COLUMBIA — For kids too young to drive but mortified to still be hauled around by their parents, the Kewpie Express may be a solution.
Kewpie Express, named after the Hickman High School mascot, began April 15 as a pilot project, chiefly for Hickman students who don't drive or qualify for the school bus. It will end May 15 and possibly return in the fall, based on feedback.
It depends on two city buses running between Hickman High School and Fairview along Broadway and Worley on school days.
The free service starts at 6:20 a.m. with pickups at HyVee, Broadway at Manor Drive, the Health Department and the public library before arriving at Hickman. The last one arrives at 8 a.m.
A return trip after school leaves every 40 minutes at 3:40 and 4:20 p.m. until the last stop at the library at 4:50 p.m.
Other goals are to introduce students to public transportation and help them save money on gas, said Hickman Principal Tracey Conrad.
For Hickman student Kahlea Wilson, the Kewpie Express is doing just that.
"The bus drives are really nice, and it's so cost-efficient," said Wilson, who rides the bus every other day with her friend.
"Some people think of the city bus as gross, but it's very clean. I would suggest to people who are hesitant about it to ride it," she said.
The free pass, available at the high school, can be used at any time of the week on the entire city bus system.
"If you don't have a car and want to go to the mall on the weekends, you can use your pass to get there," Wilson said.
About 80 people have used the service, Conrad said. She plans to gather feedback from the students who have used Kewpie Express to improve the program.
"We want to gather more information, and maybe look into more direct routes," she said. "We're hopeful that they will be doing this again in the fall."