COLUMBIA — Changes to Columbia's bus system aim to serve more parts of town with fewer delays, all without upsetting the city's budget.
Columbia City Council unanimously approved the route changes during its Tuesday night meeting. Bus route changes were discussed during the council's annual retreat in June. The modifications include improving the timing of routes and adding service in areas where buses previously have not run.
"I think its a good step in the right direction to get these issues completed," City Manager Bill Watkins said.
Columbia's increased population growth created more traffic congestion, making it harder for bus routes to stay on schedule, according to a report to the City Council from Public Works Director John Glascock.
When even one bus runs late on a route, it can bog down the entire system. Every route runs through the Wabash Station downtown, so late buses can cause passengers on other routes to wait.
The biggest problem, Glascock said, comes from the 101 South route, which runs along Providence Road. In the future, this route will be shortened to help it run on time, and it will go in opposite directions of traffic during different times of the day.
In addition, every other route will be modified and Saturday bus service will change to mirror weekday service. New areas are also being added to the bus system, with service extending to Forum Boulevard, LeMone Industrial Boulevard, the Route B corridor and northern Columbia neighborhoods, among others.
Glascock said the additional riders from these routes and new advertising on buses should make the measure revenue neutral.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said these changes are in the right direction and would have several benefits, such as reducing traffic congestion.
"I'm happy to see us proceed in expanding the system and making it more efficient," Hoppe said. "The bus system is the key to so many things."
Comments from the public were supportive of the changes, though Columbia resident Alyce Turner said she would like to see the hours for bus service extended.
Turner said this came from her personal experience when she was trying to help a co-worker get home and had to get to a bus stop around 5 p.m. Final departures for buses from Monday to Wednesday vary but are from about 5 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m.
Turner is also a member of the city's Public Transportation Advisory Commission, which gave feedback to the council about the changes. She stressed she was speaking as a private citizen because she did not clear her comments with the commission.
Glascock said cost is prohibitive to extending the hours.
David Heise, vice chairman of the commission, said it would like to see other changes but understands the city's budget situation.
"In general it is a good step forward, given the resources we have now, " Heise said.
In a letter to the council, commission chairwoman Pat Fowler made several additional recommendations, including a better map of the bus routes and extended service.
Watkins said he would like to get the route changes the council approved in action by August before school starts.
In other action Tuesday night:
The council heard a presentation from H3 Studio on its overview of the downtown planning charrette. The Downtown Leadership Council, working with H3 Studio, wants to redevelop the North Village arts district and the area where Broadway intersects Providence Road, according to a previous Missourian report.
The overall goal of the charrette, according to one of H3 studio's founder John Hoal, is to improve access to downtown, give it an overall vision and better define what constitutes the downtown area.
The council also heard plans for this year's Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ festival from Thumper Entertainment during a pre-council dinner meeting.
Ticket prices for the event will be $10 and $15 for an advance one-day ticket and for a weekend pass, according to a council report. This price will go up to $15 and $25, respectively, once the event starts Oct. 1.
According to the council report, Thumper is requesting several street closures:
- Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets between Broadway and Locust Street.
- Seventh Street between Cherry and Elm streets.
- Eighth Street between Locust and Cherry streets.
- Locust Street between Sixth and Ninth streets.
- Elm Street between Eighth and Sixth streets.
Final council approval for the festival plan is slated for Aug. 16.