Bus ordinance sparks debate at City Council meeting

Thursday, September 4, 2014 | 10:21 p.m. CDT; updated 11:23 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 4, 2014
A city of Columbia bus picks up passengers along Rollins Street in front of the MU Student Center on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — One notable thing missing for students who returned to classes at MU is the long line of apartment complex shuttle buses in front of the MU Student Center.

The city of Columbia has begun enforcing an ordinance prohibiting private sector buses from using the bus pullout in front of the MU Student Center on Rollins Street.

"Only city buses are allowed to stop along the curbline or use the bus pullout location on Rollins Street," according to the ordinance.

Although the ordinance has been in effect since 2012, it is only now being fully enforced. A report to the Columbia City Council said apartment complexes were told that city workers and MU Police Department would be patrolling the area.

Green Way Shuttles owner Doug Dickherber said the ordinance is hurting his business.

"Basically I believe (the ordinance) is unfair," Dickherber told the council during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The Domain, one of the student apartment complexes Green Way Shuttles serves, sent an email to its residents Aug. 28 telling them of the change in locations for shuttle drop-offs and pickups.

"We know how much of an inconvenience this can be for most of you," the email stated, "Therefore, we want to do our best to make this situation better for you all. Green Way Shuttles (our bus service) also finds that this is an inconvenience for most and wants our residents to participate in a (p)etition that will allow the bus to have access in front of the Student Center again."

Dickherber said the petition has almost 1,000 signatures. He also said he talked to John Glascock, the city's director of public works and Drew Brooks, city multi-modal transportation manager, about the possibility of driving on Rollins Street, but not stopping.

"They told me it would be no problem," Dickherber said. "But then the very first day John and Andrew were both down there with the police departments, stopped every one of my vehicles, and even boarded some of them, threatening my drivers that if they pulled through they would get a ticket."

Glascock said neither he nor Brooks boarded any of Dickherber's buses.

"We've never been antagonistic toward him," Glascock said. "We've talked to him and tried to describe what we were doing."

Glascock said the ordinance is a matter of safety because the closed portion of Rollins Street is not large enough to accommodate both city buses and private buses.

"When you don't expect a car to be passing you in a closed area and you pull out, and all of a sudden there's a bus sitting there and you're not expecting it, that's a bad thing," Glascock said.

City Manager Mike Matthes said timing is another concern.

"Our timing on our routes would get blown if we have to wait behind a line at one of our time stops," Matthes said.

The report to the council stated the change to the CoMo Connect bus system has dramatically increased the number of city buses in the campus section of Rollins Street. Two connector routes use the street in both directions with as many as 10 buses accessing the street every 15 minutes during peak times. The city's Tiger Line and Downtown Orbiter bus routes also make stops on the street.

Mayor Bob McDavid said he thinks private sector buses provide an important service and that the city should make it easier for the buses to use Rollins Street.

"They're delivering a service at a level that we can't because of some of our limitations," McDavid said. "And I say let them do it. I say more power to them."

First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, who is a graduate student at MU, said students oppose enforcement of the ordinance.

"They're very upset," Chadwick said. "I think it's actually giving CoMo Connect a bad rep because we're pushing the buses that they want to use out."

McDavid suggested each council member spend time on the MU campus to assess the situation.

"There's nothing like each of us going over there ... whether you want to ride the bus or just walk and look and just see what the flow is like," McDavid said, "Because I'm skeptical that we can't accommodate them."

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Robert Stinnett September 5, 2014 | 3:59 p.m.

The student's don't like it? Well too bad. They can petition all they want. Until they pay property taxes and are living as full time residents the council should tell them tough.

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