Analysis of Metro-Link Performance in Saint Louis, Missouri

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - performance, policy - fares, organisation - performance, place - low density, mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro


Transit, Suburbs, St. Louis (Missouri), Saint Louis (Missouri), Ridership, Public transit, Performance, Patronage (Transit ridership), Metropolitan areas, MetroLink (Saint Louis, Missouri), Mass transit, Local transit, Light rail transit, Intracity bus transportation, Fares, Conurbations, Bus transit


In 1946 St. Louis Public Service Company, Missouri, the eighth largest transit system in the United States, was a highly respected metropolitan operation. In 1993 the St. Louis transit system was no longer among the 30 largest systems. The precipitous decline paralleled a 61% decline in the city of St. Louis population, offset by only modest suburban population growth. In an effort to restore transit viability to the St. Louis metropolitan area, an 18-mi light rail transit line was inaugurated in 1993. Using abandoned railroad facilities, including a downtown tunnel and Mississippi River bridge, the new light rail line connected Lambert Airport in Missouri with East St. Louis, Illinois. The results were immediate and positive. Patronage exceeded comfortable car capacity. More cars were acquired. Voters in Illinois and Missouri approved funding to expand light rail 17 mi into Illinois and 8 mi into suburban Missouri. Transit use increased 40%. Light rail carried 49% of the region’s transit passenger miles in only 25% of the area. The cost of service slowed its inexorable rise as light rail moved people for 25 cents per passenger mile, down from 51 cents by bus in 1993. With fewer trunk lines and more feeder routes, bus service costs increased to 80 cents per passenger mile. Casualties declined significantly. St. Louis again has a functional transit system.