Lawrence's transportation services have experienced their ups and downs over the years, and many residents, both newcomers and those who are old enough to remember a citywide bus service, are beginning to think it's time for a change again.
But the city should watch its step with a taxi coupon program endorsed Tuesday by the Lawrence City Commission, said Chris Ogle, manager of the Lawrence Bus Co.
"The concept is a good system, but it has flaws and will be very expensive," Ogle said, explaining that administrative costs for such programs are usually high.
"It's more complicated than most people think," Ogle said.
BECAUSE of an increase in federal regulations, handicap accessiblity requirements and insurance rates, a private bus company would not be able to operate a system today like the old days, Ogle said.
"In the '90s things are so much more complicated that it would be impossible for a private company to operate," said Ogle, whose father purchased what is now Lawrence Bus Co. in 1957.
Ogle contracts with the Kansas University Student Senate for KU on Wheels, a campus-oriented bus service.
Ogle said the city should be wary of the taxi coupon program proposed by DeShazo, Starek & Tang Inc., a consulting firm based in Dallas.
After studying Lawrence's transportation services and conducting a survey of 401 households, the firm suggested a coupon taxi program.
Commissioners endorsed the plan Tuesday.
PAUL SHACKELFORD, co-owner and president of A-1 Services, a taxicab company, said, "I think it's the best thing that could happen to Lawrence."
But Shackelford agreed with Ogle that the city commission needs to proceed with caution if it decides to implement the program, although not for the same reasons as Ogle.
Shackelford would support restricting the types of trips riders could make using the coupons.
"They should be used for things like trips to school, but not to the bars," he said. "It shouldn't be a wide-open system."
"It would have to be regulated like a food stamp program," he said.
DESPITE his support of the program, Shackelford doesn't think it would actually increase his ridership, contrary to what the consulting firm predicted.
"Most of my people are senior citizens, handicapped and low-income; a lot of it will be the same people, just cheaper rates for them," he said.
Many Lawrence residents agreed with Shackelford, saying that even with coupons the fares would be too expensive. Some riders complained of a lack of seatbelts or drivers who smoked.
Shackelford said his cars do have seatbelts, but people don't see them because they get pushed under the back seats. He said his drivers have not been allowed to smoke in the cars since Aug. 1.