Unique opportunity to put public transit in the fast lane | Columnists

For too many people in our community and across the state, public transportation is the only way they can get where they need to go.

In rural Missouri where access to health care continues to be difficult, public transportation is an absolute necessity and without it we will continue to see health inequities grow. In the urban core, thousands of St. Louisians depend on public transportation every day to get to work, school, groceries, doctor’s appointments and more.

This truth is underscored by a new report released by the Alliance for a Just Society, the Labor Network for Sustainability and TransitCenter, indicating that black and brown people across the country are more likely to rely on public transit as their primary option. transport and are more likely to use public transport to get to work.

As President and CEO of Urban League, I see the toll that lack of access to reliable public transportation has on the families we serve. Missed doctor’s appointments, sporadic mental wellness visits, long drives just to get to a grocery store. North City and North County residents who rely on public transit to access employment, in many cases have a 2+ hour commute, multiple transfers, one way to get to work. We need to advocate for more transit options, not less.

The 2018 North-South Corridor Alternative Analysis determined that light rail was the locally preferred alternative in this corridor and the current study will examine new technology options for light rail opportunities in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Better access to public transit translates to greater accessibility for residents, which translates to resilience, economy, equality, improved health and environmental outcomes, and ability to attract and retain business. Investments in public transit contribute to economic opportunities for all workers.

In fact, the Forward Through Ferguson report also identified light rail expansion as a strategy to foster this economic opportunity and improve equity in the region.

North St. Louis County has been disinvested for decades, and large-scale investment in public works like MetroLink would go a long way in reviving development, jobs, and increased accessibility for the area.

Light rail is a proven catalyst for development. We can see the impact of transit in the Central Corridor – areas like the Central West End and Midtown St. Louis are booming with the help of MetroLink. In addition, millions of investments are underway next to the Forest Park-DeBaliviere Transit Center. Yet not everyone celebrates this success.

We must invest in robust public transit if we are to build an economically resilient and racially equitable region. And now is the time. The availability of federal funding through the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $91 billion in funding for public transit, presents an opportunity unique that did not exist before. Now is the time to seize the opportunity.

Michael P. McMillan is President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis

Melvin Z. Madore