From the story, a profile of St. Louis that could just as easily be Salem:
St. Louis is in some respects unique. It was in the minority of transit systems that lost a ballot measure in November seeking more money; voters rejected a proposal to raise the local sales tax to help pay for more public transportation. Transit officials said they believed their efforts had been hurt by lingering public resentment over a light-rail expansion project that was delayed and went over budget, devolving into messy litigation with contractors that ended up costing the transit system even more.
Faced with a yawning shortfall, despite an 8 percent increase in ridership last year, the system reluctantly decided to cut nearly half of its bus service; lay off nearly 600 of its workers, or a quarter of its work force, and reduce service on its red, white and blue MetroLink light-rail cars — the modern successors of the clanging trolleys that Judy Garland sang about in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Absent a windfall, the cuts are scheduled to take effect at the end of March.
Some people who worked on the failed campaign to raise the sales tax said their efforts were complicated because most local voters do not regularly take public transportation. But in the leafy suburbs west of Interstate 270, which are scheduled to lose almost all of their bus service, many people will soon discover that even if they do not take buses themselves, they rely on them to bring workers to their shopping malls, office parks, hospitals and nursing homes.
The Garden View Care Center, in Chesterfield, is part of a cluster of a dozen facilities sometimes called nursing home row. Rhonda Uhlenbrock, the center’s administrator, has been working with agencies that set up car pools and trying to coordinate with other businesses that will be affected to see if she can find other ways for her employees, many of whom do not have cars, to get to work.
“This place could survive without me,” Ms. Uhlenbrock said in her office recently, where she was assembling a collage to honor employees who have been at the center more than 10 years. “But not without them. They are the people who do the work.”
Ms. Nacoste, who rises at 3:45 a.m. for her two-hour commute to work in the housekeeping and laundry department, said employers closer to home either paid less or were not hiring. She shook her head at the thought that the weak economy was leading to cuts in bus service.
“They’re going to make the economy worse if they cut the bus,” Ms. Nacoste said. “There’s going to be unemployment, people running out of money. What are we going to do?”