Kimberly Cella of Affton is always in a multi-modal frame of mind – from a transit standpoint. She thinks about hiking, biking, car-sharing, riding buses or MetroLink practically 24-7.
That may be why Cella, executive director of the Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT), was recently selected by her colleagues as the Woman of the Year. The award was presented by the St. Louis chapter of the international WTS, otherwise known as the Women’s Transportation Seminar.
By Don Corrigan (South County Times)
That may also explain why Cella resides in Affton. She has roots in the South County community and she said it provides a great example of how the St. Louis region has become more “transit friendly” in recent years.
“The Shrewsbury MetroLink Station is less than five minutes from my home with easy access to the River Des Peres Greenway adjacent to the Lansdowne Station,” Cella said. “It’s great for bikers to get to the station, but I am a much safer bet walking or running to get there.
“I grew up in Affton and attended St. Dominic Savio School and then Nerinx Hall High School,” Cella said. “My husband and I returned to Affton about 13 years ago to raise our family. We love its central location with easy access to transit and greenways, to get to downtown St. Louis and Clayton.”
At some point, Affton and South County may become even more mass transit friendly. Plans have been in the making for a MetroLink extension through Affton in the direction of Mehlville-Oakville.
“County Executive Steve Stenger announced late last year that he was interested in looking at the future of MetroLink in St. Louis County,” said Cella. “He identified three corridors for future expansion including MetroSouth and a desire to conduct further study for a possible new route in the region.”
While Cella is on board with the need to discuss future transportation options, she also is more than ready to celebrate the transit progress this region has made in the past two decades. Every year about this time, Cella is a force behind the “Great Race,” which highlights the many ways to get from here to there.
This year’s race on May 12 pitted two teams of media folks in a contest using legs, bikes, buses, Enterprise CarShare, MetroLink and more. The finishing line was at Cortex Commons in midtown St. Louis, which is adjacent to the future site of a Boyle Street MetroLink Station.
“The theme of this year’s Great Race was about ways you can travel to get to a MetroLink Station,” said Cella. “It’s also all about how 95 percent of the jobs in St. Louis and St. Louis County are now less than a mile from a mass transit stop.
“We want workday commuters to know there are a number of very viable transportation options in our region that extend beyond sitting in long lines of traffic congestion,” said Cella. “This race puts a light on these various modes and helps prove they are timely, easy to use and advantageous.”
Cella said the race also highlights CMT’s “try-and-ride program,” which offers a free first-month ticket on local transit and a personalized map with directions on how to use it. The second-month of the program is on the rider as far as transit pass costs.
The goal of the two-year program was 1,500 new riders, but it is being extended and has already attracted more than 3,500. For information on how to participate, call 231-7272 or go to www.cmt-stl.org
“The ‘try-and-ride’ was aimed at getting people to where they work,” said Cella. “But it’s been so successful that we are now looking at promoting it for students and employees at our area educational institutions.
“We are not a Chicago or New York City, where residents grew up using mass transit and knowing its benefits,” added Cella. “Our first-month free transit promotion is really all about introducing St. Louisans to using mass transit and its benefits.”
Among the benefits are fewer traffic headaches and congestion issues; a cleaner environment with less vehicle air pollution; a healthier populace thanks to a little bit of regular walking to get to-and-from transit hubs.
Woman of the Year
Affton’s Cella is taking her WTS Woman of the Year transit award in stride – literally. And she is “walking back” all the praise that comes with it, because she said she is a team player who must give credit to CMT staff, board, supporters and members.
Nevertheless, Cella is collecting kudos and recently was also selected to serve as the new executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association (MPTA). She and her CMT team will lead efforts on behalf of the statewide transit provider association to elevate the status of transit in Missouri and to build new coalitions to expand the transit advocacy base.
“Cella exemplifies what it means to be a leader in transportation,” said Renee Ross, president of the WTS St. Louis Chapter. “She has been working at Citizens for Modern Transit for more than 23 years, during which time she has successfully secured millions of dollars in federal and private funds for transit advocacy and education.”
According to Cella, organizations advocating for mass transit go a long way in explaining the CMT mission, whether it’s AARP, BJC HealthCare, St. Louis Regional Chamber, the Clean Air Partnership, and Great Rivers Greenway — all supporters of transit activities such as the Great Race.
“Our regional transit advocacy organization has been around for 30 years,” said Cella. “When we started, our goal was to bring light rail to St. Louis. Now we have the MetroLink – 46 miles and 37 stations.”
Cella said research shows that many coming-of-age millennials want to be car-free and to live close to transit. At the same time, many retiring baby boomers want transit choices to meet their needs to get to museum, sports and recreation destinations.
“We do have a lot farther to go in St. Louis with transit,” Cella said. “But we now have growing awareness that we have a world-class transit system that we can build on.”