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Region’s bus riders facing additional service cuts as hiring struggles continue

Passengers board a bus on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
An ongoing bus driver shortage means additional service cuts are coming for Metro Bus riders starting Monday.

MetroBus riders in Missouri are facing more service reductions as the St. Louis region’s transit agency struggles to match its service levels with the number of drivers it has.

As part of schedule changes that took effect Monday, Metro is indefinitely suspending service on the No. 71 Patterson-Redman, which serves parts of far north St. Louis County, and ending service on two other lines at 8 p.m. An additional 18 routes will run less frequently — some riders will have to wait two hours if they miss a bus.

The agency cut service 5% in March, also in an attempt to line up service levels and number of drivers. But “things have continued to deteriorate,” said Charles Stewart, Metro’s executive director.

In September, Metro was down 170 drivers, Stewart said. That number was up to 191 in October. The lack of drivers, he said, led to more than 4,000 missed runs last month.

“Missed runs means that people are waiting for a bus that does not come,” he said.

Monday’s 7% service reduction means Metro will need 584 drivers, Stewart said. The agency currently has 598.

“It's something that we have to do,” he said of the cuts. “We have to be able to provide reliable service.”

He added that ridership continues to recover slowly from the pandemic, and the agency continues to make adjustments to its recruitment and retention programs.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788, which represents Metro operators, did not respond to a request for comment.

Metro has already partnered with Lyft and its own ridesharing service, Via, to help provide transportation services. Stewart said ridesharing will expand to help with the latest cuts.

MetroLink resumption

Also on Monday, Blue Line MetroLink trains resumed trips from Shrewsbury to the Fairview Heights station, rather than stopping at the Forest Park-DeBaliviere station. Service on that line had been limited since a flash flood in July caused $40 million in damage to the tracks and equipment at Forest Park-DeBaliviere. Metro attempted to restart full service on the line in August but reversed course 10 days later because of significant delays.

Correction: Charles Stewart is the executive director of Metro. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report had an incorrect title for Stewart.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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