It was a hard lesson, but one that will ultimately benefit the entire region. Fed up with $137 million in cost overruns for MetroLink and tired of Metro's perceived arrogance and unaccountability, St. Louis County voters in November 2008 rejected a half-cent tax increase to aid the transit agency. Faced with a $50 million budget deficit as a result, Metro drastically reduced bus and light-rail service and laid off some 600 workers — forcing even those who don't frequently use Metro to feel the pain. This past April Metro went back to county voters, this time with a structured plan for improving public transit while being better stewards of tax dollars. The plan included such smart practices as splitting routes to use fewer buses; eliminating large (and mostly empty) buses for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles; and creating more geographical hubs. County voters approved the half-cent sales tax — which in turn triggered a quarter-cent city sales tax. Order was restored. People who use Metro can once again get to their jobs and the grocery store, and St. Louis has a better transit agency for the long run.
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