The Columbia City Council voted Monday night to accept proposed changes to the city’s bus routes.
The changes, suggested by Columbia Transit, are intended to provide better service to bus riders, improve on-time arrivals and attract more residents to use public transportation.
New attractions that have appeared in Columbia in recent years, such as the Hollywood Stadium Theaters and the Hy-Vee grocery store, were also important factors when developing route changes.
Modifications to almost every route were approved by the council. Some will cut service at sections with a low number of passengers, but others will slightly expand their coverage.
Two new routes, one that would travel between the Forum 8 Theaters and Hollywood Stadium Theaters on the weekends and another that would circle around downtown, were also passed. Some routes will also reduce the number of trips they make in the late morning and early afternoon, designated as the midday portion of the schedule.
The addition of the two new routes is dependent upon the modifications to the current routes. In order for the two new routes to be efficient, all the proposed changes to the bus system had to be approved.
Mark Grindstaff, public works supervisor and director of operations for Columbia Transit, said there was some confusion when the agency sponsored information sessions throughout March.
“Individuals were having a bit of a misconception of expansion versus modifications,” he said. “The sessions let them know exactly what was going on.”
Expansion issues were brought up at Monday’s meeting. First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton stressed the importance of not only making this short-term change, but also looking at long-term issues affecting transportation in Columbia.
Mayoral candidate John Clark testified at the meeting. He endorsed an analysis of the bus system, not only to look at expanding the system, but to examine issues such as employment, health, congestion, social services and the elderly and their relationships with public transportation. For now, these issues were put on the back burner but could resurface sometime soon.
Grindstaff said a campaign to inform Columbia residents of the changes will begin almost immediately with advertisements in the print media, as well as on television and radio. Maps will also be posted on buses and at Wabash Station. More public information meetings will be planned. Grindstaff also said the changes would stay within the fiscal year’s budget.
The new routes and adjustments to existing routes are scheduled to begin June 7. Until then, drivers and other staff will be trained to effectively carry out the new schedules.