Twenty years ago, the first trains left the platform at Union Station as MetroLink began its inaugural ride in St. Louis. Since then, MetroLink has expanded to include 37 MetroLink stations along 46 miles of light rail in Missouri and Illinois that connect with MetroBus for an integrated system that promotes healthier communities, stimulates economic development, increases ridership access and is helping to build sustainable communities on both sides of the river.
MetroLink became a reality in our community with the help of a small group of business people, elected officials and interested citizens, who together formed the local transit advocacy organization in 1985 known as Citizens for Modern Transit. The organization's hard work, coupled with the ability to creatively secure local matches for federal funding, aided in the opening of the MetroLink line in 1993 to record ridership.
Since that time, the St. Clair County Transit District and Metro, the operator of the system, have taken it to new levels of success, including two additional expansions to Illinois and the Cross County alignment, and an internationally recognized maintenance program.
So what's next? We know that the effects of light rail investment extend beyond being just another mode of transportation. The greatest opportunity to be leveraged as a region is through the build-out of more livable, walkable communities around our system. This type of growth would make our region a more competitive consideration for attracting and retaining businesses, as well as individuals and families.
In short, the success of MetroLink is about so much more than just the ride that takes users from Point A to Point B; it is also about what is happening on the land seen from the windows of the train as it is heading along the tracks. As we celebrate MetroLink's 20th Anniversary, today is a great day to decide how St. Louis wants to proceed with transit over the next 20 years, because even though some of us ride it, all of us need it.