City commissioners approved a route map and voted to begin seeking bids and federal grants for a new bus system.
Plans for a new citywide fixed-route bus system rolled forward a few more feet Tuesday night.
Lawrence city commissioners gave their endorsement to a proposed network of routes and operating hours that were forwarded to them last week by the Public Transit Advisory Committee.
In the same motion, they also adopted the first reading of an ordinance establishing a new Department of Public Transit, approved bid specifications for a contractor to operate the system and authorized the mayor and city manager to apply for various grants that will help finance the bus system.
Lawrence already has been approved for about $2.5 million in federal grants that will pay 80 percent of the start-up costs, including the purchase of vehicles and other equipment needed to run the bus system.
That approval, however, is subject to the city submitting an application with detailed plans for the system, including the proposed routes, by Oct. 1.
City manager Mike Wildgen said the route map also would serve as the basis for private contractors to bid on operation of the system.
Depending on how those bids come back -- officials are hoping for bids in the range of $1.5 million a year -- Wildgen said the final routes may be different from the proposed routes that have been suggested so far.
For one thing, the Public Transit Advisory Committee has identified two routes that would be the first eliminated if the operating budget is not enough to cover all the costs.
Also, Wildgen said, the routes will be subject to constant refinement as needs and circumstances change.
The bid specifications ask contractors to offer a price for operating the fixed route schedule as well as "demand response service" to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The fixed route schedule includes seven proposed routes, with a total of 10 buses on the road from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
City officials and consultants working on the bus project hope to have a contractor selected around the first of next year. They also hope that will coincide with federal funds becoming available and bids coming back for the purchase of vehicles and other equipment.
If all those factors fall into place, officials say the bus system could be open for business in the first quarter of 2000.
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