“Cars are totally pointless:” envisioning better transit for Mizzou

This is an editorial comment by Ian Thomas, the executive director of the PedNet Coalition. It ran in the coalition’s newsletter and is republished here, with permission, because of its relevance to the Mizzou and Columbia community.

Ames, Iowa is a city of 89,000 residents, which includes 30,000 students at Iowa State University – not too different from Columbia (142,000 including 34,000 MU students).  In both of these mid-west College towns, the heart of campus is adjacent to the downtown business district, and students contribute significantly to local economic activity.  Both towns are 6-10 miles from city limit to city limit.

In terms of public transportation services, however, Columbia and Ames are worlds apart.  Whereas Columbia Transit provides a total of 2 million rides per year, CyRide in Ames provides 5.5 million in a smaller city.  Take a quick look at www.CyRide.com– a student-centric transit system.  Here are a few facts:

  • With more than 20 routes and typical wait times of 5-10 minutes, the bus is as quick and convenient as driving in most parts of Ames, eliminating tens of millions of car journeys each year.
  • As a collaborative project of the City of Ames, Iowa State University, and the ISU Government of the Student Body, Cyride provides such an excellent service for the University that:
    – 16% of students say “Cars are totally pointless;”
    – 84% say “Students usually walk or take the bus;”
    – 0% say “The bus service fails to meet student needs.”
  • Twelve of CyRide’s 80 buses are biodiesel-electric hybrids, saving 23,000 gallons of fuel and 460,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Columbia – already, a modern, progressive college town – has an exciting opportunity to take a few tips from Ames, and transform our transportation system in a way that will reduce emissions, improve our health, and save money.  If you work or study at MU, and you’d like to participate in a community conversation about transit, please contact me at <ian@pednet.org>.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ian Thomas
Executive Director

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