An Essential Element of Local Job Strategy
Plans are underway for additional MetroBus stops in Chesterfield: in the valley area, a haven for retail development with many employees who rely on public transportation.
John Nations is a resident of Chesterfield, former mayor of the city and now is president and chief executive officer of the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri Illinois Metropolitan District. He’s long been an advocate of public transportation in West County.
“Public transit to me was always an essential element of the economic and job growth strategy out here,” Nations says.
In 2009, confronting drastic cutbacks in the Metro public transportation system, which threatened service to Chesterfield, Nations as mayor worked with Metro to successfully preserve service to his city. The plan, at the time, was to cut all the routes west of Interstate 270.
“A lot of our 26,000 full-time jobs in Chesterfield at that time were dependent on public transportation, so I pledged city funds and got JARC (Job Access and Reverse Commute program) grants to keep buses going,” Nations says.
Later that year, Nations was asked by Bi-State/Metro Chairman Vincent C. Schoemehl, Jr., and then-President Robert J. Baer to lead a campaign in St. Louis County to provide funding for the Metro system. It was after previous ballot proposals had failed twice and Metro then had to cut service by a third.
A Proposition A countywide half-cent sales tax was approved in April of 2010 under Nations’ leadership. In October of 2010, Nations began his current job after the Bi-State Development Agency Board of Commissioners selected Nations to succeed Baer.
Nations says three MetroBus routes primarily serve Chesterfield: the No. 158 Clayton Ballas, the No. 258 Clayton Chesterfield (which provides service in the Interstate 64 corridor) and the No. 91 Olive (which takes Olive all the way to the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station).
Average weekday ridership over the last fiscal year for the 258 route is about 560 people a day, compared to about 150 for the 158 route and about 1,800 for the 91.
Cost of MetroBus is $2 for a one way trip, or $2.50 to board MetroLink.
There’s a preliminary study, in the planning stages, underway for bus rapid transit – where routes have limited stops and dedicated on-off stations on the interstate, as well as faster travel times – and two corridors in the region were selected for more study. One of those would go from downtown St. Louis out the I-64 corridor to Chesterfield. However, there’s no timeline to make a decision, Nations explains.
In Chesterfield, Metro is always looking at how to tweak its services depending on where jobs pop up, he says. “We’ve gotten requests in recent years to provide service to the two Chesterfield Valley area outlet malls, but there can be significant costs involved to do that. So far, there’s been no additional appropriation from anyone to pay for that service. We’re open to doing it we but can’t do anything without identifying a funding source.”
However, his organization is working on a partnership with Chesterfield through the valley’s transportation development district (which Nations put in place as mayor), and they’ve entered into an agreement to fund placement of bus stops in the valley.
Mike Geisel, director of public services for Chesterfield, says the department has been working with Metro and St. Louis County for over a year.
“Metro has narrowed the initial proposal to 11 suggested locations and is submitting them to the County for permits,” he explains, though he’s unsure when the permitting would be completed, allowing construction to start.
Nation says, “Public transportation is an essential element of the job strategy in Chesterfield, because there are industries like St. Luke’s Hospital – which is the largest employer in Chesterfield and among the largest users of public transit – as well as many Chesterfield nursing homes and our retail and office sectors in which a lot of workers, particularly custodial, rely on public transit to get to their jobs.”