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Letters to the Editor

Transit example

August 14, 2008

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To the editor:

My wife and I just returned from spending 10 days in Portland, Ore. Portland is a city of about 550,000 people (and 31 breweries). It also has an efficient and delightful transportation system - a system appropriate for a modern, progressive city. Seven percent of the population ride a bicycle daily, and most ride just for transportation. Bike lanes are clearly marked, and bike routes are well-designed. Cyclists ride responsibly, for the most part, and motorists seem attentive and courteous, perhaps because they understand the benefits to the community of so many riders.

The bus system is convenient, comfortable and reasonably priced, and it runs well into the evening. The system covers the city effectively. The two closest lines to where we stayed were both a short walk away.

Naturally, both buses and bicycles are most useful in the more densely populated but quite sizable inner city. Portland also has suburbs featuring the standard big houses with big yards and big distances to shopping and jobs, fully dependent on Big Oil.

We spent five days with young grandchildren and used only bicycles and public transportation. Not needing a car was a wonderful sort of liberation. Lawrence could have this kind of rational transportation, especially an expanded bus system and greater bicycle ridership. We just need to decide that we want that quality of life.

P.S. I also did a short survey one evening this week and saw 66 bikes in downtown Lawrence. Think of the impact of an additional 66 cars.

Joe Douglas,
Lawrence

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

"The T already costs taxpayers $7.50 per one way trip per rider,"That's still way cheaper than driving your own car, especially when taxpayer subsidies are factored in. But you don't want to talk about that, do you?"Actually, no. It's very relevant. I'm curious why you believe city size is irrelevant"Because it is. Lawrence needs a transit system for a city of 90,000, not 550,000. Comparing them is irrelevant."which cities the size of Lawrence have "successful" systems under your definition?"How about Iowa City, which I think is even smaller than Lawrence?

devobrun 6 years, 4 months ago

105 heat index, -40 wind chill. You didn't have to buy lots of stuff, you were on vacation.I'm glad you had fun in paradise.Get in your car and drive to work now. Your not in Oregon anymore, Dorothy.

dipweed 6 years, 4 months ago

Cliff Galante, the city's administrator for the T, is quitting his position next week to take a job in Las Vegas. What does that tell you about his take on the future of the 'T' in Lawrence? I predict it will be downsized to a more affordable para-transit system after the vote.

nekansan 6 years, 4 months ago

""The T already costs taxpayers $7.50 per one way trip per rider,"That's still way cheaper than driving your own car, especially when taxpayer subsidies are factored in. But you don't want to talk about that, do you?"I will.Lets say the average person works 5 days a week and makes 4 additional round trips through the week. Maybe they go out to dinner Saturday, make a grocery run, have 1 doctor's appointment and make it our for a downtown shopping trip. That's a total of 18 one way trips which makes $135/week in taxpayer funded subsidies. I total that up to be about $540/month. You still think it is much less expensive than driving your own car?

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

And, for the record, I wasn't trying to shame anyone, merely pointing out that our system is not designed so that one can allocate tax contributions.It might be interesting if it were, and I'd very much like to see some sort of computer simulation of the results of such a system.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 4 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "The T already costs taxpayers $7.50 per one way trip per rider,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Including FED, ST, Local, it's closer to 38.00 per passenger trip per revenue hour. Please don't forget deadhead time, fueling, overtime, road calls, etc.

Satirical 6 years, 4 months ago

logicsound....Please see the definitions to a "public good" and the free rider problem. Few people have a problem funding public goods. http://www.answers.com/topic/public-good

Satirical 6 years, 4 months ago

Bozo:"This illustrates quite clearly that you have no understanding of what the "problem" with the "T" is. The system is inadequately funded, but I think that the design of the system is probably as good as they can do with current funding."It is "inadquately funded" because its costs are too high (too many buses and too many routes) and its revenue is too low (low fees to ride the bus). Rather than continue to fund a bloated inefficient service, how about we decrease funding and make the government use their brains to figure out a way to it work, such as decreasing the fleet of buses and the routes with the fewest passengers. I don't get to ask for a raise every time my expenses go up. My choice is to either find a way to supplement my income, or decrease my expenses. The T has the same option. But I guess the government is the only entity that doesn't have to think.Or maybe you would support public financing of air travel, and support flights with few passengers on board, to destinations few people want to go.

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

Typo Alert"I'm not saying that their shouldn't be any buses going downtown...""their" should be "there".

Chris Ogle 6 years, 4 months ago

xbusguy (Anonymous) says: just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says:"The T already costs taxpayers $7.50 per one way trip per rider,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Including FED, ST, Local, it's closer to 38.00 per passenger trip per revenue hour. Please don't forget deadhead time, fueling, overtime, road calls, etc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!sorry, I forgot to include ADA mandated Paratransit Service.....Add about 12.40 per passenger trip per transit bus revenue hour.....

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

"Portland also has suburbs featuring the standard big houses with big yards and big distances to shopping and jobs, fully dependent on Big Oil."=========================================That is not true. I lived in that area for years and I can tell you that their transit system serves the suburbs very well. Their system serves three counties.

Satirical 6 years, 4 months ago

logicsound..I completely understood you point."I think that's a pretty good example for the idea that public transit does not provide a good enough incentive for private firms to produce it efficiently." - LS04First, just because some public transportation isn't self sufficient doesnt mean a person should support something that is not a public good. Me having drive-in theater in my backyard may not be self-sufficient either, but that doesn't mean the tax payer should supplement it so I can get the benefit.Second, I personally have no problem with minimal public transportation for a small city the size of Lawrence. However, the T has too many buses and too many routes. I think a combination of increasing fees, reducing waste including the number of buses and routes, would allow the T to survive. Unfortunately the only option we are given is vote for a tax increase when we are having a hard time putting gas in our own cars (some of us work outside of Lawrence), and support the inefficient and wasteful way the T is currently managed. Or vote against it and demand a better proposal to approve. I choose the latter.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

These comments about not wanting to pay for the "T" get kind of old.Should people without children not pay for public education?Should people who don't need them pay for grants/loans to help improve neighborhoods?Should people from one state pay for improvements in another state?Should people who disagree with the war in Iraq be able to withhold payment for that?Our system, while clearly imperfect and in need of much improvement, attempts to work for the good of all.Public transportation is supposed to be for the good of all residents, not just a few. Our bus system is poorly designed and should be re-designed so that it will be more useful to more of the residents.Would you mind paying for it if that were the case?

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

In all the arguments about the bus system here the focus is always on how many people use the bus. The focus needs to be on how many people are served by the bus system. Sadly, that is a low number. You want increased ridership? Then give us a system that serves everyone. Get them where they need to go instead of forcing everyone downtown. Downtown is not a big business hub. It's a couple of city blocks with a few shops. That's all.I'm not saying that their shouldn't be any buses going downtown, but not everyone needs or wants to have to go downtown in order to get to where they need to go. Change your focus from being self serving to serving Lawrence.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 4 months ago

"We just need to decide that we want that quality of life."Joe, Do not force me and my family to pay for the quality of life that you and your family want. It's that simple. Demands or even requests to contrary indicate that you want to put your hand in my pocket.

Cindy Wallace 6 years, 4 months ago

Great analysis "barrypenders", but one tax you did not list: They pay NO SALES TAX!!!! (State, City or Local)Vote "NO"!!!!!!

SloMo 6 years, 4 months ago

So, care to answer any of jafs' questions?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence is a most accessible city by skates, bike,walking and public transportation. That is one of the most attractive reasons for living in Lawrence,Kansas.

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 4 months ago

Joe, it sounds like you should move to Portland if its so grand but more to the point, its silly to compare Lawrence with Portland, apples and oranges as they say.

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

Here is a pdf file showing showing the areas covered by Portland's transit system.http://trimet.org/pdfs/trimetsystemmap.pdfOr you can go to their site at http://trimet.org/schedules/index.htm and click on the interactive system map to see all their routes.They also have several "Park and Ride" locations for those living in the suburbs not within walking distance of the nearest route.The difference between their system and here is that they actually thought theirs out and did it right. What we have here is a joke. I'm not anti transit, but I don't like what we currently have. Make a real bus system that can get people where they actually need to go in an expedient manner instead of forcing everyone to go downtown when they only need to go across town. Then I believe you'd have a much higher ridership because it would actually be useful. The way it is set up now it's easier to simply walk or bum rides or whatever than relying on the "T" to get you where you need to be.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

" However, the T has too many buses and too many routes."This illustrates quite clearly that you have no understanding of what the "problem" with the "T" is. The system is inadequately funded, but I think that the design of the system is probably as good as they can do with current funding. Greater funding plus a merger with the KU system would allow for a much better designed and more-used system.BTW, the relative size differential between Portland and Lawrence is irrelevant. We have a large enough population to gain an economy of scale on all of the major components of a bus system. There are literally hundreds of cities the size of Lawrence around the world which have successful public transportation.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm much more tired of paying for wars, corporate assistance, corruption and inefficiencies in government.Paying for services which actually serve the majority of the population seems like an excellent use of tax revenue to me.If the system were designed correctly, it would be used much more and fare collections (if fares are raised) would be a higher percentage of overall costs.It would also make the system more environmentally sound, which is important to me as well.I guess bp is criticizing the entire system of taxation in the country then, not so much the T system.

Satirical 6 years, 4 months ago

I have visited New York several times, and they have an extensive subway system, buses, thousands of taxis, and numerous ferries and all sorts of public transportation. We have to do this so we can be just like them. Therefore I conclude that if Lawrence doesn't also have an extensive subway system, buses, thousands of taxis, numerous ferries, and possibly light rail, we will have failed to achieve the liberal utopia we all dream about. Ignore the fact that Lawrence is smaller both in population and size. There are people who really want to get a job, but since their only methods of getting to work are a bike, skates, their feet, and a car, they may not go to work to their minimum wage job. However, if they had all of the above types of public transportation you might get a few more low skilled workers who are too lazy to find alternative means, to use the subway, etc. The costs of such public transportation is a non-issue because it is more important that you pay for other people to have cheap transportation, as your gas prices are going up and you are trying to support yourself and your family, than it is for you to keep more of the money you have earned. Ignore the fact a reasonable busing service could be provided with fewer routes, and fewer buses and provide similar service. We need more buses, and more routes so anyone can get from any two points in the city whenever they feel like it, and at your expense. If we want to be just like New York and be compassionate, the only choice is to have an extensive subway system, a fleet of buses, thousands of taxis, numerous ferries, and light rail. If you disagree with me it means you hate poor people.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 4 months ago

"Would you mind paying for it if that were the case?" -jafsYes, I would. I am tired of paying for your social experiments.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Most of us do not use 99.7% of the streets in Lawrence,Kansas. In many more cases there are roads of which locations are unknown. I am sure so many of us never visit new neighborhoods. We subsidize those projects and think nothing of it:never utter a word. Think how many ways these millions upon millions of tax dollars could be spent more wisely?The T allows so many to be productive citizens whether it's contributing to the economy,becoming educated by KU, USD 497, getting to a job or allowing independence of senior citizens who can no longer drive. This tax dollar increase is productive use of tax dollars equal to that money spent on academics in USD 497. I say support this cause.The bus routes have been designed to cover all of the commercial and industrial zones in Lawrence,Kansas.When park n' ride is figured into the equation our local bus service provides over 700,000 rides annually. The city owns 5 of the park n'ride buses however this ridership is not reflected on the T site. The T is accomplishing excellent ridership service. It would be nice if during rush hours a few more buses could be added to decrease wait times.Since 2001 our bus service has experienced 123% increase in ridership over the long term. Yes 2007 did see a downturn however comparing those numbers to day one it is still large increase. Let's support this valuable service.

KsTwister 6 years, 4 months ago

Comparing Lawrence to Portland? Portland is much larger with a much larger tax base,they started much earlier with their transit system, unfortunately most people still have to use vehicles of their own; as my kids just found out when they moved there this year. Easy on the praise.

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 4 months ago

what's with all the negativity about Joe's article? obviously larrytown isnt a big as portland but that doesnt mean a properly functioning transit system is impossible. in fact the cost and size could be proportional to size of lawrence compared to portland. that's not so difficult to understnad. i'm with joe, i wish i didnt have to have a car. i wish using my vehicle to get to work, to the store, etc were an option and not a requirement, but unfortunately our infrastructure doesnt even come close to allowing it. but it's very possible to do and we should take it seriously as the price of fuel continues to be expensive. and portland isnt the only example, there are many places with good public transportation here in the US and almost any country around the world and many are properly functioning extensive and efficient. why are so many of us so opposed to the idea of creating a really kick-a$$ transit system? if not for yourselves, do it to invest in the future of our grandchildren.

nekansan 6 years, 4 months ago

"As director of CyRide, the Ames, Iowa Transit Agency, Bob designed, specified, and implemented a fully integrated city/university/student transit system that serves the entire city. Some of his key accomplishments during this time include:¢ During his 25-year tenure with the Agency, Bob led CyRide's growth, from a 12-bus, 3-route system with 331,000 riders to a 65-bus, 11-route system with an annual ridership of 4,700,000-that's 92 rides per capita per year, 47 passengers per revenue hour, for a city of 50,000 citizens."Lawrence has a successful similar transit system. It's called KU on Wheels. They serve 10 routes & have 38 buses. I can't find numbers on their ridership online but I'm confident that if you pull the student numbers from the equation above you are left with some pretty low numbers that reinforce how little need there is for a city bus system in Lawrence or other similar sized cities that already have a university transport system.

Satirical 6 years, 4 months ago

bozo:"For most people with access to a car, this means they will almost always choose to drive rather that ride."So you solution is more funding than is even being requested by the tax increase? Maybe you aren't aware but I am pretty sure they need this money to keep the T afloat, not to expand its services. Whether people choose to ride their car as opposed to taking the T is irrelevant to whether the T should continue to be taxpayer funded. I say they need to figure out how to do more with less, just like the average American.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

If one would research it would be discovered that public transportation is neither a liberal or conservative issue. Public transportation is supported heavily by both sides of the aisle.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

"It is "inadquately funded" because its costs are too high (too many buses and too many routes) and its revenue is too low (low fees to ride the bus)."While I think the routes should be revised, they are not the primary problem. The problem is that it's a minimum of 40 minutes between buses, and a 20-minute wait downtown if you need to change buses, and the buses don't run past 8 pm or on Sundays. For most people with access to a car, this means they will almost always choose to drive rather that ride."Or maybe you would support public financing of air travel,"Air travel is heavily subsidized. Are you suggesting that all subsidies for air travel be eliminated?

supertrampofkansas 6 years, 4 months ago

Larry_The_Moocher (Anonymous) says: "Bozo does not care about things being funded with taxes as he evidently does not pay any taxes. He must not work and probally lives in public housing."Hey, you resemble that statement "moocher"!

jakeoliver84 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence: Don't fall into the stone age. Every thriving city needs public transit.

paavopetie 6 years, 4 months ago

"Paying for services which actually serve the majority of the population seems like an excellent use of tax revenue to me."I think that's the argument, that the majority of people in Lawrence aren't using the "T". And as a result, it is very wasteful because there's all of these empty buses being shuttled back and forth from downtown.Isn't the vote to approve funds to keep the "T" running as it is? It certainly doesn't have the routes and frequency to actually serve anyone who values their time and gas money. Maybe if more routes were added and the frequency increased, it might allow more people to see it as a viable option. But in all honesty, Lawrence is a city of 90,000 that really doesn't have a need or desire for a great bus system.

notajayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

jafs (Anonymous) says: "Paying for services which actually serve the majority of the population seems like an excellent use of tax revenue to me."Me too. That pretty much leaves out the T.****just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "That's still way cheaper than driving your own car, especially when taxpayer subsidies are factored in. But you don't want to talk about that, do you?"You're not subsidizing my driving, boohoozo. If you're talking about the money spent on roads, I assume even you realize you need those for buses, too? And a large portion of road costs are paid for in fuel taxes, vehicle registration and drivers license fees, etc. And most of the 1/4 to 1/3 that's paid in general revenue funds is also being paid by the people that drive cars. (How much sales tax do you think there is on the average new car, boohoozo?) If you're talking 'subsidizing,' boohoozo, spending on roads is something that benefits everyone in the population, whether they drive or not, and only a fraction of the costs are paid for in general taxes, while the bus system benefits a tiny majority, almost all of which is paid for through taxes."BTW, the relative size differential between Portland and Lawrence is irrelevant. We have a large enough population to gain an economy of scale on all of the major components of a bus system."Well, you're actually correct (for once). The size of the city has nothing to do with economies of scale. That has to do with how many people use it, which is why the T is such an utter failure. The way to reduce economies of scale would be to get more - a lot, lot more - people to ride the buses. But your contention that adding routes would get more people to that is based on nothing other than blind faith - 'If we build it they will come.' Scheduling the buses every 40 minutes rather than every 80 minutes effectively doubles your operating costs - that means you have to double ridership just to maintain the current rider-funded share, and the effect of each incremental increase in ridership is reduced by half. Do you have anything to support a belief that doubling the routes would increase ridership by even four times as much (which would still* leave the majority of the costs being paid by taxpayers), other than your seriously misguided belief that more people want to be clowns like you?

notajayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

"If the system were more efficient and more people could use it, would you still be against it?"Probably. Because whether you realize it or not (and I'm guessing 'not'), it has absolutely nothing to do with whether people could use it.It has to do with whether they would.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

It amazes me that people manage to ignore such important parts of my posts while quoting others.I have advocated for a more efficient sysem that would serve more people well numerous times.My suggestion is to change to a grid system, with buses running along major streets.I have made this suggestion to the transit department and the city manager's department.If the system were more efficient and more people could use it, would you still be against it?

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

And, where is the outrage about the complete waste of money in Washington?There are large sums of money that are completely unaccounted for - apparently we shipped loads of cash over to Iraq, and have no idea where a lot of it went.For the last 35 years, we've had budget deficits in all but 4 of them - all 4 of those were during Clinton's presidency, btw.The worst, in '83, was during Reagan's presidency.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 4 months ago

Public Transportation Reduces U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence Using conservative assumptions, the study found that current public transportation usage reduces U.S. gasoline consumption by 1.4 billion gallons each year. In concrete terms, that means: 108 million fewer cars filling up almost 300,000 every day. 34 fewer supertankers leaving the Middle East one every 11 days. Over 140,000 fewer tanker truck deliveries to service stations per year. A savings of 3.9 million gallons of gasoline per day. These savings result from the efficiency of carrying multiple passengers in each vehicle, the reduction in traffic congestion from fewer automobiles on the roads, and the varied sources of energy for public transportation. Public transportation also saves energy by enabling land use patterns that create shorter travel distances, both for transit riders and drivers. We hope to estimate these savings in future research, but were not able to include them in this report. Significant Household Savings Households who use public transportation save a significant amount of money. A two- adult "public transportation household" saves an average $6,251 every year, compared to an equivalent household with two cars and no access to public transportation service. We define "public transportation household" as a household located within 3â4 mile of public transportation, with two adults and one car. To put these household savings in perspective, we compared them to other household expenditures: ¢ The average U.S. household spent $5,781 on food in 2004. ¢ The average U.S. homeowner with a mortgage spent $6,848 on mortgage interest and fees in 2004, and paid off $3,925 in mortgage principal.

notajayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

"but I'm pretty sure no one at the city could answer a simple economic question like "controlling for gas prices, how much does a change in one-way fares change ridership numbers?""First, you have to have that data available. I haven't lived in this area that long, so I don't know - have there been any fare changes? Then, you have to have a big enough sample set - given the rather low ridership, would a change be statistically significant? Then you have to control for other possible factors, not just gas prices, such as the state of the economy in general, and to make the data useful in any way, you need to be able to predict those same factors and include them in future planning. On top of all that, the data only reflects factors which apply to people that already use the bus. It's like doing a satsifaction survey at the location where services are delivered - obviously the data will be skewed towards those who are satisfied, since those who weren't aren't there to participate in the survey. I think someone else mentioned something like this in one or the other of these threads on the T: If you want to keep things exactly as they are, then ask the people who are already riding why they are; if you want to increase ridership, ask the people who are not riding why they aren't.

sjschlag 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence has very little in common with Portland. Portland is a much larger city, with (yes, it's true) a larger tax base and a larger budget to spend on public transit. Of course it's going to be better than ours. Comparing Lawrence to Ames- that is more reasonable. Two cities, similar in size with a large university anchoring the workforce. They seem to have things worked out well up there...perhaps we should learn from their examples? Portland has nothing to teach Lawrence about transit, just pipe dreams about buses and subways going everywhere. Ames, IA; Boulder, CO; these are places where we can look for solutions to our transit problems.

sdinges 6 years, 4 months ago

Jafs: "If the system were more efficient and more people could use it, would you still be against it?"Theoretically, no. In principal I support public transportation (along with many other social services). But our city government has demonstrated that it's not interested in running a more efficient system. And since they want money to even continue the system (without indicating they're willing to even consider running it responsibly) I can't find it in me to cross my fingers and vote yes.Jafs: And, where is the outrage about the complete waste of money in Washington?I feel it. And if Washington wasn't so bad, irresponsible city government would feel like small potatoes. I wouldn't care so much if I wasn't already feeling dissatisfaction on a much larger scale. And all we hear from our two presidential candidates is either a "status quo" message or a "let's raise taxes" message.How do you vote for responsible government when no one running for office seems to care about it?It seems like the best you can do is vote against taxes to limit the damage.

sdinges 6 years, 4 months ago

Jafs: "I'm much more tired of paying for wars, corporate assistance, corruption and inefficiencies in government.Paying for services which actually serve the majority of the population seems like an excellent use of tax revenue to me."Jafs, I agree with your statement 100%, but we seem to reach different conclusions from it. I feel that while we're paying for wars, corporate assistance, inefficiency, corruption, that we ought not trust our government with even more tax revenue.They've already shown us they'll waste our money on inefficient programs and pet projects.Paying for a service that is efficiently run and serves the majority of the population is fantastic. Paying for a service that is inefficiently run and does not serve the majority of the population (while doing a poor job of serving the minority) is not fantastic. Not at all.

notajayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

"while the bus system benefits a tiny majority" should have been minority, obviously.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

If the system were designed correctly, it would serve much more of the population.A grid system with transfers from major east-west streets to major north-south streets would be more efficient and convenient.I had a long chat with Cliff Galante yesterday, who said that the system was designed the way it was in response to the desires of those involved in the process at the beginning. Our desires as a small city have changed, and perhaps the system should be changed as well.If the system were more usable for more residents, andfares raised enough to be a comparable percentage with other public transportation systems, would you still be against it?

simplifying 6 years, 4 months ago

Read the book "The Sociopath Next Door" How does this book apply to the T discussion? The inability to have compassion for persons in need. Read it ....

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