COLUMN: You can't get there from here — at least, not on Columbia Transit

Thursday, June 17, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

"You can't get there from here" should be the motto of Columbia Transit, and making a small shift in one route will only reinforce that.

I have written on this before. I have talked with City Council member Barbara Hoppe about needed changes in the Columbia Transit system and am still waiting for her invitation to join a citizens' public transportation advisory board. (At the time of creation, I lived in the county and was not eligible.)

Suffice it to say Columbia bus routing and schedules do not make it easy for anyone to get anywhere without long delays between buses and waiting to transfer at the Wabash Station. Or just no service at all.

Mayor Bob McDavid, members of the City Council, members of the new board and candidates for county board seats: There is a solution — one that makes perfect sense to me — which will bring more access to work for the citizens of Columbia and the county and more cents in the government coffers.

First, scrap the current system. Twenty years ago it might have made sense, but as the city has grown outward, many are without public transportation to jobs and businesses. And if available, there can be up to a two-hour wait between buses.

I know that famed engineer Erroneous Chaos designed Columbia's street system, but redesign the bus route system and timetables to utilize a grid system. Here is my plan:

1) Utilize the north-south thoroughfares of Scott Boulevard, Stadium, West Boulevard, Forum, Providence and Old 63 to increase accessibility to the service. East-west routes need to include Business Loop, Worley/Rogers/Paris/Route B, Ash, Broadway, Stadium and Nifong/Grindstone/AC.

2) Run all buses from city line to city line without the time-wasting transfer stop at Wabash.

3) Run regular bus service to and from the Columbia Regional Airport from the Wabash Station, and invite Greyhound to use the facility, making it easier for the traveling public to get to and from town.

4) Revise the schedule so that there is a maximum 30-minute wait at bus stops and 15 minutes between buses during "rush hour" and 60 and 30 minutes, respectively, at all other times. This may require four to six buses running at any one time on each route, but think of the jobs it would create and revenue it would bring in.

5) Our colleges and retail businesses, including the mall," "The Strip" (Grindstone) and the District, are not 9-to-5 operations. Run buses from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. (midnight is better) on weekdays and Saturday.

6) Columbia no longer shuts down on Sundays, so why does Columbia Transit? Run a limited Sunday schedule from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

7) Allow grocery stores to sell bus passes and create a monthly pass to eliminate the additional paper used to print the silly daily tickets.

8) Create a revenue stream by selling advertising space in and outside of the buses.

Now if you are really "The Man," Mr. Mayor, members of City Council and candidates, and if you want the city and county to grow economically, let me make a bolder public transit suggestion: Create a regional transportation district to include Audrain, Callaway and Howard counties.

Run service from Fulton (WW) to Columbia and Boonville to Columbia to Kingdom City, both with Park-n-Rides along the way.

Include routes along U.S. 63, U.S. 54 and Route B. Create Park-n-Rides, as we have at Grindstone and U.S. 63, to encourage usage. Run two buses during morning and evening rush hours. Include stops at Highway 124, in Centralia, Hallsville, Ashland and Fulton.

As former Mayor Darwin Hindman saw bicycling as part of the salvation to Columbia's traffic problems, I see mass transit. Stimulus money should still be available to start the program and funds from the Department of Transportation and other sources should be available to subsidize the new service.

Think toward the future, Mr. Mayor, City Council and candidates, to when high-speed rail (I have faith) cuts through mid-Missouri. Columbia will have positioned itself to offer transportation to those getting off and on the train at the new Wabash Station.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of Books.

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Barbara Hoppe June 17, 2010 | 8:07 a.m.

You need to apply for the Public Transit Commission when a vacancy opens, that is how you become a member of the commission. The Chair is Pat Fowler. I have talked with her and she also is interested in a grid system. I have long recommended a north/south Providence route and and an east/west Broadway route for starters. The commission is very new. I proposed it's creation at the council level and the visioning process recommended it. I hope you will apply to the commission when the next opening occurs. In the meantime please contact the chair and see if you can get on the agenda to discuss your recommendations with them.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 17, 2010 | 8:08 a.m.

1) High-speed rail's value decreases with every stop it has to make. Every politician along the route will lobby to have the train stop in their little town, and many will get their wish. Even if the train is going 100 mph or more between those towns, the frequent stops will hamper the train's ability to compete with planes and cars.

2) High-speed rail will not stop at Wabash. The train would have to inch in and out of town because of all the at-grade crossings, adding more delays for the overall run. More likely the station would be on the outskirts of town so it can jet in and out -- if it stops here at all.

(Report Comment)
Shannon Morris June 17, 2010 | 2:27 p.m.

I agree that improvements could be made, but they already have monthly passes, and I have NEVER had to wait anywhere near 2 hours for a bus.

(Report Comment)
Dianna O'Brien June 17, 2010 | 2:32 p.m.

I wrote about the bus system in a two-day piece in 1993 for the Columbia Missourian, noting what it takes to have a successful bus system. It IS possible, it is a reality in Ames, Iowa and Bloomington, Indiana. The two-day examination of the bus system I wrote noted research on effective bus systems AND how it works in both of those two cities, which are very comparable to Columbia.

(Report Comment)
Panama Red June 18, 2010 | 11:38 p.m.
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