State Legislature approves $12 million in federal funds for Metro transit agency

Legislation containing $12 million in federal stimulus/stabilization funds for the Metro transit agency was approved last week by the Missouri Legislature.

House Bill 22, approved May 7, now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature.

Metro originally requested $35 million from the Legislature, which would have restored all of the service lost on March 30. The $35 million transit service reduction came in response to an overall $50 million budget deficit for Metro’s fiscal 2010. The $12 million will enable Metro to restore a limited level of transit service to the region and recall some of the Metro operators who were laid off as part of the service reductions.

“The March 30th service reductions were a hardship for the entire St. Louis region,” Metro President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Baer stated in a news release. “Faced with a budget crisis and the regional need for an effective, stable transit system, Metro turned to state leadership to help develop a solution to address the region’s transit needs. Our case was heard in Jefferson City and the result was their passage of emergency funding for Metro.

“We sincerely appreciate the support of members of the state Legislature, including the St. Louis Caucus, Gov. Jay Nixon and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. We also appreciate the confidence the legislature has placed in Metro to serve the constituents of this region. We will be responsive to any request from the legislature to clearly outline how these funds are being used.”

Ray Friem, chief operating officer of transit services for Metro, stated, “MetroBus routes with heavy ridership have experienced serious overcrowding due to reduced frequencies. The funding will allow Metro to alleviate some of the overcrowding on key routes and provide new service to a portion of the destinations that we were forced to abandon on March 30.”

Metro is working to identify where transit service can be created throughout the region to address the most critical transit access needs. As Metro is able to add a limited level of new bus service, the agency also will be able to provide corresponding paratransit service to the elderly and disabled in the community through Metro Call-A-Ride.

“Metro’s effort to secure emergency funding also presented an opportunity for the region to come together over a critical regional issue,” Baer stated. “Civic leaders, elected stakeholders, business leaders, community groups and individual citizens communicated their desire for the state to help stabilize transit in the St. Louis region. They played a key role in Metro’s inclusion in HB 22. We will continue to work with this coalition to further build local and state involvement in finding a permanent solution to public transit funding in the region.”