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St. Louis MetroLink Light Rail Ridership Hits 160,000 a Day

Special Report by Light Rail Progress

© Light Rail Progress – January 2001

St. Louis's transit agency, in early July 2000, scored a remarkable achievement for the city's new MetroLink light rail transit (LRT) system: carrying a record ridership of more than 160,000 rider-trips – and this on a Saturday (during the Fair St. Louis festivities). The Bi-State Development Agency reports that MetroLink set a new ridership record – its highest ridership to date – on Saturday, July 1st, when 160,721 Fair goers used the LRT system.

"Fair goers realize that the best way to travel to the Fair is on MetroLink or on Fair St. Louis shuttles" said transit agency spokesman Tom irwin.

"We had ten new light rail vehicles this year in operation and that really helped move our customers quickly and conveniently."

To be sure, this is an exceptional event – amounting to approximately 4 times MetroLink's average weekday ridership. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the power and capacity of LRT to move extraordinarily large volumes of people when necessary.

Bi-State also released its Fair St. Louis ridership figures for July 1, 2 and 4. During the three-day Fair, 439,902 commuters used Bi-State's MetroLink system and Fair St. Louis shuttles – a 1.35% increase over Fair St. Louis 1997 transit ridership of 434,062.

Bi-State also attributed its high ridership figures this past weekend to Cardinals' games played at Busch Stadium and the Evangelical Luthern Church conference which brought thousands of youth to the downtown area.

"The students and their escorts had pre-paid passes and could use our transit system as frequently as they wished" said irwin. "From the look of things during the Fair – these youth, the Fair goers and Cardinals' fans added up to exceptional ridership on the transit system."

It should be kept in mind that traffic congestion does not merely occur during weekday rushhour commuter travel. What's needed is a transportation system that is flexible enough – in capacity – to respond to major traffic overloads efficiently and attractively. That is exactly what MetroLink appears to have done – in this case, serving effectively the major traffic volumes of people attending St. Louis's annual Fair.

Since approximately 70% of MetroLink riders have been attracted from automobiles, and assuming typical average occupancy of 1.2 persons per car, that's about 93,000 automobile trips "diverted" from the city's crowded freeways and streets. Assuming round trips, that's more than 46,000 parking spaces that were not needed that day. And that's also a lot of freeway lanes - as well as streets and arterials – that would otherwise have been jammed with that extra load of 93,000 vehicle trips.

Does transit pay off? You bet it does.

Rev. 2001/01/24


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