I love public transportation. Running to catch the train, sitting next to complete strangers on a crowded train car, the rampant overflow of pigeons indoors, I love it all.
My love for public transportation began in Chicago on a chilling -5 degree December day. My friends and I took the purple line from Evanston, Ill. into the city, and I was immediately hooked. On the train, a Motown band broke out in song to an unamused audience of commuters. Later in the day, a woman yelled at us for not having a job and being unmarried while we waited for a train, which was terrifying, but now I have that story to tell.
This love grew deeper when I spent a summer in London and got to experience the pure magic of the Underground, London’s subway system. London has public transportation down to a science. They have both underground and overground trains that run smoothly and efficiently. I seldom faced a delay during the six weeks I relied on their public transportation to get around the city. Even their buses are adorable, safe and almost always right on time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but most people I’ve talked to would rather have the luxury of their own car than have to rely on public transport. But just thinking about car payments, flat tires, refilling gas every week, the always looming risk of accidents, car insurance, oil changes, parking tickets, parking fees, dead batteries and every other expense makes me despise owning a car.
With public transportation, all these expenses and downsides to owning a car disappear. Sure, you have to buy a pass or a ticket every time you want to go somewhere, but the cost is nothing compared to the overall cost of purchasing and maintaining a car.
It is true, however, that in order to enjoy public transportation the way I do you need to live in a city that is compatible with public transportation. St. Louis is sadly not one of those cities. The sharp divide between St. Louis city and St. Louis county keeps our public transportation from being as efficient and useful as it is in other American cities like New York or Chicago. St. Louis also does not have an underground subway system, which is the most skillful way to set up a mass public transportation system.
I currently navigate around St. Louis in my own car, and I almost never take the MetroBus or MetroLink. The only times you might catch me on the MetroLink would be on the way to a Cardinals game or another big event downtown where parking would be a nightmare.
It hurts my soul that the St. Louis MetroLink has only two lines that go in the exact same direction into the city. If you’re out in the county you have to ride the bus system just to reach the metrolink if you don’t have a car.
For car-less Webster students who want to get to the loop or downtown, you have to take the MetroBus that stops in front of Webster Hall to the Maplewood MetroLink station, and then ride the rail into the city. This whole excursion can take up to two hours if you want to go all the way to the 8th and Pine stop to see the arch or beyond to East St. Louis.
My hope is that one day St. Louis city and county will learn to love each other and figure out how to make our public transportation more accessible and efficient for those who cannot afford their own car. And, for people like me who just love a good metro system. For now, I’ll just have to keep escaping to Chicago for my public transportation fix.