Event connects transit riders with council members

Dave Henry, pastor at the First Presbetarian Church in Jefferson City, boards a Jefftran bus Friday outside the Scruggs University Center during the Ride the Bus event. At his church, Henry provides assistance to those in need of transportation and says he considers providing bus passes the best option, should the system be able to provide the necessary routes.

Dave Henry, pastor at the First Presbetarian Church in Jefferson City, boards a Jefftran bus Friday outside the Scruggs University Center during the Ride the Bus event. At his church, Henry provides assistance to those in need of transportation and says he considers providing bus passes the best option, should the system be able to provide the necessary routes.

A near steady stream of Lincoln University students came through a parked transit bus Friday sharing their views and experiences on transit with members of the Jefferson City Council.

The Ride the Bus event was from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday in front of the Scruggs University Center at Lincoln University. The event served as an open house for public transit where any community member could check out a JeffTran bus and tell elected officials what they think of the city’s transit system.

Several council members spent the afternoon on the bus, speaking with students and residents about transit. Lincoln University President Kevin Rome and Mayor Eric Struemph also attended for a brief period, as well as members of city staff and the Jefferson City Police Department.

Rick McIlrath said he’s a full-time student at Lincoln and a regular transit rider. And while the service works well on weekdays during its regular operating hours (6:40 a.m.-5:45 p.m.), he said it’s difficult to get around on weekends and in evenings.

“From 8 a.m.-5 p.m., it’s great,” McIlrath said. “Nothing is accessible after 5 o’clock.”

McIlrath said a simple trip to Walmart can end up costing around $25 for the cab ride itself, plus whatever is being purchased, which is not an affordable cost for many students.

“As a student, we can’t afford that,” McIlrath said.

Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey sat in the back of the bus with four people discussing transit, noting what he was hearing is that they’d like to see more hours. Hussey asked riders if they thought the transit routes covered the right areas of the city and listened to feedback from the riders and students.

One student told Hussey about the trials of trying to take care of a child, get to work and class, all while depending on the transit system.

NaKeisha Holden, a senior at Lincoln University, said she couldn’t get an off-campus job when she depended on the transit system because of the hours.

“It definitely needs to be extended,” Holden said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Carlos Graham said what he was hearing from riders is they would like to see the service expanded to weekends and evenings. Graham said it was a great opportunity to hear students’ standpoints on transit.

Citizens for JeffTran, which helped coordinate the event, is expected to make a presentation to the City Council on June 2, asking the city to create a public transit advisory task force to help find ways to increase service and attract new riders to transit.

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