Adult college students are an interesting breed. Many will tell you that they have no interest in politics, but once you get them started …
Every term, my students talk politics in the guise of a two persuasion speeches. The local issues are usually limited to smoking bans and transportation. The first is now a statewide issue with the introduction of SB309 by state Sen. Joan Bray of St. Louis’ District 24. However, the last time I wrote a column in support of Columbia’s smoking ban I received negative e-mails from England, France and Japan. And Columbia. Not this time.
Transportation involves in-depth discussions and disgust with Columbia Transit. Students are angered that the buses only run until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, until 10:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays Do not even try to find a bus on Sundays.
Evening students, those who go to school from 5 p.m. until well past 10p.m., have no access to the transit system. Employees who work retail at the Columbia Mall and the stores along Nifong and Grindstone Parkway have no access to the transit system. Citizens who live in the northwest, southwest and southeast quadrants of the city have no access to the transit system. The citizens who live in the newly annexed neighborhoods east of U.S. 63 on Route WW have no access to the transit system.
Last week, during a candidates’ forum held by the Muleskinners, I asked the two candidates for Columbia’s Sixth Ward to address the issue of public transportation as an economic and environmental issue. Candidate Rob Robertson answered the question simply; he had no clue about the bus system, therefore he had no comment. Incumbent Barbara Hoppe acknowledged the problem with our public transportation system and said that during Monday evening’s city council meeting she would bring the proposal of a citizen review board.
Can you get to Discovery Ridge or the airport by bus? Nope. There appears to be no plans to meet the needs of the citizens who live and work in the far corners of the planet Columbia.
The councilwoman and I had an extended discussion after the meeting. I was voicing the concerns of not only Columbia College students, but also students at MU, Stephens and Moberly Area Community College, as well as students at Rock Bridge High School and those who will attend the new high school in northeast Columbia.
Hoppe listened as I suggested that instead of a review board, Columbia Transit should have an advisory board similar to the Columbia Regional Airport. She asked if I would like to sit on that board. I reminded her that I no longer lived in city limits. Her response: You work here so you can sit on the board. I said yes.
One of the many reasons given by companies for not wanting to relocate to Columbia is the lack of reliable transportation. Northwest Airlines and Mesaba’s entry into the mid-Missouri air-transportation market solved part of the problem. Having a public transportation system that runs at reasonable hours to destinations needed by the working and visiting public is still an unrealized dream.
As Columbia continues to grow, as we see more students coming to MU, Columbia and Stephens colleges, as we see the city and urban populations grow, the city transit system will need to get well ahead of the curve. This is an economic and ecological issue for the growth of our fair town, for Boone County and for mid-Missouri .
On Monday evening, I was in Jefferson City listening to the final speeches of my Columbia Colleges classes and could not make the council meeting. I did catch it on the Columbia Channel 13 on Wednesday night after school. I want to thank Ms. Hoppe for keeping her promise and the council for their unanimous vote to consider a Columbia Transit Citizen Advisory Committee. This truly is the first real step in making Columbia a true green transportation hub.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.