SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Early findings from a city utilities transit survey show bus riders want more frequent trips.

“We found out that people are looking for more service, more frequent service,” Director of Transit Matt Crawford said. “In some larger metropolitan areas, you’ll find that busses run every 15 or 20 minutes, or even more frequently than that. “

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Crawford said there were 1.3 million bus riders in Springfield. This year, he said they could potentially hit one million.

“Currently on the weekday, we’re running 12 routes at peak with 18 busses running across all those routes,” Crawford said. “The service divides the city up into basically four quadrants. We serve all quadrants equally.”

Depending on where people are going could mean they have to hop on more buses. Right now, every bus stops at the transit center every 30 minutes.

“Each of our routes is out for an hour,” Crawford. “that trip, depending on where you pick it up in route, could take you 40 minutes to get [to the transit center] and take you another 20 or 30 minutes. If your trip has to start on any of those loop routes and you need to get to the other side of town, you will be riding at least three busses on that trip.”

For some bus riders, they have to allot extra time just to get to their bus stop.

“I have to leave 45 minutes before I should to walk to the bus stop,” Jeremy Reinhart said. “With my children’s disabilities. My wife has to have my car every day.”

Reinhart gets up bright and early to take the bus. He is wanting the transit system to include more rides and earlier pick-up times.

“When I lived in Kansas City, the bus came every 15 minutes and it didn’t matter if nobody got on or off, it was still there,” Reinhart said. “Instead of planning your day on an hour block, it’d be nice just plan it like a half hour. I’d like an extra 15, 30 minutes of sleep.”

Crawford said Springfield is at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to frequent trips.

“We just don’t have population density quite like larger metropolitan areas, population densities, activity centers, job centers,” Crawford said. “So we have a spread out system compared to other areas.”

Contractors are helping city utilities look at alternatives to allow for more rides.

“We might find some route or portion of a route is underperforming,” Crawford said. “We’re able to move that service from that portion of a route or from that route to another time of day on another route. So there could be options where we focus in towards the heart of the town and in provide less coverage or less frequent coverage on some of the far reaches of the city.”

City utilities is also looking at discounted or free fares for riders.

“Free service did not rise to the top of that [survey] list,” Crawford said. “It’s not out of the discussion, but there are discussions around also maybe a structured or qualified structure of fare so people may have a lower fare if they make less money. We do receive funding from the utility locally and we receive funding from the federal government and from the state of Missouri, along with the fare box now. So we’ll just have to figure out where does that money come from or where do we recover that within the budget.”

City utilities will complete the study in November. The next public open house is in May.