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Plan to revamp city bus routes approaches finish line

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:01 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 16, 2014
The gold route, shown here, is one of the proposed main routes in CoMo Connect.

COLUMBIA — More than 20 forums and meetings, two surveys and observations from other cities contributed to a proposed overhaul of city bus routes.

A public hearing to gather final comments on CoMo Connect, which would replace a central hub with a network of neighborhood routes, is scheduled for the Columbia City Council meeting 7 p.m. Monday in the Daniel Boone City Building.

Columbia Transit staff will explain the new system with a presentation before the hearing. If the council gives the go-ahead, the new system could be up and running by early August.

Under the decades-old system in place, buses come and go to one central transfer location, Wabash Station downtown. Each route forms a loop to the fringe of the city and back to Wabash. 

Routes must be timed identically so buses return to Wabash at the same time to transfer passengers to other buses. If one bus is late, all buses are late because they have to wait for transfers from the late bus.  

"In very small cities, it can be an efficient use of resources," Columbia Transit Manager Drew Brooks said. "However, Columbia has outgrown this model some time ago. It has become nearly impossible to reach much of the population and high traffic areas with this current system."

New routes, hours

CoMo Connect is designed to cover more of the city and reduce wait times.

Buses would run from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

Existing hours are 6:20 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 6:20 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 7:05 p.m. on Saturdays.

Two main routes called the Black and Gold that would service student apartment complexes under CoMo Connect are expected to get the most use, Brooks said.

Seven neighborhood routes, numbered 3 to 9 with unique colors, will have stops at grocery stores, pharmacies, parks and schools, and buses will be color-coded to match the high schools they serve.

One bus, 10 Red, will circulate downtown to places including MU, Boone Hospital Center and the MU Health Centers. It will also connect to the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood.

A commuter route, 11 Teal, will go to the northern outskirts of the city with two trips each morning and evening.

The new routes can be viewed in detail at the CoMo Connect homepage.

More connections, shorter waits

Forty-two connection points will be available throughout the city. Connection points are locations where two or more routes intersect. Transfers from one bus to another would be made at these points. Bus stop and shelter locations have yet to be finalized.

Wait times for buses are estimated between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the route and peak hours.

Expected technology upgrades for buses include GPS units, mobile apps and texting capabilities, automatic passenger counters and speakers that announce stop information for the vision impaired.

"Almost all of the technology upgrades are complete," Brooks said. "While they were in the works before the CoMo Connect project was proposed, they will certainly support it."

Brooks said new bus shelters will be added, but the technology is dependent on funding. Shelter upgrades on Columbia Transit's wish-list include solar-powered LED lighting, a bike-share system, covered bike racks and "smart" signs on connector stops with GPS data on bus locations.

"We are still applying for grants to supplement local funds for this element of the project," Brooks said.


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