Federal bill may boost Columbia bus system

Grant money would buy two new buses, replace two paratransit vehicles and add bus shelters.
Wednesday, December 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:35 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 26, 2008

A financial boost from the federal government might allow the city to buy a trolley bus for downtown and to improve other aspects of its bus service, city officials said Tuesday.

Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., said Tuesday the Omnibus Appropriations Bill approved by Congress has earmarked $842,945 for the city’s transit system. If the bill is signed into law by President Bush, the grant would require a 20 percent match from the city.

Columbia owns and operates 22 full-size buses on fixed transit routes. The city also uses nine para-transit vehicles, which travel three-quarters of a mile off fixed routes, to serve people with disabilities.

Ken Koopmans, the Columbia transportation manager, said that if the grant comes through, the city plans to use the money to replace two para-transit vehicles, to buy two new buses, to add bus shelters and to upgrade operating equipment.

But he said the earmark is not yet listed on the Federal Register and he has heard only talk of a possible grant.

Trolley Possibilities

City Manager Ray Beck said that beyond the immediate necessities listed in the grant request, it is possible some of the money could be allocated to implement Mayor Darwin Hindman’s proposal for a downtown bus with a trolley façade.

Several cities use trolley buses to promote public transportation and enhance tour rides.

“I’m pretty sure there will be some indication from the mayor and the council for the use of trolleys for the fixed route bus system,” Beck said. “That has to be clarified for the funding if the council wants to go ahead with that.”

Beck said the city is looking to purchase two buses for fixed routes and to put two older buses in reserve.

Hulshof said in a statement Tuesday that Columbia is “a growing city with many transportation needs.”

“More and more people are depending upon public transit, especially riders with special needs, including the elderly and people with disabilities,” Hulshof said. “I am confident that this money will help all of those who rely upon the Columbia transit system.”

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