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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

STLToday Commenter Greatest Hits: Post-Proposition A Win

I read through the comments on Prop A's you don't have to!

Category: Doesn't Understand How Cities/Transit Work

There are many commenters who believe transit should serve all areas equally, despite the fact that population density and transit need do factor in. There are others who believe that the prosperity of suburbs is somehow related to the fact that there are no or few transit options. There are many others who believe St. Louis, in particular, is not fit for any sort of investment and is dying. These people don't seem to understand urbanism, transit, or St. Louis.

suburbianite April 7, 2010 2:23AM CST St Charles County prospers despite the lack of public transit!

MyOpine April 7, 2010 10:46AM CSTCan anyone tell me what is the business model of Metro? Is it to turn a profit or is it to subsidize transportation? Either way, it's Christmas time for Metro. I see a Vegas convention in the near future for their management. I wish I worked for a company that when their business model failed and couldn't turn a profit, could just go out and propose a tax. Let's raises taxes during a recession. Makes perfect sense. This is a permanent tax, not something temporary to just help them get out of the red. Yep, we need more 50 foot buses employing $30 an hour drivers out on the road driving out to West County to pick up 5 people. Makes perfect sense. $75 million a year? Heck, it might be cheaper to just pay the cab fare for everyone who needs a ride. What kind of management runs a business that needs $75 million a year just to survive? This was put on the ballet in April because it would of never passed in November. The supporters were well organized though. The supporters rolled out the "go green" t-shirts and stuck them on the backs of college students who still live at home.

Reality_Czech April 7, 2010 5:13PM CST Can someone list me the major employers that relocated to STL along a Metro line? I'm trying to think of one, but all I can see is downtown emptying out and the areas along the lines being "Escape from New York" sets in miniature.

Category: " All Transit Users Are Low-Lifes / Transit is Entitlement"

By far, the most popular sentiment among negative commenters is that they are paying for a good they will never use. This may in fact be true, but to call transit an "entitlement" ignores the huge cost of interstates and driving in general. While the fuel tax does indeed pay for a portion of interstate highway maintenance, local roads receive no such funding. Many drivers don't use interstates and yet are helping to fund them when they purchase fuel. Air and water pollution, noise, traffic, autocentric land uses, and personal injury/death are all an unfortunate byproducts of driving that are significantly reduced or ameliorated by taking mass transit. It's also rarely mentioned that transit use can save the commuter hundreds of dollars per year, as cars are not only expensive to society, but to the individual in the form of insurance, gasoline prices, oil changes, regular maintenance, collisions, etc.

The important part of this debate is that funding transit is a value statement for any society: that we wish to allow for mobility for all, for a cleaner environment, for a more walkable metropolitan region, and so on. Putting a price tag on these values is difficult, but most of us think these are worthwhile goals--which is why Proposition A overwhelmingly passed.

Comments that depict the non-car owner as a deadbeat, thug, or low-life are based on pure ignorance and an unhealthy civic state in this country. It shows that private automobility so limits social interaction that a whole class of people (car-dependents) have no clue how a significant portion of the population even lives. We are sharply divided as a metropolitan region and as a country. Comments like these highlight our divisions and lack of civility that is inherent when interaction between different groups in society is limited. What is most puzzling about a good swath of the comments is suggestions that students somehow won't pay into the system, but nevertheless voted for Prop A. Since when do students abstain from any purchases?

Underwhelmed April 7, 2010 5:54AM CST Now the majority will pay MORE for the minority. I don't like to pay for something I don't use. Charge the users more to ride, make them pay their own way. Transportation entitlements?

jwr8369 April 7, 2010 6:17AM CST And so it goes. I will have to hand over even more of my hard earned money for people with no ambition to make better of themselves. I like the quote at the end of the story, it pretty much describes St. Louis. No common sense. "We sunk a lot of time into it and effort with all our volunteers," Burns said. "But I think more importantly the lesson to be learned here is that an enormous amount of money can defeat common sense in St. Louis County." Enjoy your free rides, it's on me.

Vincent Gallagher April 7, 2010 6:35AM CST How can anyone cheer paying higher taxes? Because the people who voted for this tax increase don't pay taxes. They belong to Obama's entitlement constituency that sponges off the government. They had time to vote today because they don’t work and contribute to the tax base that supports all of these government programs and services. The middle and working class is having their income increasingly redistributed to the entitlement class.

Skooter April 7, 2010 7:56AM CST This is NOT a victory for St. Louis. It is a victory for the left wing socialists and entitlement queens. I pray this gets repealed at the earliest opportunity. Yeah, and the kids in the picture don't have a clue as to what they're really celebrating. If they did, they'd all be moving to different schools in different cities...(if they were smart).

38N90W April 7, 2010 8:18AM CST They look so happy! It really IS fun to spend someone else's money!

Hardsheller April 7, 2010 8:44AM CST The Soviet Union didn't die. It just swam across the ocean. The people of St. Louis just voted to enslave their fellow citizens so they can have something they desire. It's pathetic.

38N90W April 7, 2010 9:05AM CST Hey, maybe if they restore all the bus routes and add more MetroLink trains, the car thieves won't need to "appropriate" cars and get into high-speed chases! Wow, a real win-win! (the preceding massage brought to you by "Naive Citizens for Mis-Managed Mass Transit")

Category: Metro is Stealing My Money and Hasn't Changed a Bit!

I have addressed the notion of Metro being mismanaged on this blog. Metro booted the leadership that led them into a cost overrun on the Cross County extension and a resulting losing and expensive law suit. The agency has labored to open its operations up and involve the public. What else do these people want?

Ghetto Prez April 7, 2010 7:58AM CST I think the majority of voters rode the short bus. If you don't pay income tax you shouldn't have a vote. This is the biggest bunch of BS I've ever seen. A grossly mismanaged agency that spends like a drunken sailor just passed a tax hike. Un-friggin-believable.

Category: Just Buy Everyone a Car!

While this could have been included in the "Doesn't Understand Transit" category, it does deserve special attention. I found one comment that by a South Countian who commutes every day to St. Charles County for work. I was expecting him or her to proclaim a "no" vote for Prop A and to complain that he or she was not served by transit, so why should they vote for it. Instead, the commenter voted "yes"--s/he didn't want any more cars clogging up the highway and thought a reduced Metro system would lead to just that! Buying everyone a car (or calling each commuter a cab) ignores the incredibly high costs of driving and creating more traffic. Since this is an especially outlandish claim, I thought it deserved a specific counterpoint.

Scott Akins April 7, 2010 9:07AM CST I'm all for doing what's right for STL, but this tax doesn't make sense.If I do the math, since 1993 we've spent $15B on MetroLink and currently have 62k riders/day. That comes to a total fixed investment of $242,000 per rider! That doesn't even factor in the cost of financing. At that rate, it would've been more cost effective to buy cars for everyone.I don't see ridership growing enough to ever make the math work. If we can't prove viability over 17 years, we never will.In this economy we need to find better things to do with our precious tax dollars.

The Award for the Dumbest / Most Insensitive / Least Constructive Comment Goes to:

Speaks for itself. Welcome to Reagan County, Missouri. I wonder how Claytonites would feel about being the county seat to this new separatist county?

Skooter April 7, 2010 10:55AM CST I wonder if we can split the county in to two parts. We can use I-70 as the dividing line and evertything north of there can be 'St. Louis County' and everything south of there can be....'Reagan County, Missouri' or something like that. Than the RESPONSIBLE citizens can set their own rules and tax rates.


I hate to put too much weight on's many trolling commenters. And it would appear that they are indeed in the minority given the wide margin of victory for Proposition A (also considering that there are more than legitimate reasons to have opposed it). Still, some of the arguments raised demonstrate a need for not just our local government, but our state and federal governments to show leadership in the arena of transportation. While other nations are building advanced systems that include high speed rail and excellent inter-urban transportation systems, the U.S. is still stuck in the modern era (1945-65), too often privileging automobiles over alternative forms of transit. In order to compete, we must upgrade our infrastructure and quit relying so much on fossil fuels and private automobiles. Proposition A positions St. Louis closer to peer cities who have already shown forethought in alternative transportation. Welcome to the "Portland, Oregon" club, St. Louis!


Doug Duckworth said...

Dude, the only thing this does it restore cuts which the hoosiers should have never done. We are at least 50 years from actually having an environment where a City resident can be feasibly car-less. This doesn't mean we are progressive or beginning to make a turn towards urbanism.

Matt M. said...

Doug, we both well know that many people already do live in St. Louis without a car. I'm not saying it's as convenient as Portland to do so by any stretch--only that we're on the right path. I think the Census numbers had St. Louis as 11% carless (New Orleans, for frame of reference, was 12%). Before we say, oh, well that's only the poor--keep in mind serving the poor is an important function of transit. Part of those numbers must also include the elderly, disabled, students, and other lifestyles that avoid car usage.

Half of the funding will go to restoring cuts--not 100% of it. Prior to the cuts, I'd say St. Louis had a pretty good and reliable system for the size/state of its region. So even restoring that is preferable to nothing! Now Metro has the opportunity to expand the system greatly. The proposed Grand BRT alone would immensely improve transportation in the city.

Maybe I was being a bit overzealous to induct St. Louis into the Portland club, but having a dedicated funding source leaves us with much more exciting opportunities than if Prop A had failed.

Reality Czech said...

Sweet, a citation! I did get an answer to my question, as you may have noticed: Express Scripts relocated from Earth City to near UMSL. That's it, one re-lo from a handful of miles away. That's what we get for $1.5 billion.

And people wonder why the economy is in the doldrums.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how angry and over dramatic they are. Comparing passing the half-cent sales tax (which hey voted on) to "enslavement" and "The Soviet Union." Really?

Matt M. said...

Reality Czech--

Thanks for posting! Haha! Didn't think any of my honorees would comment here!

I object less to your question, which is valid, than your characterization of the areas served by transit as war zones of some sort. By any measure, these areas have improved over the past decade, some quite dramatically. That is why you were cited.

Greg said...

Matt... I want to comment here, not because the post didn't make a clear point, but because I think we are all missing the bigger issue at this juncture in our country's history. That issue being the toxic state of politics in this country and how some use it to frame a given debate. This vote was a good example of the issue because it showed us that the people who are 100% Pro or Con on an issue don't control the vote, it's the silent majority (moderates) that truly wins elections (most of the time).

For context you have to understand that my family and a lot of my friends are county people, live, work, play out there and most of them consider themselves to be conservative. I happen to have spent the past 5 years living in U. City so I have a good feel for urban living and I love it (for the most part). However, no one in my family has ever had an issue with Metro or public transportation. No one had ever considered this a red/blue argument as it has been framed in this election. Then all of the sudden this came up and now I had a part of my family saying they didn't want to have another handout for the poor. WHAT? Where did that come from?

Well, that's what leads us back to the politics. In today's world, we're all so quick to define something as red/blue and once that is done, you might as well toss out getting a given percentage of the population to vote for anything they consider being "for the other side". The important part to that is that it works both ways. When it comes to Metro, it seems like there was a group of people that framed this as taking care of the poor and then there was the vocal Tea Party movement that said they didn't want more handouts. The irony of it is, that while Metro does assist the poor, it's a small percentage of it's ridership. I've ridden the Metrolink enough to see a wide variety of people who use the system. Doctors, Lawyers, Students, etc etc... That is who pays, it’s nice to say that we assist the poor with Metro Link and Bus, but it’s not the group that defines Metro’s ridership. It’s the rest of us that chose to leave our cars at home and take it downtown or to Clayton, you would not have this system in place if it were only to transport those who are less fortunate.

I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong, more just pointing out that maybe this issue isn't the red/blue issue that everyone has made it out to be. Pardon my wordiness… but it’s my hope that in the future these issues are framed as they really should be, for the greater good of all.

Matt M. said...

^ GREAT points, Greg. Reading the comments, I was shocked about how readily transit was equated with liberal policy. I suppose the Prop A campaign anticipated this and enlisted the help of Republican John Nations of Chesterfield as their spokesperson.

A lot of urban issues don't divide clearly down the lines of conservative/liberal. For instance, I'm a huge supporter of small, independent business and policies that promote them. Even though I probably fall fairly far left on the spectrum in American politics, I am ALL about this and do not care which "side" it's associated with. That's probably because I don't associate myself with either political party. I just don't care anymore.

The game of politics is often antithetical to finding real solutions. I'm not into self-preservation; our leaders should be looking for the best ideas at all times, even if it means their days in office are numbered.

Anonymous said...

Underwhelmed is usually the first to comment on every story. Someone needs a girlfriend/hobby/life.

Doug Duckworth said...

Thanks, I have all three.

It would be more exciting if Chesterfield had built New Urbanism on THF Blvd., with low income housing, so we don't need to heavily subsidize the basically useless bus ride out to Long Road. Maybe then people could actually live near their center of work in the County? Oh, but having African American service sector workers as neighbors...lowers property values. So I guess we need the bus anyway.

Anonymous said...

Transit keeps thousands of cars off of the road every day. If you're driving to work, you may think your taxes for transit are being used for something that doesn't benefit you, but those taxes will be keeping thousands of cars out of your way every rush hour.

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