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."