MU junior Chloe Myska is up and ready for class 30 minutes earlier each day. Not for homework or a cup of coffee, but for taking the bus from his apartment complex to campus.
This is the norm not only for Myska, but for a large population of MU. The extra time and stress of taking the bus is a small indication of a bigger void in Colombia – a lack of public transportation that serves the entire community.
Columbia’s transit system, GoCOMO, has nine bus lines. Six pass through the city of Columbia, while the other three pass through the MU campus and focus on the overflow lots for students. But the MU and General Columbia lines do not intersect.
This is a problem which annoys many and which sparked a suggestion several years ago which has never been successful.
In the late 2010s, Council member Ian Thomas attempted to create a system in which the university enters into an agreement with the city’s Department of Transportation to pay a flat annual fee and allows ID card holders academics to use the system for free. This system – used elsewhere in the country – is called U-Pass.
Thomas suggested that each student be charged $ 50 to $ 100 per year in exchange for essentially free use through U-Pass.
“I just thought, my God, what a wonderful system. We have (approximately) 30,000 students in Mizzou; if everyone paid $ 100, that’s $ 3 million, “he recalled in a recent interview.
“This would increase the state’s budget for the transit system by more than 50%,” Thomas said. “We could put a lot more buses with longer hours and new routes.”
According to Thomas, these routes would connect the students of the MU campus to the rest of Columbia, allowing for cheaper and more sustainable transportation.
“It would be so beneficial for the students at Columbia without a car,” he said. “It would solve the university’s parking space problems on campus, it would drastically reduce the university’s carbon footprint, and it would improve people’s health as they walk to the bus.
The University of Missouri system campuses in Kansas City and St. Louis have both successfully implemented the U-Pass program. Here is how it works:
The UMKC student card works like a bus pass and is as useful for getting around Kansas City as it is for accessing sporting events, viewing books in the library and purchasing a meal, according to the website. of the UMKC,
UMKC student cards are also good on suburban roads in Johnson County, Kansas, as part of an effort to create a transparent and easy-to-use regional transportation network. UMKC students who live on the Kansas side of the State Line can take a bus from Overland Park directly to the UMKC gate by simply swiping their ID.
UMSL is partnering with Metro, the regional agency that provides public transportation services in Saint-Louis, to offer students, faculty and staff access to Metrolink and Metrobus at a reduced rate. The Metro Pass program offers unlimited access to Metro services during the fall, spring and summer sessions.
U-Pass at MU
Dylan Cain, who received his Masters of Public Administration last year, was a senator for the Missouri Students’ Association when Thomas presented the proposal on campus in the late 2010s. After deciding to support U-Pass , Cain drafted a bill designating an MSA transit week.
“We were able to make a deal with CoMo where, during that week, students only had to show their student ID to take the bus for free, no questions asked,” said Cain, now an auditor of performance at the Illinois attorney’s office. General. “It was part of a larger effort to involve students in public transport. “
MSA released these results from a survey conducted after Transportation Week in 2018:
- Most of the students had never used public transit before;
- Students who used public transit had positive experiences;
- Younger students are more likely to use public transportation than older students;
- Students are more likely to take the bus to save money, help the environment, and for convenience.
Cain believed that implementing a U-Pass system could also help solve the campus parking problem.
“It’s not secure in a lot of ways, and it’s not a very user-friendly system,” he said of the situation. “Every day you drive away from campus to park, then you take shuttles to campus.”
Cain refers to the three shuttle routes that cover the campus. They depart from overflow parking lots, where students are assigned, and travel to various locations on campus.
Where he is
Despite its success during MSA Transit Week, U-Pass did not take root in MU. Cain believes the administration did not deem this necessary.
“There was just a lot of apathy towards the issue,” he said.
MU administrators also raised questions about the barriers that charging students an additional cost would bring, he added.
“I can say, definitely, that there has been a kind of setback. Tuition fees are always a concern, ”Cain said. “No one wants to be charged a higher price than expected because of the new tuition fees that are being enacted. “
According to Karlan Seville, director of internal communications at MU, the university is unable to increase funding for transport.
“If students show an interest, the campus would have to submit it to the board for approval,” Seville said.
Cain believes the need for public transit is rooted in something bigger than college life. It is a question of fairness.
“If we’re talking about cities that have real access to the community, cities that have disabled access, cities that are more food secure and environmentally conscious, these cities envision a lot of different things, but transportation audiences can play a role in all of this, ”he said.
Thomas has been the main advocate for the U-Pass in municipal government, but he is not running for re-election when his term ends in April. Still, he hopes current and future leadership will keep him alive.
Fourth Ward candidate Nick Foster addressed the issue of public transportation at a recent meeting of the Muleskinners, made up of Democrats from Boone County.
“Transportation for low-income people is an ongoing issue, so it’s definitely one of my concerns,” said Foster. “In general, I am in favor of a more robust transit system.”
Third Neighborhood Council member Karl Skala, candidate for re-election in April, said the city had missed critical opportunities to improve public transport.
“As we grow older I think some of these ideas are fertile and should be more funded,” Skala said. “It’s important to include the ‘when’ in all of this, in terms of climate change. ”
The key to moving towards a better system is to educate the public, Thomas said. But after his term on city council ends, will anyone take over the U-Pass?