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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Columbia transportation plan maps transit future through 2040

Columbia grew 29 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Columbia’s newest Long Range Transportation Plan, which goes through 2040, focuses on improvements to area roads, buses and pedestrian paths.

Every five years, the Columbia Area Transit Study Organization, the metropolitan planning organization for the Columbia area, is required to update its long range transportation plan, and the plan must look forward at least 20 years.

CATSO is responsible for a 181-square-mile metro area within Boone County. It contains 99 percent of Columbia’s municipal boundary, according to the plan.

The organization’s main focus is to ensure the growing city has means of transport for all facets of everyday life. Some of its goals include building new roads and expanding old ones as well as increasing public transportation, walking and biking trails, and freight and rail access near the city.

The burgeoning population of Columbia, up 29 percent from the 2000 census to 108,500 according to the 2010 census, has become limited in the way most of its residents commute to and from work. According to the plan CATSO published last year, 76.7 percent of people in Columbia drove to work alone, 12.3 percent carpooled, 6.8 percent biked or walked, 3 percent worked from home and just 0.9 percent used public transit.

Mitch Skov, senior planner for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said CATSO deliberately focused on biking, walking and public transportation in the latest plan update.

“It’s our opinion of what good policy would be,” Skov said. “A good deal of those goals and objectives are based upon the public input we’ve had from public meetings, email and online surveys.”

Skov recognized that most residents of Columbia get to work by driving alone, but the project received a lot of input about pedestrian and bike trails, as well as public transportation.

“You may see an emphasis on non-motorized modes of transportation: We received more comments in favor of additional sidewalks and bicycle paths and other pedestrian facilities than anything else,” Skov said.

Skov said the plan focuses on increasing trails in parks around Columbia.

“The idea was to ultimately get a complete network (of bicycle and walking trails) that would encircle the Columbia area,” Skov said. “There will be more of those trails as we get the system in place.”

The bus system also has plans for improvements.

“(The bus route expansion plan) does look at it as a positive to achieve more ridership of the transit system just from the perspective of efficiency and decreasing congestion,” Skov said. “It would make the transit system more successful if you had more riders, and it would also probably justify putting more money into the transit system.”

Skov stressed that CATSO is in no position to control whether any of these plans are implemented.

“This plan doesn’t specifically lock anybody into anything,” Skov said. “Any final decisions are going to be made by the jurisdiction that is in charge of them, either the city, Boone County or (the Missouri Department of Transportation). These organizations also have their opinion represented in the CATSO plan.”

CATSO’s plan also contains some figures for how much money in revenue and expenditure the city, county and MoDOT might spend on the plan. Skov said as these numbers project through 2039, there is no way to know if they will hold up.

“There’s not a specific budget,” Skov said. “What you see is an estimate or a projection based on numbers we received from each of the jurisdictions for potential revenues.”

One part of the plan is the Major Roadway Plan, which would create new roads and widen existing ones to accommodate future influxes of traffic. If completely built out, the MRP would add 631 total miles to the CATSO metro area, more than doubling the 524 miles that exist today.

Skov said the MRP would be contingent upon future development.

CATSO will hold its next technical committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall Room 1B.

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