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Columbia teams up with consultant, looks for ways to improve bus system


The City of Columbia and a consultant firm held an open house Tuesday to get feedback from members of the community regarding the city's bus system, Go COMO.

The city is currently working with the consultant on a conference-of-transit study in order to address the potential changes needed to the system.

Shawn Strate, senior planner of consulting firm Olsson, said the process is still in its early stages.

"What are the goals? What should be the goals of the study? What are the needs...more specifically looking for the community to point us in the right direction for the study process as we do more of the technical side of it going on," Strate said.

Residents were invited to voice their opinions to both city staff and those who work for Olsson. Strate noted that most community members cited staffing issues, and the fact that the city had to cut back on services as being the main two areas that need to be addressed.

ABC 17 News also spoke with community members who said the system needs to make buses more available for people who are unable to afford vehicles. Others said they believe the buses should run later into the night and that routes need to be extended. Resident Chriss Jones said she also believes buses should begin making stops at more schools and grocery stores around the city.

"It needs to go to the places where people really want and need to ride the bus...actually live, work and spend their time and money," said Jones.

Other residents said that buses need to run more frequently.

"It's really hard to use the buses here, like I live out on Clark [Lane] and that one only comes like every 90 minutes," said resident Josiah Zimmer.

Tim Robertson, an Uber and Lyft driver in Columbia, said that he often drives residents in the area to and from work daily who have to use the services because the nearest bus stop is too far from their house. Robertson also said that many of his drivers tell him the longer wait times due to the city decreasing routes makes it harder to get to work on time.

Robertson said that using the services can be inconvenient, and become expensive for many people he gives rides to because of the place they work at.

"The job is often McDonald's or someplace where they're not making 20 dollars or more," Robertson said. "I'm in the business to make money, but I don't want to be making money off of people who can't afford it."

Recent ridership data provided by Columbia Public Works spokesman John Ogan shows a decrease by more than 50 percent in people using Go COMO this October compared to the previous year. The amount of drivers has also dropped since August, when the city decreased the number of bus routes from six to three.

Strate said that the steps moving forward in the process include reviewing feedback received during Tuesday night's open house, and looking deeper into driver wages and retention rates. Following that, the firm will present a document to the city.

"Come up with some specific ideas in terms of alternatives, ways that we can grow the system, ways that we can improve ridership, come back out and do another public input phase similar to this," Strate said. "And yes, eventually presenting a final document to the city or to the city council."

Strate said the next public house meeting will likely be in February or March of next year.

Comments will be accepted online through Nov. 28. The study is expected to be completed in September 2024.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Nia Hinson


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