COLUMBIA — The Transit System Task Force met for the first time Tuesday to search for the correct model to fund public transit and evaluate the city-university model that works in other cities.
"This is the start of a conversation about what we want our transit system to look like, what it looks like now, what it could look like, what we want it to look like," Mayor Bob McDavid said.
In university towns, students are the primary customers of the bus system. In Columbia, 75 percent of the riders are students, so the agenda of this task force is to look at the whole system from the students' perspective.
"This is the initiation of a conversation that is heavily weighted toward the student population," McDavid said.
In the mayor's opinion, the problem is that the system is not serving the needs of the primary customers, the students. McDavid said the task force needs to fix this for the sake of the city, the university and the students.
"Our goal is to have a robust, viable system that serves and aids the students," he said.
McDavid showed a presentation explaining how the current system works and what changes the next public transit model could have. Talking about the future model McDavid said, "It needs to be convenient. The service needs to be expanded."
Speed and frequency of buses should be improved, and a GPS system should allow students to know when the bus is arriving in order to avoid standing outside waiting, he said.
The task force will analyze the transit models of other cities such as: Boulder, Co.; Lawrence, Kan.; Ames, Iowa; and Champaign-Urbana, Ill. All of these cities have a student-centric system with frequent routes, convenient services, extended hours and strong collaboration with their universities.
"I am judging our potential based on what happens in other university towns like us," McDavid said. If the city and MU collaborate, there could be at least 40 more black and gold buses, he said.
Carlos Alvarado, who represents the Public Transportation Advisory Commission, believes there are going to be obstacles in the process but they will be overcome.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and City Manager Mike Matthes also attended the meeting.
After the gathering, members of the task force and those in attendance took a bus through downtown and MU.
Members of the Transit Task Force include:
- Mayor Bob McDavid
- Four representatives from the Missouri Students Association: Eric Woods, Jacob Sloan, Brittany Perrin and Jacquelyn Jones
- Kim Craig, representing Columbia College
- Diane Lynch, representing Stephens College
- Carlos Alvarado, representing the Public Transportation Advisory Commission
- Sam Robinson, representing the PedNet Coalition
- John Glascock, representing the City of Columbia Administration