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St. Louis Metro to restore some bus cuts

Saturday, May 23, 2009 | 2:45 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Metro officials plan to restore about one-third of the transit cuts made earlier this year.

If approved by Gov. Jay Nixon, $12 million in federal stimulus funds would be used to bring back some express bus routes and add new lines to places where Metro buses no longer go.

However, no improvements will be made to MetroLink.

The immediate challenge will be to get lost riders to return to public transit, said Bob Baer, president of the agency.

The new and restored routes would begin in August and last one year. Metro officials said Friday they aren't certain of the number of drivers they will need to rehire.

Metro cut more than a third of its service in March to save about $35 million a year and prevent massive budget shortfalls in the future. Metro officials then turned to the legislature for help. The stimulus money divided up by lawmakers earlier this month will help Metro get through the next year, when officials hope voters approve a sales tax increase.

After the budget cuts, some Metro riders were forced to change jobs, find other rides or buy a car. In April, bus ridership dropped 22 percent from the same month in 2008.

"We can't erase the fact that service has been discontinued," said Jessica Mefford-Miller, acting chief of planning and service development. "You're not necessarily going to get all those customers back."

Metro is also nudging St. Louis County officials to propose a tax measure after voters in November rejected a half-cent proposal intended to prevent service cuts.

St. Louis County officials are talking about going back to voters, said Mike Jones, a senior policy adviser to County Executive Charlie A. Dooley. "The only question is what's the right date."

 


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