Public Input Needed to Improve Bus System

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COLUMBIA - As the city works to revamp the public transit system, community input is needed to make the best changes.

In May, the Columbia City Council approved further work on the CoMo Connect project. The project aims to revamp the bus system by adding more stops and updating routes throughout the city.

Columbia Public Works Transportation Administrator Drew Brooks said that as Columbia has grown, it's become difficult to provide an efficient bus system to residents. The current transit system operates out of one central location at Wabash Station on 10th street. As a result, wait times are longer and routes are more restricted. Brooks said the new system aims to change these common complaints.

"What we're looking to do is design a system that's not anchored to one central location, a network system where all of the routes kind of meet out and about throughout the city," Brooks said. "The biggest changes will be that our trip times will be shortened, you'll be able to get around the city hopefully much quicker, and you'll be getting to areas of the city that we've never gotten to before. We'll go to Scott Boulevard, Lake of the Woods, and much farther north."

The city has scheduled a series of public meetings to receive feedback about the current bus system, as well as suggestions for changes that should be made. The schedule consists of eight meetings - one for each ward, the downtown district, and college students.

"Through the ward meetings we are going to get feedback from the public, the customers that are using public transportation now, and the potential customers that may want to use public transportation but it's not a viable option for them," said Columbia Public Works Marketing Specialist Teresa White. "We think it's important to educate the public on these proposed plans. It will be a major change in the system and we want it to be a convenient conversion for the customers."

The CoMo Connect changes will have an impact on riders and their transportation routines. James Murrey is a frequent bus rider and said he relies on the public transit system to run errands and visit the library. He attended the third ward meeting on October 12, to learn more about the proposed bus system and voice changes he would like to see made.

"I'd like to spend less time on the bus," Murrey said. "As it is now, I spend a great deal of time traveling to my destination, and especially if I have to wait forty minutes for a bus, you know. I spend less time at the store than I do getting there."

It's people like Murrey that the city needs to hear from in order to move forward with the CoMo Connect project.

"If they give us input, we'll be able to develop those rides, those routes, to the needs of our citizens," said Cheryl Price, a para transit rider and member of the Public Transit Advisory Commission.

"They've gone to a lot of trouble to put these ward meetings together and I think it's just absolutely critical that as many citizens come out and give their input. There's so many people that gripe about the current bus system and here is a chance to make a difference for them."

Public meetings are scheduled through December 12, and there is also a public survey residents can take to provide feedback. For more information on the CoMo Connect Project and a look at revised routes visit the city's website.