Editorial: Absurd bus ordinance only revs up trouble
City Council’s failure to seek and consider outside input has resulted in another ruckus.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.
Sep. 09, 2014
Once again, City Council has failed to listen to the people they represent and govern.
Enforcement of City Ordinance 14-180 began on the first day of school, restricting private shuttles from dropping students off in front of the Student Center from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on weekdays. Shuttles now have to drop off students in front of Memorial Union or in front of Strickland Hall.
Students who previously relied on their residential complexes’ shuttle services are now expected — and pressured — by this ordinance to rely on COMO Connect, the revamped city bus system that was launched in August, to get them to and from their off-campus homes.
Replacing the reliable private shuttles with COMO Connect, an inconsistent and significantly inferior bus system, is absolutely ludicrous. The shuttle systems provide students with an unchanging, frequent schedule they can easily follow to get home in between or after classes. COMO Connect’s system, which the city claims is improved, is confusing and ultimately less efficient. The whole reason that these private shuttle systems came into existence was to provide convenience for students, and students have already been reporting horrible experiences with COMO Connect in its first weeks of operation.
Also, this decision is extremely irrational for traffic purposes. The south side of the Student Center is well-positioned for students to await transportation, due to the large windows and waiting space that becomes handy in inclement weather, and Rollins Street is wider to allow easy pick-ups and drop-offs. Instead of logically having all buses on campus pick people up there, City Council is forcing private buses to pick up and drop off students on Hitt Street, a much narrower, more congested road and a major crossing for pedestrians. And what’s going to happen when it’s constantly raining and snowing? This is not only an illogical decision, but a dangerous one.
This ordinance was passed without speaking to anyone from the university, or from any private shuttle service, for that matter. Locally-owned private transportation services are going to be negatively affected by this change. Some off-campus housing complexes, such as The Reserve, have already discontinued their shuttle services due to this news. If this ordinance remains, these companies are going to be even more impacted.
Many of these off-campus housing complexes have only existed for the past 10 years, and they only exist because our university is growing and needs more room. The shuttles were created to help provide convenience for students who found no choice but to live far off campus. This ordinance completely ignores that fact.
All of this boils down to one simple problem: City Council fails to listen to the public.
The council decided to enforce this ordinance that was created in 2012 because of an impending budget deficit. One of the many reasons they are facing this deficit is because of longtime low ridership on its public transportation system, perhaps due to its confusing and unreliable schedule. However, more riders on COMO Connect buses means more funding for the bus system. Instead of finding a way to improve the system or to encourage students to take the bus, they are instead pressuring us to use this significantly inferior transportation system, by making it inconvenient and even dangerous to do otherwise.
As usual, City Council made this decision despite much opposition from students and citizens. Petitions have been circulated throughout campus all week, and even the mayor has voiced his concerns with this new plan. City Council seems to not care at all about how their actions affect students and the community. This decision was made simply because the council is concerned about the budget deficit, not because they thought it would benefit our students or any of the citizens of Columbia.
City Council, now is the time to connect with MU students. Instead of making a blind decision about something that greatly affects people on campus, why not hold a forum? Why not wait until students are back on campus to enact this new plan? We ask you to please think more of students than of money.
Needless to say, this ordinance needs some change. Whether it involves making the COMO Connect system more reliable or allowing shuttles to use Rollins Street, something needs to be altered to improve this absurd situation.