City Council Candidates Respond to Active Transportation Questions

  1. The mission of PedNet Coalition is “to create a comprehensive active transportation network, promote healthy lifestyles for all, and engage the community through education and advocacy.” As a City Council member, what role could you play in helping PedNet achieve this mission?

Brown (1st): As the First Ward council representative and PedNet member, I would help promote and implement policies and activities that support “active” and accessible transportation throughout the city, including walking, biking and using CoMo Connect. See below for specific examples. Thanks for this opportunity to answer your questions.

Loft (1st) – One of the major problems with the bus system is lack of use. As a member of the City Council, I will bring new ideas to the table to upgrade the system to be attractive to riders. This includes route changes, fare modifications, relocation of stops, etc.

Rasmussen (1st): Strongly consider any and all input from Pednet regarding trail extension plans, bike boulevards, pedestrian walkway improvements. I would also like to see some bicycle signposts around town, simple signs that would inform people they were only a few minutes bike ride away from our parks, landmarks or shopping centers. I stand with Pednet on it’s mission, modal shift is vital. Columbia can pull this off more effectively.

I’m a fan of complete streets, a pedestrian only street pilot program, bike safety classes, teach proper bike etiquette, public shaming of repeat offenders (the guy that rides the wrong way in the bike lane on Ash, What is he thinking? Does he think that EVERYONE ELSE is going the wrong way?).

Rev Ruffin (1st): I support the fundamental mission of PedNet; however, I am aware that this mission will not be realized without ongoing institutional support of the transit system, parks and rec, public schools, community planning, tourism, etc. Simply stated this mission has the potential impact every decision made by the City Council. I would endorse the promotion of healthy lifestyles for all the citizens of Columbia in the midst of other rationales for the allocation of funds and proposals for future development.

Rev Stewart (1st): No Answer

Trapp (2nd): I have a strong record of working with PedNet to improve the active transportation network. I am supportive of expanding the trail system, improving sidewalks, and creating a dense and walkable city.

Euliss (6th): I see the pednet coalition having a role by providing input on how the city uses its get about funds for our trail system. They also bring attention to areas in which our sidewalks are inefficient. 

Peters (6th): There are several ways to encourage people to be active. You can do this by example, by walking or biking whenever possible. PedNet does a great job of increasing public awareness and education; this is a role in which PedNet can most directly serve. The council can support those efforts, including making walking/biking safer and helping to both educate the bikers (who frequently don’t follow the rules of the road) and increase driver awareness of walkers and bikers.   This also is true for skateboarders and roller-bladers. PedNet is a community asset. Its advocacy for healthy life styles improves Columbia’s livability.

  1. What improvements do you think are necessary to ensure public transit is a reliable, convenient form of transportation for all users? Would you support increased funding for public transit to make this happen? 

Brown (1st): 

  • Encourage employers to offer bus passes to their employees as an employee benefit (and as a component of a company’s wellness program).
  • Issue maps that integrate bus routes with trails and bike paths.
  • Increase number of buses running simultaneously on select routes (less wait time for the next bus).
  • Reduce fares to help encourage ridership.
  • Partnerships with businesses, which would offer discounts/offers to bus-pass holders.
  • Revisit the current CoMo Connect routes and schedules to ensure they’re meeting transportation needs of riders.
  • Modify hours of operation to reflect ridership needs of students, shift workers and people attending special events.

Public transit in Columbia (as in nearly all cities) doesn’t make a profit so securing even more funding for a system that’s broken could be a challenge. But needed expenditures to help people (including students the elderly and disabled) get from their homes/dorms to jobs, classes and essential services are worth considering. 

Loft (1st): I firmly believe that the people of Columbia are interested in a healthier lifestyle, they just can’t use the transportation in its current state. They will ride the bus if the bus could get to them. The first thing the Council should do with the transportation system is redesign the routes to go where the people are.

Rasmussen (1st): I think we need some more ridership and neighborhood surveys. Could be sent out with utility bills, or given as a prompt before processing an online utility payment. We need more information, figure out the most common clusters of actual and desired trips, most common barriers to using the bus if not a current rider.  I think smaller buses are probably a feasible way to increase pickup frequency on some routes. I would support a funding increase, but I’m just one of those guys that doesn’t mind paying more taxes for improved services (call me crazy!).

Rev Ruffin (1st): CoMo Connect is a new and evolving initiative that is challenged to effectively adapt to our rapidly expanding community. The administrators of our public transit system have begun to generate data by installing passenger counters and stop enunciators on all transit vehicles, which will result in more efficient routes. I commend efforts to attract more riders by offering  $3 daily passes and free transport for students 18 years and younger. An aggressive branding and marketing campaign has also generated additional income; however, because I believe that this is an important public service I would support a reallocation of funds to support this effort.

Rev Stewart (1st): I would certainly support increased funding for public transit. It would lead to a healthier and safer environment as well as save money/time concerning parking and the maintenance of roads. 

Trapp (2nd): I am supportive of incrementally improving transit as we pursue partnerships to support a major expansion. Improving transit helps everyone even those who never board a bus. We have to continue to improve our technology for passenger counts and provide information to potential riders. Using data to improve the system is critical. I also supported the RFP for transit consultants to help engage stakeholders and plot a course for system improvements for the short and long term.

Euliss (6th): I believe public transportation is important in order to assist those that do not have the means to afford their own personal transportation to get to work, school and appointments. I also believe in developing a system that encourages and promotes other modes of transportation for the center city. I am not in favor of spending millions of dollars for a city wide bus or alternate transportation system because the usage to make the system viable simply doesn’t exist.

Peters (6th): Public transportation is vital to a growing community like ours. With the change in route configuration, we need to closely monitor usage, challenges, costs, and rider/non-rider satisfaction. We need to look at external funding opportunities and we need to adjust the system, when necessary, to better serve the needs of our citizens.   I have not yet had an opportunity to study the funding history of the city’s bus system in comparison to other transportation issues. I need to do that before I can give a thoughtful recommendation on increasing funding.

  1. How do you see the City and Columbia Public Schools working together to encourage students of all ages to walk, bike, and use public transportation to commute to and from school? 

Brown (1st): The city could work with CPS to identify CoMo Connect options for students ineligible to ride First Student (and city bus options for students participating in after-school activities). The city and CPS could use all available options to promote CoMo Connect – and its free fares to students 18 and younger — to all CPS students. In order to promote other options, including walking and biking to school, I would focus on:

  • Ensuring streets near schools have sidewalks (so students can safely walk to either school, school bus stop or a city bus stop).
  • Encouraging the city to construct and/or maintain dedicated bike lanes in streets near schools.

Loft (1st): If the City did an entire redesign of the routes and made public transit use more attractive to the people that could take it to school everyday, it would do a lot to encourage healthier lifestyles in schools.

Rasmussen (1st):  I like the walking school bus program, would be great if we can bring that back to Columbia. Sell the parents on cycling. The Hominy Branch Trail will run up to Battle High School, parents could meet up and cycle out to a PTA meeting together. I’m a fan of after school bike rides and education, maintenance or safety classes.

Rev Ruffin (1st): Because my children are all adults, I have not been focused on these specific issues; however, I have seen large groups of children taking walks in my neighborhood and I am aware of many of the commendable efforts in the area of physical education training that are available through the current CPS curriculum. As stated above, offering free transportation for students 18 years and younger is also an important idea that should be supported and promoted.

Rev Stewart (1st): I would like the Columbia Public Schools to educate and promote walking, biking and bus riding. teaching them how it benefits them personally (health, financially, etc) and how it benefits the community collectively (environment, parking, costs, etc) would be great!! 

Trapp (2nd): Through our quarterly City/County/School Board meetings we have had some limited partnership on transit. I would like to see that progress built upon. Making the bus fare free for those less than 18 was done to help create a generation of transit users. If we could combine some our routes with the upper grades of the school we could really create a robust transit system for everyone.

Euliss (6th): The school system is deigned more and more to limit the distance that children must travel to attend school and encouraging kids to walk and promoting a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand. 

Peters (6th): CPS and the City should continue to work together to improve access to public transportation in a safe and efficient manner.

  1. What will you do in your next term to increase walking, biking, and public transit use?

Brown (1st): Additional efforts not covered in questions 2 and 3 include:

  • Help promote awareness of active alternatives in city publications, ads and event promotions (such as Bike to the Game and Take Como Connect to the Fest).
  • Propose a “Tour de Columbia”-type of event (perhaps once or twice a year) that would close select streets to vehicular traffic to allow citizens to safely explore areas of Columbia by foot or bike.
  • Explore placing new street markings on city streets to protect cyclists (and create driver awareness of cyclists), including Copenhagen Lefts, bike boxes and cycle tracks; and installing bike traffic lights at certain intersections.
  • Provide a listening ear to PedNet initiatives and ideas.

Loft (1st): One of the first things that I will do as a City Councilman is find money to pay for improvements of infrastructure. This includes sidewalks. If we can fix the sidewalks, more people are likely to take advantage of the wonders of the City.

Rasmussen (1st): Lead by example, bike to meetings. Is there enough interest in Columbia to sustain a Velodrome? Bike with a constituent during Bike/Walk to Work Week. Will take to heart any and all recommendations made by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, Pednet and parties who understand the importance of pedestrian/bike infrastructure. Would be a consistent vote in favor of projects aimed at improving modal shift and accessibility. Random bit: Would also like to see bike racks on ambulances.

Rev Ruffin (1st): I served on the original committee to establish an African-American History walking trail that was being developed under the direction of PedNet. I am not sure if this project will be revisited in the near future but I am continuing to work towards the possibility by completing the restoration of the Boone home on 4th Street and also by completing a second memorial in honor of James T. Scott, who was lynched in 1923. I completed the first phase of this project by raising the funds to place a monument on his unmarked grave in the Columbia Cemetery; however, realizing that many people will not take the walk to this historic area, I have placed a memorial bench and plaque in a Prayer Garden adjacent to Second Baptist Church, which is scheduled for completion in the next two weeks.

Rev Stewart (1st):  I will do all I can to push promoting and education ALL PEOPLE of the individual and collective benefits of walking, biking, and public transit use. I would also look into finding was to make the transit system more desirable. Things such as cold water provided on the bus and clean bike trails etc can help. I also would look at what other cities have done to improve on this and then implement some of those strategies that are feasible here in Columbia.

Trapp (2nd): I am again running on livable streets. I plan to continue to seek improvements for people’s front yard experience through increased traffic calming and sidewalk infrastructure. I will continue to support transit and analyze and act on the results of the consultant’s report. I will seek a shuttle service for the airport as part of any improvement there. I will campaign for the Parks Sale Tax renewal. I will seek more business and commercial development in the identified commercial nodes in the Second Ward. Having places to go near where people live is as critical as pedestrian infrastructure to create walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

Euliss (6th): My family and I enjoy the trail system we have and we enjoy the recreational use of the biking trails immensely.

Peters (6th): Whether elected or not, I’m a good role model for walking/biking and use of public transit. The Council, of course, cannot impose or require such measures and citizen dependence on private vehicles is not a trend that will soon end. What Council can do over time is to cost effectively make public transit more convenient for those who routinely drive and more dependable for those who do not.