Gaps in public transit seen

Boone residents say expanded hours, service area needed
Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Boone County residents need longer hours of public transportation operation and geographically larger service areas.

That’s according to the Boone County Coordinated Transportation Study, which was presented to the public on Tuesday at the Daniel Boone City Building. Transit users said they encountered inadequate transportation services, including public transportation, special needs and elderly transit services.

To carry out the study, the Boone County Community Partnership worked with LSC Consultants Inc. and the Center for Advanced Social Research at MU to identify transit needs in Boone County and consequently suggest ways to use current resources to enhance transportation in the area. Stimulated by the success of coordinated transportation in Boulder, Colo., the Boone County Community Partnership organized the study in 2004.

The MU research center conducted the survey by questioning 2,739 students, university employees, clients of human services agencies such as school districts and health care services and a cross-section of Boone County elderly, disabled and low-income families considered more likely to use public transportation services.

Downtown Columbia and northeastern Boone County, including Centralia, were identified as the areas of the county with the greatest transportation demands.

The study found that 50 percent of the transportation needs identified in the county are currently unmet. These needs were defined by community responses describing current uses and recommendations for future services.

“We won’t ever meet 100 percent of the transportation needs,” said A.T. Stoddard, the spokesman for LSC. However, he presented suggestions gleaned from the survey that could improve transit services in the area.

The study offers suggestions to individual transit agencies, including the importance of improved public education on the availability of transit services in Columbia and greater cooperation among area agencies. Agencies include Columbia Transit, OATS Inc. and specialized transit services for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Stoddard said that increased cooperation among transportation providers could alleviate the transit difficulties some members of the community encounter in traveling to and from the workplace.

On a larger scale, the study encouraged developing commuter services to connect Jefferson City, Columbia, and maybe Centralia as well. Also, the study suggested forming a regional transit authority that would coordinate all public transportation throughout the county and extend south to Jefferson City in Cole County.

“That’s a long term idea,” Stoddard said, acknowledging barriers such as approval by county and city councils.

The study will be finalized in the next month. At that time, it will be presented to the Boone County Commission and transportation agencies for further action.

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