Archive for Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Consultant favors bus system merger

Joining city, KU fleets won’t lead to immediate route expansion

October 24, 2006

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Money is what makes the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Preliminary findings from a new report looking at merging the city's public transit system with two systems operating at Kansas University were released Monday. The report found that merging the systems in the next two to three years would be a good idea, but it would not create enough savings to significantly expand public transit options in the community without significant amounts of new funding.

"Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way," said Dan Boyle, the consultant who is studying the system for the city and KU. "It costs more money to run more frequently."

But a merger of the city-operated T system, the student-operated KU on Wheels system and the university-operated park-and-ride bus system does make sense, Boyle said. But he said it probably shouldn't happen right away because there is a host of logistical issues and planning issues to be tackled first.

Instead, the three groups should work on coordinating their routes and making it easier for users to transfer from system to system. After that is completed, the three groups could work on forming a joint board that would manage a combined system. The board - which could be in place by 2009 - would have representation from the city, KU and students. It would report to both KU and the Lawrence City Commission.

But Boyle emphasized that if community members are hoping for major improvements to public transit - such as longer hours or significant numbers of new routes - that will take significant amounts of new funding.

Changing routes

The message was heard by transit leaders who attended a Monday evening meeting about the study.

"There are some services that we could add in a zero-sum game, but that is a pretty short list," said Danny Kaiser, assistant director of parking and transit at KU.

Boyle said that without additional funding, the main route changes that could be made would come at the expense of existing routes. For example, he's recommending that Route 8 on the T system - which runs through KU - be run every 40 minutes instead of every 80 minutes as it is today.

But doing that will mean the loss of one existing route on the system. Boyle is recommending that Routes 1 and 2 on the T system be merged. That would mean some service that goes through the Barker Neighborhood would be eliminated. Residents in that area would be asked to walk a few additional blocks east or west to catch a bus. The new combined route also would run only every 60 minutes instead of every 40 minutes, which is the standard today.

The alternative is to increase funding for the systems. The systems, if combined today, would have a total budget of $4.9 million. Boyle provided one option that would increase the funding by 20 percent over a total of five years. Another more aggressive option would increase it by 33 percent over five years.

Those increases would allow for service on major routes to be extended from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. It also would add four new buses to the KU on Wheels system and increase the frequency of some of the more popular routes in the city.

The funding increases likely would come from a combination of new federal and state dollars that a larger public transit service could attract, and from additional property taxes from city residents and fees from KU students.

Revamping student fees

Boyle specifically is recommending a change in how KU students pay for bus service. Currently, students who want to ride the KU on Wheels system pay $140 for a bus pass, plus every student pays $16 per semester in student fees. Boyle is proposing that KU on Wheels stop selling passes, but that every student would pay about $50 per semester in bus fees. That new fee would entitle every student to ride a bus without paying a fare.

"I think a lot of students who aren't riding today would start riding under that system," Kaiser said. "It would mean more people in buses and fewer people in cars. There would be a lot of benefit to that."

Whether students would accept a large fee increase, though, is an open question. Boyle is making a presentation of the idea at 4 p.m. today in the Pine Room of the Kansas Union.

Boyle also will make a presentation to the Lawrence City Commission at its meeting tonight.

Cliff Galante, the city's director of public transit, said the final report wouldn't be delivered to commissioners until mid-November. He said he hopes it sparks a community discussion about what residents really want in a public transit system.

"At the end of the day, it is going to be a matter of what people can live with and what they are willing to spend," Galante said.

Comments

Lee Saylor 8 years, 8 months ago

Just because you don't ride the 'T' doesn't mean that no one else does.

jonas 8 years, 8 months ago

I haven't read KS profile so I can't ascertain much about their personality, but I AM curious where the idea came from, because my personal experience has found the "MT" idea to be only partially true. I think the system needs to be overhauled (and perhaps a new company to take over) and their are some dead rides that should be rethought, but it's not true that all of them are empty all the time.

KS: again, and I know it doesn't happen often around here, but I'd be interested in a discussion on the matter, if there was more to your post than bashing.

KS 8 years, 8 months ago

KU, don't do it! The City would like to dump their losing "MT" onto you.

ControlFreak 8 years, 8 months ago

The T's ridership continues to increase every month. The problem is not the T (city buses) but the KU system.

Anybody ride the KU buses in the last 5-10 years. Customer service is very poor and the drivers have questionable backgrounds (not all of them, but a fair portion).

The T on the other hand has friendly drivers with clean driving records.

Recently, a driver on the T was fired for causing an accident (they have a no tolerance policy). That same driver was hired by Lawrence Bus Company (the company running the KU system) the next week.

The only way complaints about KU drivers have any impact is to contact KU on Wheels directly. If anyone calls Lawrence Bus Company, the "manager" will act friendly, but laugh about it afterwards, and do nothing. I know.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 8 months ago

It is to be remembered that the city commission in its wisdom rejected the Lawrence Bus Co. as operator of the "T" because it didn't have experience outside of Lawrence.

If they hadn't insisted on hiring an out of town operator most of the questions of coordination with KU on Wheels would be moot: Any sensible operator would coordinate the systems to maximize revenue, incidentally maximizing the convenience of the few who use both systems.

BTW: I've seen well occupied KU on Wheels buses but never a "T" bus with more than two passengers in evidence. And the old LBC buses used by KU are bigger than "T" buses too.

oldgoof 8 years, 8 months ago

"Boyle specifically is recommending a change in how KU students pay for bus service. Currently, students who want to ride the KU on Wheels system pay $140 for a bus pass, plus every student pays $16 per semester in student fees. Boyle is proposing that KU on Wheels stop selling passes, but that every student would pay about $50 per semester in bus fees." .. Going from user fees to universal taxes.

KS 8 years, 8 months ago

Since nobody is riding the "T", this is a way to get someone else who is not riding the "T" (KU students) to also pay for it. KU should "run", not "walk" away from this one. I understand that some people need transportation, but I would think for the few people riding the "T", the city could contract with a taxi company to provide the same service for less. That is a guess, folks.

ControlFreak 8 years, 8 months ago

"Oh, you should have heard this airhead. She said the bus never went by her stop, whatever. Hahaha."

ControlFreak 8 years, 8 months ago

"She said she's waited for a whole hour, yeah right."

jonas 8 years, 8 months ago

blue: There are a total of four busses that have their dead times at JC Pennies. The 7 and the 8 both sit there (for @15 minutes, to be sure) waiting for the 5 to make it's loop out to Wakarusa and back. My experience says that the 5 (which is also the one that runs 'tween Haskell and Iowa) is pretty dead during non-rush hour times, but is quite busy during morning and evening commute hours. Quite a number of NCS/Amaar/that other place/ employees use it to get to and from work.

I think that with some careful attention you could eliminate at least one, if not two, whole routes without any real problem. Probably be a good idea, since the company is chronically under-staffed.

jrlii: The major (or one of the major, at least) problem with real co-ordination is that the KU busses are not fully accessible for people with disabilities, so the govt. which, of course, pays for the T, is not allowed to take part in it.

jonas 8 years, 8 months ago

KS: I just ask out of curiosity, but where do you get the impression that nobody rides the T? Is it just from this forum, or from somewhere else?

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

KS: I just ask out of curiosity, but where do you get the impression that nobody rides the T? Is it just from this forum, or from somewhere else?........Just because you don't ride the 'T' doesn't mean that no one else does.

Good points; ignorance knows no bounds, does it? Matches well with "No one voted for Gore in 2000." or "Everyone supports the (p)resident's war plans."

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