(ST. LOUIS, MO)…….As members of the St. Louis County Council gather on Thursday, October 26, to consider a $128 million appropriation for Metro, Bi-State Development’s public transit program, people with disabilities will be present to ask the Council to advocate for their transportation needs. Members of the STL Metropolitan Alliance for Reliable Transit (S.M.A.R.T.) say they no longer trust Bi-State Development to solve their long-standing problems, so they want the Council to bring in an external consultant.
S.M.A.R.T. has the following recommendations to Council members as performance measures that should be met in exchange for receiving such a large appropriation of public funds:
The County Council should withhold not less than $300,000 of the $128 million appropriation to Bi-State Development and use it to bring in an external consultant with expertise in managing a modern and reliable paratransit system. St. Louis County government should work cooperatively with St. Louis City government to contract with a consulting firm that will examine and evaluate all of Metro’s current policies, practices, and procedures, bringing a fresh perspective to the discussion. The consulting firm’s report should be delivered to County and City government and also be available to the public.
At least half of the meetings held by the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners (the whole board as opposed to committee meetings) should be convened in easily accessible locations such as public libraries or communities of faith with ample accessible parking. These meetings should include up to an hour of public comments from those present. They should also be hybrid for additional accessibility.
Metro should end the disparity in paratransit wages and benefits. Training for Call-A-Ride drivers should also be improved as some operators who have left employment with Metro tell us that they did not feel adequately trained.
Metro should press reset on its level of engagement with people with disabilities and recruit a large and diverse group of people living with disabilities to give input to all planning processes.
Testimony sent to Council members included this plea: “Please use your appropriating power to be advocates for your constituents who have disabilities. We need a public transit system that works for us – and so do so many others without disabilities. Our region cannot succeed if area residents cannot easily travel to work, shop, keep medical appointments, get an education, enjoy the arts and recreational opportunities, and connect with friends and loved ones. The time to improve public transit in our region is NOW.”