St. Louis is very obviously a car city. It can take over an hour to drive across the metropolitan area, while individual neighborhoods in the city proper are rarely walkable to each other. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t public transportation in St. Louis. In fact, the St. Louis MetroLink system saw over 37 million riders in 2018 on the MetroBus lines and MetroLink light rail trains. While it’s best to rent a car if you’re visiting St. Louis, if you have a bit of patience, you can get around the city in a cost-effective way.
How to Ride the Metro
Because MetroBus lines can often lead to long wait times, many St. Louis citizens and visitors utilize a combination of the MetroLink light rail train and ride-share services to get around without a private car.
- Fares: Rides on a MetroBus are $2, while rides on the MetroLink rail are $2.50. Seniors, those with disabilities, and some children can ride MetroLink for half price; children under 4 ride for free.
- Transfers: If you are planning on transferring lines or routes within two hours, you can buy a two-hour pass that allows unlimited rides on both MetroBus and MetroLink for two hours for $3 (and $4 from the airport). You can also buy 10 two-hour passes for $30. A one-day adventure pass will run you $7.50 while a weekly pass costs $27. All transfer passes can be used to transfer from MetroLink to MetroBus and vice versa.
- Fare Card: Metro rolled out a fare card, the Gateway Card, in early 2019. You can load money onto your card and then your fare is deducted from the card each time you ride. The card stores passes, transfer passes, discounts (if applicable), and has a daily cap function.
- How to Buy Tickets: There are several ways to buy tickets for Metro. You can buy them onboard MetroBus by inserting your payment into the farebox near the door; you must have exact change and cards are not accepted. All MetroLink stations have ticket machines that will give change and accept cards.
- Routes: The MetroLink rail system offers two lines — the Red and Blue line — that services 37 stations in Missouri, many near popular areas or attractions. MetroBus has 75 routes in Missouri. Metro also services parts of east Illinois that are considered part of the St. Louis metropolitan area.
- Hours of Operation: The system typically operates from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day of the week. Trains run every seven minutes during peak hours, every 10 minutes the rest of the day, and every 15 minutes on weeknights.
- Service Alerts: Service interruptions occasionally happen. To find out about your planned route, check Metro’s website or download Metro’s official app, Transit.
- Accessibility: Both MetroLink and MetroBus are accessible. All buses have lifts or ramps and priority seating for those with disabilities; all trains are ADA accessible.
- Safety: There have been safety issues at night on MetroLink. Many St. Louisans choose not to ride Metro alone at night for this reason unless they are riding a popular route (such as to or from a Cardinals baseball game).
Other Transit Options in St. Louis
Metro Call-a-Ride is a specialized service that gives people an additional public transportation option. Its primary riders are individuals who use wheelchairs or with disabilities that prevent them from using MetroLink or MetroBus, but the service is open to people of all abilities.
The service is not direct, as you share the ride with other passengers, but Call-a-Ride aims to offer curb-to-curb service (if the final destination is within 3/4 of a mile of a fixed-route service) or curb-to-door service for ADA-eligible riders. Priority is given to disabled passengers. Exact fare — twice the regular fare on fixed-route services — is required to board.
Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps
St. Louis has several taxi companies to choose from; the most popular are Laclede Cab, United Cab, St. Louis County & Yellow Taxi, and ABC Taxicab. Many St. Louisans opt for ride-sharing services. Both Uber and Lyft are popular in the city and you’ll rarely wait more than 5-10 minutes for a ride.
Biking is fairly common in St. Louis, particularly in the city proper. Many neighborhoods in St. Louis City have dedicated bicycle lanes and drivers respect those lanes and bikers. There is no longer a bike share in St. Louis, but there are:
Look on any corner in St. Louis City and you’re likely to find Bird or Lime electric scooters. Once you download the Bird app or Lime app, you pay a small fee to unlock the scooter and then a per-minute fee (typically between 10 to 30 cents, depending on the day of the week and time of day.
Because St. Louis is such a car-heavy city, many visitors rent a car simply to get around with ease. There are a wide range of car rental services at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and across the city.
Tips for Getting Around St. Louis
- You should plan on either renting a car or using Uber or Lyft.
- There are several major highways and interstates that run through St. Louis. One of them, I-270 is sometimes called the outerbelt as it goes in a complete circle.
- There are 90 separate municipalities in St. Louis County. Each have their own driving laws and speed limits and many have their own police departments.
- Interstate 64 is usually referred to as Highway 40 in St. Louis.
- Rush hour on highways 40 and 44 run from about 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. (most heavily to the east) and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (most heavily to the west).