Riders and drivers adjust to new city bus system

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COLUMBIA - City buses began new routes Monday morning for the first official day of Columbia's new transit plan. The new COMO Connect buses hit the streets at 6:25 a.m.

The new system consists of 11 routes that are designated by color and number. Route 9, also called the "red" route, is primarily limited to the downtown area, but the other 10 lines connect to cover most of the Columbia area.

Route 1, the "black route, and Route 2, the "gold route," began running on a limited basis last week as a way to phase in the new system.

Bus driver James Glenn said the new system is quicker and smoother than what drove before. He said once people get acclimated to the new system, it will be easier to use.

"You're going to have those that like it and those that don't, but for the most part, we have a high percentage that likes COMO Connect," Glenn said. "You will have problems, that's life, but if we do run into problems we'll handle it."

Columbia previously used a "hub-and-stoke" system for its buses. All bus routes used to start and end at Wabash Station on 10th Street. If riders needed to connect to a different route, they would first have to ride their bus back to the station and transfer there.

COMO Connect bus routes run in loops in different areas of the city. The routes are designed to connect with one another so that riders can transfer at the bus stops instead of riding the whole route.

Riders said they were experiencing some issues this morning learning the new system. Leon Robertson, III rode the bus Monday morning on his way to a job interview.

"The public who's been riding for 20 plus years are having to change their whole routine around these stops," Robertson said. "Now, all of a sudden, you have this entire rollout with a new plan, new organization, new names, so it's going to be an adjustment for not only the public and those who ride the bus, but even the drivers. They have to know the times and right now they are as confused as we are. It's all new to them too."

The routes extend as far east as Scott Boulevard and to North Rangeline Road in the west. The buses will also run north as far as Prathersville Road and to the south on Old Plank Road.