Columbia Transit is hoping that changes to the city’s bus routes will improve on-time performance and attract more riders.
The city agency has proposed a number of changes to the current bus routes. The changes announced in December could take effect as soon as June if approved by the City Council.
“The worst part about the system is the inconvenient times,” said Christine Johnson, 29, while riding the Green Route East from Columbia Mall. “You have to be at your stop on time or you could miss your transfer.”
Johnson uses the bus when her car is in the repair shop. She said the drivers were friendly and bus travel was nice during the winter.
“The bus is already warm in the morning,” she said, “and I prefer using the bus in bad weather instead of driving.”
Columbia Transit is seeking to increase the number of passengers who take the bus, but complementing a car with the bus service isn’t attractive to all residents. Stan Lee, 21, who was using the bus for the first time, said he is only using the bus temporarily.
“My car is in the shop,” he said. “When I get my car fixed, that’s what I’ll be using.”
Mark Grindstaff, public works supervisor and director of operations for Columbia Transit, oversaw the proposed changes, taking into consideration suggestions from passengers and drivers. He said the changes to the system will stay within the current budget.
“The adjustments to the routes will avoid increasing costs, but improve the service,” Grindstaff said.
One major change proposed is the elimination of the western portion of the Yellow Route. The bus, which travels in southern Columbia, could be replaced by a shuttle that connects to the Orange Route. The bus would still travel to and from the Orange Route and the Woodhaven School during the morning and afternoon, which are peak travel times identified by Columbia Transit for staff at the school.
Columbia Transit would also like to add a downtown orbiter route, the Brown Orbiter, that would travel just outside of the downtown area.
The second proposed addition, the Theater Commuter Route, would travel between the Forum 8 and Hollywood Stadium 14 movie theaters on Thursday and Friday evenings and most of the day Saturday.
“They need to have a theater route,” said Danielle Tapia, 12. “It would be more convenient and then we could get rid of our parents.”
“We would take it to Hollywood, then we could take it to go hang out at Forum,” agreed her friend Anna Wenger, also 12.
Modifications will also affect the Red Route, Green Route, Blue Route East and Orange Route South.
Red Route West would discontinue service to Columbia Mall, but passengers could connect to the Green and Blue routes that would still travel to the mall. Red Route West would also discontinue service along Ash Street between Fairview Road and Park de Ville Drive. Additions to the route would take buses to Hy-Vee, Fairview Clinics, Moberly Area Community College and the Crossroads Shopping Center.
Red Route East would have two sections cut that would become parts of the Green Route East and the downtown orbiter. The portion of the route that follows Ashland Road as well as a section of College Avenue between Broadway and Paquin Street will no longer be on the Red Route.
Green Route East would have sections removed that would be picked up by the proposed downtown orbiter and the Red and Blue routes. Route changes are not proposed for Green Route West, but a reduction in mid-day trips has been suggested.
Blue Route East would lose two sections of its travel path, one of which would be picked up by Green Route East. The other portion, on College Avenue between Business Loop 70 and Walnut Street, would no longer have bus service.
Orange Route South would also be reduced, with one portion becoming part of the proposed downtown orbiter route.
The times the bus service runs would remain the same. Buses start running as early as 6:25 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:45 a.m. Saturday. Service for most routes ends at 6:20 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Most night routes Thursday through Saturday run until 9:40 p.m. or 10:20 p.m.
“The buses stop too early,” said Jerry Meyer, 22, waiting at the Wabash station. “We could pay a little extra if it meant running them until 11:30 or 12 each night.”
The proposed route changes will be read at the City Council meeting on March 1. Then Columbia Transit will schedule town meetings, one for each city ward, for residents to learn more about the changes and address questions and concerns. Town hall meetings will be held on Thursdays and Fridays so bus service may be used to attend the meetings.
The proposals could then be approved as early as April, followed by an eight-week public education campaign mapping out route and schedule changes. During that time, employees of Columbia Transit would also go through a training process regarding the changes.
Complete implementation of the changes could happen in June.