ST. LOUIS – Transit troubles are all across the United States, as many transit agencies have not recovered from the COVID crisis, and are running out of money.
Boston just recovered half of its pre-pandemic ridership. Washington D.C. is staring at a half-billion dollar deficit by 2025 unless something changes. And New York is facing a $2.5 billion shortfall by 2025.
Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, said unlike those larger metropolitan areas, St. Louis has been fortunate.
“The economics are slightly different from the really large (transit) systems. … Our sales tax has recovered quicker than many of those other areas,” he said.
Roach said challenges with ridership still exist.
“It hasn’t recovered 100%, but some of that ridership is not coming back. Travel patterns have changed,” he said. “You’ve seen in downtown St. Louis, there are fundamental changes you deal with, the work-from-home environment.”
Bi-State received $363 million in federal pandemic funds. Roach said they spent the money conservatively. That’s unlike some others that decided to electrify the bus fleet or cut the fair to get more people to ride.
“We got $363 million dollars, our strategy from day one was to push that out and be more conservative with our budget,” he said. “We have a budget over that last five years that’s only gone up 1%. Right now, things are looking good, and we plan to keep that because transit is a long-term venture.”