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Chat about the Lawrence bus system with Cliff Galante

January 23, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

The city's public transit system, the T, posted its sixth straight year of significant ridership increases in 2006, according to data released by the city. The T and its sister service that provides paratransit ridership to individuals who qualify saw ridership grow 8.6 percent to 477,040 during the past year. "Growth in ridership in 2006 is a clear indication that more people in the community are embracing the benefits of public transportation and incorporating it into their lifestyles," Cliff Galante, public transit administrator, said in a news release. He takes your questions Tuesday.

Moderator:

Welcome! Cliff is here and ready to take your questions -- thanks Cliff!

Moderator:

I am Joel Mathis, managing editor for convergence, and we're ready to go.

Cliff Galante:

Thank you for the opportunity. I'm glad to be here to discuss my favorite topic.

werekoala:

Cliff, I believe that public transit is important, but based on the ridership figures I've seen, it works out to something like 14 people per bus per hour. Personally I've never seen more than 5 people on a bus at a time.

Why are we spending so much money on giant, nearly-empty buses, when we could instead start smaller, with conversion vans or short buses until ridership loads required the big buses?

Cliff Galante:

Thank you for the question. The reason why we operate larger buses is two fold. First, we want to ensure that the buses have the capacity to meet existing and growing demands for service. When buses are acquired, they will be put into service for a long period of time. Second, smaller buses are not designed for heavy-duty use and require more frequent maintenance and replacement. You will find most Cities operate larger vehicles. We need vehicles that are durable that can withstand being operated 14 hours per day, 307 days per year. Also, our preference is for each passenger to have a seat on the bus, rather than standing, especially on longer trips.

cowboy:

given the federal and city funds that go into the T each year , what is the total contribution per ride and what is the total rider revenue per ride

Cliff Galante:

In 2006, the total cost to operate the "T" was $3,154,610. Of that amount, 42.8% came from Federal funding, 6.9% came from State funding; and 50.3% came from local funds. Local funds are made up from property taxes, farebox and pass sale revenue, and local grants.

In terms of cost per passenger to operate the "T" fixed-route system it varies, but for 2006 it was $5.23.

In terms of cost per passenger to operate T-Lift paratransit service for people with disabilities was $17.15 in 2006.

The fare to ride the "T" is 50 cents. The fare to ride T-Lift is $1.00.

anthro:

I have had some occasions of bus drivers driving past me while waiting for the bus and not stopping when I request a stop. This is happening at the same two places that I have been getting on and off the bus for two years. I know there is an effort to pick-up and drop-off at designated points only. I think you should post clear signs promulgating this policy in the buses, a date when it is effective, and all drivers should follow the rules. The inconsistency has been frustrating on several occasions.

Cliff Galante:

Drivers are instructed to pick-up and drop-off passengers at locations they deem to be safe. Safety is and will remain our top priority. As you are aware, we are currently in the process of moving away from a "wave-down" system to "designated stops". Before we can implement designated stops, we need to install approximately 100 stops to our existing routes. For specific locations on bus stops, I recommend you visit the transit website at www.lawrencetransit.org or go to the public library or the transit administrative office located at 933 New Hampshire to review the stops. Before we formally convert to designated stops only, we will definitely provide ample notice to the public. Keep in mind that for people with disabilities, the wave-down policy will not be eliminated.

geekin_topekan:

I was without my car for a spell last year and I was able to ride the T to and from work and I really enjoyed the experience.The buses are clean and comfortable.I realized the potential in daily riding and I still do.However,the scheduling doesn't allow any window of error in my daily ride.In other words,I have to plan my day around the T,without a margin of error or spontaneity.If I miss a transfer or decide I want to grab a bite to eat or go to the library for a while,it'll be another Three hours before my T ride gets me home.
I can say that I would ride more often if I could simply decide to take the T to the store and home in a timely manner without having to plan for a three hour ordeal if I simply miss the bus or change my plans.
Are there any plans to add more schedules to the current system?

Cliff Galante:

My office is constantly evaluating our service to make improvements. One of the challenges we face in terms of service improvements is dealing with limited funding. It is important to remember that when the transit system was created a decision was made at that time to provide access to as many places or community resources as possible. Rarely do I here from people that the T does not take people where they want to travel. However, with limited resources our frequency of service to these destinations is not as timely as some would like. The City really has two options when it comes to improving the frequency of service to make it more convenient. We can either cut back the service area and not serve as many places in the community, or we can dedicate more resources to add buses to routes to increase the frequency of service.

Moderator:

Cliff, where are we at with coordinating the system with KU?

Cliff Galante:

Joel, at this time we are in the process of scheduling a meeting with KU representative to continue dialogue with the University about how the City and University can coordinate more that it currently is. I am very excited about the opportunity and really hope something can be worked out to increase our coordination efforts. One thing I want to people to keep in mind is that the City and University do currently coordinate transit services. The City assisted the University in acquiring vehicles for the newly constructed West Campus Park and Ride facility as well as assisted Johnson County Transit and KDOT in launching "K-10 Connector" service that links the college campuses in Lawrence with the college campuses in Johnson County.

tcs:

How come there are no advertisements on the sides of the busses? wouldn't this help fund the T and take some of the burden off of the tax payers?

Cliff Galante:

When transit service began, the City at that time decided not have paid advertisements on the "T" or on transit shelters. The City wanted to make sure that since the service was new that it created an maintained brand recognition so that people knew this was public transportation service available to them. I find that 6 years later people still confuse the "T" with the "KU on Wheels" bus system that is operated by the Lawrence Bus Company.

tcs:

are there any plans to sell bus passes at other locations besides your offices and the merc? I would think that both of these locations would be out of the way for many, particularly those using the para transit who have no other transportation options.

Cliff Galante:

At this time, there are no plans to sell bus passes at locations other than Utility Billing on the 2nd floor of City Hall, the Community Mercantile on Iowa Street, and the Lawrence Transit System Administrative Office located at 933 New Hampshire (across from the Lawrence Arts Center). We also sell bus passes via mail. We are currently exploring the feasibility of selling bus passes online via our website at www.lawrencetransit.org.>

Moderator:

Cliff: Who exactly uses the bus system in Lawrence?

Cliff Galante:

Great question. According to recent on-board passenger survey conducted in September, 47% "T" passengers indicated that they primarily use the transit service to get to and from work. Another 18% percent of riders surveyed indicated that they use the "T" to get to and from school. The "T" also transports people to medical appointments, shopping, afterschool activities, or visiting with friends and family.

Based on the survey results, it is clear that the "T" is playing a large role in supporting economic development in the community.

Moderator:

This is the final question:

We have several questions from people about specific route changes they'd like to see. How often do you review your routes, and how can folks put their two cents in on where they'd like to see the buses roll?

Cliff Galante:

As stated earlier, we are constantly evaluating our transit system to make improvements so that it can run as effectively and efficiently as possible. I encourage people to send their feedback to me at cgalante@ci.lawrence.ks.us. Keep in mind that the Public Transit Advisory Committee has assisted me and my staff in establishing route performance standards.

Cliff Galante:

One question that I hear often is when will the "T" make money? My answer is that public transit is not meant to be a for-profit operation. Just like other City services, public transit is an important resource for the community. The service is available for all that need it - if it is on an occassional basis due to an emergency such as a car breaking down or routinely for those without other transportation options.

Keep in mind that there is not a public transportation system in the entire United States that makes a profit including New York City that provides 30% of the nation's public transit ridership.

Thank you. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at 785-832-3465 or at cgalante@ci.lawrence.ks.us.

Moderator:

Cliff: Thanks for joining us today!

Comments

cowboy 7 years, 2 months ago

First off , thanks to Cliff for answering a tough question. Secondly if the ROI is less than 10% why is this thing still operating ?

Another good question is why is there not ad revenue on these buses. This whole operation seems to be an expensive experiment without any oversight whatsoever , kind of like the rest of the city's budget.

Time to hire a CFO that takes his/her job seriously.

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