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Archive for Saturday, February 7, 2004

Keep the buses running

February 7, 2004

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It's too bad Kansas University students didn't have better access to the city's T buses on Thursday.

Stranded at bus stops Thursday, miles away from their homes or vehicles, Kansas University students may have been questioning their loyalty to the student-operated KU on Wheels bus service.

It wasn't a particularly good day on campus. Although public schools throughout the area had closed their doors, KU officials decided to try to plow through the snowstorm and keep classes running. While their determination is admirable, administrators' hesitation to cancel classes may be a throwback to a time 30 or more years ago when most students lived close enough to walk to campus. Far more students now commute to campus from outlying apartment complexes or even from out of town.

And, as became painfully obvious Thursday, they depend on the bus system to get to and from school. Many students were able to get to campus by bus Thursday but found themselves stranded when the buses could no longer safely operate. KU canceled classes about 1:30 p.m., but the buses had quit running about an hour earlier.

By contrast, the city's T buses were able to continue running pretty much on schedule throughout the day. Some buses temporarily were rerouted to avoid dangerous hills, but in many cases they resumed their regular routes after road crews had worked the streets, according to city bus officials. Anyone who had signed up for the T's "e-route" program immediately was notified by e-mail of route changes so they could plan accordingly. The T buses are newer and smaller than the vintage KU on Wheels vehicles and apparently more reliable during inclement weather.

KU students and the Student Senate, which is a primary funding source for KU on Wheels, have been protective of the independent student bus system and hesitant to merge their system with the city's T. Cooperation between the two systems has improved, but a full merger agreement hasn't been reached.

There's no reason the T couldn't meet the needs of KU students, perhaps in a more comfortable and reliable way. A merged system could provide a more efficient and financially viable bus system for all Lawrence residents, including those who attend KU.

No one would have wanted KU buses to continue running Thursday after conditions no longer were safe, but a plan that included a merger with T buses that still were on the road Thursday certainly would have had some appeal for students stranded across campus.

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