For the past two years, sophomore Alexis Engleman has commuted to MU from her off-campus apartment.
“My entire freshman year at MU was made possible by the campus bus transportation,” Engleman said. “If I didn't have the bus, it would've been a lot more stressful and expensive on gas and meter change to drive my own car.”
Engleman said the reliability of the local bus routes was one of the main reasons she stayed off campus this school year as well.
“It was a nice selling point for renewing the lease I had at the apartment complex,” Engleman said. “Now that this is no longer true, I feel that it just makes students' commute to campus that much harder.”
At the end of the spring semester, MU and the Columbia Transit System told local apartment complexes that shuttle services would be changed in certain areas of town. Last school year, MU leased rooms in the Campus Lodge apartment complex to house students who were unable to find a residence hall.
“The university funded the shuttle service and rooms,” Columbia Transit spokesperson Jill Stedem said. “Since The Reserves was next door, they piggy-backed off of the Campus Lodge service so their students could ride as well.”
As a result of campus construction, 300 students lived in the Campus Lodge last year until residence hall spaces became available.
“If new destinations were to be added to the Columbia Transit's system, apartment complexes would need to fully fund this service,” Stedem said. “The city does not have the budget to do so without funding. The city has no control over what students renting apartments are told by the apartment managers.”
More than 2 million riders used the Columbia Transit system in the last fiscal year. Of those 2 million, 33 percent rode apartment-funded shuttle buses and 38 percent rode the Campus Shuttle Service that received funding from MU. According to Stedem, as Columbia continues to grow and the number of students enrolled at the university continues to increase, ridership will increase extensively.
“Transportation is an important factor that students should consider when moving off campus and finding housing that is outside the control of the university,” Stedem said. “Both Campus Lodge and The Reserves knew the shuttle service was funded by MU and both were notified that the MU would no longer be funding transit services once Residential Life was able to open the new dorms."
This year, MU was able to provide living arrangements for students on campus, and discontinued funding for part of the shuttle service.
According to Stedem, when Columbia Transit notified apartment complexes about the changes this summer, they were also told that if they did want shuttle service to and from campus they would have to fund it themselves.
“A proposal from Columbia Transit has been submitted to both Campus Lodge and The Reserves giving them the option to fund this service so students can utilize public transportation,” Stedem said. “It is unknown at this time if they plan to do so. If they choose to fund it, they will be added to our routes and we will re-do our schedules to include their destinations.”
The Columbia Transit system has six contracts with apartment owners who fund the Gold and Black Routes — bus routes that are aimed to help students off campus commute to MU.
According to Jim Joy, director of MU Parking and Transportation services, the city does not have enough room in the budget to add new routes or destinations.
“I cannot honestly say that there is a greater demand for parking permits," Joy said. "Many of the students who lived in those areas last year and rode and used the bus system also had parking permits. That’s been known for quite some time by people that there would be no transit there.”
Although the morning and evening shuttle service to campus changed this year, officially there were no routes canceled by the Columbia Transit System. Monday was the first day the new transit schedule went into effect.
“My personal opinion is, give it a week to see what’s out there,” Joy said. “I know the city is talking to those apartment managers and those apartment managers are talking to the city. That’s a business deal.”