Saint Louis Needs Better Bus Rapid Transit Plans
In a previous post, we outlined how Metro is planning to introduce Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Saint Louis region, and how they may waste millions on a low-ridership route that follows I-64 between downtown and Chesterfield. In this post, we turn our attention to Metro’s ridership estimates for these BRT plans.
Metro expects the I-64 BRT to have 5,100 weekday riders to start, 2,100 of which will be new “choice riders.” Another possible BRT route, one that follows Natural Bridge and Florissant, could carry 3,200 riders. Metro used a regional travel demand model to come up with these estimates. And while models can be very useful, the real-world performances of Metro’s Express Buses show no such underlying demand, especially in West Saint Louis County.
Metro operates six Express Bus lines in Missouri, which are designed to handle weekday rush hour traffic to and from downtown. They have routes that follow the region’s major highways between downtown and the county, with fewer stops than normal buses.
As the map above demonstrates, only the proposed Page Avenue BRT does not have an Express Bus currently running a very similar route.
Unfortunately, these express routes are not popular. In fact, they are a regular who’s who list of the emptiest, worst financially performing bus routes that Metro has to offer. The best performing Express Bus by far is the 36X, which carries a mere 563 passengers per day and loses more than two dollars per passenger. Anyone who has read our previous posts on the MetroBus system will not be surprised to hear that the highest ridership is on a route that serves North Saint Louis City and County. The 57X, which runs along most of the proposed I-64 BRT route, has 257 passengers per day and loses more than nine dollars per passenger. By way of comparison, the average MetroBus route carries 897 passengers per day and loses $3.22 per passenger. A full table on Express Bus performance is below:
|Line||Average Passenger Boarding Count Per Day||Farebox Recovery Ratio||Loss Per Passenger|
|36X Bissell Hills Express||563||32%||($2.31)|
|174X Halls Ferry Express||255||16%||($5.56)|
|40X I-55 Express||178||11%||($8.68)|
|57X Clayton Rd||257||10%||($9.45)|
|410X Eureka Express||187||8%||($11.89)|
|58X Twin Oaks Express||155||8%||($12.91)|
Express Buses are not BRT. They do not have the higher level of comfort, signal priority systems, dedicated lanes, or sheltered stops that BRT provides. However, they do provide reasonably fast service along major highway corridors between downtown and the county. In that way they likely portend future demand for BRT routes running very similar routes. And the prediction for an I-64 BRT route is not good.