I got a little bit of praise, via Disqus, for what I wrote in reply; so, for the benefit of my regular readers, let me cross-post it here, because St. Louis Metro Transit is a subject I have strong opinions about -- some of you, my personal friends, have heard quite a few pieces of this over the years:
I'm an increasingly elderly white retiree on a small, fixed income. I depend on MetroLink and I agree with almost every single word of this. (My experience has been different in one small way: in a decade of riding trains and buses in this town, I've never been the victim of violence, and only been threatened once. But then, I'm also a faintly scary looking nearly 300 pound bald guy.)
I especially relate to his complaint about the sporting-event-only riders. There is no misery like being usually able to depend on making a certain transfer every night at 10, at the Civic Center station where everybody and I mean everybody who passes into or through downtown has to transfer, only to miss the last train out because either the Blues or the Cardinals or some tween-sensation pop concert has just gotten out, having to stand there, even if it's freezing drizzle, because the train you couldn't even get to because the bus hit a traffic jam has long gone and the next two trains are going to ship full. I can't blame Metro for that one; like you say, they need those people's money, and I'll add that it wouldn't make sense to design a system to handle peak loads like that if it would run 99% empty the rest of the time. But it's really, really frustrating.
I share the frustration about the fare increases, too, but seriously, I doubt there's anything Metro can do about that. I hear the same complaints about the price of gasoline from my friends who drive. Sadly, except for CEOs and Wall Street financiers, nobody in America's wages or pensions have kept up with inflation, not in decades, and there isn't anything Metro can do about that.
I'll say this for Metro St. Louis, even if Google deserves more credit than they do, they helped: the MetroLink and MetroBus system is a heck of a lot less frustrating now that almost everybody can get a low-end smartphone for free. Google Maps' integration with the Metro system is complete, and it's usually accurate, and it makes a huge difference. If you've got an Android phone in your pocket or purse (or, to a lesser extent, an iPhone, the mass-transit interface on its Maps app isn't as good) you can stand anywhere in the Metro area, ask for transit directions to anywhere else, and get good transfer-by-transfer and stop-by-stop directions. Those of you who've never tried it, try it some time!
But, I've got to say this: I've ridden the buses and trains in a lot of towns, and one thing is painfully clear to me: there is a huge difference between towns where the people who run the mass transit system are also riders themselves, versus towns where the people who run the mass transit system are people who drive. And we are clearly the latter.
It is driving me mad how much Metro depends on large buses that only run every 40 minutes or once an hour, when every transit expert in the world has found the same thing, that everybody who uses mass transit everywhere in the world judges their transit system almost entirely off of how often the buses run. If Metro would absorb the slightly higher labor costs and run smaller buses every 20 to 30 minutes, maybe they wouldn't have such a hard time getting tax increases passed!
But just as importantly, Metro St. Louis's management has a vision in their head of what the mass transit system is for. On my most cynical days, I describe it as a system that is designed to deliver low-cost domestic help to mansions in Ladue. Buses travel in a straight line with few stops through any majority-white area, then slow down to wiggle through majority-black areas in order to pick up any black woman who could conceivably have a job and deliver her to a job that doesn't pay enough for her to afford a car, at some mall or at some call center. If you aren't a 20-something or 30ish black woman trying to get to and from a call center or mall job on the first or second shift, you run into awkwardness at best: the system is just plain not designed for you.
Metro St. Louis's route designs assume that nobody wants to use the system for shopping or entertainment; they drop you off a long, hot (or cold) walk from any mall or cinema or theater, and some of the biggest concert venues, like Family Arena, can't be gotten to at all. Metro St. Louis's route designs assume that you are in bed by midnight; nobody works third shift, or attends any event that runs past 11pm, in the mind of whoever designed these routes. Metro St. Louis's management seems to take it for granted that nobody works Sundays, either, as if this were still the 1950s or something and we still had strong "blue laws." And, of course, whoever's fault it is, it's nothing less than intolerable that at no time of day or night can you get anywhere in St. Charles county, anywhere in Jefferson county, or anywhere that isn't within walking distance of a train station in Madison or St. Clair counties.
If Metro St. Louis's CEO and all of his or her direct reports were to spend one year traveling exclusively by mass transit, if they were to have to depend on their own transit system not just for their commute but for shopping and shows and socializing with friends? By the end of that year, we'd have an entirely different, much better transit system, one that met everybody's needs a lot better. Because, right now? I don't think they have any idea how frustrating their system is to use.