Archive for Tuesday, August 7, 2007

City may reverse course on cuts to T

August 7, 2007


Live coverage

City Hall reporter Chad Lawhorn will provide live coverage of the city budget, the Wal-Mart debate and more, tonight at 6:35 p.m.

City commissioners tonight may back off their plans for cuts to the Lawrence Transit Service.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx said Monday that he is willing to retreat from a plan to close the T at 6 p.m. instead of its current 8 p.m., but only if commissioners cut $600,000 elsewhere in the budget to avoid a 0.425 mill levy increase.

He said commissioners also need to commit to putting a new half-percent sales tax on the ballot, preferably by April, to fund street maintenance.

"We need to be planning for the future," Amyx said.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 tonight at City Hall to finalize the 2008 city budget.

Two weeks ago, commissioners were split over cutting T hours to save money.

"The budget direction we gave at our last meeting was the single worst decision we have made since I've been on the commission," said Boog Highberger, a second-term commissioner. "The transit cuts in the long run will cost us a lot more than we'll save."

On Monday, Highberger said he was still contemplating Amyx's plan.

Mayor Sue Hack said Monday she also had some concerns about Amyx's plan, but said it was food for thought.

Amyx is suggesting the cuts come out of the city's street maintenance budget, which is scheduled to be about $5.4 million in 2008. But he wants a five-year half-percent sales tax to accelerate street maintenance starting in 2009.

However, commissioners would be taking the action without knowing whether voters will approve the new sales tax.

"It is a big gamble, but I don't think we can even attempt to adequately address many of the problems we have with streets and infrastructure without an additional revenue stream," Amyx said.

City Manager David Corliss said he would suggest the city take the $600,000 out of an equipment reserve fund that has been earmarked for future public transit bus purchases.

The city will need to purchase 12 buses in the near future to replace the current fleet of transit buses as they reach the 350,000-mile mark. Each new bus is expected to cost about $320,000.

The city already has received federal money to help purchase six buses, but the grant requires local matching funds.

Corliss said using the reserve money would make it more difficult for the city to purchase buses next year. Commissioners may be willing to make that trade-off, though, because most support merging the T with Kansas University's bus system.

City leaders estimate a new half-cent sales tax would generate about $6 million per year.

Amyx is proposing that $5 million per year go to street and sidewalk programs. The remaining $1 million would be used to improve infrastructure for future industrial park development.


Susan Mangan 10 years, 9 months ago


We can't even come close to fixing our crumbling streets, so lets take $600,000 from them and use it to subsidize the overfunded giant limousine service we run in town, instead. There is a COMPLETELY empty bus that passes by my house every 30 minutes throughout the day, from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm and the answer is to take money from our miserable streets to keep that going?!?! This is backwards world. @@

It's a roundabout blackmail. They figure that our streets are in such poor shape, and that people are so sick of it, that they can use the money originally intended for them to fund something the vast majority does NOT support and that we're stupid enough to support a tax increase to replace the money they're diverting from them. Our roads are awful and need to be fixed. But they have more than enough of my money to do it already. Just put the money they already take back into essentials, instead of frilly "everyone in the world will want to live here because we have more luxury extras in this town than anyone else" niceties. I won't support their insane backwards sales tax. We'll be moving, instead. These people are really crazy.

nell 10 years, 9 months ago

Show your support for the T at a gathering outside CIty Hall at 6pm this evening, just prior to the City Commission meeting.

Cutting off the last two hours of service will cripple the system and isolate people during these active hours of the day. Many rely on the T for transportation; I know several. Cutting service at 6pm won't even give those who work a regular 8-5 day time to go grocery shopping after work.

I support the merge with the KU system and wish KU would have the guts to discourage students from bringing cars to Lawrence.

lunacydetector 10 years, 9 months ago

tax increases ARE regressive, period. will our high cost of taxation push more citizens to move to other cities thereby guaranteeing even more tax increases in the future, when our population decreases further? we had a regressive sales tax in the early 1990's to fund new parks and more police that supposedly had a sunset clause. the sunset never happened - it was extended. now, more of the same.

if our former progressive city commissioners didn't dip into our (the city's) reserve fund, would this taxation debate be happening today?

get rid of the M-T bus would be a good start, then take a harder look at all the new city jobs that were created since the 1990's (the city government tripled in size) and start REALLY cutting the fat.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 9 months ago

I wonder how much wear and tear on the streets is caused by empty, smoke belching, gas gulping Ts? The city is foolish to even consider replacing these things, let alone continuing to fund them. Seems like the biggest supporters of these monstrosities are the same ones worried about global warming and coal plants.

"The budget direction we gave at our last meeting was the single worst decision we have made since I've been on the commission," said Boog Highberger, a second-term commissioner."

I suppose that is debatable. How does one pick?

cowboy 10 years, 9 months ago

Replace the city manager with the checker playing chicken..50% odds there will be a right decision made...better than we have now ! elect the Chicken

Sigmund 10 years, 9 months ago

Cut the routes and double or triple the fare for the remaining ones. At some point MV Transportation has to design a system that actually meets Lawrence's needs and budget.

jonas 10 years, 9 months ago

Or at least eliminates waste. No one seems to be interested in thinking about this problem, past "kill it!" or "save it!"

Ragingbear 10 years, 9 months ago

No more Roundabouts. They cost roughly $600,000 a piece anyways.

lawrencian 10 years, 9 months ago

I think it is a mistake for the city commission to look at anything to do with the T in a light of a merger with KU. Students are smart enough to ask what the T will do for them that isn't already done by KU on Wheels.

Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 9 months ago

It does suck that I have to pay more taxes in order to keep the T running, when no one uses it. Also, why in the hell do we need to buy new buses???? They look perfectly good to me. That seems like the stupidest idea of them all.

JSDAD 10 years, 9 months ago

JSDAD (Anonymous) says:

lets put toll booths at the roundabouts and at the entrance to the new wal-mart

Bud Stagg 10 years, 9 months ago

If we can't afford the T then get rid of it. Don't tweak it, don't adjust it, just toss it. Look at the lives lost in that bridge collapse. That is a direct relation to not taking care of the infrastructure. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul here and that is not good business. If you can't afford something, don't buy it. The T was a failed experiment, we are not ready for it. I'm certainly not ready to have crappy streets for the many in exchange for a crappy bus system that helps the few.

JSDAD 10 years, 9 months ago

How did the ku bus line keep those old green buses in operation as long as they did, but the T buses are already needing replaced? Does the milage we put on them justify the cost of upkeep?

Thats_messed_up 10 years, 9 months ago

These idiots are going to drive away a quarter of Lawrence's population with all these tax increases!
The roads all suck because 30,000 Topeka, Lawrence, and KC commuter cars and heavy trucks drive through our "green" city every day twice--stopping and starting 20 different times at 20 different stop lights instead of cruising by at 70 mph without stopping once. This takes a huge toll on our already neglected and poorly constructed streets. How much extra greenhouse emmission is that Treehuggers?????
The south Lawrence Trafficway should have been built 10 years ago and should have been 4 lanes to accommodate the populations of Topeka, Lawrence, Ottawa, Olathe, OP, KC, Eudora etc etc etc. The population of northeast Kansas has and will continue to grow idiots! Instead- commuters (like myself) have to improvise to get through this obsolete city like turn south off of 31st at Louisiana on a small bumpy country road just to avoid all the extra stop lights at the post office, home depot, Target, Movie theater and the really long one at 31st and Iowa. Haskell is still two lanes, 31st is still two lanes! There's no bypass! Lawrence has been run by nuts for 20 years and is still stuck in 1995. The revenue problem could be easily solved by bringing stores like Lowe's and Costco or Sams to Lawrence thereby keeping millions of sales tax dollars in Lawrence AND attracting area shoppers from around Douglas and surrounding counties. Dump the M-T! All new bus fleet???? NO WAY!!!!!

KU_cynic 10 years, 9 months ago

In response to Nell's comment: "I support the merge with the KU system and wish KU would have the guts to discourage students from bringing cars to Lawrence."

And how would/should KU go about discouraging kids from bringing cars to Lawrence? Many KU students come from other communities and enjoy having a car for ready transportation home to see their families and to get to part-time jobs. KU has ample land for near-campus parking (less so for genuinely on-campus parking) , and KU supports student parking costs and campus buses through permit and user fees. The "T", in stark contrast, operates at a steep loss and requires a tax-based subsidy from the many for the few it serves.

May Soo 10 years, 9 months ago

Just get rid of the T, we didn't always have the T and people lived.

Lifelong_Lawrencian 10 years, 9 months ago

The question is not so much about the usefulness or advantages of having a mass transit system for our community, but a question of it's cost effectiveness. When the city hired consultants to determine the city's needs for mass transit, one of the consultants suggested networking the existing buses in town with additional city buses on a will-call basis. Sort of a community taxi service. Many buses already exist that serve nursing homes and cottonwood and Bus 62 for the elderly. This consultant had a proven track record of establishing these systems in other communities similar in size to our own. He argued that our city would not fully utilize a full-blown mass transit system. Prophetic words it turns out as it would be more cost effective if the city subsidized a privately owned taxi service to shuttle people around for free.

Susan Mangan 10 years, 9 months ago

I realize you seem to want the T, JackRipper, but one person wanting it does not justify the expense to the rest of us. Your logic could use some tweaking, as well...

"As far as empty seats, someone has pointed out before that there are a lot more empty seats in the various vehicles that travel the streets at any one time then there are on the buses."

Bad argument. I'm the only one paying for my car and my gas so I can drive around with however many people I choose or don't choose to have with me. If the people using the T want to pay for empty buses to drive around town, that's fine with me, but I doubt if eight people can afford it. Making everyone pay for their private limousine service is outrageous. And each empty bus spews a lot more pollution into the air than a car with one person...and defeats the purpose.

"It doesn't sound like we can afford the roads so why don't we get rid of them? It is stupid to get rid of the bus systems when we need more of it"

Are you actually suggesting that we let our roads fail, but keep the bus system?!? What, exactly, do you suggest the buses drive on??? They don't float, you do realize? Infrastructure is one of the few jobs of the government, and one of the few responsibilities of theirs to collect money and pay for. Crumbling infrastructures can destroy economies...not to mention cost lives, as in Minneapolis. Road maintenance is paid for through existing taxes that we already pay. The T was an experiment that our Commission promised would be self-sufficient after the initial outlays. One more broken promise and now they want a new tax increase to pay for the streets we've already paid for so they can use that money to pay for subsidized limousines and other extras. Our city gets the money it NEEDS. It has just chosen to waste it on non-essentials and then claim there's nothing left for the necessities, like roads. Bull.

jonas 10 years, 9 months ago

"The T was an experiment that our Commission promised would be self-sufficient after the initial outlays."

Is that true? Not that it surprises me, but it is in incredibly stupid thing to promise. I don't believe that public transportation generally pays for itself on it's own budget sheet. Perhaps in much bigger cities, if even then.

Still, stupid promises from politicians don't generally surprise me anymore.

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