Columbia Transit boosts ridership with new routes

Friday, December 3, 2010 | 6:13 p.m. CST; updated 9:40 a.m. CST, Friday, December 10, 2010
In August 2010, Columbia Transit changed its bus routes. This change has since resulted overall in a 12 percent increase in ridership between Aug.2 and Oct. 31. This graph illustrates the increases in individual route ridership in November 2010 as compared to November 2009.

COLUMBIA ­— After adjusting its bus routes in August, Columbia Transit has seen a significant increase in ridership.

Between August and October of this year, the city experienced a dramatic 12 percent rise in public bus use. That statistic dwarfs numbers seen from 2009 to 2010 — when public transit saw a 0.9 percent increase — with total ridership at 2,025,229 as of Sept. 30.

The new figures are cited in a report by the Department of Public Works. The report will be read at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“We’re seeing an increase on a lot of different routes,” department spokeswoman Jill Stedem said. “We are foreseeing that the number will be even higher.”

On Aug. 2, Columbia Transit adjusted its bus routes and schedules after a year of planning.

“We made pretty substantial changes to most of the routes, mostly to fix the timing issues,” transportation supervisor Drew Brooks said. The route adjustments were intended to solve problems of efficiency and timeliness in the transit system.

“The biggest change is getting our routes back on the 40-minute intervals,” Stedem said. “When the Orange Route was delayed, it delayed the whole system. That is one area that has changed for us.”

Comparing ridership from November 2010 to that in November 2009, considerably more people have been riding Columbia Transit’s Gold, Blue and Green routes, according to a report compiled by Brooks. Of those, the Gold Route has seen the largest increase in riders.

“It’s business as usual,” Brooks said of the new data. “Except the Gold Route.”

The Gold Routes, which connect MU to stops along South Providence Road and Old 63, have increased ridership by 46 percent, from 54,113 rides in November 2009 to 78,861 rides in November 2010. Since August this year, ridership has increased by an additional 55 percent.

“Every year we see the Gold Routes increase, and that’s the student population from the Old 63 area,” Stedem said.

“We’d certainly like to expand in that area,” Brooks said. "That kind of growth is really hard to accommodate without putting more buses on the street."

Columbia Transit is still working to accommodate the increase, but Brooks said increases in the bus fleet are limited by funding. At this time, the city can only replace old vehicles, not expand the fleet overall.

Next fall, the city plans to purchase three new buses, two of which will be replacements.

Although the increase in ridership has certainly increased transit revenue, bus fares are only 10 percent of Columbia Transit’s operating budget, Brooks said. The agency relies on federal grants to expand service.

Other routes have felt the boost, though not as profoundly as the Gold Route. The Blue Route, which connects northwest Columbia with downtown, has increased ridership by 19 percent since 2009, to 8,101 rides in November 2010.

The Green Route, which connects northeast Columbia with downtown via Paris Road, gained 17 percent more riders in the same time frame, with 9,539 rides in November 2010.

Columbia Transit also added the Black Route when it made route changes in August, adding 7,158 rides from August to November 2010. The new route connects MU and downtown with areas around East Nifong Boulevard between Old 63 and Providence Road on the city’s south side.

“We’re obviously trying to monitor these routes very closely,” Brooks said. “It is the first step of gradually changing the system.”

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John Schultz December 4, 2010 | 8:03 p.m.

"Although the increase in ridership has certainly increased transit revenue, bus fares are only 10 percent of Columbia Transit’s operating budget, Brooks said. The agency relies on federal grants to expand service."

Seems that Mr. Brooks also forgot the approximately $1 million that used to subsidize the bus system (plus another million for the airport) which I presume is still being spent from sales tax dollars.

(Report Comment)
Yves Montclear December 4, 2010 | 9:49 p.m.

Taking the bus, and yes, even riding the train, where mass amounts of people are going in the same direction will never make sense until the people in this country are broken of the 'love' for their cars, the wastefulness, and the pollution that comes along with them.

And there are very big industries that don't want that to happen, even though it needs to happen.

I have been to places like Washington D.C, New York City, and Philadelphia, and rode on their subway systems. It is so amazing for moving large numbers of people. Then buses and taxis are provided to reach your final destination when you get off the subway. Or a lot of times, you can just walk, the subway gets you that close.

But, imagine people walking these days in the U.S. of A. We are all obese. Do you think not only your diet, but your car has something to do with that?

If you talk to anybody from Europe, Africa, Asia, gas is so expensive that people plan their car trips a lot more effectively than here in the U.S. And most of their cars are small, to get high gas mileage.

Unlike the giant 'behemoths' so many people rumble down the road in, here in the U.S. One person driving a car, that could ride ten people. Burning gas so fast you can see the fuel gauge moving down quickly as you drive.

That is great for the profit margins of companies in certain industries, but not great for the future health of this country.

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum December 5, 2010 | 3:00 p.m.

It's hard to convince people around here that there is any alternative to their reality of ferrying around their kids in their large White SUV's and making trips to retail locations.

They'll be content to vote republican even thought hey don't even know what it means and living a posh life, they'll even vote for people who do whatever it takes to stop subsidies for this sort of thing. China has high-speed rail, and so does every other developed country. If they were really worried about wasting tax dollars, they'd vote out hawkish republicans who like to increase our prison populations on minor crimes. As of last year we have a high prison population that China's, and they have 1BILLION more people than we do. Sorry rant over, I just love how so many yokels screech tax dollar at anything and everything, what did you people want to spend tax dollars on anyway? Only wars and prisons good enough for that?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 5, 2010 | 4:19 p.m.

Here's a thought Louis, maybe the city transit system should charge a price that covers its costs instead of subsidizing the system from the transportation sales tax? Same goes for the airport.

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum December 6, 2010 | 12:51 p.m.

Here's an even wilder thought, maybe the city transit system should be subsidized in order to help shape a better community, and society at large...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 6, 2010 | 1:02 p.m.

Should we also subsidize users of the city's utilities as well, or make people pay the costs of the services they consume (and yes, that includes the University in case the topic branches)?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 6, 2010 | 2:25 p.m.

Maybe the city should subsidize the roads too!!! Oh, wait a minute...

(Report Comment)
Ryan Acker December 7, 2010 | 10:18 p.m.

What a great idea, John! Let's make people pay for the services they use. Like when their house is burning down... gotta pay up or those hoses will by dry. Or if you're robbed. Policeman aren't gonna do anything, unless you pony up the dough.

I like the new system. It's growing, it's getting better. And more people are using it. Back in '05, I think less than half this many people used the buses.

(Report Comment)

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