Take a ride with me on the #8 Bates-Morganford, #10 Gravois-Lindell, and #20 South Broadway buses. Last Monday these lines had a major route change.
Bi-State Development Agency, d.b.a. Metro (note separate websites), calls it, a “Quarterly Service Change” to “improve on-time performance and MetroLink connections, and are a part of Metro’s commitment toward building a better experience for the transit riders throughout the region.”
And by “better experience” they mean a decision affecting thousands of lives made carelessly by people who do not use buses daily.
UPDATED: Northbound on South Tucker, we pick up our last passengers at Hickory. Sadly, some riders have no idea it is the last stop before the Civic Center Transit Center at 14th @ Clark. Buses which had turned onto Chouteau, and then took 14th to Transit Center, now would take South Tucker to Clark and Clark to 14th. Friday, Bi-State installed a bus stop sign at South Tucker & Chouteau, so the last stop is now that one. This is good news for the families who live on the Chouteau-side of the Peabody-Clinton campus and had their northbound bus stops removed with the route change.
People were excited about the return of bus service Downtown to major employers/services on Tucker again. Those who did not thoroughly check the route change would be disappointed.
We travel up Tucker and pass the 20-story RAY Building (Robert A. Young Federal Building) at Spruce, home to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Housing & Urban Development, Labor Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Lots of Federal employees who are offered incentives to use public transportation.
A woman with two children has an appointment at the RAY Building. She rings the bell, gets upset when it does not stop up at the bus shelter in front of Engine House 2. She is confused when we tell her the bus does not stop until it gets to Transit Center. “But why is there a stop there?” she asks.
We get to Clark and a man wants off for jury duty at Circuit Court two blocks north. But the bus does not stop. Someone says he can get on the jury shuttle across from Kiel Parking Garage near where the bus will stop at Transit Center. He says it’s nuts, says jury duty is right over there, let him off.
To our right, next block east, is 29-story Eagleton Federal Courthouse. Like the federal agencies at the RAY Building, it’s full of employees entitled to incentives for using public transportation.
We turn onto Clark. There is City Hall. I know there is no stop for me to get off. I had called Bi-State to find out where the nearest stop would be and got the bad news we would just be driving by the building. Unfortunately, a woman needing to get a copy of a birth certificate had just looked at the bus map online and assumed there was a stop at City Hall. She says she knew she should have just driven.
We arrive at the Transit Center and we walk back to where we need to go.
Big Fail on that better experience for bus riders. Again.
Bi-States does not even try.
Since 1993, many buses have served as feeders to Metrolink. Instead of taking a bus somewhere, now you take a bus and train to get to the same destination. This year, some North-South bus routes were chopped up to require more than one bus for the same trip with a layover at Transit Center in between. Each additional boarding requites a transfer and counts as a different ride. Bi-State does not count riders. It counts rides. Ridership decreases and Bi-States compensates by increasing the number of rides needed to get somewhere. Transfers are at additional cost, meaning a “Quarterly Service Change” is often a fare increase without all the messy PR bother.
Here is my Share the Bi-State Pain Challenge to Bi-State Commissioners and every St. Louis City and St. Louis County elected- executive/administrative/legislative and party central committee ward/township committeeperson alike: Ride our crappy bus system. Spend one week getting everywhere you need to go in St. Louis City and St. Louis County using buses only. Not just to work/office. Everywhere.
Use buses as your only source to get to your neighborhood/ward/church/political fundraiser events, meetings across the City and County, shopping (enjoy toting perishables on a one hour to one and half hour trip), dining and entertainment (be careful to note buses that only run every hour and express buses that don’t run most of the day or evening), doctors, all of it by bus and walking. No train. No bike. No hitching a ride in a car for free or pay.
Use the buses and you will know how bad public transit is here and use your voice to make changes.
And, while we’re at it, this would be a great challenge for Media as well. You can’t possibly do your job via buses, but you can try using it to get to work, shop, play. You’ll not only see public transit differently, you’ll also see the weather in a whole different light. Most bus stops do not have shelters and most bus stops do not get cleared of ice/snow in the winter. I suspect that a week’s worth of that would be a life altering experience and would help alter the way Bi-State treats bus customers.
What happened this week with the #8, #10, and #20 buses is just one recent example of Bi-State’s lack of respect for bus riders.
Bi-State Commissioners are appointed by Governors. They spend tax dollars but are not accountable to local elected officials and voters. Until local electeds make some noise on the poor treatment of bus riders, most of them low income, captive customers, bus riders will continue to pay more and be inconvenienced more to get around.
Ask yourself this, how could Bi-State possibly decide it was a good idea to reroute buses so that customers are driven past where they need to go?
Because nearly everyone in a position of power is allowing it to happen. Inaction is as powerful as action.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman