Week of July 11, 2001

Bi-State desperately needs an overhaul: Thank you for your article on Bi-State [D.J. Wilson, "The Transit Authority," RFT, July 4]. It has given me vindication. I'm a resident of the Lafayette Square area and work near downtown. I have been a rider on this system exclusively for the past four years.

When I started riding Bi-State, I thought it would simply be a breeze to get to work at a job that was five minutes from my home. Wonder of wonders: I wouldn't need a car, because everything was so very close and I could spend that car note, tag fees and insurance money on other things.

No such luck. When I walk up to Tucker and Lafayette or Park and Tucker, I am, more often than not, standing at the stop for 15 minutes or longer while express bus after express bus blows past me, heading toward downtown and my five-minutes-away job. Some days, as many as six buses will go by before either the local (Gravois or Carondelet) will stop to pick me up. There have been very few days when express drivers (the ones who are probably in a good mood) will stop.

When I questioned one driver about what the problem was with picking up passengers in the city, he told me that most of the time, the drivers have to meet a schedule or the other passengers complain about them stopping, or they just don't know that they can stop to let on passengers in the city.

One time I stepped on an express bus and some passenger behind me piped up, "This is an express bus." I turned around and said, "No shit, Sherlock," which shut down any more comments from the peanut-head gallery. It's almost as if these people, drivers included, think these express buses are some kind of exclusive club, open only to a select few when in fact they paid just as much as I did to get on that stupid bus in the first place.

I have written letters and e-mails and made phone calls to Bi-State, all of which have fallen on deaf ears, about the lack of consistency in passenger pickups. I have even called to find out if either of the places I stand are considered "express" stops and was told that since the "stop book" is no longer available, they do not have a record of exactly where the stops are anymore.

So, here I stand, taking a half-hour to 45 minutes to get to work, when it should actually only take about 15 or 20 minutes to get from Tucker and Lafayette to Jefferson and Market.

I'd like to give heartfelt thanks to both you and Mike McGrath for saying something that I have been trying to get across for a very long time. Bi-State desperately needs an overhaul and, most importantly, an attitude adjustment for every single last one of its drivers.
Diane Lynn
St. Louis

Only three people think McGrath is credible: The article by D.J. Wilson in your July 4 issue is an insult and an injustice to the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788. The members I represent are hardworking, dedicated individuals who perform a very stressful job under very difficult conditions, and they do not deserve to be portrayed as anything less.

Mr. McGrath has shopped his musing to anyone with an e-mail address, and it is telling that your publication is the only one that thought it worthy of print.

I told Mr. Wilson in our interview that I had a documented example of Mr. McGrath's handiwork that would show that he was not the expert he portrayed himself to be, but that was omitted; the article was not intended to be balanced or fair but simply a tasteless attempt at slapping Bi-State and its employees.

In closing, after reading Mr. Wilson's article, I still believe there are only three people in St. Louis who think Mr. McGrath is an expert: Mr. Wilson, Mr. McGrath, and the moron at Bi-State who hired him in the first place.
Herbert S. Dill
President, ATU Local 788

St. Louis

Bi-State needs more buses, not light rail: I have been a Bi-State rider since 1993, and overall my experience riding the bus has been a good one.

I found the comments of [union president] Herb Dill to be those of an arrogant union hack. The union wants to maintain the status quo. The union leadership has no desire to improve Bi-State as long as the members keep paying their dues. Mr. Dill couldn't care less.

All mass-transit systems run in the red. That should hardly be a surprise to a car-driving culture.

The drop in ridership is a result of many factors, but the 25-cent increase in the fare a few years ago didn't help. The poor are the principal customer for mass transit. An increase of 25 cents doesn't sound like much to those of us who can afford to pay, but to someone with little money to spare, it is!

I'm afraid the "fixes" Bi-State wants to implement will only cause a further decrease in the number of people who ride the bus.

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