COLUMBIA — There's one word that comes up a lot when talking to Columbia residents about the new COMO Connect bus system.
BUS FARES AND PASSES
- Regular fare — $1.50*
- ParaTransit Service — $2
- Children under 5 — Free
- 25-ride pass — $30*
- 30-day unlimited pass — $55*
- Semester pass — $100
- Youth Ride Free program — Children 18 and under can ride free if they present a school ID or an ID provided by COMO Connect (available at Wabash Bus Station)
*Eligible for reduced fare
CONTACT COMO TRANSIT
While the opinions of bus riders Wednesday morning about the new Columbia bus system varied, most were generally positive.
Mike Halliburton, 68, rides city buses daily. He said he liked the old system because he was familiar with it, but he believes the new routes serve more people. COMO Connect will be better, he said, once the city irons out the wrinkles.
Isaac Pasley, a 21-year-old accounting major at MU, has used the bus three or four times since the city launched COMO Connect.
"Personally, even though it has flaws, I think it's great," he said. He finds the DoubleMap app, which allows riders to track bus locations, "really handy." Pasley, who lives in College Park near Schnucks, did note that missing the bus under the new system can double his waiting time. Still, he plans to continue using the bus even after the free rides end at the close of August.
Tara Gillespie, 34, also finds the DoubleMap app helpful.
"It's nice to know that I've got time," she said, referring to the fact that she can arrive at a bus stop, check the app and see how close the bus is. Gillespie said she is also excited that one of the new routes can take her to both her mother's and sister's houses, trips that took multiple buses before.
The DoubleMap app, which is intended to be viewable through any web browser, is a real-time GPS bus tracking service based out of Indianapolis. Riders who download the app on their phone can zoom in and click on any bus stop, then see an estimate of how long it will be until the next bus arrives. Each bus is represented by an icon that app users can watch move along its route as buses complete their rounds.
The city is working to install signs with COMO Connect time schedules on them for those without smartphones, multi-modal transportation manager Drew Brooks said. Map and schedule pamphlets can also be found on some buses.
Vincent Williams, 44, and his wife, Rachel Williams, 28, don't own a car, so the buses are their main mode of transportation. Vincent Williams said he believes kinks in the system eventually will be worked out.
"Having a good bus system isn't just advantageous, it's everything to people," he said, discussing how important the buses are to lower- and middle-class people who struggle to make ends meet.
Williams also said the new system relies heavily on the bus drivers being time efficient. Williams said he has had a bus driver arrive late to a stop and then leave the bus to use the bathroom, causing the route to fall further behind schedule.
"There are some stops that just aren't safe," another daily rider, Ralph Pugsley, 46, said. He mentioned the stop at Clark Lane, across from Steak 'n Shake, which forces riders to either wait on the shoulder of the road, in front of the guard rail or over the rail in the ditch.
Ralph Powell, 64, complained about a lack of shelters at bus stops, leaving riders to wait in the sun.
Brooks said the city hopes to address riders' complaints by adding more than 40 new bus shelters by this time next year.
From Aug. 4 to 16, COMO Connect has seen a 38 percent increase in riders when compared to the same time last year, according to a news release. Although that's a promising number, it's unclear whether the new routes or the free rides are driving those numbers.
Aug. 31 is the last day for people to take advantage of COMO Connect's free bus rides. After that, adults can buy one-way fares for $1.50 or one of the various passes available on COMO Connect's website.
Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.