Archive for Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Transit system costs to rise by $1 million

Higher fuel, maintenance costs among bad budget news for city leaders

April 29, 2008


T too expensive; city may cut transit service

More funds will be needed to run the Lawrence Public Transit System in 2009. Enlarge video

It will cost an extra $1 million in city funding to run the Lawrence public transit system in 2009.

And that was only one of several bad pieces of budget news city commissioners were presented with at a Monday study session.

"It has been a very dour hour," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said as city staff members briefed commissioners on what is expected to be one of the more challenging city budgets ever conceived at City Hall.

A big chunk of the challenge can be found in the city's public transit operations. After reviewing new bids that are based on higher fuel prices and increased maintenance costs for older buses, city staff members believe it will cost $1.02 million in additional city funding to run the T system and its associated paratransit service. The city currently spends $1.7 million in city funding for the system.

Commissioners did not agree on a solution, but some commissioners have previously said all options - including eliminating the service - would have to be considered.

New Mayor Mike Dever repeated his previous idea of holding a sales tax election to let the public decide whether it wants to tax itself to support public transportation. He said an election in November would be ideal, because voter turnout is expected to be high for the presidential election.

His fellow commissioners, though, didn't have a detailed discussion on the sales tax idea.

Other budget challenges that commissioners were presented included:

¢ The city is not expected to receive any new property tax revenues in 2009, unless commissioners agree to raise the mill levy. A slowdown in the real estate market has led to the lowest increases in assessed valuations in recent memory.

¢ Overall, the city's $55 million general fund is expected to grow only by about $850,000, or about 1.5 percent. Most of the new money is expected from a modest increase in sales tax collections.

¢ City departments need to budget at least a 20 percent increase in fuel prices.

City Manager David Corliss said without some sort of tax increase, the city likely would need to plan on expenses increasing by 2 percent or less in 2009. He said that could result in cuts to city services that the public would notice.

"But we can do it," Corliss said. "We spent less money in the general fund in 2007 than we did in 2006. That's one reason we feel confident we can deal with changing economic conditions."

Commissioners weren't pushing the panic button at the afternoon study session, the first of many to discuss the budget that must be adopted by the end of August.

Chestnut said the city was still in solid financial shape because it is operating with about $11 million in general fund reserves. The key, he said, is ensuring the city doesn't dip further into those reserve funds.

"Fiscally, we're still in really good shape," said Chestnut, a chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press. "We haven't run out of road."


doc1 10 years ago

NotASquishHead said everything that needs to be said. Plain and Simple.

NotASquishHead 10 years ago

Cut the T NOW! I am tired of other necessary services taking a hit. If you don't want to cut the T then buy them minivans or 15-passengar vans. We all know the buses aren't full as is.

LogicMan 10 years ago

It's clear now -- cut the T to serving only the four major streets (Iowa, Mass, 6th, and 23rd, to the city limits; most people can walk to the stops) and the special-services vans.

gccs14r 10 years ago

OTTR, $7/gal gas is on the way. We need to fix the system, not scrap it.

gccs14r 10 years ago

If we used electric trains instead of diesel busses, we wouldn't have to worry about $4/gal diesel fuel.

gccs14r 10 years ago

I still haven't figured out why we're paying MV Transportation so much to "manage" the bus system when we also have to pay bus expenses. It'd be cheaper to pay a Director of Public Transportation and run the bus system straight out of the City budget, rather than feed an unnecessary middleman.

tir 10 years ago

The current T system is both too expensive to run and too inconvenient for most people's needs. For public transit to work in Lawrence, we'd need smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, more routes, and more buses running so that the wait times wouldn't be so long. With gas prices climbing, I think a lot of people would want to use the T, but only if it is improved so that you can get where you need to go and not have to wait too long at the bus stop. The thing is, to make the necessary changes to improve it would require a big investment in new buses and hiring more drivers. But continuing to run it as it is, with big, old gas-guzzling buses, few routes and long waits, is a waste of money. If Lawrence wants public transit, it needs to be a better kind of public transit. It's just not worth it to keep running the expensive, inefficient bus system we have now.

BigAl 10 years ago

Pogo. That seems to me like a pretty good idea. Unlike most of the posters on here, I don't know much about public transportation but I would like to know the answer as to why the "T" and KU can't merge. And, why wouldn't that work?

BalkansHawk 10 years ago

tir,I agree, I agree and I agree. Did I mention that I agreed?

penguin 10 years ago

The merger would be a burden on KU students at this point. Every semester KU students pays $36 for bus services whether they ride the buses or not. This spring, they voted to pay an additional $20 per semester to eliminate bus passes. So there will be no bus passes at KU beginning Fall 2008. In addition, look at the KU system vs. the City system. The KU system is designed to get students from home to class and back again. The city routes are designed to go where the city wants and have changed very little since the service started. The KU system was hit with a lot of cost increases years ago and you know what they did...they looked at cutting outbound routes. This meant an end to the Legends route (and now they run their own bus) and some other routes that went farther from campus that had low ridership numbers. Ultimately, the city system is designed to do just enough to keep the federal funding that it receives. The merger would seem possible, but the city would want too great a say in how things are run. If the recent past proves anything, the students of KU would only be hurt by this move. The city has shown an inability to develop the system and KU would best be served not hitching their wagons to this dying horse.However, the city is the one who needs the merger now more than ever. The city has been drooling over the ridership boost a merger would guarantee...ridership has a big factor in their continuing ability to get grants. Also it would ensure they have 28,000+ riders that are paying roughly $112 a year into the system. So I see merger at this point as only a move to save the city's boondoggle.

shawn1040 10 years ago

Let's build a subway system like New York, DC or Chicago!! While we are at it they should tunnel the by pass under the wet lands!! Lawrence should also offer FREE housing, utilities and food to families with incomes under $100k. Let's just give everything away! ;-)

estespark 10 years ago

Limit service to east of Iowa - With the exception of the N. Iowa route that jogs west into the industrial area. Oh, and get rid of current transit management.

texburgh 10 years ago

The T put a good privately run bus system out of business? Now, I've only been here 11 years but there has never been a private bus system in that time. There was no bus system (other than KU) until the T. Perhaps Marion is thinking about the days BEFORE the Free State Brewery, when buses ran through the biergarten.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years ago

I was opposed to the T from the start. I saw these problems way back when this whole fiasco was originally proposed. Lawrence is two things. A college town, with the college having it's own bus system. And a bedroom community for the Topeka/K.C. area. No way is ANY public transit system going to work here, the demographics were against it from the beginning. If the city commission really wanted to provide services to those who need it, the suggestion of smaller, limited service to disabled/handicapped or other requirements would have been the way to go. But no, the captive city commissioners who only act to rubber stamp the instructions of the city manager and "city staff", a wholly non-accountable group of un-elected people, lack the guts, conviction, devices or any other requirement to truly be responsive to the citizens. It was doomed from the start and remains so as long as we have this dysfunctional system of city government where the elected officials are simply stooges of the employees.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years ago

gccs14r....Your suggestion of electric trains brings me to this question. Where do you think the electricity comes from? Do you think it is free? Not the power I get. And now that the loony left has managed to get the new proposed electric plants stopped, and have embarked on a crusade to disable the ones currently operating, where do you think the electric generating capacity will come from? Those large whirlly-gig windmills that are turning around the the governer's mind??? What happens to the power grid when a field of those windmills is hit by one of our famous Kansas tornados and lands in the middle of Kellog avenue in Wichita??? Wind power is a good idea, but not the total solution. And electric cars?? You have to plug those buggies in. And then the electric company sends you a real big bill. Where is the savings here???? Anyone??????????

dpowers 10 years ago

I am sure that all of you people who complain about the T are using it instead of driving yourselves to work in your gas guzzling SUVs. Or perhaps you are car-pooling to work! Good for you! Sure the T needs some improvements. It has not been around for very long. It should not be gotten rid of! It provides a service for the people who need it! More people should use it! You people who are complaining about it might need that service one day! If you don't use it then you have no right to complain about it!

gccs14r 10 years ago

someone around here has lifted a leg....

d_o_gaia135 10 years ago

these fanatics you speak of are simply people whose lives would be far more difficult without this service, and it is easy to jump on a catchy phrase like emT but difficult to know the actual ridership when you do not ride.Yes, changes could make the system more effective, that is true with everything. For the impoverished and disabled people in this community, public transportation is vital. you may not care. you may wish it to be different, but condeming a service unnecessary to you with such sarcastic disdain, when your less fortunate neighbors' quality of life would be even further disadvantaged if you get your way, is cruel and ignorant.

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