COMET hosts Sixth Ward forum about Columbia's bus system

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 9:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:29 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 12, 2012

COLUMBIA — Sixth Ward residents offered suggestions on how Columbia's bus system can be restructured at a forum Monday night.

Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit is speaking with Columbia residents in different wards to aggregate information on what people want their bus system to look like, as changes seem imminent.

Following a dinner at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Shepard Boulevard, the crowd answered questions in small groups.

Attendees said they'd like the bus system to have:

  • More frequent bus service.
  • Better funding.
  • More community, college and grade-school riders. 

"I'd like to see the buses run at night because there's night classes at Columbia College," Mariel Stephenson said. "It would help in terms of accessibility."

Stephenson also said she'd like to see the city use electric buses.

Janet Ballard said educating students about how the bus system works should be a priority. 

"Sixty percent of the population turns over every three years," Ballard said. "Constant re-education would be important."

Attendees said challenges to realizing those goals include:

  • Students aren't familiar with bus routes except the Black and Gold routes.
  • The bus system is difficult to understand.
  • There's a perception that only poor people ride the buses.

Dan Marshall, a graduate student at MU studying philosophy, said bus passes should be sold at places besides Wabash Station.

Students and others might ride more if passes were sold at the MU Bookstore, the Columbia Public Library and grocery stores, Marshall said.

Michelle Windmoeller said she missed her son's band concert when she misread a bus route timetable.

"This is difficult to read," Windmoeller said, motioning to a large foldout route map on the table. "And I'm an educated person who's ridden the bus many times. By having more frequent service, you eliminate the need to read this very complicated thing."

Attendees said to realize their goals for the bus system, Columbia Transit should:

  • Advertise in local media about the benefits of riding the bus.
  • Partner with businesses to get more private-sector employees to ride.

Sarah Wolcott said people should ride the new route to the Columbia Farmers' Market, even if they don't take the bus during their daily routines.

"We have to change public perceptions," she said.

Mike Peplow said the only thing that would change perception is if everyone rides.

"I hear ads on KBIA all the time," Peplow said. "I don't know how much that's changed public perception. Partnerships with larger businesses in town will help with that. Currently, not enough people from the private sector are riding."

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Ellis Smith March 12, 2012 | 10:26 p.m.

At one time in the United States most "bus" service in large cities and their suburbs was electrified; however, the buses derived their electricity from overhead lines. Am I talking about streetcars? They were in use too, but the buses had rubber-tired wheels like a car, or bus with a diesel engine, and could pull up to a curb, whereas streetcars ran on tracks. The "trackless trolleys" I am familiar with were made by ACF (American Car & Foundry), which had a large plant in St. Charles, Missouri.

Where I grew up there were no school buses bringing kids to and from schools. They rode public buses, using cut-rate tickets which they could purchase at their school.

Those buses emitted no toxic fumes, nor did they emmit carbon dioxide ("greenhouse gas"). However, if the electricity they used was generated using combustion there would have been carbon dioxide generated by that process.

Where did those buses go? After WW II General Moters worked long and hard to see that when city buses needed replacement they were replaced with GM's diesel buses. (Other firms were involved, but GM was the prime mover.)

Many things are possible, but first we need to decide what we want to do.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders March 13, 2012 | 11:22 a.m.

If they want a functional bus system, then they need to have buses running BOTH directions on a route. With few exceptions, it is not possible to to take a bus on a return leg of a trip without riding the entire route back to where you first got on.

This means that people have to ride miles out of their way (including a stop at Wabash) in order to use the bus, wasting their time to boot. Until people can easily ride a bus directly back to (or near) their starting point, they will take a bus at all, as it just isn't reasonable.

(Report Comment)

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