New buses and a new contract to operate those buses for Kansas University would seem to open up great new opportunities for cooperation between the KU bus system and the Lawrence Transit System.
A fleet of refurbished buses is on its way to KU, which already is making plans to replace those buses with brand-new models. In addition to solving the exhaust problems that have been a trademark of KU's vintage buses, the new buses have lifts that meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The fact that KU's buses were not ADA compliant has been a major barrier to cooperation between KU and the T, which receives federal funds that require its buses to be accessible for people with disabilities.
Another major hurdle to increased cooperation also seems to have been overcome by KU's decision to contract with the California-based MV Transportation to operate its buses. MV also operates the T. KU officials say MV was chosen because it offered the best deal in a competitive bidding process, but having the same operator for both the KU and city systems offers many additional advantages for the community.
Having a single operator would seem to make it far easier to coordinate routes in a way that is more efficient and economical for both KU and the T. KU students will pay $20 per semester to help finance the university's bus system. That's a significant investment, and the university is right to put top priority on serving students who use the bus to travel to and from their homes and from one campus location to another.
That being said, however, there also are many bus routes that can serve other Lawrence residents as well as KU students. Running both systems should give MV Transportation the perfect vantage to see how routes might be combined and coordinated to best serve both populations. Cooperation between the two entities also will be facilitated by the fact that their contracts with MV will end at the same time, obviously a perfect time to take a look at the big picture of bus transportation both on and off the KU campus.
Having two independent bus systems in a city the size of Lawrence never has made a lot of sense, but certain barriers continued to make it difficult for a single system to serve both the university and the rest of the city. The new KU buses and contract seem to break down some of those barriers and clear the way for a merger of the two systems or at least major new cooperation that will benefit everyone involved.