Monday, December 8, 2014
By Samantha Rinehart ~ Southeast Missourian
Whether it's for work, shopping or doctors' appointments, many Cape Girardeau residents turn to public transit as the primary way to travel around town.
Some of the more frequent riders of the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority's fixed bus routes don't have a personal vehicle, but said that fact doesn't inhibit their travels around the city.
From Monday through Saturday, riders can take advantage of fixed bus routes, two of which run in the southern part of the city while the third operates in the north. The circuit for the south buses hits some of the major shopping areas in the city, as well as medical centers, which makes those routes the most popular among riders, CTA executive director Tom Mogelnicki said. He estimates those bus routes have about 1,000 passengers a week.
Wanda Young has lived in Cape Girardeau for about two years and has become a frequent user of the CTA's fixed bus route in the past six months. Her house is a short walk from the transit authority office at 937 Broadway, where the buses begin each circuit. She doesn't have a car, but said she has no problem getting around the city.
"It's really easy to get around," Young said.
As one of the regulars, she's become familiar with drivers and passengers alike. She also knows how to make the most out of each trip. On Friday, Young was using the bus for the third time that week. Her last trip was to Wal-Mart, but she uses the bus for many reasons beyond shopping.
It's also her ride to medical appointments and restaurants. She's even found a place to get her hair cut just a short walk from the Town Plaza bus stop.
"And I can get off here [at the Town Plaza stop] to transfer to the north bus, too," Young said, pointing out the window at each stop to the places she often visits.
But the ease of use isn't the only reason Young enjoys county transit. She and many other riders, including James Williams, point out that it's easier on the wallet, too. Riders pay $2 when they get on the bus, except seniors and those with disabilities, who pay $1. Monthly and daily passes also are available.
"You could spend $5 or however much and put gas in your car to make a few stops, or just pay a couple dollars and they'll take you where you want to go," said Williams, who boarded at the stop near Saint Francis Medical Center after a visit to West Park Mall.
For those who need a ride after the buses stop at 6 p.m., demand response vehicles — taxis — are available 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday. The service is unavailable from 2 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.
"We're one of very few [areas] outside St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and maybe Columbia, that has this amount of service over a 24-hour period — except Sundays. It just doesn't exist," Mogelnicki said. "We have a very strong public transportation system. We take care of our public here in Cape."
Mogelnicki said those statements aren't just talk; he has proof to back them up. The CTA's ridership numbers grow every year, and the fleet has grown to 41 vehicles operated by 61 drivers.
"We're probably going to hit 200,000 rides this year," he said. "We've never hit 200,000. That's pretty good."
While many riders are visiting areas of the city or county, others need to go a little farther. The CTA works with a St. Louis company called LogistiCare, which arranges rides for customers on Medicaid to various medical appointments. Mogelnicki said probably 70 rides a day come from this arrangement, as the transit authority vans take riders to areas across Southeast Missouri, north to St. Louis and sometimes as far as Memphis, Tennessee.
Local workers employed by Gilster-Mary Lee in Perryville, Missouri, also have the opportunity to take advantage of the CTA. Mogelnicki said 40 to 50 riders rely on this transportation daily, which is offered seven days a week, four times a day. He hopes to one day create a similar arrangement for Procter & Gamble employees, but past efforts were unsuccessful, as enough riders never materialized.
Even Central High School students can have a need for the county transit's services. The school is among the 60 stops made by the buses on the fixed-route system. Mogelnicki said it's popular among students who stay after school for tutoring, athletics or other extracurricular activities and can't use the school bus.
Whether it's buses or taxis, he said the CTA provides a service for just about everyone in the community.
"I'd say about 70 percent of our riders are seniors, but everybody of all ages use us," Mogelnicki said.
Cape Girardeau is the only city in the county with fixed-route bus service — for which the city sets aside about $110,000 in its budget every year — and Mogelnicki said it's been largely successful. He would like to see the service expand to other areas, however, and serve even more people.
"Our vehicles hit a combined 150,000 miles last month. … And we burned $30,000 in fuel," he said. "We've come a long way for the county of Cape Girardeau. The city has the only fixed bus route, but in our future plan we'll probably expand — if I can get the funding — to go fixed routes to Jackson and to the interchange where the new Pepsi plant is going [at the Greater Cape Girardeau Business Park] and make that a sort of triangular route."
Bus routes, fares and additional information about the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority is available at cgcta.com.