Saint Louis to Spend $1 Million on MetroLink Expansion Study
Recently, Saint Louis County announced that it would spend around $1 million to “study” whether the region should commit money toward an expansion of the MetroLink system. The money for this study comes primarily from Proposition A, the primary purpose of which was to raise money to keep buses running in Saint Louis County. The study will look at three possible corridors, one running from Clayton to Westport, one running from Lambert Airport to Florissant, and one running from Shrewsbury to Butler Hill. Given the recent push to build a North-South MetroLink line from Florissant to Butler Hill (running through downtown), it appears that the end goal could be a giant light rail loop around the Saint Louis area.
Unfortunately, expanding MetroLink in this way will easily exceed a billion dollars, and when one considers that a billion-dollar North-South MetroLink line will likely precede these county-specific projects (and need to precede routes to Florissant and Butler Hill), we are talking multibillion-dollar funding requirements.
But too often, costs like these do not daunt regional planners. The results most often conclude that any rail expansion plan would have positive benefits; just some routes are more positive than others and should be built first. We should not be surprised if that is the case with this study as well. However, as so much money is being spent, I propose the following questions the study could address:
- How might the bus system in Saint Louis City and County be improved for $1 billion to $2 billion? How much money are we proposing to spend per new transit user?
- Given the higher-than-expected costs and lower-than-expected usage of the Shrewsbury MetroLink line, does it make sense to extend the MetroLink into areas of the county that predict for even less demand for public transportation?
- Do planners expect transit-spurred economic development, given the distinct lack of economic development surrounding most existing MetroLink stations in Saint Louis?
And last . . .
- How exactly will $1 million be spent on this study? Itemization is encouraged.