Archive for Monday, October 9, 2006

T tune-up

October 9, 2006


As ridership on the city's transit system grows, it doesn't make sense to continue the system of riders simply flagging down the bus.

Although it may be slightly less convenient for some riders, administrators of the city's T transit system are right to pursue a plan to formalize the buses' routes and stops.

The current system that allows riders to flag down a bus anywhere on its route was a good way to encourage ridership during the introduction of the T. But, as ridership grows, the frequent stops are bound to get the buses off schedule, as well as causing additional traffic congestion for other drivers.

The T already has about 150 regular stops, and the city's transit staff has identified about 95 additional locations to pick up and drop off riders. The goal is to have bus stops at least every quarter mile along the routes, and closer together in denser pedestrian areas like downtown.

One regular rider expressed concern in Friday's Journal-World article that having to walk to a bus stop rather than just step out his front door might cause him to miss the bus. Asking such riders to leave a few minutes earlier doesn't seem like an undue burden.

City Commissioner Boog Highberger also was concerned that people with disabilities might not be able to make the walk and would be forced to use the less-convenient paratransit service that offers door-to-door service by appointment. City officials should look into this problem and try to determine how many people would be affected, but adjusting the paratransit service might be a better way to address these problems than maintaining the current system for the broader T service.

The good news in this report is that the T is expected to provide about 500,000 rides this year, and ridership is growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent a year. It appears that the bus system whose low ridership originally earned it the derogatory nickname of the "emp-T" may be coming of age. There is no doubt that a segment of the Lawrence population depends on the T to get to work and other necessary destinations. Higher gasoline prices may cause that number to grow.

Especially if the T can work out a closer collaboration or even a merger with Kansas University's KU on Wheels, it could become an important piece of the city's transportation picture. To fill that role, it needs to be both reliable and on time. A more professional system of bus stops is a necessary step toward that goal.


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