First riders board Columbia's FastCAT bus route

Monday, August 13, 2012 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 12:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 20, 2012
Beau Lipham drives down Walnut Street on Monday evening. FastCAT is Columbia Transit's new bus route that incorporates more campus stops and provides passes for students at a discount rate. The FastCAT bus is free to riders until Aug 27.

COLUMBIA — The scent of new plastic still hung in the air of the new gold and black bus when Glen Adams boarded it Monday morning at the Virginia Avenue stop.

"It smells good," said Adams, one of the bus' first passengers.

Monday marked the inaugural drive for the new FastCAT bus route. FastCAT marks a renewed effort by the city to revitalize its bus system, according to previous Missourian reports.

City transportation supervisor Drew Brooks said ridership on the first day of the new route was similar to the route FastCAT is replacing. He predicted that the number of riders will increase when school starts next week.

Beau Lipham, one of the drivers for the new route, agreed with Brooks.

"It's slow right now, but when students get here, it will be pandemonium," Lipham said.

According to Brooks, FastCAT is designed to be more student-centered while the previous route operated as a commuter route. The new route omits some stops, including Boone Hospital Center.

Before the changes were implemented, the city's Public Works Department handed out fliers to inform riders of the change. However, Lipham said, some riders were still confused about the changes.

"Two weeks free gives people time to figure it out," he said.

The FastCAT route is free to riders until Aug. 27; there will be a fee after that. This marks another difference between the routes. The previous route, funded by the parking division, was free for riders. The FastCAT route will cost $1.50 per ride or $100 per each semester.

"Anytime you make something free and then turn around and charge for it, people are not going to like it," Brooks said.

FastCAT's debut is also the start of a test to follow a bus model that is more focused on a specific demographic, according to previous Missourian reports.

"This is a bold experiment to see if it's a workable model," Brooks said.

The experiment includes a contract with the owners of the Brookside apartment complexes. The owners have agreed to purchase $80,000 worth of passes for their residents, in addition to paying for advertising on the buses, according to previous Missourian reports.

The city has also hired Christa Talmage, a marketing specialist, to help promote awareness of the new route.

Another feature of FastCAT, the RouteShout application, was not available Monday. RouteShout is an app that allows riders to track the arrival time of FastCAT buses using GPS technology.

"We're still trying to work with some technical stuff," Brooks said. He said the city hopes to have the app working by the end of the week.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

View FastCAT route in a larger map

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