Public bus system a valuable service

The only national grassroots membership organization to focus solely on issues unique to women as they age, OWL strives to improve the status and quality of life of midlife and older women.

Members of the Kaw Valley Older Women’s League believe that a prime responsibility of government is to provide the infrastructure that supports growth and stability of the community. A future society based on independent or affordable mobility cannot be assumed. Rather, principles of universal design including equitable, flexible, simple and intuitive use can be applied to planning and assure that Lawrence remains a livable community for all ages.

The Lawrence Transit System is successful. It has grown 130 percent in 5 years. From January through July 2008, fare-box and pass sales have increased 54 percent over the same period last year. Compared with 201 other national systems, it is the third-fastest-growing new system and the fourth-fastest over all. In terms of public transportation supporting economic development in the community, the T is delivering a qualified work force to and from their jobs.

In traveling to and from educational facilities, Lawrence residents are learning a variety of job skills that will assist them in future employment. Traveling to retail and shopping establishments supports the local economy. Employees, shoppers and students are all assisted by the T in raising their standard of living which enables them to live productively and support the local tax base.

In light of our mission of advocating for midlife and older women, the Older Women’s League notes that the T already has a higher-than-average ridership for medical needs. Few options are available for those who do not drive or are on a limited income. The T provides transportation for those who may not seek needed medical care due these concerns. This group will grow as our community continues to age and Lawrence continues to attract retirees.

As “baby boomers” grow older, a dramatic shift in the average age of people using public transit is likely. Larger numbers of passengers will be seeking viable options due to physical, as well as financial, changes. This group will bring particular needs which an aware community cannot ignore.

The primary reason indicated by current T passengers for using the system is convenience. The system ranked negatively in the scheduling of service hours and days, time waiting for next bus and the on-time reliability. These are concerns that can be corrected with experience, investment and growth.

Lawrence is currently positioned where the size of the community is manageable in setting a direction that invests in a successful future over short-term fiscal convenience. To continue funding at the current levels is functionally a reduction as the T is at a point where increased services are the logical business decision.

Working within an established system to adjust to current then future needs is more cost-effective than trying to re-establish a system at a later date when costs will have increased.

Public transportation is an important piece of the public infrastructure. The increase in gasoline prices has placed public transportation in a highly visible position today, but the community needs to consider it in the longterm. The T allows people to remain productive, independent and contributing to the Lawrence community. This is a decision to be made not for each individual’s need but for the Lawrence community overall.