Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Larger sales tax weighed for transit

June 11, 2008

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Big buses and a slightly bigger sales tax likely will be needed to keep the city's public transit system operating in the future, city commissioners said Tuesday.

A majority of commissioners at their weekly meeting expressed general agreement for a 0.20 percent transit sales tax. That's up from a previous proposal by Commissioner Rob Chestnut that called for putting a 0.15 percent sales tax on a November ballot for voters to decide.

Commissioners, though, indicated they were willing to consider the slightly higher sales tax rate, in part, because Kansas University has shown considerable interest in merging its transit system with the city's bus service.

"The merger of these two systems will be the real key to all of this," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. "Creating one system that the public has confidence in could make all the difference in the world for this issue."

But commissioners stopped short of signing a formal letter of intent that proposed a merger of the KU and city bus systems by July 1, 2009, if several conditions could be met. Commissioners also did not take any action to place the sales tax issue on the November ballot.

Instead, commissioners said the city needed to have more discussion with KU leaders to determine what a merged system would look like. Commissioners agreed that voters would have to be presented with specifics if a sales tax had much chance for approval.

Commissioners also directed staff members to begin putting together a budget scenario that would envision a public sales tax failing to win voter approval. Mayor Mike Dever said he believed the majority of the commission would want to continue with at least some sort of paratransit service that would provide transportation to the disabled and elderly. But it would be unlikely any sort of city fixed-route bus system would be provided.

Staff members also were directed to start creating a list of possible projects that a separate infrastructure sales tax could fund. Commissioners are still expressing interest in placing two separate sales tax questions on the November ballot: the 0.20 percent transit proposal and a 0.30 infrastructure sales tax. The infrastructure sales tax originally was proposed to be a 0.35 percent sales tax, but commissioners on Tuesday reduced it after tentatively raising the proposed transit tax.

The transit tax is anticipated to generate about $1.5 million initially for the bus system. The infrastructure tax would generate slightly more than that.

In other transit news, commissioners seemingly ended the debate over whether the city should switch to smaller buses in the future.

Commissioners unanimously gave staff members the authority to submit paperwork to the Federal Transit Administration that would get the ball rolling on a federal grant for two new 30-foot, heavy-duty buses.

Staff members had been studying the feasibility of purchasing smaller 25-foot buses that operated with gasoline engines instead of diesel engines. But staff members recommended against the switch because the smaller buses likely would need to be replaced every two years.

The $320,000 heavy-duty transit buses could last 10 to 12 years, transit administrator Cliff Galante told commissioners. The smaller buses - which would be the same size as the city's paratransit buses - would get better fuel mileage. The 12 passenger buses get about 7.5 miles per gallon compared with 5 miles per gallon for the larger buses.

No demolition permit yet for Louisiana St. home

City commissioners did not grant a demolition permit for an early 1900s home at 1232 La.

But they may in the near future. Commissioners said they weren't yet convinced that there are no other feasible or prudent alternatives to demolishing the structure.

Mayor Mike Dever and Commissioner Sue Hack have toured the property within the last year and said it is in extremely bad shape. Commissioners directed members of the city's codes enforcement division to inspect the property again and bring back a more detailed report of its condition.

Members of the Oread Neighborhood Association and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance expressed opposition to the demolition request. Dennis Brown, president of the LPA, said he's concerned that the development group that owns the property has not stated any specific plans for the property.

Price Banks, an attorney for 1240 Louisiana Street Associates LLC, said his client hadn't had time to develop a plan for the property, which was purchased from the KU Endowment Association last summer.

Comments

LogicMan 6 years, 11 months ago

Both the house and the bus system are money pits. "Don't throw good money after bad" is a basic economic principle that this city commission needs to learn, and fast.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

I wonder what the number will be for the MT by the time November rolls around? Maybe the entire sales tax increase will be dedicated to this loser. 99% of the population does not ride the bus, yet the CC does not have the guts to get rid of it? Even if you double ridership that only adds up to 2% of the population who are funded by everyone else. Where is the reasoning behind cutting street funding, which the entire population uses, only to pour more into the largest failure the city has ever seen? What a sweet deal for those lonely riders. Don't they feel even the slightest bit of guilt being chauffeured around town in Lawrence's version of the liberal limo? I suppose the drivers assuage their guilt by collecting cans and giving free rides in exchange. Maybe I have been on the wrong path in my life. I could have been riding that easy street bus.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

"...I think most taxpayers and voters in this town are smart enough to look beyond the ideology of pettiness and narrow self-interests,"+++Yep,exactly.Don't tell anyone on this board though.Some feel they are the voice of the people of Lawrence.(snickersnicker)Let's just humor them instead.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 11 months ago

"... most of whom in Lawrence are not employed.."+++I was with you up until this part.Sounds like you are saying that most of our city's citizens are out of work,unemployable or just plain lazy.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The T is a good investment and is a great deal for those who either do not want or cannot walk,bike,skateboard,rollerbladeetc etc. How can we pull this off without increasing sales taxes?Comm. Hack suggested allowing the commission to use a portion of separate tax increase for future infrastructure needs. What needs does the commission have in mind?

tir 6 years, 11 months ago

Interestingly enough, people are swamping the mass transit systems in lots of places, including Wichita, KS.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25010939/This news story makes some interesting points about how cities nationwide had not been investing enough in mass transit and were not prepared for this increase in demand for it. Now they are having to deal with aging equipment and higher fuel costs while they are also experiencing decreases in their tax revenues in part due to people cutting back on how much they spend on gas.There's no question that public transit is the wave of the future, even in places like Lawrence, and we need to invest in it. But it needs to be done RIGHT. No more long, meandering, gas-wasting, time-wasting routes. Shorter routes, along the main streets, going directly to where people really need to go the most. More frequent runs so you don't have to wait forever at the stops. Faster and more efficient routes will gain more riders.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

A 1/5 of a cent sales tax will cost the average resident no more than a dime a day. If that's what it takes to get a merger of the KU and city bus system into something that works much better than what either currently provides, then it's well worth the small investment it will take. And that's the litmus test for any tax-- do taxpayers get their money's worth from it. Sure some taxpayers will balk at any tax that doesn't directly benefit them, but I think most taxpayers and voters in this town are smart enough to look beyond the ideology of pettiness and narrow self-interests, and they know that a good transit system benefits everyone, even those who will never ride the bus.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 11 months ago

Here's a great idea! Let's raise sales taxes again! Yeah, that's what we need to do. Who's got a pet project that needs other people's money to support it? We'll fund it with higher and higher sales taxes. Whoo hoo! We're all geniuses!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

So what's your solution, hawk-- should we just abolish city government altogether, sell off its assets and refund the proceeds to taxpayers, and then let everyone wing it on their own?

notajayhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

tir (Anonymous) says: "There's no question that public transit is the wave of the future, even in places like Lawrence, and we need to invest in it."Let's look at the figures from that MSNBC story:They emphasize anecdotal percentage increases in several big cities, many at 20% or more (going so far as to say "The story is the same everywhere"), and in a sidebox give you the overall nationwide percentage increase, which is only 3.3%. And it looks like most of that increase comes from the handful of large cities that already had pretty good utilization of their transit systems. You see a lot of numbers in the news (not just this article) touting a 32% increase in mass transit use since 1995. Even if the population and the number of total trips hadn't increased, we'd be talking about a "surge" from 2.2% of trips taken to 3%. The 2.6 billion first-quarter trips nationwide may sound like a lot - it's not. It's about 3% of the total trips people make in this country (about 1.1 billion per day). And remember, that's the highest public transit has been in 50 years.It took an increase of 35% in the price of gas (almost 70% in the price of oil) to increase ridership on mass transit by 3% - at that rate, doubling the price of gas only increases the use of mass transit by 10%. That's not exactly what I'd call likely to "swamp" the badly underutilized public transportation systems in most places.Despite terms like "swamping" and "jampacked," let's face it: The problem with the 'T' isn't a shortage of empty seats.

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

none2 (Anonymous) says: "Maybe if we brought more of those groups to town and a lot of singers & entertainers from the world we could have a big rally. (One that would would pale in comparison to the Wakarusa fest.) We could call it T-aid, and set aside all the profits to raise funds for the T."None2bright or none2sober? Either way do you plan to do this every year, year after year? Why not just raise the fare to cover the cost of a ride and be done with it? If the bus is empTy you get to pay the whole cost, if it is full you can all split the cost of a ride?

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

dialupandy (Andrew Stahmer) says: "I think a majority of anit-bus people on here see one empty bus and all of a sudden they all are always empty. Busses with more than a few people are ignored."Don't be absurd, if the buses were full Lawrence taxpayers wouldn't have to pay $2.6 million per year in corporate welfare to MV Transportation and evil corporation, That works out to to $8.00 per rider! Things that are fully used generate enough money to pay for themselves.dialupandy (Andrew Stahmer) says: "For those of us who actually use the system-we're seeing an increase in riders..especially in the late afternoon."I have no reason to believe or disbelieve you. All I ask is you pay your own way. Heck I'll pay 50% and you pay 50%? I'll pay $4.00/ride for your ride and you pay your $4.00/ride, deal? dialupandy (Andrew Stahmer) says: "Like it or not:inconvinent or not, you all need to face the facts; gas is going to continue to go up-you will most likely have to take a bus very soon."No I won't, and neither do you. I make choices on what I spend my money on and as I need my own car I sacrifice other things to pay my own way. Just because you are so selfish as to make me pay for your ride too doesn't mean I'll be joining you in your greed money grab from Lawrence taxpayers.

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

dialupandy (Andrew Stahmer) says: "Yes I do. Until this country stops the blatent, unfounded, irrational, illogical and cruel discrimination against the visually impaired, I cannot hold a drivers license. Since I'm a nice guy though I'll still save you a seat:AND:I promise not to point and laugh and say 'told you so!""ROFLMAO! Andrew, that is perhaps the cleverest and funniest thing I have read here lately! I should have prefaced my remarks by assuring you the door to door handicapped service is valuable and largely federally funded and should NOT be discontinued, What I am talking about the regular route empTy bus system. So I guess you would agree that riders can pay half the cost $4.00/ride Lawrence taxpayers can pay the other $4.00 for you. If not why not?

sjschlag 6 years, 11 months ago

Where are all of the pro-public transit people on here? All I seem to be hearing is a bunch of neo-conservative goons on here whining about how much more taxes they are going to be paying because we are going to raise sales taxes by .20 of a percent! I would like for someone to do the math and tell me how much I pay into that, and why it's such a huge deal. You all are missing the point as well, pro transit people such as myself drive as well, but also use transit or other modes to get around. It's all about choices! I don't think it's fair that my only choice for getting around is to pay $50 a week for gas, $100 for insurance every month, title, taxes, a $300 car payment, and on top of that maintenance and upkeep for a personal vehicle. Don't get me wrong, some of us will always choose to drive an automobile, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's our personal choice to want to pay for that. I would like to remind you that everyone can use the T, even you, if you would choose to. It's not fair to limit mobility to those with a personal vehicle, or to limit choices for transportation to automobiles only, and I think we are beginning to explore lots of different options to reduce our oil consumption. That being said, the current system needs the investment now to increase ridership. It's true that compared to the year before, ridership on the T went down. But compared to the first year of operation, ridership has grown tremendously. I think that if you look at new figures of ridership coming out next year you will see a marketed increase in ridership. I would also like to ask you, those of you who are also complaining about increased sales taxes, are you also the ones whining about $4 a gallon gas?

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

sjschlag (Anonymous) says: "I would also like to ask you, those of you who are also complaining about increased sales taxes, are you also the ones whining about $4 a gallon gas?"First you don't see me complaining about $4.00 gas. Second my complaint is that too few people choose to ride the empTy for Lawrence taxpayers to pay $2.6 million per year, year after year, to MV Transportation in corporate welfare. What is so difficult to understand about that??? This is money that can and should be put to better use. Waste is waste. It is neither economical nor ecological. Riders on the empTy pay only a fraction of the cost of the service. Why shouldn't fares be raised to where they pay 50% and the taxpayers pay 50%. At least that way know their choice is rational and the service is valued. Otherwise we have better us for the money than to keep pouring it into some private corporations pocket that provides crappy service that nobody would pay even 50% of what it cost then to provide.

damnocracy 6 years, 11 months ago

Man, I never realized how political this town is when it comes to a bus system. I should be all for it, but nothing about it makes sense to me. I ride the park and ride to class sometimes, but it's about as far to drive to the park and ride as it would be to drive the rest of the way.In many ways I'm liberal with it comes to religion and the bible (my poor mom "found" God and I knocked her for it--sorry), but hey, when it comes to taxes and the homeless I feel like I'm missing out on a great town.My parents talk to me about how cool downtown used to be. My mom used to work in one the movie theaters that were located downtown. I'm getting married next year, and the way downtown is going I won't even want my kids to hang out down there.And there are many in this city who want to tax us out of living here! Surveys about the "T" sent out in water bills and turned back with water bills? How accurate can they be? Who keeps track? Having homeless people hit me up for money when I leave a downtown bar at night, saying they just "arrived" in Lawrence. Why did they come here? Get a job! Leave! I work, I go to school (pay my own way for the most part), yet I hear see others in the community work hard but struggle to stay even!People throw out numbers to persuade us, to lie to us, to mix things up. I gave it a shot, but I better stick to sports and music. I'll let the libs and richie riches duke it out!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 11 months ago

This whole system was still-born, many of us thought it was a big mistake from the get-go. And now, that reasoning has become painfully apparent and visible. The vision that little ole larryville would become a vibrant and cosmopolitan "city of the future" that would rival NY and LA was as flawed as the means they chose to try to achieve this status. Thinking outside the box might be fine if you are in business or commerce, but first you need to have a box. The swamis and visionaries that dreamed up this flawed image simply did not bother to apply the rules of reality and common sense ( a very common occurance in Lawrence city government affairs). So we are stuck with a white elephant sitting in the front parlor wanting food and no one in particular wanting to feed it.This great idea that was bought as a package deal from an out-of-state peddler of these "transit systems" has hit the ground with a resounding flop (I do not trust any of their ridership figures, no more than I trust the fox guarding the hen-house). And now the community is stuck with yet another still-born failure (remember the Riverfront Mall shoved into the old Bowersock site to stem the tide of the dreaded "cornfield mall". Look at south Iowa street today!) We have suffered from a serious lack of responsible government for many years, and the lack of effectiveness of current government can be measured in the number of roundabouts these idiots have installed.

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

Vote NO unless the riders pay at least 1/2 of the cost of their transportation, approximately $4.00, once that happens I will advocate for the empTy. If the riders are unwilling to pay 50% of the costs then it isn't of value to them.Until then vote NO for more corporate welfare for MV Transportation, vote NO to wasting fossil fuels running empTy buses, and vote NO to polluting our air by running empTy buses.

Stephen Roberts 6 years, 11 months ago

Merrill:I know a way to help fund the T. Have the riders pay more. It is an unreasonable request. Maybe you should start a not-for profit agency to help people pay for the T. It may be a good use of your talent.

sjschlag 6 years, 11 months ago

I haven't seen a fully empty bus yet this summer...Something tells me that the T won't be empT for much longer. We need a more efficient public transport system, not no system at all. Also, if you are concerned about the T being connected to Topeka and JOCO, tell your representative to fund the K-10 Connector next year! That bus is always packed in the mornings, it is a very successful service (over 400,000 rides were given last year, it's growing way faster than the T). We need a regional integrated public transportation system, not more cars.

notajayhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

sjschlag (Anonymous) says: "You all are missing the point as well, pro transit people such as myself drive as well, but also use transit or other modes to get around. It's all about choices! I don't think it's fair that my only choice for getting around is to pay $50 a week for gas, $100 for insurance every month, title, taxes, a $300 car payment, and on top of that maintenance and upkeep for a personal vehicle."Maybe this wouldn't be a good time to ask, but:How is having the bus available to use going to save you the "$100 for insurance every month, title, taxes, a $300 car payment, and on top of that maintenance and upkeep for a personal vehicle" if you're keeping the car anyway?You want to save money on gas? Great, I can understand that. Why should the other 99% of the people who don't want to ride the bus pay for your gas savings?****dialupandy (Andrew Stahmer) says: "Until this country stops the blatent, unfounded, irrational, illogical and cruel discrimination against the visually impaired, I cannot hold a drivers license. Since I'm a nice guy though I'll still save you a seat:AND:I promise not to point and laugh and say 'told you so!" See ya within the next 12 months."Well, if you're going to see* him on the bus, and point while laughing, how is it again you can't drive?

Sigmund 6 years, 11 months ago

damnocracy (Anonymous) says: "I don't think it will be long before the liberals will try to persuade the community and its "leaders" into actions that will force many of us to use the "T." It's already in discussion. Listen to Merrill on KLWN. The libs are already asking "how can we get more people to use the T?""I will pray to my higher power (that one that keeps me from throwing a lemon custard pie into a picture of Richard) and implore him/her/it that they try. Here is an idea for Merrill, implement bus only lanes on Iowa, 6th Street, 23rd Street and block all private auto's from Mass. St, downtown. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.

damnocracy 6 years, 11 months ago

A few months ago, maybe half a year ago, the city sent out an unscientific survey with our waterbills seeking input to community support for the "T" system. A very close friend of mine actually opened many of the envelopes that contained the completed survey (FYI--she does not work for the Transit Department but another city department). She kept track--unofficially since no one else seemed to care--of the addresses of those who supported the "T" and those who did not. 97 percent of the folks who supported the current funding of the "T" or supported increasing the funding of the "T" lived within the boundaries of 19th St. to the south, Louisiana St. to the West, and the rest were in East and North Lawrence. Further, the far MAJORITY lived within walking distance of downtown. Hmm.It should be printed in large headlines in the LJW that:1) less than one percent of Lawrence residents use the "T"2) even with record-high gas prices "T" ridership continues to decline3) the majority of people who support the "T" don't use the "T" Why not? Because the liberals want to feel all warm and fuzzy and those who are too lazy and unresponsible to provide their own transportation (i.e. the lifetime entitlement population) serve as the food that keeps liberals alive.Who suffers? The hard-working low-to-middle income folks and the disabled and elderly who truly need a system.Government 101...if you build it they will come (think homeless shelters) and make you spend more.Goverment 102...if you build it and they don't come, force them to use it (think of Hilary Clinton trying to force more teenage girls to take Ritalin by creating new symptoms that would trap the girls into taking the drug).Also see the "T." I don't think it will be long before the liberals will try to persuade the community and its "leaders" into actions that will force many of us to use the "T." It's already in discussion. Listen to Merrill on KLWN. The libs are already asking "how can we get more people to use the T?"

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