MU students discuss ways to improve Columbia's transit system

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | 10:39 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — MU students met Tuesday night at Memorial Union to discuss ways to improve the public transit system in a way that best accommodates students.

The forum was hosted by Tiger Transit Movement, a student organization formed in November to educate students about public transportation.

"This is the first time we've had the opportunity to speak to students and get feedback," said Rose Eppensteiner, who helped organize the meeting.

What was the feedback?

Students, many of them members of Tiger Transit Movement, discussed the places they want buses to pick students up, the times they want buses to run, the frequency at which they'd like to see buses running and how much they'd be willing to pay for rides.

Some of the places students highlighted on maps were hospitals, Greek Town, downtown, Columbia Mall, movie theaters, hospitals, parks, Old 63 housing, Nifong Plaza and retailers such as Sam's Club and Walmart.

"I'd like to see more availability throughout the city," Alex Gold said.

Students also want to see buses run from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. This would benefit students who hang out downtown late on weekends and would help ensure safe transportation, as well as provide rides for those who have to work early in the morning.

"We would like it to start at 6 a.m. for those who have to be at work around 7," Madeline Smith said.

Students discussed a 15- to 20-minute wait time between buses, more bus stops and extra buses for peak hours.

"I think the big key is frequency of travel," graduate student Jason Wilcox said, adding that a couple more buses and shorter wait times would be best, especially during the busiest hours when most students are going to and from school. 

The price students said they were willing to pay per semester for such services varied from $30 to $100, but they added they should be able to dictate bus routes and frequencies for that price. 

Anne Ahlvers suggested having a real-time app that tracks where buses are and shows when the buses are going to come to each stop.

What's next?

Eppensteiner said the Tiger Transit Movement would gather the feedback and send the information to Mitch Skyer, president of Solstice Transportation Group, which MU hired earlier this year to assess students' transportation needs. She said they would also get in touch with city officials to work out a plan for the future that would be better both for the city and for students.

"We want to enhance our relationship with the city," she said. "Once we have a strong base of information, then we'll take the next step of talking to the city."

What's being done by the city

Columbia officials visited Ames, Iowa on Feb. 17, Lawrence, Kan. on Feb. 24 and Champaign-Urbana on Friday to explore how these Midwestern college towns cooperate with the universities to offer students a bus system that works. Members of Tiger Transit Movement went on some of these visits and shared their impressions at the meeting.

Xavier Billingsley, president of the Missouri Students Association and a host of Tuesday's meeting, said he was staying connected with Mayor Bob McDavid and that there would be communication between the university and the city.

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Bob Hill March 14, 2012 | 10:13 a.m.

So let me get this straight. The students want everyone to pay for it through higher student fees for all (and many of these students will have their parents pay for it anyway) while they dictate the schedule.

I don't think we needed a meeting to come to this conclusion. Entitlement, Entitlement, Entitlement.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 14, 2012 | 10:58 a.m.

Mayor McDavid started this process and the students back then didn't seem too enthused with the idea.

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