Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St. Louis Metro seeks long-term plan for expansion

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Straddled with budget woes that have put a severe strain onexisting light rail and bus services, St. Louis Metro nonetheless is solicitinginput to develop a long-term plan to expand service reach and boost ridership,and is actively seeking options based on other U.S. rail transit operations.

Among other ideas, Metro is pondering diesel multiple-unit(DMU) or diesel light rail transit (DLRT) for suburban rail service, comparableto the beleaguered, delayed startup in Austin, Tex. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)operations, modeled after Los Angeles, are also being suggested, as is theimplementation of smart cards.

Bob Baer, recently named Metro's chief executive, andJessica Mefford-Miller, chief of planning and system development, hosted aninvitation-only forum Tuesday with local leaders, mostly area mayors and othergovernment officials, to begin the process. Eight public forums are to follow,beginning next month, to craft a plan including five-year, 10-year, and 30-yeartimelines. "The vision will be bottom-up based on what the community wantsand expects," Mefford-Miller said.

A draft of the options to enhance service will be releasedthe week of Dec. 7, after which the public will be able to comment again,before a revised draft plan is released early next year.

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