COLUMBIA — With mid-Missouri’s gasoline prices getting closer to $4 per gallon, Columbia Transit has become an appealing alternative to driving. Jill Stedem, public information specialist with the Columbia Public Works Department, said bus ridership in Columbia has increased 16 percent since this time last year — when gasoline was about $2.84 per gallon, according to missourigasprices.com.
“I’ve been riding the bus on and off for a long time, but I’ve been riding a lot more frequently the last couple of weeks,” said Antonio Black as he waited for Bus 103E, the last leg of his trek home from work at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Black has a car at home but often opts to take the bus because gasoline has become so expensive.
“Now I only fill up about once every three weeks,” he said. “I’ve saved a lot of money riding.”
The Public Works Department recorded 1.363 million riders in fiscal year 2008, which ended in May. The department logged 1.180 million the previous year.
“We can only assume the increase is related to gas prices,” Stedem said.
Another contributing factor to the rise in bus ridership is the increase in MU parking fees, which compelled university employee Liz Priddy to ride the bus.
“I started taking the bus last October when parking fees at the university increased,” she said. “Now, I really only use the car on weekends.”
The only qualms riders seem to have with Columbia Transit involve the weekly schedule, which isn’t flexible enough to accommodate some riders’ evening routines. City buses stop running at 6:22 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and do not run on Sundays or holidays.
“In big cities, buses run 24 hours a day,” said Mary Adekunle, a Boone Hospital Center worker who has been riding Columbia Transit for about seven years. “Some people still work after six-thirty.”
Cherrell Dowling, an MU student and frequent city bus rider, spent the night in an empty campus building last semester after missing the final bus of the day.
“I certainly wouldn’t mind paying a little extra if they would run the buses more often,” she said.