MSA takes stance on city bus ordinance

Next week, at the request of Ward, all parties involved will have a meeting to create a university-wide stance.

In response to a city ordinance that permits only city buses to park on Rollins Street, the Missouri Students Association Campus and Community Relations Committee organized a campaign titled “Move that Bus.”

The campaign’s goal is to cease the enforcement of Ordinance 21390 Section 14-180, which was passed in 2012.

CCRC chairman Chad Phillips and CCRC member Syed Ejaz attended the Oct. 6 Columbia City Council meeting to present this campaign. The presentation was allotted 5 minutes in the scheduled public comment section of City Council’s agenda.

Phillips and Ejaz expressed their concerns on safety implications of the ordinance with a slideshow of pictures from Hitt and Rollins streets.

“We’re afraid that the council is not aware of the implications this has on the student body, so our main goal is making sure that they’re informed about the implications,” Phillips said. “We want the student perspective out there instead of someone who doesn’t walk the streets or ride the shuttles who doesn’t understand. The end result we would like to see is the ceasing of the enforcement of the ordinance.”

Phillips said he first noticed the problem in the beginning of the semester.

“We recognized a lot of students being displaced and foresaw all the issues that would come with students being outside waiting for buses,” he said. “We wanted to act as quickly as possible.”

Private apartment shuttles now park on Hitt Street by Memorial Student Union. The bus routes now must pass through more crosswalks. Crowding of the sidewalk and Memorial Union are also an issue, especially when the weather gets cold.

Ejaz worked closely with Phillips on addressing the safety concerns of all of these issues.

“I like community involvement and expanding relationships between students and the community, so CCRC seemed like the perfect place to do that,” Ejaz said.

Phillips and Ejaz said they have been planning this presentation since the first CCRC meeting of the semester.

City transit, who advocated for the enforcement of the ordinance, also approached the issue from a safety perspective, Ejaz said. They claimed that, with the potential increase of routes, city bus drivers wouldn’t have enough space.

“I think our speech is a soft response to that, so it’s only appropriate that we approach it from a safety issue as well,” Ejaz said.

Phillips said he did a lot of research and has time lapses of the street. It’s clear that there’s more than enough space, he said.

CCRC presented its ideas mainly as a safety concern, since safety is a main priority for the council, Phillips said.

Phillips and Ejaz met with Vice Chancellor for Operations Gary Ward, Parking and Transportation Services Director Michael Sokoff and Chairman of Campus Safety Committee Tim Evans with their response to the ordinance.

Next week, at the request of Ward, all parties involved will have a meeting to create a university-wide stance.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have an university-wide stance yet because we’re waiting for the meeting that Gary Ward requested between the committees, so that’s one of the big barriers between us and action happening,” Phillips said. “We realized how close we had to work with faculty to make sure we’re all on the same page, and we hit all those bases.”

Phillips and Ejaz said not having an official university stance might be a disadvantage.

After CCRC’s presentation at to the council, Mayor Bob McDavid asked if the committee engaged the administration.

Mike Matthes, the City Manager, quickly responded.

“We are awaiting their recommendation, so we will await their decision on what they want to do,” Matthes said.

Third Ward councilman Karl Skala offered another suggestion to create more space for the buses.

“You alluded to the fact that there’s parking on both sides which makes this road untenable for this kind of traffic,” Skala said. “Has there been any discussion of eliminating the parking on one or both sides?”

However, if parking was removed, Hitt Street would still be narrower than Rollins, and there would be more space for pedestrians, Ejaz said.

Phillips and Ejaz said they viewed this issue as a chance for students to get involved in government and realistically enact change on something that influences the entire student body.

“Ultimately, what I really want students to realize is their presence and showing they care on the city level can actually enact change,” Phillips said. “That all starts from just being at those meetings and making sure that our voices are heard.”

Ejaz said he also wants students to know that MSA and CCRC are trying to do something about it.

“There’s this vague perception that MSA doesn’t do much, but it’s really the exact opposite,” he said. “We just don’t always get the chance to champion our accomplishments. This issue is something very tangible and it can be changed if students rally around it.”

Since Phillips scheduled the presentation during formal comment, City Council is required to have a discussion about this issue.

They will decide on their course of action during the next City Council meeting Oct. 20.

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