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OATS eyes JC-Columbia route

Bus service already in planning stages pending vote

There soon may be a new alternative for the hundreds of Mid-Missourians who travel U.S. 63 between Jefferson City and Columbia on a regular basis. Officials within OATS, the organization formerly known as Older Adults Transportation Service, confirmed last week that they are in the early planning stages for establishing a transportation service line between the two mid-Missouri cities.

Operating since 1971, OATS is a private, nonprofit specialized transit provider in 87 Missouri counties. OATS is funded using a combination of federal, state and local funds.

The project would be funded with a $1 million portion of the estimated $5.4 billion revenue generated by the proposed Amendment 7, if passed by Missourians on the Aug. 5 ballot.

Amendment 7 would create a ¾-cent sales tax with all revenues being directed to more than 800 transportation projects throughout the state. Other projects in Mid-Missouri include the expansion of Interstate 70 from four to six lanes and adding an additional lane on the Whitton Expressway from Clark Avenue to Missouri Boulevard.

OATS Executive Director, Dorothy Yeager, stressed the project was proposed by local planning organizations, not by OATS staff.

“The local planning organizations believed this project was very important,” Yeager said. “Our finance director, Cynthia Tandy, attended meetings to hear from local organizations and the Missouri Department of Transportation about what they wanted the program to look like.”

Tandy said when she attended the meeting all the planning organizations felt “the new service line was of particular high priority.”

In preparation of possible launching the new service, OATS recently completed an internal feasibility study about creating a transportation service line between Jefferson City and Columbia.

“We determined that the only deterrent was the lack of available capital,” Tandy said. “With the $1 million from Amendment 7, we would have the necessary capital to easily make it self-sustaining and get this program off the ground.”

A 2006 transportation study by the Boone County Community Partnership, determined if Columbia Transit, JEFFTRAN or OATS provided eight trips between Columbia and Jefferson City per day and operated on weekdays, the additional service would be operating at a marginal cost of $39.85 per year.

Tandy said OATS would be spending portions of the $1 million from Amendment 7 and MoDOT on advertising, new equipment and gasoline.

“When you are asking people to sacrifice the comfort of their own vehicles, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible,” Tandy said. “We would need to buy new vehicles to make that happen. We would also have to advertise to educate the public about the new service.”

Tandy said the organization’s staff had not finalized the exact plans of how the transportation line would function. Possible ideas have included satellite drop-off and pick-up locations that are connected in the already established public transportation lines of JEFFTRAN and CoMo Connect.

“MoDOT would like to see there to be three pick-up and drop-off times throughout the day in each city,” Tandy said. “We hope to make the transportation line as accessible for people’s schedules as possible. However, it is impossible to say with any certainty with how the service will operate until after the Aug. 5 election.”

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