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Local transit in line for a federal bailout, but will it be enough?

Ridership on MetroLink, MetroBus and Call-A-Ride was down late last month, as schedules were reduced
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — Bi-State Development is set to get $142 million under the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief law, its CEO said, as budget holes widen amid big ridership declines for the transit agency and economic developer.

President and CEO Taulby Roach said Bi-State, which operates Metro Transit, expects to receive the money from the Federal Transit Administration within the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, ridership on MetroLink, MetroBus and Call-A-Ride was down late last month, as schedules were reduced. Roach said ridership revenue for that period was off 40%, and will have declined further this month. For its fiscal year ending June 30, Metro budgeted for passenger revenue to cover nearly 13% of its $298 million in operating expenses.

But that isn't likely to be the only problem. With large swaths of the economy dormant, sales tax collections are sure to be down significantly. St. Louis County, for example, gives Bi-State about $165 million in sales taxes each year, and federal relief money flowing to local governments cannot be used to backfill any downturn in tax revenue that's the result of the pandemic.

"So I'm going to burn through that $142 million pretty quick," Roach said. "We're going to try provide that cushion as our municipal partners obviously have" losses. St. Clair County and the city of St. Louis also fund Bi-State's operations.

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