As representatives of cities
with new light rail systems, we’d like to share our successes with
your citizens. Soon, voters in your community will be making an
important decision. They will not only be voting on light rail, but,
quite directly, on the quality of life and economy of your city. In our
cities, the voters said yes and we can say with certainty that light
rail has been pivotal to our communities’ mobility and economic
health. Light rail is helping us keep pace with growth and protect our
regions’ livability. Here are a few samples of the real benefits of
light rail development:
St. Louis: Before MetroLink
Light Rail service began in 1993, ridership was projected at 17,000
people per day. In the system’s first month of operation,
approximately 26,500 passengers rode MetroLink each day. By 2000, the
average weekday ridership averaged 41,766 commuters. In addition:
average commuter saves about $1500 and 200 gallons of gas yearly,
simply by using public transit instead of driving.
full MetroLink train removes 125 cars from the highway.
Link boosts civic pride and brings people together on the train.
Metro Link stimulates economic development and helps sell St. Louis
as a wonderful place to live.
Salt Lake City: Ever since the
TRAX system began operation in December 1999 (a year ahead of schedule
and under budget), residents have flocked to use it. Projecting average
weekday ridership of 14,000 people, actual ridership has greatly
exceeded projections, with a high of 19,742 trips per day in March, only
three months after the system opened. Those numbers have continued to
rise to more than 20,000 riders per day. It is standing room only during
peak hours and often in the evening, as people use the system to visit
the many entertainment venues in downtown Salt Lake City. Saturday
ridership is even higher, with a high of 25,621 trips per day last
April. Surveys found that 45 percent of TRAX users were new to public
transportation and more than 47 percent has used one of the system’s
free park-and-ride lots. Light rail is a success in Salt Lake City and
is helping to protect Utah’s quality of life for generations to come.
Denver: Growth in the Denver
metro area continues at a rapid pace with population forecasts
continuing to increase. Like Austin, Texas, people are coming to Denver
and to Colorado because it’s a great place to live and the economy is
healthy. While growth brings greater opportunities, it also puts
tremendous pressures on local and regional transportation systems.
Recognizing this, local voters decided to invest in public transit. The
resultant Southwest Corridor Light Rail is now 56 percent ahead of
ridership projections. Of all commuters into downtown Denver, 25 percent
use transit, while an additional 15 percent carpool, bike or walk. We
have found that light rail offers a fast, efficient and cost competitive
alternative to the automobile.
The decision the voters in your
community make will be an important one. Federal funds for light rail
are limited and the competition is great. Forty-seven of 50 metropolitan
areas have some type of rail planning underway, with many of them
looking at rail in particular. We encourage voters to do what voters did
in Salt Lake City, Denver and St. Louis – and numerous other
communities - vote yes for light rail and yes for the health and
vitality of your community!
Deputy Executive Director, Bi-State Development Agency, St. Louis,
General Manager, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, Utah
Marsella, General Manager and CEO, Regional Transportation District,