Subscribe for 99¢

Nobody had to tell St. Louis-area transit riders how bad things got for public transportation in recent years.

But ranked dead last?

A new study released today by the Transportation Equity Network showed St. Louis ranked 20th out of 20 different metro areas for the percentage of transportation spending dedicated to transit.

The St. Louis region spent 15 percent of its transportation improvement program funding on transit, the study found. By comparison, New York spent 75 percent while Honolulu spent 66 percent.

"The average across all of these metropolitan areas is about 37 percent," said Will Winter, a co-author of the "More Transit = More Jobs" study and a research analyst at the Public Policy Research Center at University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Winter and others who spoke at today's news conference, outside a state unemployment office on Delmar Boulevard, equated transit spending with job creation and economic development.

Similar news conferences were held in other U.S. cities.

"These jobs will create monies that will stimulate the economy," said Darrell Pulliam, a veteran Metro bus operator. "They will bring people up from the dredges and despair of poverty."

It is unclear whether the snapshot of St. Louis transportation spending lines up with other metropolitan areas. For instance, Metro's operating budget is not reflected in the multiyear spending blueprint, according to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. The TIP does reflect capital spending, which has taken a hit in recent years while Metro grappled with its financial woes.

Of course, the overall spending picture has brightened somewhat. In April, St. Louis County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase for transit. The successful tax vote triggered collections of a similar sales tax hike in the city of St. Louis.

The additional tax proceeds aren't expected to reach the Metro transit agency's coffers until this fall.