When James Eschen’s eldest two children were undergraduates at MU, he spent many long hours stuck in traffic on Interstate 70, making the commute between Columbia and St. Louis to ensure his children had a safe and reliable way home for the weekend.
The hassle had him thinking there had to be a better way.
In February, Eschen opened Tiger Shuttle, a weekend transportation service between Columbia and St. Louis.
“The idea just stemmed from my own personal experience,” Eschen said. “I always wondered why there wasn’t a service like this already in place. I knew I would have appreciated something like this as a parent of three undergraduates at Mizzou.”
Like MO-X, a popular Columbia-based airport shuttle, Tiger Shuttle offers door-to-door services. What makes Tiger Shuttle unique from its competitors, however, is that it offers pick-up and drop-off services at six different locations in St. Louis, including Lake St. Louis, Mid Rivers Mall, Interstate 270 at St. Charles Rock Road, West County Center, South County Center and the Galleria.
Eschen said he started his business because the task of coordinating his children’s transportation was time consuming. According to citydata.com, a city demographics database Web site, Columbia is located approximately 145.4 miles east of St. Louis. Traveling at the legal speed limit of 70 mph, it is roughly a two-hour commute, which can be lengthened substantially in adverse traffic and weather conditions. Eschen said that under unfavorable conditions, he’s found that a round trip can take up to six hours.
“We understand what it’s like to be a college student or a busy parent,” Eschen said in an press release Monday. “Students have too much on their plates to spend time coordinating their travel, and parents should have options available other than taking that time out of their own hectic schedules.”
Students agree that a service like Eschen’s will be helpful.
MU sophomore Erin Morrow said she had a hard time getting home her freshman year without her own car.
“Usually I hitched a ride with whoever I knew was going home on a particular weekend,” Morrow said. “Once I needed to come home for clothes or something and I begged my mom to come get me. The drive isn’t bad, but the round trip is long enough where it becomes a pain in the butt.”
Olivia Kiespert, an MU sophomore and Dallas native, said she tries to avoid shuttle services.
“I prefer my friends taking me to the airports,” Kiespert said. “I’ve had friends drive me to the Kansas City airport before to avoid the shuttle and that’s a two-and-a-half hour drive.”
Safety is also a big issue for Eschen. The stretch of I-70 between the two cities can be dangerous, he said, and having his children hitch rides with friends unnerved him.
“When my son usually tries to come home for the weekend, he’ll tell me, ‘I’ll try to get a ride with “so-and-so.” If I can’t, I’ll let you know,’” Eschen said. “Usually he’ll just show up the next day, but my thing is, I don’t know ‘so-and-so’. How do I know this person didn’t have a late night or had been drinking the night before and aren’t as alert as they should be?”
Tiger Shuttle currently offers one afternoon and one late evening pick up Friday through Sunday for the Columbia to St. Louis trips. Times for pick-up change each weekend. The reverse trip has two shuttles leaving St. Louis at 8 a.m. and noon on Sunday, and a Monday morning shuttle. While the departure times are not as convenient as the hourly trips offered by MO-X seven days a week, Tiger Shuttle offers more attractive pricing. A flat rate of $30 is charged for one-way trips and $50 for a round-trip ticket. MO-X charges an upwards of $92, depending on whether a traveler books online or by phone.