To the editor:
I am responding to a letter from Emerson Hazlett that appeared in the Lawrence Journal-World on Dec. 4. Mr. Hazlett complained that taxes are being used for a public transportation system when, he said, "most of the (expensive buses) I have seen haven't had a single passenger" and that "the people who made such a fuss over getting this bus system must, themselves, not be using them."
Mr. Hazlett's method of using observation to draw a conclusion is a little like saying that if a grocery store is empty once in a while, you can conclude that no one ever shops there. I made a more thorough inquiry, by calling Mike Sweeten at the Lawrence Transit System, who told me that they give around 20,000 rides each month. On a typical weekday, over 500 people use the fixed route and an addition 200 people use the para-transit. He also said that these numbers are growing all the time, as people learn about the system and become comfortable with using it. Last Saturday, they gave free rides on the fixed route, as a promotional strategy, and gave rides to nearly 800 passengers on that one day.
The other thing to consider is that a city of the size of Lawrence truly needs a reliable fixed-route public transportation system, just like we need other publicly funded services. The same as we need, say, a fire department. Perhaps there might come a day when Mr. Hazlett, himself, will lose the ability to drive himself around town independently. Or, perhaps one day his car might be in the shop, and everyone he knows is unavailable to give him a ride.
If that day comes, he might be grateful that he paid taxes for the public transportation system after all. Perhaps that day won't come. And perhaps his house will never catch fire. But isn't it nice to know that the fire department is there, just in case. And isn't it nice to know that we have a public transportation system, too, just in case?