Amy Kelly doesn't need to wait for the NASCAR season to begin later this month. She lives a piece of the racing life five days a week.
She's a Lawrence commuter.
"It feels like racing a lot of mornings," said Kelly, who works for the state's Department of Administration in Topeka. "You get caught up in it so easy. You start thinking 'you can't pass me.' It's kind of silly. It's certainly not the smartest thing."
But it certainly is the life for a lot of Lawrence residents. A new survey by the city of Lawrence attempts to shed light on the community's commuter habits.
The survey, included in Lawrence utility bills in October and November, was unscientific. Of the 724 people who responded to the survey, 73 percent were commuters. That's significantly higher than the 25 percent to 30 percent of Lawrence workers who are estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau and other organizations to commute outside the county for work.
Among the more significant findings is that only 14 percent of respondents commuted as part of a carpool system. A full 73 percent of respondents commuted by themselves. But the survey also found that 60 percent of people would be interested in using intercity public transportation or a carpool system to get to work.
"Those are positive numbers for us," said Cliff Galante, director of the city's public transit department. "We have to remember that it is not a scientific survey, but it at least shows there's a segment of the population that is interested in it."
The harder evidence is coming from ridership rates on the new K-10 Connector - a bus service started in mid-January by Johnson County Transit, which connects the Edwards Campus and Johnson County Community College with Kansas University.
Phil Detrixhe, marketing manager for Johnson County Transit, said the service has been averaging about 225 riders per day, with some days approaching 300.
"That has exceeded our expectations, especially for just getting started," Detrixhe said.
The response has been strong enough that the transit system is looking at adding new times to better serve the midafternoon and early evening riders.
The Lawrence Public Transit system also is touting statistics that show 250 Lawrence residents have signed up for the city's Carpool Connection Web site - at www.lawrencetransit.org - that provides a forum for people to form carpooling partnerships.
The survey did find that the No. 1 reason people wouldn't use public transit or a carpool to travel to work is related to convenience.
Kelly said that would be her greatest concern as well.
"I don't think I would ever do that all the time," Kelly said of a carpool or bus ride. "It is nice to have your wheels if you need to run an errand."
And even though commuting from Lawrence to Topeka costs her about $125 a month in gasoline and tolls, she said the commute isn't all bad.
"I have a kindergartner and one in high school," Kelly said of her children. "Sometimes the only time I have for myself is in the car."
Detrixhe at Johnson County Transit, though, said he thought the idea of sharing a ride to work will catch on in a big way.
"I think it is going to happen sooner than people think," Detrixhe said. "When gas hit $3 a gallon, our ridership jumped big time. It increased 13 percent in one month."
The latest numbers from the Census Bureau, however, haven't shown that trend nationwide. According to 2005 statistics, the share of people driving to work alone increased from 75 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2005. The share of people carpooling to work also dropped from 12 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2005.
How's the drive?
The Lawrence Journal-World is seeking to connect with commuters to talk about the challenges and rewards of their daily travels to work.
Please contact managing editor Dennis Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 832-7194.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.