I’ve lived in my current dwelling for about eight years now. A few years ago they began work on the MetroLink light rail system extension. I now have a MetroLink station about a block away from my house. This makes it real convenient for me to use when I need to go into Clayton, the Central West End, or downtown St. Louis. And with gas prices the way they are, using the MetroLink more often has saved me money. Maybe it’s all starting to pay for some of the headaches I’ve suffered while it was being built.
MetroLink is the light rail system that serves the greater St. Louis area. The system currently consists of two lines connecting Lambert St. Louis International Airport with Shrewsbury and Scott Air Force Base over in Illinois. The system features 37 stations and carried an average of 67,684 people each weekday in 2007. This number has increased significantly in 2008. The second line, the “Cross County Extension,” the one that runs right alongside my house, opened in August of 2006. The extension line construction cost ran way over time and budget and Metro ended up firing the general contractor who turned around and sued them and won, adding even more cost to the project. (www.wikipedia.com)
While the construction was going on right outside my house I was, of course, working nights. I fell asleep each morning to the soothing sounds of jackhammers going off in the distance. It took them forever to finish the construction. I swear that they put down about six inches of track per day. But now that it’s finished it IS kind of neat to ride the train and they are usually on time. I ride the MetroLink about 1-2 times a week and out of all of the times I have ridden it, the train was only a minute late once, so you hardly ever have to wait. The only problem I have is with the ticket system. Since I don’t ride it enough to get a monthly pass, I have to purchase a ticket from the machine at the station and then get it validated at another machine, which doesn’t work half of the time. The trains run on a “must see” system where your ticket is spot-checked by the guards. If you can’t get it validated because the machine doesn’t work, you run the risk of getting fined or thrown off of the train.
But ridership has taken a dramatic upturn recently. And more and more people are taking the train not because parts of Highway 40 have been closed like originally thought, but rather because of the higher gas prices. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com) some 38 percent of the current riders became converts in the past two years and most of them have a car sitting in their driveways. Some also say that the hassle of finding a parking space is also a factor. Metro has several parking garages at different stations where you can park your car and take the train. Some of them are free and many companies will help pay for either the cost of parking or even help with the price of a monthly pass.