Fourth Ward residents discuss the future of Columbia's bus system

Thursday, April 26, 2012 | 9:01 p.m. CDT; updated 9:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 26, 2012

COLUMBIA — Fourth Ward residents offered suggestions on how to restructure the city's bus system Thursday evening.

The event, held at the Activity and Recreation Center and sponsored by Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit, was the third in a series drawn out over several months. The group is using the events to push for transit expansion, as changes seem likely and forthcoming.

The 25 people in attendance answered questions in small groups.

Attendees said they'd like the bus system to:

  • Be more frequent.
  • Have longer service hours.
  • Be more reliable.

Carmen Williams, pastor at Russell Chapel CME Church, said the bus system should be "holistic."

A successful system "encompasses rail, bus and park and ride," Williams said. She envisions a system in which buses cover the inner city and a rail would service outlying suburbs.

Kristin Bowen, a book editor, said she would use the bus if it came more frequently.

"Something that would allow people to stay out of their cars on nights and weekends," Bowen said.

Bowen also suggested shortening routes or adding cross-route buses; current routes run at least 40 minutes from start to finish, attendees said.

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

  • Participate in Try Transit Day on May 17, when all rides are free.
  • Educate the public about the current system.
  • Ask for increased funding from local and national leaders.

Jeremy Root, an attorney who commutes to Jefferson City, said it is important to get as many people to ride the bus as possible — "assuming they have a good experience."

Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said most people don't even know there's a free downtown orbiter bus, which runs continuously around downtown throughout the day, except on Sundays.

"The biggest thing is education," Dudley said.

Mary Harris said when oil reserves recede further, it will be more important to change city residents' collective habits.

"We have to have inducement for people to get out of their cars and into the bus," she said.

A forum for the Fifth Ward is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. May 1 at Alive in Christ Lutheran Church at 201 Southampton Drive.

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