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PedNet Coalition wants the city to extend bus service hours

Monday, June 27, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 6:44 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 29, 2011

COLUMBIA – For those who ride transit home from work, it’s hard not to notice that city buses stop running soon after business hours on three out of five weekdays.

A new survey by PedNet Coalition shows that transit riders want extended service, and the organization wants the city to add hours on a trial basis.

The 907 surveys found that 36 percent of riders use buses primarily for transportation to and from work. About 45 percent of those surveyed earn less than $20,000 per year. Although students likely skew that number, authors Maren Reinig and Alison Compton found it significant.  

“These results show that a large number of working poor are using the system and emphasize the need for increased service hours to help low-income shift workers” who often work into the night, the authors concluded.

Nearly half of those surveyed want longer service hours and chose "later evening weekday services" as their preference.

Nearly 500 of those surveyed indicated they would be willing to pay up to $1.50 for service. The current fare is $1.

Buses run from 6:25 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, until 10:25 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Buses do not run on Sundays.

Based on the study, PedNet is recommending the city extend hours on all 15 bus routes Monday through Wednesday to 10:25 p.m.

Many riders at Wabash Station on Thursday afternoon expressed an interest in extending those hours.

Shanna Seyer, 26, walks to her job at Columbia College, but she’s now looking for a part-time job for extra money.

“A lot of them are nights, and there’s no bus, so I can’t do that,” Seyer said.

Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition, said the push to expand public transit is a part of Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit, a campaign that envisions "convenient transportation service that promotes health ... and sustainability."

"There's research to show that when people are riding the bus, they are walking more," Thomas said. "There's also an environmental benefit; we'd be using our scarce petroleum resources at a much smaller rate."

Thomas said extending hours is transit’s most pressing need.

“It’s to get to and from work,” Thomas said. “Those people aren’t able to get the bus home Monday through Wednesday nights. They may have to pay for a taxi which takes a large chunk of their wages from the day.”

Jessica Holland, 22, studies sociology at Moberly Area Community College. On Tuesdays, her class ends at 9 p.m., forcing her to ask a friend for a ride home.

“It’s more expensive to pay them for gas than to take the bus,” Holland said. “I wish the buses ran later.”

According to the study, the recommendations would cost the city $450,000 per year, mainly because of added fuel costs for the city's 31 buses.

Thomas said he would like to see a six-month pilot program put in place. It would extend hours to 10:25 p.m. Monday through Wednesday for two of the city’s bus routes. PedNet estimates the pilot would cost $22,407.

“It would show us how effective the program could be,” Thomas said. “I would be very interested in talking with the city and seeing if there’s some way to make it happen.”

Transportation Supervisor Drew Brooks said the city doesn’t have money for the PedNet proposal.

“Obviously we support all of the ideas," Brooks said. "But no piece of it would be an option without some sort of budget increase."


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Comments

Kathleen Weinschenk June 27, 2011 | 11:55 a.m.

I agree it would be nice to have extended hours. I would like to see the buses run on Monday nights during City Council to
get more people interested in local government.

(Report Comment)
stan johnson June 27, 2011 | 2:26 p.m.

This article is very well written, probably one of the best I've ever seen

(Report Comment)
Margaret Menderski June 27, 2011 | 9:45 p.m.

As I understand it, this is part of a much bigger issue. When I covered this for the Missourian last fall, it was said that CoMET would be the first of many changes coming from the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Has PedNet taken on this project alone? Last I checked the Health Department as well as several other organizations are involved with CoMET through advocacy group Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders June 28, 2011 | 10:56 a.m.

Without current evening passenger numbers available, it is impossible to tell what the real demand is (or might be). How can a coalition reach any conclusion (other than political), without this information? Is extending service until 10:25 really necessary, or could it be extended, but not so late?

Instead of running until 10:25, for example, a bus line might only need to run until 9:25 to meet the needs of most passengers. What really needs to be avoided (both economically and environmentally) is running large, empty buses around town in order to look good. Service should only be provided where a real need exists. Pednet, meanwhile, has quite the track-record of spending other people's money.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 28, 2011 | 11:35 a.m.

Kathleen Weinschenk wrote:

"I would like to see the buses run on Monday nights during City Council to
get more people interested in local government."

The trouble with that is Council meetings can run until 2 or 3 in the morning. People would perhaps run the risk of being stranded if the issue they wanted to speak to was late.

I've wondered why the council can't use Skype or something similar to allow people to call in and address the council. We have all this great connectivity, we should use it.

DK

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 28, 2011 | 12:23 p.m.

"I've wondered why the council can't use Skype or something similar to allow people to call in and address the council. We have all this great connectivity, we should use it."

Why Skype? Phone and email work just as well, based on my experience dealing with the council.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 28, 2011 | 12:29 p.m.

I meant so a person wouldn't have to physically go to the meeting to speak at it. They already broadcast the council meetings live on CAT. Skype would let sxomeone with a computer and a webcam address the council from anywhere during the actual meeting.

DK

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 28, 2011 | 12:46 p.m.

An email to every council member would work just as well. I think that's part of the problem with the meetings: Speakers who ramble on for several minutes when their points could have been made concisely and more effectively in a few paragraphs. If someone really prefers video that much, then he/she could always record one and then post it to YouTube if the file is too big to email to the council.

(Report Comment)
Jacob Kirn June 28, 2011 | 12:48 p.m.

Margaret,

You're correct. The survey notes that The Columbia Transit System, in association with the Boone County / Columbia Department of Health and Human Services and The PedNet Coalition, all participated in the study.

Pednet used money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to help fund this survey, which required labor hours from many organizations around town.

(Report Comment)

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