Cape bus routes to expand

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Cape County Transit Authority plans expanded routes and shorter waits for the fixed-route bus system that serves Cape Girardeau. Taxi riders in Jackson can expect to pay higher prices by October.

Instead of the two buses currently running the same route at different times in Cape Girardeau, beginning Sept. 15 the two buses will split into east and west routes with the goal of reducing waiting times. The bus routes also will be expanded to extend to the Red Star District north of downtown, to Southeast Missouri State University and to the Career and Technology Center next to Central High School.

The transit authority board approved the changes at its meeting earlier this week. Interim director Tom Mogelnicki will present the plan to the Cape Girardeau City Council Monday night.

Beginning Oct. 1, the transit authority will raise taxi rates in Jackson to the same level as Cape Girardeau's rates. Current rates in Jackson are $2 or $2.50, depending on the zone. Taxi rates in Cape Girardeau range from $5 to $8. Rates in Jackson would go to $5 or $5.50.

That increase comes after the Jackson Board of Aldermen refused to increase the transit authority's subsidy from the current $6,000 per year to (see related story) until service improves. Mogelnicki says the service in Jackson is fine. "They seem to think we should do something for nothing," he said. "I'm not getting any cooperation from them."

At Southeast, service will be provided along Pacific Street north to Normal Avenue, Kent Library and Myers and Dearmont halls, then south on Henderson Avenue to Broadway. Mogelnicki said the goal is to enable students to go to the city's retail areas. In the fall of 2005, more than 800 university students living in residence halls had no transportation.

Southeast will provide the public with rides on its shuttle between the main campus and the River Campus on Morgan Oak Street. The university shuttle will operate between Towers dormitory complex and the new River Campus from 7 a.m. to midnight. Among the stops the shuttle will make along the way are Broadway at Ellis, Spanish at Themis and Sprigg at William streets, all of which are also stops for the Cape County Transit Authority.

Students riding the shuttle can pick up the county transit system at any of these points, and county transit riders can transfer to the university shuttle.

"Connectivity is the best way to describe it," said Beth Glaus, manager for parking and transit at Southeast. "If we connect to stops county transit is making, then our students can catch their buses to go elsewhere. Likewise, there could be people in the community who might not feel comfortable riding our bus."

Mogelnicki said the route expansion to the Career and Technology Center is aimed at serving elderly and disabled people who attend classes there.

Transfer points have been set up for the east and west routes at the Sav-A-Lot grocery store at William and Sprigg streets and next to the NARS building in the Town Plaza Shopping Center. NARS, a call center eventually expected to employ 400 people, requested the stop and will build a shelter at the location. Riders will be able to transfer from one route to the other for free.

Mogelnicki said the transit authority would expand more if funding were available. Running the west route out to the Missouri Veterans Home is one goal. Once the new interchange on Interstate 55 is completed at East Main Street and LaSalle Avenue, the fixed-route system should extend into Jackson, Mogelnicki said, providing bus service between the two cities for the first time. "But that is a long way away because we don't have the funding," he said.

Mogelnicki said Jackson officials and Jackson residents have no reason to be unhappy with the transit authority's service. Three vehicles are always stationed in Jackson, he said, the same number there when Kelley Transportation ran the taxi service prior to June 2006. The vans are at Country Mart, Delmonico's restaurant and Wal-Mart when not on a call.

Danielle Waites, the transit authority's business and finance manager, said callers need to give the transit authority a half-hour or 45 minutes' advance notice, whether in Jackson or Cape Girardeau. During peak times the wait could be an hour and a half because of the volume of calls.

"We can't anticipate when the peak is going to come," Mogelnicki said.

The cost of a ride from Jackson to Cape Girardeau was $20 under Kelley Transportation, he said. It's now about half that.

Taxi service is available around the clock every day.

Mogelnicki dismisses the complaint that the transit authority is treating Cape Girardeau better than Jackson. "Jackson and Cape are becoming one community," he said. "I've got people in Cape complaining to me that Jackson's rates are too low. I'm just trying to be fair to everybody."

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