"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Metro Transit Funding Raises Difficult Questions

September 23rd, 2008 by mopns · No Comments

By Patrick Eckelkamp

Saint Louis area officials have long struggled over how to fund the mass transit system. In the November elections, county voters will choose whether to increase the transit sales tax by one-half cent in order to fund Metro. If this measure passes, it will also trigger a one fourth-cent transit sales tax in Saint Louis city. During the weeks preceding the November elections, voters will hear the arguments both for and against the tax increase. Both sides have merit.

The new tax increase, if it is approved by voters, is expected to generate approximately $87 million in additional funding for Metro, the majority of which would come from Saint Louis County’s higher tax rate and larger base. Saint Louis city’s one-fourth-cent increase
would generate approximately $9 million in additional funding. About half of the additional funds raised, around $40 million, would be used to fund the current bus and light-rail system, while the remaining half would be used to fund future MetroLink expansion. Metro officials have stated that without the tax increase, the agency would be forced either to cut back on services or increase fare prices to ensure a balanced budget.

These officials view the prospect of increased fares as harmful, because they fear ridership would fall accordingly. However, this may actually be a better way to raise revenue. Read more…

Patrick Eckelkamp was a summer 2008 intern at the Show-Me-Institute, a Missouri-based think tank. He is currently studying at Saint Louis University’s campus in Spain, pursuing an economics degree.

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Tags: Show Me Institute · St. Louis

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  • 1 Andrew McNulty // Sep 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    While I agree with most of your points, I’d have to say that the most efficient solution, in my opinion, is to increase fares and proceed with the sales tax plan. This would allow for expansion of the metro past what was originally planned, which in the long run would benefit the city of St. Louis and the citizens of the counties. After living in St. Louis for about two years I have realized that most people, in both the city and the county, rely far too heavily on automobile transportation, and who could blame them with a pathetic public transportation system like the metrolink which consists of one and a half lines that service relatively limited areas in St. Louis and the surrounding counties. There would be no better time to invest more money into this system and help ween St. Louis commuters off of their gas guzzling cars than when gas is reaching four dollars a gallon and promises only to go higher. Furthermore, an improved public transportation system in St. Louis could help to revitalize areas within the city. As it stands, most people with money live in the county, but if metrolink lines were run throughout the northern and southern parts of the city, businesses and residences would have a selling point for these people to migrate to the city (that they are only minutes from downtown/the central west end/ grand center and no longer need to spend money commuting from over 20 minutes away). In conclusion, although your going to call me a socialist for my plan of action (i never said i would be opposed to the inclusion of the private sector, in fact anything that would bring greater funding/expansion is fine by me) I think that a greatly expanded metrolink system would benefit St. Louis in the long run.

    PS superbly written article, is this what you did all summer? if so that’s really cool and I’m jealous (minus the whole conservative think tank part haha)

  • 2 Bob // Sep 23, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I agree with Andrew – it is a superbly written article, AND relying primarily on fare increases is not the answer. The long-term benefits of expanding Metrolink and Metrobus services (in a logical, efficient, and fiscally prudent manner) far outweigh the minor inconvenience of a half cent sales tax increase.

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