Chuck Ferguson from Johnson County Transit on the K-10 Connector bus
A growing commuter bus service between Lawrence and Johnson County will remain open in 2008 even without funding from Lawrence city leaders.
The city was asked to provide $50,000 for the K-10 Connector bus service.
"We will continue it through at least 2008," said Chuck Ferguson, deputy transportation director for Johnson County Transit. "The ridership is great, and it is something people have been asking for for a long time."
Funding questions, though, do remain for the service, which provides rides primarily between Johnson County Community College, Kansas University's Edwards Campus, Haskell Indian Nations University and KU's main campus Monday through Friday. That's because about 55 percent of the $365,000 bus service is being funded by a federal grant aimed at reducing air pollution. That grant expires in 2009.
"I think we'll be asking for funding from Lawrence again in the future, and probably from the state, too," Ferguson said.
For 2008, city leaders said they couldn't spare the money. Cliff Galante - the city's public transit administrator - recommended the $50,000 in funding, but the request never received much consideration from city commissioners. That was, in part, because finding money for the city-operated T system was a challenge. Commissioners were prepared to cut the hours to the T, but instead agreed on a property tax rate increase to avoid a cut in service.
"At the end of the day, it was a struggle for us to just keep our existing city service," Galante said.
Ferguson said the service has been popular since it began operating in January. He said the buses provide about 300 rides per day. Johnson County transit leaders had not expected it to reach those levels until about five years into its existence.
"What we're hearing from a lot of people is that they're just tired of driving," Ferguson said. "They've decided that it is just nice to ride."
Galante said he thought the service had the potential to be popular with Lawrence commuters, if a few changes are made. Currently, the number of connections that riders can make with the Johnson County system is limited. That means the system primarily is serving Lawrence residents who want to get to the Edwards Campus or Johnson County Community College.
Galante said ideally the system should allow riders to easily transfer to another bus that could take them to more locations in Johnson County. Ferguson said Johnson County leaders are looking at that possibility, but said it would take a significant amount of changes to the Johnson County transit system.
"But we agree that there is huge potential, especially if we can expand the service here," Ferguson said. "I think we all know without question that the price of gas is going to accelerate. More and more people will choose to ride transit for economic reasons."