Over spring break, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Geneva. Upon exiting the airport, I was provided a free train ticket to wherever I wanted to go. I was almost forced to use the city’s train and electric metro system to travel to the Les Berges dorms, where Webster University study abroad students stay. It was either that or I walked.
But after a few minutes in the city, I could hardly complain. The public metro system spans the entire city. Metro stops are everywhere and the streets are lined with tracks and electric lines. The metro is moderately inexpensive, as you can buy a one-way pass for $3.70, or you can buy a month pass for about 73 cents per day. It was fast, efficient and simple.
With the city providing such an easy way to get around, I wondered why people would even bother owning a car. It almost seemed like an inconvenience when there are metros running every 5-10 minutes. Owning a car in Switzerland is expensive; largely because of various fees the country has. They almost make citizens use the metro as a method of organization. Everything is interconnected.
With this system in place, it’s easier for the locals to move around from place to place without owning a vehicle. They’re saving money on gas and car expenses because they don’t need them. The city still flourishes because it makes money off the metro system.
When I returned to the United States, I began to look back on how simple it was to travel in Geneva. I thought about how I rarely had to walk if I wanted to get across town (despite the few times I chose to). Think about how much air pollution cities like Geneva are avoiding by converting to a massive electric public transit system. Think about the study abroad students in Geneva who have to commute to school but are able to catch the metro to go across town. Most of all, think of what a system like this could do to decrease drunk driving and even remove our dependence on oil.
It may sound like an absurd idea to implement, but cities like Chicago have begun the transition. A price for a one-way ticket in Chicago’s subway is $2.25 and it covers all areas of the city through 144 different stops. You can take the metro train from any airport and travel to the famous Navy Pier using only public transport. I could argue that you don’t even need a car to live in Chicago.
So why is St. Louis behind?
I can’t spend paragraph on paragraph talking about change without proposing a solution. So here it is: expand the St. Louis MetroLink to reach more people. The city should look into installing tracks on some of the roads, allowing it to run parallel to cars. It should also allow the metro system to extend past the city if need be. The fare for the St. Louis MetroLink is actually 25 cents cheaper per ticket than Chicago. Why aren’t we taking advantage of that?
I think a big problem is awareness. Most Webster students don’t even know they are actually entitled to a free metro pass. The nearest MetroLink station is about a 5-minute drive from Webster University. Imagine if the metro system was expanded so students could get around without having to drive to this station, off Lansdowne Ave. in Shrewsbury. Why not utilize this for the benefit of our environment and wallets?
But St. Louis’ public transit has the flaw of gas consumption. Buses run most of our transit. For a system of transportation to work best for all parties, other areas of the United States should look into installing tracks into the streets and allowing transit this way. It would be a process that would take a few years. But there are far too many benefits for our city to not at least consider what the metro system could do to improve air pollution and transit.
Out with the old, in with the new.