by Michael R. Allen
The St. Louis Beacon reports that the legislature passed a stimulus bill that contains $12 million for Metro (actually still named the Bi-State Development Agency but doing business as Metro). This is a one-time payment, of course, and short of the $20 million that Metro estimates it needs to restore all service cuts made in March.
Governor Jay Nixon, often silent on state-funded programs that support St. Louis, actually has expressed support for Metro. However, the $12 million request came from Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, not Nixon. If the governor signs the bill, Metro will be able to restore Call-a-Ride and some bus routes — for one year.
Realistically, the stimulus money is a small stop-gap. What is needed is a regional taxing district. Senator Robin Wright-Jones introduced a bill in this legislative session to allow such a district to be created, but the bill remains on the Senate’s informal calender.
No matter what the fate of the stimulus funding or Wright-Jones’ bill, Metro has a lot of work to do right now to build a strong case for its support. The longer the agency waits to start building public support, the longer people are stuck without transportation — and the longer cities that have regional investment in transportation will surpass our ability to attract new residents and jobs. We can’t have a hand-to-mouth transit system if St. Louis is going to be a competitive American city.