Columbia Residents Speak Out on Public Transit

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COLUMBIA - About 50 Columbia residents got the chance to voice their opinions Monday evening over improving the city's public transit.

Representatives for CoMET, or Columbians for Modern, Efficient Transit, facilitated the "community conversation."

Ped Net Coalition Executive Director Ian Thomas led the group in discussion. He said the city needs to get community input before moving forward. 

"We know that in order for something like public transport to expand there has to be broad community support. So it's very important to go out to the public, and find out what the public thinks," said Thomas.

Sixth Ward City Council Representative Barbara Hoppe addressed the crowd, and said that now is the time to improve Columbia Transit despite its $3 million deficit.

"I always see adversity as an opportunity in disguise," she said.

The current fiscal year budget for Columbia Transit is $4.8 million. Over the last five years, Columbia Transit has exhausted its $2 million reserve fund.

Julia Helvey says her 40-year-old son rides the paratransit bus everyday to work, but his treat each Saturday is riding the bus to Dairy Queen.

"It's what he lives for," Helvey said.

Helvey says she fears that because the route doesn't get many riders, the route might get cut.

During the meeting, community members talked about the need for bus service on Sundays, more routes and extended hours.

Most of the people at the meeting use the bus system daily or weekly. They were asked to write down their description of the ideal transit system.

Columbia Transit has 36 buses - 11 are fixed city routes, 10 are Black and Gold routes, eight are campus shuttles, and seven are paratransit buses.

Columbia Public Works Department spokesperson Jill Stedem said the city has not taken a stance on CoMET.