COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For at least a couple of years, bus passengers have practically had to risk their lives to catch a sale or a ride on Forest Drive.
"It's real dangerous crossing the street," COMET bus rider Adris Hagler said.
The problem is especially bad at the bus stop on the north side of Forest Drive near the Walmart shopping center and Percival Road. The stop is part of the bus system's most heavily traveled circuit, Comet Route 15.
Transit planner Samuel Scheib knows it quite well.
"There used to be six grocery stores along it, then the Bi-Lo closed," Scheib said. "But there's still five grocery stores, a tremendous amount of retail, which all means jobs. So it's not just places to shop but places to work. And there's a lot of housing along it. So it's a very, very important alignment for us."
Scheib and Comet administration began working on route alterations more than two years ago partly to maximize efficiency, but also to increase safety for riders. What they've come up with is a change that would send the buses into a loop around the Walmart and surrounding stores with a new shelter stop on a wedge of city-owned land on the center's south side.
Scheib said Walmart's local manager seemed resistant at first, but the company has come around in recent weeks.
"Walmart is a large bureaucracy and if you work with a large bureaucracy it's sometimes hard to get the right decision made. And things can just fall in the wrong pockets," Sceib explained. "I think we've got the ears of the right people now and they've been very forthcoming and helpful to us now that we've gotten to the right people."
Scheib is also working to fix a similar problem at the new Neighborhood Walmart on Broad River Road.
"It's new, it's a high boarding stop for us, I mean it didn't used to be but as soon as that Walmart went up we saw it pop on our ridership count," Scheib said. "It's a really well-used stop so we are very much interested in that."
As those plans are carried out, riders can look forward to sheltered stops complete with maps and solar lighting. The stops will be paid for with a mix of federal dollars and revenues from the Richland Penny Sales Tax.