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For better or for worse, bus service has changed

ST. LOUIS – Why did Metro change so many bus routes?

“To serve you better,” company officials say.

The changes took effect Monday in the area Metro covers in the Missouri side of its service area. Some riders are getting better service, while others are getting worse. 

“It’s a change, but we’re hoping it’s an improvement,” said Jessica Gershman, assistant executive director of planning for Metro. 

Gershman said it was important to make such changes every few years, to ensure that the bus routes stayed close to their target audiences. 

“It is the first time we have stepped back and taken a look at our system comprehensively,” Gershman said. “Transit areas do this every five or 10 years, so we were kind of due.”

One reason why a bus company might make changes is because a big company shuts down, she said. Fewer people need service going by the now-empty plant. 

Cutting service in areas where ridership drops might allow more frequent trips on more popular routes. But, Gershman said, “over 98 percent of our current boardings are within a half-mile of the new network.”

That doesn’t ease the concern of some. One route, the #110 Affton west on Gravois Road from the Hampton-Gravois Transit Center to Lindbergh Boulevard, has been eliminated. 

“It kind of affects a lot of people because now they have to take more buses to get wherever they’re going,” said Kevin Armstrong, a bus rider at the Hampton-Gravois Transit Center. 

Metro spent two years identifying where there are more customers, Gershman said.

“There’s a lot of increases in frequency throughout south St. Louis,” she said.

Jerry Vallely, a spokesman for Metro, said the #110 route had been cut because ridership was too low. He said service was available nearby for most of Gravois in the new #17 Mackenzie and the #46 Tesson Ferry. One exception is near Grant’s Farm, where there isn’t any nearby service.

Some others worry about the elimination of the winding #80 route from the Central West End past the Missouri Botanical Garden, through Lafayette Square and then downtown.

“There ain’t no bus going down through Lafayette Square. I’ve got to go all the way to Chouteau or Jefferson,” said a man who identified himself as “Perkins,” at the Shrewsbury-Lansdowne I-44 station.

In place of that route, service on Grand Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue will be more frequent, Gershmann said. Nobody will have to walk more than a half-mile to get to a bus. 

The frequency of some major city routes has been increased. The #11 Chippewa now runs about every 15 minutes during the day, from about every 20 minutes before the changes. The #95 Kingshighway and #90 Hampton is running every 15 minutes during the day. The #70 Grand bus, which used to come by every 12 minutes during the day, runs every 10 minutes. 

The #94 Page now comes by every 15 minutes in rush hours, while the #32 Dr. ML King-Local runs every 30 minutes during the day. 

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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