At a time when rising gasoline prices and costly road construction are forcing many communities to expand their public transportation offerings, it's unfortunate that financial realities may lead to the demise of Lawrence's T.
Lawrence city commissioners now are considering a sales tax proposal as a last resort to fund the bus system. The 0.15 percent tax that may be put to voters would provide only enough money to maintain existing services at a projected increase of about $1 million next year.
That's a lot of money, and for many local taxpayers, the T simply isn't worth it. The bus system doesn't come close to being self-supporting and serves a relatively small portion of the city's population.
On the other hand, people who ride the bus have few other options. They depend on it to get to their jobs and appointments. The number of people who can't afford to own or operate private vehicles is likely to grow as gasoline prices rise, and the loss of the T will affect youngsters who ride the bus to recreation and other activities.
A number of factors should be considered as city officials and city residents consider the T's future. If the city kills the T now and finds, five or eight years down the road, that it needs a bus system, how much would it cost to restart the T? It might be better to preserve even a limited service now rather than abandon the effort entirely.
Could the city figure out a way to merge its system with Kansas University's student bus system to preserve federal funding and provide at least some service geared to non-students? Some partnership between the two systems only makes sense.
Unfortunately, Lawrence's T is unlikely to ever break even financially. Most public transit systems require public support, but they have other benefits such as reducing traffic congestion and parking demands.
It's understandable, given the city's current financial situation, that officials are considering cutting their losses and doing away with the service, but perhaps more creative solutions can be found. It would be too bad if the city was unable to provide at least a limited public transportation system for the Lawrence residents who truly depend on it.