Mayor McDavid proposes new FastCAT route for Columbia Transit

The route would pass through downtown and MU to satisfy students' needs.
Mayor Bob McDavid unveils the FastCAT transit program during a city press conference on May 24. The proposed plan aims to alleviate Columbia's transit budget woes.

Mayor Bob McDavid unveiled the next step in Columbia’s effort to revitalize its transit system Thursday, May 24.

The initiative, entitled FastCAT (Campus Access Transit), would implement a 30-minute bus loop primarily through downtown and MU.

FastCAT would have 11 stops in total, five of which would be on campus. The estimated 30-minute loop would be operated by three to four buses, McDavid said.

The route has not yet been approved by the Columbia City Council. If approved, McDavid’s goal is to have the route in operation when students return in August.

The new route is part of the mayor’s goal to make the bus system more student-friendly, thereby increasing student ridership and alleviating the system’s financial woes.

The proposed route is definitely a step in the right direction, Anne Ahlvers of the Tiger Transit Movement said.

“The proposal satisfies many of the requests students have made, including locations, GPS tracking and shorter loops,” Ahlvers said.

City Manager Mike Matthes wrote the proposal is “transformational” in his State of the City address to City Council and McDavid last week.

Matthes highlighted that the proposed route will begin to pay for itself, something transit desperately needs since it loses $1.5 million per year, according to city records.

“Without a change in approach these increasing deficits will be met with decreasing services and increasing fees,” McDavid said.

PedNet Coalition executive director Ian Thomas said he supports the design of the mayor's planned new route, but his organization has not yet taken an official position on the agreement.

“I think the mayor’s route is very smart in identifying that strong concentrated customer base of students,” Thomas said.

Students who have a Black and Gold route pass would also be able to use that pass on the FastCAT route, and vice versa. Thomas said he thinks this is a good idea, but should be expanded even farther.

“I think we should go a step further and let students with a FastCAT pass or a Black and Gold pass ride on all the city routes as well, so they can really use the whole system,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he especially liked that while the initial FastCAT route mainly focuses on meeting the needs of students, the mayor is still looking to create a better transit system for all of Columbia.

“It is important to throw a lifeline to transit right now,” Thomas said. “It gives (the city) more time and more marketing opportunity to find other sources of funding.”

Thomas said he agrees with the mayor's long-term goal of approaching the ridership of Ames, Iowa and Champaign, Ill. Both transportation system serves about five times more per capita than Columbia’s.

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