Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

How we commute

Carpooling still uncommon

February 8, 2007


Reader poll
Should City Hall help create a transit system between Lawrence and KC?

or See the results without voting

Why do we commute?

It's widely accepted that Lawrence is a bedroom community. And a new survey looks at what exactly drives people out of town. Enlarge video

Communtity survey results

Lawrence Public Transit Administrator Cliff Galante discusses the results of a recent community survey. Enlarge video

Photo by Thad Allender, graphic by Karl Gehring.

Photo by Thad Allender, graphic by Karl Gehring.

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 - 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 or (785) 832-7194.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.


bugmenot 11 years, 4 months ago

That makes me sad; I'd rather see my family more of the day than live in a big house.

bugmenot 11 years, 4 months ago

Why don't people just move closer to where their jobs are? Jeez, I know Topeka's a pit and JoCo is expensive, but seriously.

bugmenot 11 years, 4 months ago

Also, if you're driving alone, you're not carpooling every day.

Bill Smith 11 years, 4 months ago

Ya know the "liberal" vs. "conservative", "democrat" vs. "republican" dialogue that permeates from these comments is getting really old. The comments would be much more meaningful if they related to the story.

craigers 11 years, 4 months ago

No the problem didn't start just four years ago bozo, but they haven't done anything to get better paying jobs here in Lawrence.

KS 11 years, 4 months ago

I think carpooling is a gret idea, but we have to remember that the State of Kansas does not want us to do it. They would loose too much in fuel taxes which they are dumping too much of into the general fund, versus using it for its intended purpose, ROADS!. It would be nice if the KTA would enlarge the commuter lot at Lecompton. Have tried to commute from there on many occassions only to find the lot full. When I go that way, I do like the new third lane. Carpooling would mean less toll for the Governor to collect to pay for universitiy repairs. Oh well, just raise the toll to make up the difference! :)

Kuku_Kansas 11 years, 4 months ago

I know that you're an idiot Dambudzo.

But I consider myself a libertarian...close enough.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

"WHY we commute - no jobs in Lawrence. Thanks PLC!"

Yea, almost no one commuted until 4 years ago, and then bam, every job in Lawrence just shut down.

I hear it was because the PLC made rude faces at business owners, and didn't invite them to their parties.

TheEleventhStephanie 11 years, 4 months ago

We found a carpool here: It's working out great and saves everyone money and wear and tear on the car.

sourpuss 11 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure what the T has to do with getting to KC since I think the T doesn't go to KC...

Also, what does being liberal have to do with commuting? I would think the granola crunchers are probably more likely to buy a Hybrid and grow organic veg in their back yard, but those types hardly constitute all "liberals" (not enough of them to have voted Boyda and Moore into office). I think commuters probably are about as evenly politically distributed as the general population.

Just put in a rail transport between Topeka and KC. If you really wanted to be progressive, put in a CAR rail transport so you could drive your car up, have it taken to KC/Topeka, then drive it off for local travel, like a car ferry.

As for carpooling, people don't do it because it isn't convenient and people don't like to bend to the will of another. Commuting is just a stupid, antisocial activity anyway. It is unnatural and wasteful ( money, productivity, environment, socially...) Why people would choose to remove two hours a day with their family I don't know... just so they can have a bigger house and more stuff?

I also know people HAVE to commute in short terms often, but it shouldn't need to last longer than 6 months.

samsnewplace 11 years, 4 months ago

I carpool every weekday from about 2 hours north of Lawrence to my Lawrence job for two reasons, my house is paid for and the cost of living in smaller communities is alot lower, secondly because I make good money here and have great benefits. Where I live the pay is low and there are virtually no benefits. I commute alone, who else do you know that would like to drive almost two hours one way every day? Some days are long, some are not. I can't say that i've ever felt like I was car racing, it's more of a relaxing time for me that a race. I make sure I leave early enough to take my time to be on time at work and the drive home I can unwind. It is far from an ideal life and there are prices to pay, like not much family time weekdays....but since Lawrence does not have affordable housing for low to middle income families, I will stay in my big 2 story 5 bedroom home on 2 lots that is paid for. Its worth the drive.

unite2revolt 11 years, 4 months ago

I drive a lot for a wide range of reasons, I work and live here in Lawrence. My both of my parents live in Topeka, only one of them drives. I often find my hobbies leading me to Topeka or Kansas City because there are not enough outlets here in Lawrence. I go to school, yep its somewhere besides KU. So I got a K-tag, and I put about 400 miles a week on my car. Its not unsual to drive 60 miles for school in the morning and 60 miles for hobbies in the evening on the same day. In fact there was not a single day last week that I did not drive at least once to Topeka.

I too have come to think of the driving time as quasi-sacred for my tranquility and solitude. I did car pool on Sunday and I try to car pool when ever it is feasable. But honestly my schedule is too busy to mesh well with anyone elses.

A commuter train would really be swell, as long as it connected to local public transportation. I doubt we will ever see one though because of the KTA.

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

Seconded, wesmith1970.

I carpool almost daily to Baldwin. It'd be great to have a job in Lawrence, but jobs in my field don't sprout like daisies and the gig in Baldwin is pretty sweet. I'm in a carpool, but sometimes folks flake out or schedules don't overlap due to special events and I wind up driving alone. I guess I do the driving an average of two or three days a week. That cuts my gas usage and wear and tear on the car virtually in half. It's totally worth it.

By the way, KS, the state certainly does promote carpooling, specifically in the form of vanpooling. See this previous LJW story: A good friend of mine works as an engineer in Topeka and vanpools. It's a terrific program.

white_mountain 11 years, 4 months ago

Seems like alot of distractions to take our mind off the SLT.. new libraries, new "mini-downtowns", new meat markets, new I mean transit systems.

So the public comment period on the SLT ended 3 weeks ago.. what was the decision? Do they hope to dazzle us with BS and take our minds off it?

Kathy Gates 11 years, 4 months ago

In answer to your question, Bugmenot, moving closer to your job is not always possible in a two-career family. My husband commutes to Topeka and I commute to Kansas City. If either of us could find work in our professions in Lawrence we'd happily work in town. The last time my husband applied for a job in town in his white-collar profession he was one of 450 people applying. My job doesn't exist locally. It's not always as easy as packing up and moving.

bugmenot 11 years, 4 months ago

Dambudzo, wanting public transport doesn't make someone a liberal or a conservative. It means they don't enjoy the time they spend commuting and want to shorten it. I don't think that's crazy, liberal, or conservative. I do think you're not a nice person and pretty narrow-minded.

SoundMind 11 years, 4 months ago

The KTA did enlarge the Lecompton lot earlier this year. It is now rarely full. I carpool with three others from Lawrence to Topeka and have for the last six or seven years. The average daily commute totals about an hour -about a half an hour each way.

kmat 11 years, 4 months ago

I just love how these have become anti-liberal, insulting posts relating to a story that has nothing to do with liberals and conservatives.

I commute to Lenexa everyday out of necessity. I would love to work in Lawrence, but there so few good paying jobs here. My husband works in town, so we've stayed in Lawrence (and I don't want to live in yuppy JoCo).

I'm looking to buy a hybrid because I can't carpool or take the bus because I often need my car for work (picking up foreign clients at the airport, etc...). I also tend to work late so can't coordinate ride sharing or taking a bus because I may be at work until 8:00 or later some nights.

I find the comments made here about how those of us who commute to KC for higher paying jobs are just being greedy and how you can't believe we'd want to be away from our family's for a little more money absolutely ridiculous and offensive. In an ideal world, we'd all have to just walk a couple blocks to be at work and never put in more than an 8 hour day. I can work in Lawrence and barely make enough to pay my bills, or I can commute to Lenexa and make three times the pay. It's not greed, I want to pay my bills and not struggle every month. I don't have a huge house, fancy cars, etc... I just want to not have to worry if I can make my house payment each month.

And since I am a tree hugging liberal, I pay a certain amount per mile driven into a group that uses the funds to create wind and solar power. I offset my carbon footprint. How many of you complainers on here that do work in Lawrence drive a big ass SUV or truck that uses more gas in town than my small car does driving to KC? You have no room to talk about any commuter

Too many hypocrits in this town.

Jamesaust 11 years, 4 months ago

"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."

Yes, IF

If I can get on right by my house If I can get off right at work If I can easily transfer to get to third places If it is cheap If I can run home for a sick kid If I have alternatives when the other driver rushes home for a sick kid If I can arrange a schedule to start and stop work at set times that never vary If ... if ... if

Push comes to shove, No, people would not be open to this as an alternative.

The only event that will increase these numbers is something that drives the cost of commuting so high that the relatively poor either can't afford otherwise or are forced to move out of Lawrence and closer to their jobs.

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

right_thinker, please, fill us in on your situation. Do you commute, carpool, work in town? I'm genuinely curious.

deec 11 years, 4 months ago

Gosh, I thought he manipulatd his mother's estate so medicaid would pay for her care and he could inherit her funds. I guess gov't freebies are only a problem when someone else is getting them.

jakeman333 11 years, 4 months ago

I used to ride a bicycle almost 28 miles to work each way, several times a week. It was the most relaxing commute, as well as a wonderful way to combine a commute with aerobic excercise, which I would have done anyways.

There is a serious lack of bicycle storage and showers at most work places that would help facilitate this kind of commuting, not to say that 28 miles is for everybody, but 5 or 10 miles could be. You would be surprised that it might not take much longer to ride a bike to work than drive with all factors considered. In my case I did not need to spend and hour every day at the gym becuase I got plenty of excercise commuting to work.

When I did not ride a bike, I carpooled. Sure it took longer than driving by myself, but I am not a liberal hippocrit or a gas guzzler who is unwilling to sacrifice a little bit of convenience to carpool. So what if you might run an errand. Do it later. Gas should be $6 a gallon so you had no choice but to carpool and purchase fuel efeccient cars.

If more people commuted by bike, we would all be healthier, the roads would be less clogged, and by being healthier, we would be happier, too. If you are riding a bike to work, and you are late, you can pedal faster. If you are drivng a car to work, and you are late, you could drive faster, get a ticket, or you could just be stuck in traffic and not be able to move.

TheEleventhStephanie 11 years, 4 months ago

Why are some people here confusing the words "carpool" and "commute?"

Kontum1972 11 years, 4 months ago

i like to commute because it gives me a chance to use those new disposable diapers that u can buy from the nasa gift shop...they are the greatest.

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

jakeman333, I agree; biking's great. I biked to and from work when I had a job in Lawrence. It was fun, and I didn't have to pay the ridiculous parking fees KU charges. Cruising downtown to run errands and zipping by parking spot-hunting cagers on Mass St. is truly delightful. I rode to and from Baldwin the first three weeks of my job there, then got into a carpool. Now I bike to the carpool meetup point. It's not nearly as much fun, but it's still better than driving solo.

TheEleventhStephanie 11 years, 4 months ago

Agreed, biking to work is swell. Question--what about the b.o. you might get along the way? Just wear the smell with pride?

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

Actually, the building I worked in at KU had a shower in the lower level men's room, so I used that. On summer days after biking to the carpool, I'm a little sweaty (it's never been bad), but I pack clothes to change into when I get to work. A wipedown with a towel usually does the trick.

So yeah, pride... and a little deodorant from time to time.

preebo 11 years, 4 months ago

Here, here, Cog & Eleventh. I too bike to work regularly. However, it has been hard the last few weeks. I work for a certain environmental non-profit group and many of us ride our bikes to work. I guess that kills the whole hypocritical liberal thing, huh? I mean I would consider myself a a progressive and I'd like to think I live accordingly. I'd like to see some of those "NeoCons" do the same.

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

preebo, I suppose. To be completely honest, I consider myself more a moderate than anything else, and try not to attach a political meaning to riding my bike. For me, it's primarily the practical benefits: it's easy, it's cheap, it's fun, and there's always rock star parking.

TheEleventhStephanie 11 years, 4 months ago

Me too. I'm into the bike riding/ walking/carpooling business no so much for its political or even environmental implications, but more because I am a total tight ass. I like to save money. I walk or ride the T to school most days while my husband rides in the carpool to his job in downtown KC. Most of the time, our car (singular) is sitting in the garage. We're actually quite proud of the amount of money we save living like "lemmings**." (About $200 monthly, if you wonder.) That's a lot more dinners out, movies we can see, spur of the moment vacations we can afford--that money adds up! Also, when I bike or walk, I don't feel a bit of guilt when I indulge in a Butterfinger Blizzard!

**A short-tailed, furry rodent known for its peculiar habit of committing mass suicide by hurling itself -- along with hundreds of over Lemmings -- over steep cliffs and into the ocean.

white_mountain 11 years, 4 months ago

A better question for the poll might be "Would YOU use a transit system between Lawrence and KC?"

My guess is most people think it sounds like a nice idea, but hardly anyone would use it.

bugmenot 11 years, 4 months ago

I'd use it. I'd love to do something other than drive during my commute - work, read, stare out the window. Sign me up.

davisnin 11 years, 4 months ago

Kmat, Your commute may be too far to reap any benefits from a hybrid. When you factor in the impact of the battery production and disposal, and the possibility of a shorter service life, a small non hybrid car may be a better choice. Just something to consider.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

RT politicaly speaking, do you have transportation for your trip?? I have been busy traveling myself but have grown tired of taking trips.

I would like to travel the entire town of lawrence using nothing but the T and taxi service. However, I am awaiting the completion of the SLT prior to doing this

deec 11 years, 4 months ago

Concealing assets in order to qualify for medicaid funding is a federal crime. You might want to watch confessing that in a public forum.

deec 11 years, 4 months ago

Hey, I'm not the one confessing to federal medicaid fraud on a public forum.

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