West side story

A new bus route will launch next month to serve people going to or coming from the city’s growing west side.

On May 22, ColumBUS Transit will begin operating its fifth route — its first significant expansion in about 50 years — with stops near high-traffic businesses and residential developments in the vicinity of Jonathan Moore Pike.

A 2013 study to evaluate public transportation needs of city residents found that more than half of ColumBUS riders and potential users were supportive of launching a fixed-stop route along the highway, also known as West State Road 46.

Until 2011, the city operated an intermittent route that ran to the Westhill Shopping Center on Jonathan Moore Pike at County Road 325W. Riders could get off anywhere along the route, which includes stores such as Walmart, Menards, and JayC Food Store and restaurants such as Taco Bell, KFC and Lincoln Square.

With 204,225 riders per year on fixed routes, transit coordinator Cindy Setser called the fixed-stop west side route long overdue.

With bus-study results in hand, city officials initially considered expanding one of the existing routes to serve the west side but instead decided to establish a separate route.

Federal and state funds are softening the financial impact on local residents.

Half the annual cost of the new route will be reimbursed by the Federal Transit Administration, with another 17 percent reimbursed by the Indiana Department of Transportation through the Public Mass Transportation Grant. The city’s annual cost of the route will be less than $35,000.

Mayor Kristen Brown said the new route is an extraordinary benefit for a relatively small cost. Along with access to restaurants and shopping, the route will provide service to several apartment complexes on the city’s west side. Spruce Ridge, River Stone, Westwood Pines and Eastlake Woods have more than 1,000 units combined, Brown said.

Brown said the city will buy a used bus to launch the service. The bus is projected to be in service for seven years before needing to be replaced.

The route will run along Jonathan Moore Pike as far west as County Road 350W and will travel through the residential areas of downtown Columbus. For safety reasons, there will be no stops on Jonathan Moore Pike itself because of the traffic volume and speed, Setser said.

The new route could result in fewer motorists driving on Jonathan Moore Pike, lightening the traffic load on the busy roadway, Columbus Township Trustee Ben Jackson said. Traffic is congested during morning and afternoon commuting times, he said.

Besides increasing safety, the bus route would give prospective workers at westside locations an affordable and reliable way to get to and from work, Jackson said.

Natalie Roll, 57, of Columbus, said the new route has been needed for a long time. She said she won’t be riding the bus, but she knows several people who will depend on it to get to and from work.

“This is a wonderful thing because this city is going west so fast,” Roll said.

The bus route will have 25 designated stops along Merchants Mile in front of Sam’s Club, Menards and Walmart, as well as at JayC Food Store, CVS pharmacy and Walgreens, all of which are along Jonathan Moore Pike.

In addition to the designated stops, a rider can be picked up at any corner that isn’t busy where a left turn isn’t being completed, Setser said.

A covered shelter is being considered at the Carr Hill loop stop north of Jonathan Moore Pike, Setser said. However, approval for that would be needed from the Indiana Department of Transportation, which has control over the state highway. Setser said the Carr Hill area is one of several shelter locations that have been discussed.

The new bus will run every hour, leaving the Mill Race station depot at Eighth and Lindsey streets starting at 6:05 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The bus will operate at five minutes past the hour until the final departure at 7:05 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 5:05 p.m. Saturday. Each trip will take an estimated 55 minutes.

Cost to ride will be 25 cents for most riders but will be 10 cents for senior citizens and free for children younger than 12. Students 12 to 18 can ride free with an Easy Rider Pass.

To raise public awareness of the new route, Setser conducted a public hearing at City Hall Wednesday with plans for another at 5 p.m. Thursday.

West side bus route

Monday to Friday

First departure: 6:05 a.m.

Final departure: 7:05 p.m.

Saturday

First departure: 6:05 a.m.

Final departure: 5:05 p.m.

Length: 55 minutes

Cost

All riders: 25 cents

Senior citizens: 10 cents

Children (younger than 12): Free

Children (12-18): Students can ride free with an Easy Rider Pass, which can be obtained through any ColumBUS driver, at the bus depot or downloaded from the transit webpage. The initial pass is free, but there will be a $5 fee to replace it.

Annual costs of new bus route

Total: $103,454

Cost reimbursed by Federal Transit Administration: $51,727

Cost reimbursed by Indiana Department of Transportation: $17,587

City cost: $34,140.

ColumBUS information

Information on ColumBUS Transit can be found at columbus.in.gov/columbus-transit.

Public Hearing at City Hall

ColumBUS Transit coordinator Cindy Setser will conduct the second of two public hearings regarding the new westside bus route at 5 p.m. Thursday in the large meeting room on the first floor of City Hall.

Used bus cost

Cost of used bus: $40,000

Reimbursement from Federal Transit Administration: $14,400

City cost: $25,600