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Archive for Friday, September 17, 1999

PANEL RANKS BUS ROUTES

September 17, 1999

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An advisory panel has set priorities for routes in creating a citywide fixed-route bus system.

Proposed bus routes serving East Lawrence and another running down Massachusetts Street to the commercial strip on South Iowa Street would be the first eliminated, if the city's transportation budget runs short.

That was one of the decisions made Thursday by the Lawrence Public Transit Advisory, a citizens panel that was appointed to advise city officials on the design and operation of a new fixed-route bus system in Lawrence.

The group also proposed minor changes in two of the other proposed routes. Those included extending the West Lawrence route farther down West 15th Street to provide bus access to the Social Security office and medical facilities at 15th and Kasold; and shortening an East Lawrence route known as "Route 1-A" to eliminate its side trip to the East Lawrence Industrial Park, a service duplicated by another route running east and west on 23rd Street.

"Those changes all resulted from public comments," said Steve Klika, a consultant with K.A. Associates, which is helping design the bus system.

The committee's recommendations next go to the Lawrence City Commission, which is scheduled to vote on them Tuesday.

Commissioners also are expected to act on a number of other items related to the bus system, including:

  • Authorizing the city to file an application for a $2.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, an amount that already has received tentative approval pending the formal application. The money would be used to pay for vehicles and other start-up costs.
  • Authorizing city staff to solicit bids for the purchase of vehicles and equipment, and for a private contractor who would operate the bus system.
  • Creating an in-house public transit administrator position within the city manager's office that would be responsible for day-to-day supervision of the bus system. That position was included in the city's 2000 budget, and the city has already advertised for applications.
  • Adopting an ordinance to create a Transportation Department within city government that would include a five- to seven-member advisory committee appointed by the mayor and city commission.

Officials said Lawrence city commissioners have decided to keep hands-on control of the bus system, at least in its early stages of development.

"It's certainly within the realm of possible organizational concepts," City Manager Mike Wildgen said of an independent authority. "It was mentioned in the (1992) DeShazo study, but the commissioners want to keep their fingers in it for now, at least until this thing matures. But that's not to say it won't ultimately go to that."

According to Klika, the deadline to submit for the federal grant application is Oct. 1, and Federal Transit Administration officials already have agreed to put Lawrence's application on a "fast track," so the money could be available before the end of this year.

By that time, Klika said, the city should be ready to award bids for an operator and the purchase of vehicles.

"We're still focusing on the first quarter of next year (as the start-up date)," Klika said.

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

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