Archive for Tuesday, October 26, 1999

NEW BUS SYSTEM SHOULD NOT LEAVE ANYONE BEHIND

October 26, 1999

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City bus planners are still taking suggestions on how to comply with ADA.

Some residents worried that a fixed-route bus system in Lawrence would leave the needs of the disabled behind had their fears allayed Monday during an informational meeting on the new system.

Today, those who still have concerns about the new system will have one more opportunity to share their views with officials who are designing it.

The second of two informational meetings on the new system will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library auditorium, 707 Vt.

About 25 people turned out Monday for the first meeting at the office of Independence Inc. to meet with transportation planners, review maps of the proposed bus system and fill out questionnaires.

"One of the biggest things is people just want to know they will still receive service," Aaron Bartlett, a city transportation planner working on the project, said.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the city will be required to offer "paratransit" service for people with mobility impairments who cannot access the fixed-route bus system.

Bartlett said officials handed out a summary of ADA requirements and took written suggestions.

"Some people were saying it would be nice if the hours could be extended beyond what the fixed route would be running," he said.

Plans call for buses to run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, he said.

Bartlett said some residents also were concerned that those with disabilities may have to reserve a ride several days in advance.

But only 24 hours advance notice would be required, he said.

"Most of the poeople that I talked to tonight, after they learned what was going on, were not nearly as concerned," Bartlett said. "With the new system they're guaranteed a ride."

Currently, most of those people rely on Kaw Regional Transit Inc. or one of the many social service organizations that participate in KRT.

KRT is a nonprofit corporation that coordinates transportation service provided by Independence Inc.; Douglas County Senior Services, which receives transportation funding from Douglas County; and the city-funded Douglas County Area Transit, among others.

Starting next year, however, the city will stop funding DCAT and instead put that money into its new fixed-route bus system.

"The important thing to remember is that those other services don't need to disappear," Bartlett said. "They can continue operating their service with county funding. The city didn't even get into the picture until the mid-1990s with DCAT."

Bartlett said one of the advantages to the city bus system is that its ADA-mandated paratransit service will take demand off of those other systems, freeing them to accept more riders who may not meet the ADA guidelines for being "mobility-impaired."

Hugh Kierig, a consultant with K.A. Associates, which is helping design the system, said ADA sets certain minimum standards for paratransit service, but the city has the option of going setting its own standards, as long as they are not more restrictive than ADA.

Comments received at the two public meetings will be forwarded to the Public Transit Advisory Committee, which meets Thursday morning to vote on the recommendations it will send to Lawrence city commissioners.

-- Peter Hancock's phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is phancock@ljworld.com.

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