Metro has been in public relations and financial turmoil as of late, but the transit company recently did something that might boost its approval ratings -- it gave away 10,000 passes, aimed at attracting new riders.
They were available online, through the mail and at participating bicycle shops, among other avenues. Not at Metro stations though, because the "Dump the Pump" promotion is primarily for attracting new riders, not ones who go by stations every so often. It's the third year Metro has participated in Dump the Pump but this is the first it offered up free passes.
The number of riders on public transportation is up in nearly all communities across the country, including St. Louis, where Metro ridership was up 11 percent in May 2008 compared to May 2007.
While helping the environment is a feel-good reason to avoid driving, for many, not paying $4 per-gallon gasoline prices is more compelling.
Metro couldn't just let everyone hop on a bus or train because that would cost too much, says spokeswoman Dianne Williams. 10,000 passes is about 5 percent of the daily ridership that tops out over 209,000 people a day on bus, train and para-transit vehicles. (The last time the entire system was opened for free was when the Cross County extension opened in August 2006.)
A press release issued by Metro earlier this month outlined the perks for riders today. Included is the chance to win a free trip to Kansas City, courtesy of Amtrak and Drury Inns and Suites! (It's the one city the two businesses have in common, Williams explained.)
Metro riders today will also be greeted by presumably cheery Metro ambassadors known as the Green Team. The Team will enter Metro riders in the contest for the City of Fountains.
Reality Check: During an elongated commute this morning, there did not appear to be any more riders than usual on the line, and certainly no Green Teams out there asking riders how they were doing. I'm not out to throw anyone under the bus; rather just a little let down that I wasn't greeted by a friendly Metro employee who would offer to register me for a trip to Kansas City.
And if you get caught without a ticket on the train tomorrow, expect to pay about $80. The penalty varies between St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County.