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Archive for Friday, December 26, 2008

T set: KU graduate student takes hard look at Lawrence bus system in documentaries

Kansas University graduate student Christopher Brott is pictured at one of the T bus stations located near the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. Brott finished a pair of documentaries about the recent vote over funding for the T.

Kansas University graduate student Christopher Brott is pictured at one of the T bus stations located near the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. Brott finished a pair of documentaries about the recent vote over funding for the T.

December 26, 2008

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Growing up in Germany, recent Kansas University journalism graduate Christopher Brott was used to riding the bus.

“It was just a part of my life,” Brott says. “Everywhere you went, you took the bus.”

So after seeing the news coverage of the proposed sales tax increase needed to keep the local bus system — known as the T — operating, Brott became interested in the issue. Though not an American citizen and unable to vote on the local proposals for funding and expanding the T, Brott wanted to become involved in the debate somehow.

As part of an independent study course for his master’s degree this semester, Brott created two short documentary films about the T vote: one examining the issue before the November vote and a recent film following up on the measure.

“From a student perspective, I thought it would be a good idea to get the big picture,” Brott says. “I wasn’t sure if there was enough awareness in the community (about the T).”

The docs

The first film is a 10-minute documentary titled “Point 2 for the T” that examines the debate about the T sales tax vote. Brott interviewed both proponents and opponents of the sales tax while also looking at the community of Chapel Hill, N.C., which operates a free public transit service.

In the second 5-minute documentary, “Point 2 for the T: What Now?,” Brott follows up on the sales tax vote passed by looking at the next steps in the process of the T’s development. Both measures were approved overwhelmingly and will add 0.25 percent to the city’s sales tax to support the bus system.

“What’s going happen in the next few months and years?” asks Brott.

Though a proponent of public transportation, Brott says he wanted his documentaries about the T to be objective and present both sides of the issue.

Chris Merrill, a KLWN radio talk show host and outspoken opponent of the tax, had some early doubts that Brott would present the issues in a neutral way. But after seeing the documentary, Merrill says he appreciated Brott’s fair portrayal of the issues.

“As it turned out, Mr. Brott went out of his way to provide perspective on the transportation system,” Merrill says. “His ‘fair shake’ approach was a pleasant surprise.”

KU journalism professor Dick Nelson, who supervised Brott’s project, says he also thought Brott achieved his goal of objectivity.

“He really covered his bases,” Nelson says. “Very well-balanced; good sources on both sides.”

Personal experience

As the project progressed, Brott started riding the T more frequently and decided not to buy a parking pass at KU.

In addition to saving gas money, Brott says he began seeing additional benefits to riding the T to campus everyday. Brott was able to read and study on the daily trips and felt more relaxed not having to drive to campus in rush hour traffic.

“It’s actually a nice thing to take the bus rather than a car,” says Brott.

Brott, who recently finished his master’s degree, plans to move back to Germany for a year and a half before coming back to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in communication studies. He says he hopes the Lawrence community continues to have public transportation available for its residents.

“Where I’m from, (public transportation) is almost as essential as schools, police, fire and library services,” Brott says. But he says he realizes convincing more Lawrence residents — who are used to using personal automobiles — to utilize public transportation will be a challenge.

“It would be a good thing in the long run if you changed that mindset,” Brott says. “The more people who ride it, the more support it will get.”

He points out that it’s important to look beyond the financial cost of public transportation.

Brott cites the example of Lance Fahy, a visually impaired Lawrence man featured in the documentary, who would not be able to get to and from work without the T.

“He doesn’t have a choice,” Brott says. “Even if it’s not a financial success, it’s still important. ... (it’s) important for a community to make sure every single individual in our community can move around freely. This is about a commitment we make.”

— Shaun Hittle is a journalism graduate student at Kansas University. He can be reached at Hittle@ku.edu.

Comments

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 11 months ago

"In addition to saving gas money, Brott says he began seeing additional benefits to riding the T to campus everyday. Brott was able to read and study on the daily trips and felt more relaxed not having to drive to campus in rush hour traffic."Interesting that this article points out that Brott covered both sides of the issue... something the article itself neglected to do.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 11 months ago

I love riding the bus. I never learned to drive and Lawrence is a huge place now, all spread out. The Senior bus charges three dollars for a one way trip and I can take the bus for fifty cents. Of course, I still need my daughter for major grocery shopping, but I can get a few things on the bus. I do agree with g10ckOwn3r that the article is hardly objective. Do you own three Glocks? Is that what your user name is supposed to suggest? :-) Don't get mad if you are totally anti-gun. I just can't make it out.

victoria_noire 5 years, 11 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront, you can host your own private viewing by clicking on the links in the article above that take you to part one and two of the documentary, (check the first few paragraphs).

Sigmund 5 years, 11 months ago

"Where I’m from, (public transportation) is almost as essential as schools, police, fire and library services,” Brott says. But he says he realizes convincing more Lawrence residents — who are used to using personal automobiles — to utilize public transportation will be a challenge."There is a reason for that Christopher.With a population of 82,689,210 within 357,022 km², Germany ranks 53rd in the worlds most densely populated countries, 232 people/km². To give you an idea imagine 25% of the US population squeezed into a state the size of Montana. Contrast that with the United States which ranks180th in the worlds most densely populated countries and has a population of 301,140,000 within 9,629,091 km² and a population density of 31 people/km²Germany, like most of Western Europe, has relatively high population densities (232 people/km²) which is much higher than the world as a whole (45.21 people/km²) and the United States much lower population densities (31 people/km²) which is much lower than the worlds average.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_densityI've spent some time in München and it has good mass transit but with a population of 1,356,594 squeezed into 310.43 km² it has a population density of 4,370 people/km².http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MunichBut US cities like Manhattan (25,850 people/km²), Brooklyn (13,481 people/km²), New York City (10,194 people/km²), San Francisco (6,349 people/km²), Chicago (4,866 people/km²), Los Angeles (3,078 people/km²), and Seattle (2,563/km²) with high population densities also have great public transportation.Contrast all that with Lawrence (in the middle of nowhere), Kansas with a population of 88,605 spread out over 74.3 km² with a population density of 1,217.1 people/km².http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence,_KansasMass transit only makes any economic (or even ecological) sense with large populations who can easily share the costs of public transportation and who are squeezed into a relatively small area and therefore are all going to and from a relatively few places. Otherwise it is a waste of time, money, and energy.Although the KU bus system makes some sense for students going back and forth from campus to large apartment complexes, it makes no sense for the vast majority (95%) of Lawrence citizens. Forcing 100% of the population to subsidize the 5% of Lawrence who use the empTy borders on fiscal criminal negligence, even in good economic times.

TheStig 5 years, 11 months ago

Sigmund (Anonymous) says… "Mass transit only makes any economic (or even ecological) sense with large populations who can easily share the costs of public transportation and who are squeezed into a relatively small area and therefore are all going to and from a relatively few places. Otherwise it is a waste of time, money, and energy."As an example of just how useless the empTy is for the vast majority of Lawrence citizens I suggest Christopher Brott's next film document a race. From a typical Lawrence home two people leave at the same time, one using only a car and the other only the empTy, and eat lunch at the Free State Brewery, catch any matinee movie at Southwind, and on the way home shop at the Merc for a dinner for both.The loser on time has to pay Lawrence's Living Wage ($11/hour) to the winner. As a side bet the person who uses more fuel per passenger mile (miles per gallon divided by the number of people in the vehicle per mile) has to pay the more ecological sound rider one days worth of carbon credits for the average American. That should be both entertaining and a good example of why the empTy is empty.

WWoftheW 5 years, 11 months ago

The paper said that the documentaires were on LJW.com.Can somewone tell me where. Search didn't get me there.

hedshrinker 5 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence is NOT in the middle of nowhere, unless you consider KC and Topeka nowhere. Thank goodness the JO has stepped in to provide some minimal semblance of mass transit to JCCC and Edwards campus; I thank the T every time there's ice and snow or my vehicle is under the weather and I can still get places and leave the car in the driveway.A blessing for 50 cents.

Sigmund 5 years, 11 months ago

hedshrinker (Anonymous) says… "Lawrence is NOT in the middle of nowhere, unless you consider KC and Topeka nowhere."Have you been to Topeka? If it isn't nowhere you can certainly see it from there.hedshrinker (Anonymous) says… "Thank goodness the JO has stepped in to provide some minimal semblance of mass transit to JCCC and Edwards campus"That service is heavily used despite the high fares proving it is a needed and valued service, unlike the the empTy which is low fare and low ridership.hedshrinker (Anonymous) says… ."A blessing for 50 cents."It costs taxpayers $7.50 for every ride, not 50 cents. And lets not forget what alternate good could be provided to all the citizens of Lawrence for $2.4 million per year. Libraries, shelters, police, fire, etc. Wasted money on empTy buses is a disgrace.

Compy 5 years, 11 months ago

sure we could all listen to the german and then what? next you will find yourself on a bus to awshwits and there ya go.stay home, watch k u bball and football, try to meet an athletic star, go to free state brewing company. thats all you kneed to know folks.

Dominic_Sova1 5 years, 11 months ago

Someones obviously never had to walk more than a mile, sorry my parents dident buy me a car or nice video camera to make stupid documentarys with. excuse my middle class citizen ass for needing a bus.

cutny 5 years, 11 months ago

"My car, my car, my car.""Driving, driving, driving.""Faster, further, farther,""My car, my car, my car.""What a love, hate relationship this is (x2) "My Car," by Bob Dylan

Sigmund 5 years, 11 months ago

Dominic_Sova1 (Anonymous) says… "Someones obviously never had to walk more than a mile, sorry my parents dident buy me a car or nice video camera to make stupid documentarys with. excuse my middle class citizen ass for needing a bus."What else did your parents not give you that you want Lawrence taxpayers to provide for you? How about a nicer computer, a Xbox, and a plasma TV or are you all set with those? How are you for beer money? Here's a news flash for you, your fellow Lawrence citizens aren't supposed to be a substitute for bumming of your mom and dad or your laziness in not providing for your middle class self.

Sigmund 5 years, 11 months ago

cutny (Anonymous) says… “My Car,” by Bob DylanI, man, am regal a German am INever odd or evenIf I had a hi-fiMadam, I'm AdamToo hot to hootNo lemons, no melonToo bad I hid a bootLisa Bonet ate no basilWarsaw was rawWas it a car or a cat I saw?Rise to vote, sirDo geese see God?"Do nine men interpret?" "Nine men," I nodRats live on no evil starWon't lovers revolt now?Race fast, safe carPa's a sapMa is as selfless as I amMay a moody baby doom a yam?Ah Satan sees NatashaNo devil lived onLonely TylenolNot a banana batonNo "x" in "Nixon"O, stone, be not soO Geronimo, no minor ego"Naomi", I moan"A Toyota's a Toyota"A dog, a panic in a pagodaOh, no! Don Ho!Nurse, I spy gypsies -- run!Senile felinesNow I see bees I wonUFO tofuWe panic in a pewOozy rat in a sanitary zooGod! A red nugget! A fat egg under a dog!Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hoghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsgeTNnYywg"Bob," by Weird Al

trombeck 5 years, 11 months ago

WWoftheW:Sorry it took me awhile to respond...I've been out of town. You can find he links to the documentaries in the story, in the text of the fourth paragraph. Hope that helps.Best,Terry RombeckFeatures/special sections editor

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