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Metro ridership plummets — and it's going to get worse, official says

The agency has responded by cutting all schedules to what's typically offered on the weekend
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — Ridership on Metro Transit was down nearly 40% two days last week compared with "baseline" figures, its executive director said, adding that the figures are bound to drop further amid stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The agency, part of Bi-State Development, has responded by cutting all schedules to what's typically offered on the weekend, with some exceptions as of Monday. That amounts to about 75% of Metro's normal weekday service level, officials said. It operates MetroLink, MetroBus and Call-A-Ride.

The moves could put pressure on the transit agency's budget, such as has been seen elsewhere in the U.S., including Los Angeles. For its fiscal year ending June 30, Metro budgeted for passenger revenue to cover nearly 13% of its operating expenses.

The passenger figures from last week were for March 18-19, according to Executive Director Jessica Mefford-Miller. She declined to speculate on how the system could be impacted by fewer riders, saying it's too early. She said the system didn't see a "significant" ridership drop-off on weekdays until last week.

Meanwhile, Metro will continue to tweak its schedule, potentially dropping more service or adding rides in areas where demand is still high, such as an additional trip on the No. 12 O'Fallon-Fairview Heights bus route, to serve employees commuting to St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

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