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Get on the bus ! - overall

Eltoreon Hawkins takes a photo of his niece and nephew Jada Mabry,7, and Trevor Pippens, 4, as they take a break with his daughter Toreonia, 2/12, from painting a mural on the first articulated MetroBus on Saturday, May 31, 2014, in the South Grand Parking lot. The 60-foot bus, made of two sections which bend in the middle, provide a cost effective way for Metro transit to ease overcrowding on its busiest route. The public was invited to help paint a mural by using a paint-by-number approach. The bus will travel on the #70 Grand Line in St. Louis City. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Boardings on Metro transit’s buses, light-rail trains and Call-A-Ride vans are expected to increase slightly next year, and the agency is not proposing any fare increases.

Those are the two major take-aways from the proposed 2015-16 budget for the Bi-State Development Agency, whose transit operations are known as Metro.

Metro buses had a typical weekday ridership of 95,911 in 2014. MetroLink, the region’s 20-year-old light-rail system, carried an average of 53,900 riders a day. And Call-A-Ride carried about 1,976.

“Transit ridership is not seeing the same growth in (the current year) as has been experienced over the last five years,” the agency said in the proposed budget.

Metro planners say falling gasoline prices saw “some transit riders return to using automobiles.” There were other factors cited for the lackluster growth in ridership, including the unrest on the streets of Ferguson.

Metro increased its base fares for MetroLink last summer, along with the price of weekly and monthly passes, but it won’t do so again this year. One-way bus fares were not affected last year. At the time, Metro’s brass said it preferred to impose a series of regular but smaller fare increases, rather than waiting to impose larger, sporadic price hikes.

Meantime, Metro is projecting continued slow growth in sales tax receipts in both St. Louis city (1 percent) and St. Louis County (2.5 percent). Sales taxes provide a significant share of Metro’s operating revenue.

SOLAR PLANE STOPPING HERE?

From the blog: The crew of Solar Impulse 2 began its ’round-the-world flight from Abu Dhabi on March 9, and the solar-powered plane is expected to reach United States airspace later this year.

But unlike the first mission, flown by pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg across the U.S. in 2013, there is no mention of a St. Louis stop for this historic attempt to circle the globe without even a teaspoon of fuel.

The official website lists only Phoenix and New York as the U.S. stops, but adds that a “location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions.”

Officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport are hopeful that this Solar Impulse will stop in St. Louis and they have had some informal conversations with its team. But so far there has been no commitment.

“We’re not out of the running yet,” Lambert Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said. “They will have to make a stop in the middle of the country.”

Solar Impulse planners prefer to have a hangar in which to park the aircraft. When the original Solar Impulse stopped here, it was housed in a portable inflatable hangar.

DeBALIVIERE BRIDGE CLOSING

Traffic near the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station will be rerouted at the beginning the week of March 30 while a bridge deck is replaced just north of Forest Park Parkway. The bridge will remain closed until late September.

Southbound traffic on DeBaliviere will be rerouted using Pershing Avenue. Access to the MetroLink station will be on the east side of DeBaliviere. Bus stops serving the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station will be moved to Pershing.

Pedestrian access to Forest Park will remain open along the east side of DeBaliviere. But Metro’s 90 Hampton bus will not provide service into Forest Park beginning on March 30. The 3 Forest Park Trolley bus will begin limited service into the park at that time.

One westbound lane of Forest Park Parkway will be closed as well, and the eastbound turn lane from Forest Park Parkway to northbound DeBaliviere will be closed too.

The bridge, which is more than 80 years old, will carry the Loop Trolley toward the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Planners figured it would be a good time to replace the deck, said Chris Poehler, administrator of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District.

WATCH WORK ZONES

On the eve of the spring highway construction season, transportation officials in Missouri and Illinois are reminding people to pay attention and slow down when driving through work zones.

In fact, Monday kicks off National Work Zone Awareness Week. So get ready to hear a lot about this, because driver inattention is the second most common cause of crashes within work zones, after following too closely. Under Missouri law, motorists must slow down and move over for vehicles with warning lights.

“The law is simple: If you see flashing lights on the side of the road, move over to give workers and emergency personnel plenty of room to stay safe,” said state maintenance engineer Beth Wright of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

MoDOT officials and their counterparts at the Illinois Department of Transportation will hold a joint news conference Monday to talk about work zone safety.