St. Louis Creates Partnership for Multimodal Trip-Planning

Metro Transit in St. Louis will work with the Transit App for trip-planning, booking and payment across a range of transportation services, from bus and light rail to private ride-hailing options.

by / March 6, 2019
Metro Transit in St. Louis will partner with the Transit App for trip-planning, booking and payment across a range of transportation services like Uber or Lyft. (FlickrCC/Ron Reiring)

Metro Transit in St. Louis is one of the latest cities to partner with Transit, an app-based system that allows riders to book trips using any number of bus, light-rail or ride-hailing options.

“Transit users can not only request and pay for a ride-hail trip within our app, they can do so as part of a multimodal trip that seamlessly connects with a bus or train trip, as part of our Transit+ feature,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Transit.

In St. Louis the Transit app will replace the Metro on the Go trip-planning app, which was launched in 2015. The Metro on the Go app will be discontinued after April 30. Metro Transit serves the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County in Illinois. 

"Transit will replace this mobile app, but will not replace our other trip-planning resources,” said Jerry Vallely, external communications manager for Metro Transit, in an email. “Customers who want personal assistance can still talk or chat with a Transit Information specialist. Our riders can also use an automated text feature to get real-time arrival times for their bus. Our online trip-planner is available as well.”

Transit has similar agreements with transit agencies in Boston; Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; Las Vegas; Albany, N.Y.; and other cities.

“With this app, our customers can check real-time information, get the latest service alerts, look up schedules, and plan multimodal trips — all from the palm of their hand,” said Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director of Metro Transit, in a statement.

The Transit app is a good fit for St. Louis, in part, due to its user-friendly interface, and other features to assist riders, said Vallely.

“Users can see all of the transit options near them wherever they are,” he added. “They can get real-time location and arrival time information for their bus. They can not only see the schedule time for the next bus, they can get the entire map and timetable for every MetroBus route.

“Transit also provides a feature that many of our riders have asked us about over the years – rider alerts sent directly to their phone,” Vallely continued. “The app makes it very easy for riders to sign up for the alerts they want to receive, and have them pushed directly to their device, so they never have to worry if there is anything impacting their commute.”

Metro Transit operates some 400 buses on 83 routes as well as 43 miles of light-rail service with 38 stations across the two-state service area. The transit agency has not been immune to the sorts of declines in ridership experienced by a number of agencies across the country.

In 2018, ridership in St. Louis was down 7.2 percent, compared to 2017, according to statistics compiled by the American Public Transportation Association. And in the first nine months of 2018, ridership with Metro Transit was down 6.3 percent compared to the same period in 2017. Systemwide ridership was 37.2 million in 2018, according to the St. Louis Metro website.

Officials from both the public and private sectors have often touted the need for transit to more seamlessly merge with other forms of transportation like ride-hailing, car-shares, electric scooter platforms and bike-share operators.

“We also integrate bike-share and scooter systems, and we work with cities to secure public real-time data for these mobility programs so we can show available services in the app,” said Miller.

“Transit also provides a feature that many of our riders have asked us about over the years – rider alerts sent directly to their phone,” Vallely continued. “The app makes it very easy for riders to sign up for the alerts they want to receive, and have them pushed directly to their device, so they never have to worry if there is anything impacting their commute.”

Multimodal trip-planning and booking is an important feature for riders in St. Louis, said Vallely, as many of them use services like Uber or Lyft in coordination with mass transit.

“Several years ago, we recognized that the needs of our riders are changing, and they are looking for different types of transportation options to travel through the region,” he explained, adding, later this year Metro will launch a review of its system in a process called Metro Reimagined. And part of that analysis will be to look at how multimodal can be better integrated in the overall system for efficiencies and user preferences.

A number of large transit agencies serving regions like the Los Angeles or Chicago metros have taken on the in-house development of their own trip-planning and booking platforms with the aim of integrating other forms of mobility into their networks.

However, transit watchers have questioned whether these efforts might best be served by private-sector companies like Transit.

“Transit agencies should look carefully at the pros and cons of developing and maintaining their own trip planning app versus recommending that their customers use a third party app like Transit,” said Thomas Bamonte, program manager for automated vehicles at the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“It looks like a small but growing number of transit agencies have done that analysis and concluded that the latter route makes better operational and financial sense,” he added, pointing out Boston and St. Louis as examples. “Others may come to a different conclusion.”

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.