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Study to analyze transportation issues

For students at Missouri Western who depend on public transportation, bus schedules and stops may be tailored to better meet their needs.

Judy Grimes introduces the main speaker for the transportation meeting, which discussed potential plans for a new public transit system specific to campus.

The Division of Student Affairs, St. Joseph Transit, the City of St. Joseph and the Greater St. Joseph Area Metropolitan Planning Organization sponsored a transit operation study meeting Oct. 13 in Blum Union.

The study is meant to allow the community to express their needs regarding scheduled stops along bus routes and pick-up and drop-off destinations within reasonable time frames.

Concerns from students prompted officials to hold this meeting so they could hear how students are being affected in particular.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Judy Grimes said they have often heard anecdotal information from students that they have trouble getting to and from campus.

“There are critical masses of people that need to get to and from campus. We need to know their interests and concerns,” Grimes said. “I am particularly concerned with the incoming freshmen, and there are a huge number of them who do not have vehicles, so part of the reason for the meeting is to find out what the demand is.”

Mark Swope is the project manager for the St. Joseph transit study and was the main speaker at the meeting. Swope discussed the transit service specific to campus and said the system has not really been looked at closely for a few years now and specific changes in service will be aimed at getting the buses where they need to be.

“The purpose of the project is to come up with recommendations for the optimization and more efficient and effective use of transit services in St. Joe,” Swope said.

Charlotte Foster is an education instructor at Western. She expressed her concern for the education students.

“Education students need transportation to and from the schools they are teaching at, to work, to home, and a majority of them don’t have a car. They rely on public transportation,” Foster said.

It is important to do this study in hopes of getting insight from people on how to better serve the public and provide students with adequate, dependable transportation.

Transportation Planner for the City of St. Joseph, Ty Nagel, said trends change, population density shifts and employer locations shift over time.

“Studies are required every so often to get a good idea of where the residential areas are and, of those, who needs transit use,” Nagel said.

Kurt Janicek is the general manager of First Transit. She said they are the best kept secret in St. Joseph right now.

“A lot of people are not aware of what we do, where we go, how efficiently and how cheaply we can do it. [Informing the people] is one of our goals,” Janicek said. “Like any other tax funded agency, we are a part of the city of St. Joseph. We have our dedicated fund of sales tax money and so on, but sales are down and money is tight, so what we are trying to do instead of cutting service or cutting runs is looking at ways to operate more efficiently with the infrastructure we have in place.”

Additionally, snow routes are being explored trying to find ways to get the buses to come on campus in bad weather.

The transit operation study is collecting data, listening to the public and analyzing this data. After gathering all this information they will present their findings to the City Council.

Nagel said the end of the study will wrap up around the end of February, and that changes will take effect depending on how drastic they are.

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