MetroLink Fare Collection

All the ways we move people and things: trains, planes, automobiles, biking, walking, etc.
^^The fares on Metro represent about $48 million a year, of which $17m is rail and $31m is bus. It makes up about 16% of the budget or so.
I always assumed that if turnstiles were built, they would be this kind:

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If Metrolink ever wants to become the widely used system and engine of development that it envisioned they need to completely eliminate or at least significantly reduce the fare. Currently the prime users of Metrolink are students with free passes, commuters with expensive daily parking options, and those who cannot afford a car.

In a society like St. Louis where most people of any means have some access to private vehicular transportation, $2.50 for a one way fare is just too much for the average person to justify using Metrolink for daily trips. If a family of four wants to go to a baseball game downtown they may consider using Metrolink before realizing that their round trip fare would be $20, which is more than the cost of parking or just taking an uber. When it comes to going anywhere with free parking (most of the city) the average person will just drive almost every time. It's simply cheaper, easier, and faster.

Now remove the fare and suddenly Metrolink becomes a viable alternative to access all of these places removing an enormous amount of car trips. Free Metro accessibility will be an enormous benefit to densifying these central corridor neighborhoods because accessing any of the vibrant areas on the system will be as easy as walking to a train station with no other investment needed.

If you would like a case study of this happening, look at the success of the free Kansas City streetcar compared to it's paid peer systems. By remaining free, the average walker has access to the entire corridor. When visiting the city without a car we primarily used this system to get around and thus ended up hanging out in the areas around the system. Should it have been a pay system it's unlikely our group of five would have even considered it as a mode of transport compared to uber. In terms of the quality of the ride it was busy and felt electric and "big city" despite it not being rush hour or preceding an event. Bring it back to a nice but uneventful day in STL, Metrolink would be almost as deserted as if it was 30 degrees.

To bring it to a safety perspective, the largely increased ridership will bring an element of self policing to the system. Outside of peak hours train stations can feel isolated and dangerous. Throw in a constant wave of non-peak users gained by eliminating the fare and suddenly that station isn't so scary anymore.

This is the power of free public transport. Development will explode around this system and some kind of localized tax (or God forbid state support) could easily pay for the ~16% of the budget lost by fare collection.
^ I don't disagree with the overall point here, and obviously a free ride would boost ridership significantly, but I think the comparison to KC is a bit off. They have a little 2 mile streetcar that doesn't have near the infrastructure or overhead that MetroLink does. Nor does it cross State, County or City lines with different funding and tax structures. As it was pointed out above, MetroLink and MetroBus pull in close to $50 million in fare-box revenue...where else is Metro going to find that money? And if Kansas City ever gets close enough to a nearly 50 mile system like St. Louis has, you can bet your last dollar they'll be charging a fare.
I could see it happening at a local level after some kind of Better Together consolidation. 50 mil a year is no small number, but definitely not an impossible one when looking from a state/federal perspective. It just requires the political will.
GoHarvOrGoHome wrote:
Wed Mar 06, 2019 5:08 pm
I could see it happening at a local level after some kind of Better Together consolidation. 50 mil a year is no small number, but definitely not an impossible one when looking from a state/federal perspective. It just requires the political will.
In total agreement with ya there.
GoHarvOrGoHome wrote:
Wed Mar 06, 2019 10:22 am
$2.50 for a one way fare is just too much for the average person to justify using Metrolink for daily trips. If a family of four wants to go to a baseball game downtown they may consider using Metrolink before realizing that their round trip fare would be $20, which is more than the cost of parking or just taking an uber.
To be fair (or fare) here, no one would take daily Metrolink trips for $2.50 a ride. A daily commuter would get a $78 monthly pass, which works out to about $1.80 a ride (without accounting for any weekend Metrolink or bus rides). All things considered, $3.60 in total daily transportation costs (with "free" weekend transportation) seems like a really good value.

For a family of four going to the game kids 4 and under ride free and kids 12 and under are half price ($1.25). And sadly, incredibly, a lot of parking around the stadium is over $20. I believe Stadium East and Stadium West are each $25. Parking by BPV or just south of the stadium can get up to $40.

It's a far cry from free - but better than the picture you painted above.
GoHarvOrGoHome wrote: If Metrolink ever wants to become the widely used system and engine of development that it envisioned they need to completely eliminate or at least significantly reduce the fare.
I could see continued expansion of the system (while maintaining the current fare system) achieving the same goal by making it more widely used, increasing the utility of each station and in turn driving land values around them. You could do a whole lot of system expansion for $50 million a year, and serve a wider swath of the Metro.
Black02AltimaSE wrote: I always assumed that if turnstiles were built, they would be this kind:
I don't think that style of turnstile would ever be used in St. Louis due to ADA/accessibility considerations. There'd be no way to get a bike, stroller or wheelchair through. Those work in NY because there is either a station attendant (which STL doesn't have) to let someone through a door or an alternative entrance to the station.
wabash wrote:
Wed Mar 06, 2019 9:16 pm
Those work in NY because there is either a station attendant (which STL doesn't have) to let someone through a door or an alternative entrance to the station.
Have station attendants ever been considered? Seems like a fairly small task to hire some.

Forgot to mention it in my original post, but those BART turnstiles really are just absolute trash. No wonder they don't work at all.
For my family of four example I was trying to illustrate how poor of an option that Metrolink becomes for group transportation. Maybe I'm still just a youthful optimist but I've always thought Metrolink has been missing out on its potential as a sober ride Uber/Lyft replacement. The majority of the central corridor bars can be accessed in some way via the train system and back when I had a pass it was a lot of fun to bounce around the different bar districts via train.

Unfortunately only one of my friends has ever had a pass and convincing the rest of the crew to use the train is particularly hard considering the fare. It's just easier and cheaper to uber.

As a individual transportation machine the Metrolink is great, but loses a majority of its utility once more than a few people want to make a round trip together.