Archive for Sunday, March 23, 1997


March 23, 1997


From maintaining the current van system to starting up a full-blown bus system with Kansas University, city officials have several transit options to review next month.

For $80,000, city officials hired a team of consultants to help chart a path for public transportation in Lawrence.

Their work is ready for the public to digest.

"It's going to be an item that costs. That's a known and a given," said Fred Sherman, the city's transportation planner. "In order for Lawrence to get more, it's going to have to spend more.

"It's going to cost more money to get more efficiency."

The product of the $80,000 study, financed mostly by a federal grant, is a two-part report detailing feasible options for Lawrence.

The reports are available for review at area copy centers; city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts; and the reserve desk at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

The reports already have been circulated to various interest groups and transportation providers in Lawrence. Written public comment will be accepted until April 9, and should be mailed to the city manager's office at city hall, P.O. Box 708, Lawrence, KS 66044-0708.

Lawrence city commissioners are scheduled to accept oral public comments -- limited to three minutes per person -- and discuss the issue during their 6:35 p.m. meeting April 22.

Here's a rundown of the options:

  • Keeping the city's van system in place, as is.

The city will spend $337,000 this year to operate the coordinated service, which last year provided more than 50,000 rides throughout the community.

The system, called Douglas County Area Transportation, itself provided 19,000 door-to-door rides, usually scheduled up to a day in advance. Its two sister agencies -- Independence Inc. and Douglas County Senior Services -- provided the rest.

More than 99 percent of all rides were taken by elderly, low-income and disabled residents, who pay $1 each way. Only a handful of riders paid the full $5 fare.

Not counting revenues from fares, DCAT's $337,000 budget is financed by the city's general fund, which is backed primarily by sales taxes and property taxes.

  • Expand the city's van system, using federal funds.

This option would envision accepting federal grants to help defray the system's costs.

The city's consultants predict that the city could receive $200,000 in operating assistance from the feds, and thus reduce the city's subsidy or, more likely, increase the level of service by 5 percent.

Buying a new van -- a virtual certainty for any increased service -- could be financed jointly with the feds, who would kick in 80 percent.

  • Spend $1 million a year for a five-bus city system, separate from Kansas University.

In this scenario, the city would create a transit agency to run a new five-route system to serve the needs of city residents.

The system would provide service Monday through Saturday, plus retain the current DCAT van system at current levels.

By the year 2000, the city would be responsible for paying nearly $1 million a year to cover operating losses and the city's share of buying buses.

KU on Wheels, a current bus service operated by and for KU students, would continue in its present form.

  • Spend $2 million a year for a five-bus system, combined with 21 buses at peak times for KU.

This option -- created at the request of city commissioners -- would create a joint transit authority to run both a city bus system and absorb KU on Wheels.

The city would hire a private company to operate the service, whose costs would be reduced because of the city's ability to secure federal grants. The feds would pay for 80 percent of all new buses, bus stops and other capital projects, which in turn could be leased to the private company.

DCAT services would remain at current levels.

The city bus service also would operate Mondays through Saturdays; the service formerly provided by KU on Wheels likely would be reduced, unless KU students or administrators agreed to contribute more money.

The annual $2 million operating deficit anticipated to begin in the year 2000 would be offset by KU's Student Senate, city taxpayers and possibly KU's administration.

  • Spend $3 million a year for a 12-bus city system, combined with 21 buses at peak times for KU.

This system would be operated by a joint transit authority, financed jointly by KU students, city taxpayers and possibly the KU administration.

The city's service -- which would run 15 hours a day, seven days a week on 30-minute intervals -- would operate 12 buses during peak hours, while KU students and staffers could rely on 21 buses. All routes would be open to all city and KU riders.

DCAT services would be reduced by 25 percent, because of an anticipated decrease in demand.

The service would operate with an annual $3.2 million deficit by the year 2000, to be made up by KU students, city taxpayers and possibly KU administrators.

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