MetroLink riders along the central corridor will soon have a new spot to hop aboard both red- and blue-line trains.
On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed what the new Cortex MetroLink Station and other plans in the works could mean for the future of transit in the region.
Joining him to talk about it were Jessica Mefford-Miller, interim executive director of Metro Transit, and June McAllister Fowler, the newly announced board chair for Citizens for Modern Transit.
Mefford-Miller emphasized the significance of the new light-rail stop – situated between the existing Central West End and Grand stations – as part of a major public-private partnership.
“There’s been a call to construct a station at this burgeoning Cortex innovation district for some time … and now we’re pleased to open the station next Tuesday, July 31st,” she said.
Fowler, who is vice president for communications, marketing and public affairs at nearby BJC Healthcare, noted that the Central West End stop is currently the busiest station within the entire MetroLink alignment.
“We know the importance of transit and access to good transit for our employees, our patients and so many members of our community,” Fowler said. “We think of ourselves as not only an organization that provides great health care but also an important part of the economic development in this region. Public transit plays an integral role in that.”
She added that the advocacy organization CMT, for which she now serves as board chair, works in partnership with Metro Transit to push for “good, comprehensive access to safe and reliable transit.”
Economic development was a primary focus in designing the Cortex stop, Mefford-Miller said.
“We anticipate an estimated 13,000 jobs to be created in this part of the region that’s already growing very rapidly,” she explained.
When Marsh asked about how well the Metro Transit system is doing overall, Fowler said she sees room for improvement.
“I think our public transportation system, like many systems in our community, has aspects of it that work extremely well, and then we have aspects that need to be improved,” she said. “It is absolutely no secret that there are challenges when it comes to some of the feelings and experiences that people have on the system.
“We’re working not only at CMT but with Metro, with our law-enforcement officials, to really address those issues. It is not just on the system where these issues of safety and security are taking place. It’s kind of endemic to our community right now. We’ve got to have a holistic approach to public safety. We believe that that’s going to happen.”
Another challenge, Fowler said, is the continuing need for expansion in other areas of the St. Louis region.
“The rate of expansion of the system can’t happen fast enough,” she said. “There are people who need access from where they are to where the jobs are. And public transportation can be that link.”
Among the listeners who called in to join the on-air discussion was Missouri state Rep. Peter Meredith (D-St. Louis), who asked about the possibility of making St. Louis-area transit free to riders, thereby removing the ticketing process entirely.
Mefford-Miller said that passenger fares are a significant source of operational funding.
“In our city and other cities nationwide, [passengers] actually support about 20 percent of the cost to provide service, and so there would have to be some revenue stream to offset that lost revenue,” she said. “It’s not a one-for-one loss – certainly there are costs associated with collecting fares, fare enforcement, equipment and other technology out there. So, I hear ya, and certainly there’s a desire to do that. We are working to make the Metro system more accessible by reducing the barrier of fares.”
She noted that Metro earlier this summer launched the Gateway Go Card, a half-price pilot program for area youth ages 13 to 25.
What: Cortex MetroLink Station & Chouteau Greenway Dedication & Grand Opening
When: 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Where: The Cortex Commons (4270 Duncan Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110)
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.