a St. Louis County resident is estimated to be about fifty dollars a year.  To spend an extra six hundred the woman would have been spending somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred twenty thousand dollars a year on retail goods.

And the idea that she didn’t feel the need to support the referendum because she doesn’t know anyone that uses the bus or the light rail service holds about as much water as her sales tax increase estimate.  It’s not like there are a bunch of empty buses and trains winding their way through the city void of passengers.  All one has to do is look at a bus or train stop and see people waiting for a ride.  All one has to do is look at a bus going down the road or a train going down its track to see that some people do use the service.  Many people use Metro to go back and forth to work.  Obviously somebody is using it.  Just because I don’t know them personally doesn’t mean I can’t show a little social conscience and compassion for those who might not be as fortunate to afford their own personal transportation.

And just because you own a vehicle doesn’t mean you will never take advantage of the Metro service.  Last year, somebody broke into our minivan and damaged the ignition of the steering column.  The minivan has a passive safety device that keeps it from being driven off when the steering column suffers shock.  The problem is that what keeps a thief from driving it off is the same thing that’ll keep the owner from driving it off.  And this happened when the Honda was in the shop getting its transmission rebuilt.  I was happy to hike to the bus stop knowing I had another option up my sleeve.

When it snowed and I wasn’t comfortable taking a chance of driving my car to work with other people who have difficulty sharing the road on a sunny day, I had the option to take the bus.  At work, when I need to travel from our satellite office to the main campus downtown, more often than not I’m using the train.  Driving might be quicker and cheaper, but there are a lot of people driving around the main campus who aren’t quite sure where they might be going.  Add the fact that I can avoid the hassle of trying to find a parking space in one of the company’s garages, riding the train is a very attractive option.

Am I a fan of Metro?  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  For the most part, I find the bus drivers rude and their customer service setup totally unhelpful.  The first time I tried to ride the train and transfer to a bus I made the mistake of purchasing a regular ticket instead of a special transfer ticket.  Unfortunately, the train station only has a bunch of vending machines.  Finding someone to help you determine what’s necessary to get to your destination isn’t going to happen.  I rode the train to the transfer point.  When the bus arrived, I handed the driver my train ticket thinking it would suffice.  The bus driver said that the ticket wasn’t transferable and I should’ve spent the extra fifty cents for the transfer ticket.  I asked what I had to give to ride the bus.  The driver replied full fare.  I asked how much.  She again replied full fare.  I asked again, how much.  As if I had gotten on her last nerve she finally replied two dollars.  If anybody needed to lose his or her job I felt that woman certainly did.

Thankfully, I don’t have to ride the bus or the train everyday.  But there are people who do.  While Metro and its personnel weren’t making a favorable impression on me for my future business, there are plenty of people who have no choice but to use the service.  And a good public transportation network can be key in the city’s attempt to attract conventions, tourism, and other business to the area.

The woman on the radio claimed she doesn’t know anyone who uses the bus.  I wondered if she bothers to ask the people she encounters in her day to day if they use public transportation since knowing somebody who uses it is key to her decision to support it.  But since she doesn’t ask, she doesn’t know, and therefore she feels that she’s under no obligation to think with a bit more social awareness.  But such limited thinking really doesn’t do very much to support our community beyond the obvious.  For way too many people if we can’t see beyond the end of our nose it really just doesn’t exist.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - Posted by | Life, St. Louis, Thoughts


  1. I agree with you. How disgusting is it to say that since you don’t know anyone who uses the bus service she doesn’t have any obligation to support it. She is one of those people who will say these things and then cry and scream when her cause isn’t getting the support it needs.

    She will demand to understand how people can be so callous as to NOT support whatever it is she heralds dear to her heart. All the while being the same way with something she doesn’t care about. More hypocrisy! It sickens me that people are so selfish and self centered.

    We have become a population of people who think only in terms of how can it benefit me personally. People need to start thinking about how we need to support our neighbors and fellow citizens. She THINKS she doesn’t know anyone who uses the bus. Until her cleaning lady doesn’t show up because she has no transportation. Or her child’s daycare closes because none of the critical workers could show up because she doesn’t know anyone who uses the bus.

    This would be poetic justice. To have this stupid lady understand just how critical it can become when you choose to wear blinders to situations that you THINK don’t have anything to do with you.

    Great post!

    Comment by theblacksentinel | Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. The state of MO is broke. Here in KC we we STILL dont have light rail- even though Clay Chastain and his posse has fought for it for at least 15 years. Suburbanites in KC don’t like paying for the Metro either.

    Comment by Paula | Friday, April 16, 2010 | Reply

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