Warmer weather, a sunnier economy, and higher gas prices are driving more riders to public transportation in St. Louis. Overall Metro ridership was up 8 percent in the last half of 2011 compared to the previous year.
Dianne Williams is Metro's director of communications.
"Twenty-three million times someone stepped on a metro bus, a metro train, or a metro caller ride. That's up about 2 million boardings from the same period last year," Williams said.
Starting next month, passengers who ride MetroLink or Metro buses will be be able to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables at certain transit centers.
The mass transit agency is partnering with the Sappington Farmers Market community program, Mobile Market, to sell locally-grown farm foods in areas where nearby residents have little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
More than $44 million in federal transportation money is headed to Illinois for two projects in the Chicago area and one in Alton in southern Illinois.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is to announce the funding Thursday at a Chicago "L" station with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It's part of more than a half-billion dollars in federal transportation funding for 46 projects in 33 states.
A Democratic Congressman from Missouri has proposed giving transit agencies across the country more flexibility in how they spend federal transit dollars.
Rep. Russ Carnahan says despite millions of dollars from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the stimulus bill), more than 85 percent of transit systems across the country had to cut service, raise fares, or both - even as more and more people came to rely on transit.
That, Carnahan says, is because the federal money has to go toward capital purchases like new buses.
Calling it a "matter of survival" for his agency, Missouri Department of Transportation director Kevin Keith unveiled a five-year restructuring plan this morning that will eliminate 1,200 jobs, close 135 facilities, and sell more than 740 pieces of equipment.