The Wabash Depot addition is expected to be ready later this summer, just in time to celebrate large increases in bus ridership this year, says Ken Koopmans, transportation manager for Columbia Transit.
“Originally, we were aiming for late June, but now it looks more like July 31 or August 1,” Koopmans said. “We’re hoping to have a ribbon-cutting in late August.”
The renovation will add 1,572 square feet of extra space, creating an L-shaped building with administrative offices, meeting rooms and the dispatcher’s office on the south side, while retaining the historic structure at the front of the building as a passenger waiting room. Glass on the north side of the new addition will allow dispatchers to see the buses arrive and depart, and a new covered outdoor waiting area will serve passengers biding their time out in the elements.
The new configuration also will allow buses to enter from both Orr and 10th Streets rather than just from 10th, which required turning the buses around and creating a bottleneck.
“Currently, buses have to make a 180-degree turn in a commercial parking lot, which is a safety hazard,” Koopmans said.
Ridership is up 10 percent over last year, Koopmans said, mainly because of the new gold route, which serves several apartment complexes on Old 63 south of Stadium Boulevard. The apartment complexes pay a fee so that their tenants can ride free on the new route. Between October and March, the bus system logged 316,565 riders, compared with 255,545 during the same six-month period last year. Public reaction to rising gas prices is also helping to drive the increased ridership figures, Koopmans said.