'Troubling' decline in ridership on Metro system, leaders call for change

(Credit: KMOV)

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Concerns over crime are partly to blame for a steep decline in the number of people riding the Metro system in the St. Louis region, according to some local leaders.

Now, with two of Metro’s top officials leaving the organization, some people are demanding change.

Earlier this year, the East-West Gateway began a study on security, which has yet to be completed.

“I know what the numbers are telling us. They are telling us we need to react,” said Taulby Roach.

Roach represents an oversight board for transit in the Metro East. He said they’re seriously troubled by the trend in ridership.

News 4 requested the numbers. In just four years, rides on Metro have dropped by 21 percent. There have been millions of fewer fares, with across-the-board decreases in rides on the bus and the train and on both sides of the river.

“We are experiencing the same erosion of ridership in St. Clair County as they are in Missouri,” Roach said.

Roach said Bi-State recently asked for more tax dollars from St. Clair County, something he said is unsustainable.

“We certainly addressed those concerns with Metro staff,” Roach said.

In recent weeks, there have been announcements of two big departures from Metro. President and CEO John Nations retiring this fall, and Executive Director of Mass transit Ray Friem retired effective July 1.

“I think it’s time for a new direction and we’ve begun that, we didn’t start that yesterday, but it’s time for a new direction,” said Roach.

We sat down with Interim Director Jessica Mefford-Miller who said rides across mass transit systems are down nationally, though metro’s numbers more so.

According to Mefford-Millers, some of the reasons why are that driving a car is more affordable and ride-shares like Uber and Lyft are becoming more popular. Still, she said they are making changes.

“We are planning faster service, service that operates with more options and more responsive to demand,” Mefford-Miller said.

She said they’ve overcome ridership decreases in the past.

“We will do it again, the system in 2020 will not look as it does today, but I think it will look more attractive and productive for the region,” Mefford-Miller said.

In the meantime, you should expect to see changes to routes, which is bringing mixed reaction from some riders on the impact.

“I wouldn’t like that,” said one rider.

Riders and local leaders we talked to said there’s an opportunity for a new direction with the change in leadership.

The system is subsidized with tax dollars.

That’s one of the reasons News 4 will keep watching out for your money and keep tracking the system.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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