KC Light Rail

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A Cautionary Tale from St. Louis

You get what you pay for, they say. Now St. Louis' MetroLink light rail is facing increased maintenance costs due to cost-saving shortcuts taken during construction of the original 18-mile starter line from 1993. Cheaper ballast and ties, and second-hand bridges and rail are all forcing Metro to consider major infrastructure improvements before the line reaches  the 20 year mark. Those around in '93 will tell you that the cost-savings were necessary to overcome opposition to getting the line built at all (total cost: ~$464 million), but were the shortcuts worth it? It's important to note that MetroLink utilized existing railroad right-of-way and does not run in city streets, a very different proposition than what is proposed in Kansas City.

2 Comments so far

  1. Dave July 10th, 2007 9:17 am

    from the metro’s 2006 annual report:

    “More than 16.5 million passengers boarded MetroLink in Fiscal Year 2006, up 5.9% (more than a million additional boardings) over the last fiscal year. Customer satisfaction remains high, with customers rating MetroLink 4.2 on a five-point customer satisfaction scale.”

    almost all transit systems operate on the basic principle that weekday rush hours have the most frequent headways. outside of that you’d be hard-pressed to wait more than 15 minutes on any light rail system (except *maybe* on sundays). i’ve used metrolink and find the system itself no more frustrating than in any other city, especially if you’re staying downtown and just hitting the hot spots.

  2. Joe Medley July 12th, 2007 6:49 am


    Please define “frustrate.” I’ve used rail-based public transit in six cities in both North America and Europe. The drill is always the same. Wait at the station for the next train to come by. I’ve never, that I can recall, waited for more than 15 minutes on any system that I’ve used.

    Like Dave said, unless headways are more than 15 minutes, I don’t see the problem. If they are more than 15 minutes, then the problem is with the management of the system, not with the concept itself.

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