Whether Columbia becomes a bustling metropolis or remains a quiet college town over the next 25 years, residents want to be sure they can get to the city’s businesses, attractions and facilities.
Getting around in the city, as it is now, is a challenge for some.
“Street systems in Columbia are interesting in how they connect,” said John Grotzinger, 50, of Rocheport. “Instead of urban sprawl, there should be more thought process in connecting roads.”
For instance, he said, getting to the cluster of hotels and restaurants where U.S. 63 and Interstate 70 connect is confusing because it is difficult to discern which road leads to them.
Improving transportation might be a matter of clearly marking road signs and lanes for residents like Grotzinger and Ann Westley.
“They need to improve the markings on the roads,” Westley, 64, said. “I almost had an accident the other day because I couldn’t see the markings.”
She lives with Richard Westley, 70, a few miles outside Columbia.
“They need to improve the roads in general — potholes (are) everywhere, at least when you get out to the country,” Richard Westley said.
Building new roads would help, 28-year-old Yancy Kamine said.
“The city needs more bypasses,” said Kamine, a food cart cashier in Stamper Commons at Stephens College.
A Californian who moved to Columbia five years ago, Kamine said Columbia’s downtown and arts community seem to be doing well, but the city needs to make addressing traffic issues its first priority when planning for the future.
MU student Tina Perna, 20, said more roads, especially “through streets” on campus, would help students. She described MU as a big circle that requires driving all around it to get from one end of campus to another.
Shuttles would also help students get around on campus, said 20-year-old Whitney Mc-
Kinney, an MU business student.
Broadway should probably be a four-lane road, 65-year-old John Schweitzer said. However the roads are expanded, he hopes city officials will think about limiting traffic congestion.
Putting more city buses on the road for longer hours is the solution Kim Johnson and Kelly Dyer offer.
Johnson, a 15-year-old Hickman High School student who moved to Columbia a year ago from St. Louis, where she often used the Metro bus and light rail service, would like to see Columbia “expand the bus route farther out and get better buses and more shelters.”
For Dyer, 25, Columbia’s buses are “all right,” but route schedules should be adjusted. “They need more buses and should expand (hours of operation) through the weekends because some people work (on weekends),” she said.
Dyer moved to Columbia from Detroit a year ago to find work. She works at Sears in Columbia Mall and rides the bus twice a day, sometimes more, she said.
Charles Hayes, who also rides the bus twice a day, suggested that buses run later, maybe until 11 p.m., and that the city increase its fleet. He thinks new buses would help alleviate schedule disruptions that occur when older buses break down.
As a weekly passenger, 23-year-old Stephen Kluck finds the bus schedule inconvenient at best. He said he’s missed the bus to work because of unexpected schedule changes.
“You have to be outside 20 minutes early to make sure you get picked up,” Kluck said.
He would like to see the bus service expanded to include suburbs of Columbia, he said.
T.R. Shrout agreed. “They need to develop public transportation ahead of need if they want people to use it, and it needs to be better designed to cover the whole community.”
Reliable public transportation is especially important to senior citizens, according to Marian Lightner. A Columbia resident for 40 years, the 74-year-old said, “There will come a time when you lose your sight or for some other reason can’t drive anymore.”
That’s when some seniors might turn to the city bus system, which Lightner said doesn’t help those who can’t walk to bus stops.
“The city needs to work on that,” Lightner said. “I know they have something called Para-Transit but that doesn’t help seniors either.”
Columbia Para-Tranit Services, a transportation service for disabled and older residents, has limitations. Passengers must be registered to ride and pick-ups aren’t permitted far enough from city bus stops, said Bob Pund, an advocate for disabled residents. Another limitation is that it doesn’t cover all of Columbia, said Homer Page, a member of the city’s Disabilities Commission.
Both men said the solution includes increasing funding for Para-Transit, so more employees can be hired and more buses bought to improve the service.
“Proper transportation should be available for use in all parts of Columbia,” Pund said.
The city could learn a few things about improving public transportation from larger cities, 25-year-old Kasmir Lawson suggested. The Columbia native and Hickman High School graduate returned to Columbia after working as a traveling saleswoman in San Diego and at Canadian Pacific Railroad in Minneapolis. Unlike in these cities, it seems as if Columbia residents “don’t have the option of leaving their car at home,” she said.
For those who want to park their cars at home, a city-run taxi service could be an alternative.
“The city should set up a reliable taxi service,” resident Shirley Gallaner said. She said private taxi services are too expensive, and she doesn’t feel safe using them.
Another alternative, walking, also would require consideration and investment by the city.
“If the city wants to encourage walking, we need more and better sidewalks,” Gallaner said, “especially around high schools and in residential areas, and they should make special lanes for bicycles.”