Archive for Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bus breakthrough?

Perhaps changes in the Kansas University bus system will open the door to increased cooperation or even a merger with the city’s T.

June 20, 2007


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.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Merging would seem to be the most efficient way to go. Maintenance will be shared at the existing facility near 31st and Haskell as will a new lot for parking at 31st and Haskell. Now I believe Lawrence is on to something.

DaveR 7 years, 9 months ago

Until there's some sort of long-term funding for the T, merging the two systems would be a disaster. The T would simply suck money away from the KU system.

Take the KU bus system, which I presume is self-supporting, and add the T, with its $450,000 deficit, to it. Let's see.... KU has 29,000 students. If the student bus fee was increased from $20 to $36, that would take care of the T's deficit.

SloMo 7 years, 9 months ago

Why are the powers that be so married to the hub model? Who wants to ride the bus downtown and wait 20 - 40 minutes for a connection if where they really want to go is 31st and Iowa? Why not just run the buses up and down the main thoroughfares, or figure out some interlocking grids that would cover the whole town?

penguin 7 years, 9 months ago

wow this shows a lack of is not $20 per semester it is an additional $20 per semester on top of the Campus Transportation Fee (which was $16 and another $6 for Safe Ride already being assessed)....So in fact KU students are going to pay $36 per semester...not just $20.

Sigmund 7 years, 9 months ago

The KU bus system makes sense. There is a central location (KU Campus) where the ridership needs to go and from each day. Buses make perfect sense. Add the cost to park on Campus and the KU Bus system is a no-brainer.

Contrast the EmpTy where the departure and destination are all over town but everyone is funneled downtown for the transfer. It is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars and diesel fuel. Lawrence doesn't have the population size nor density to support the EmpTy.

But hey, big props to all the KU students for your contribution failing system!

fletch 7 years, 9 months ago

I really hope the two don't merge. The students own, operate, and 100% fund KU on Wheels. It's revenue neutral. The T on the other hand is going down in flames. It's losing money hand over fist on top of an existing deficit. So why on earth merge the two? Why would students give up 100% control of their operation to probably get less than 50% control of a new system. Why would the students take on a greater economic burden to prop up the T lines?

It's perfectly fine to say "Hey, we're going to run these routes over here, and they end up at these major stops and X, Y, and Z times," and then have the T schedule their buses to come 5 minutes after. Sharing operational control is a boondoggle, however.

penguin 7 years, 9 months ago

obviously hawk is unfamiliar with Park and Ride...the new Park and Ride lot, which the bus serves is a not at all close to campus and neither is Jefferson Commons another spot where students are picked up or any number of Off-Campus locations. The buses are a great service to students without cars...and not just a shuttle service for the lazy.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Getting those old bus vehicles off the road is one huge plus...

lawrencian 7 years, 9 months ago

I, for one, am very excited that I won't have to be stuck behind those old white fume-spewing monstrosities. The fact that the T is not too well funded is the major sticking point for students, where merging is concerned, and I believe that cooperation is going to happen a lot sooner than any possible merger! Between the two systems, I can at least get to work without having to use my car as much!

shirinisb 7 years, 9 months ago

I've ridden both for 2 years. Merging the 2 is an awesome idea.

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