Among the multitude of tweets I received this week, two came from the Missourian indicating that the city is considering reducing evening bus routes — exactly the opposite of what it should be doing.
That is if the city wants to increase jobs and education opportunities and make Columbia the Queen City of the Midwest for business. And I do not mean more retail.
Here are my thoughts:
Mike Matthes: You’re the city manager, but it seems you haven’t heard the citizens of Columbia nor listened to me when we talked about Columbia’s public transportation system.
Did you not hear me say that cutting mass transit services is not the answer, but expansion is?
I thought you heard me; I might be wrong. So let me start again.
I have written about this before (Columbia Transit system service is lacking, but new committee could help, March 2009, and You can't get there from here — at least, not on Columbia Transit, June 2010) as well as expressed my opinion to you when you first came to Columbia for your interview.
Allow me to repeat what I told you a fortnight ago and what I have written before.
Evening students — those who go to MU, Columbia College, Stephens and Moberly Area Community College from 5 p.m. until well past 10 p.m. — have no access to the transit system.
Employees who work retail at the Columbia Mall (evenings) and the stores along Nifong Boulevard and Grindstone Parkway have no access to the transit system.
Citizens who live in the northwest, southwest and southeast quadrants of the city have no access to the transit system.
The citizens who live in the newly annexed neighborhoods east of U.S. 63 on Route WW have no access to the transit system.
Columbia is more than MU day students.
Now you want to restrict public transportation even more? Are you planning to provide fewer services to those who need it most, the economically low-middle and lower classes?
Columbia's retail industry, our third biggest employer, consists of 690 retailers and over $3.1 billion in sales in 2007. The average employee made less than $20,000 a year.
In 2007, the Federal Poverty Level placed poverty for a family of four at $20,600. Using that bar, 11,700 working Columbians could not hit the poverty line.
For 2011, the FPL for a family of four is $22,350. We will not have the 2012 economic census until 2013 (completed every five years), but considering today’s economy, bets are good that the average retail pay will be dropping to about $19,000.
Health insurance provided by these employers, large or small, is rare because the majority of employees are limited to part-time.
These are the people the city is currently neglecting, and your action will make it worse. These are the people we are now neglecting because public transit is not running when our citizens, who service customers for minimum wage, need it most.
Poverty is growing. Transportation is shrinking.
Columbia is “College Town USA,” and the institutions here are some of the finest in the United States, if not the world.
The MU day students are very important, but so are the evening students at all four colleges, plus Central Methodist University, Bryan College and others in the area.
Corporations look to our colleges to supply employees, innovation and loyal customers. So why stymie the ability to receive an education by limiting public transportation, especially in economic times where $50 weekly for a tank of gas might prohibit someone making minimum wage from going to school?
This makes no sense, economically or academically: No support of nontraditional students plus no support of retail and manufacturing employees working evening hours plus no mass transit equals no corporate interest.
Ian Thomas of PedNet was correct on Monday in criticizing your plan, Mr. City Manager, when he wrote, “This proposal also goes beyond reason because it will exacerbate the very problem that has, in large part, put the city in this budget crunch … Instead of cutting service, the city should be developing a long-term plan for transit expansion.”
Another Rosman Rule: “Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.”
Listen to Ian, myself and others who want to use mass transit but cannot because of schedules and restrictions:
Fix it. Fix it right. Fix it right now!
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 InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.