The Columbia Board of Education and City Council are supporting a Missouri House bill that would allow cities and schools to split costs for city buses. House Bill 606 would allow the city and school district to make more efficient bus routes, and allow high school students to ride city buses.
Columbia Board of Education Vice President Jonathan Sessions said this is common practice in other cities across the country, including Kansas City. Kansas City Area Transit Authority offers unlimited free bus rides for metro-area high school students. Sessions wants the state legislature to expand that option to every city in Missouri.
Current state law prohibits school districts from sharing funds with cities for transportation. The city and the school district share funds on other resources such as parks, police and sidewalks.
Sessions said the school district has a shortage of bus drivers.
“We run bus routes in the morning, then there is a big break, then we run bus routes in the afternoon – that’s not a full-time job,” Sessions said. “Not only is that not a full-time job, it’s a part-time job that makes it difficult to have other part-time jobs.”
He said, by having the ability to co-fund bus routes, full-time city bus drivers could drive the high school route in the morning and afternoon, then drive city routes the rest of the day.
Columbia Ward Two City Council member Mike Trapp supports the bill because he wants to develop the next generation of public transit riders.
“I am more excited about normalizing riding the city bus and getting 9th to 12th graders used to the idea that the bus is a viable form of transportation,” Trapp said.
The school district is estimated to save $60,000 for every eliminated bus route, according to the fiscal note on the bill. Trapp and Sessions said this money could be put back into the classroom.
The bill has been passed out of the House and is currently in a Senate committee. Trapp and Sessions testified at a public hearing on the bill Tuesday.