It's a time of change for the Kansas University bus system.
After taking on an influx of new riders this semester, the system will have to deal with additional changes pending the results of a sales tax vote in November.
A new rule allowing anyone with a KU identification card to ride the buses for free pushed overall daily ridership up from about 7,000 to between 14,000 and 15,000, said Danny Kaiser, KU assistant director of parking and transit.
The buses are much more full at peak times, and some buses on the system are beginning to run at capacity. Some changes are planned, as routes are sorted out.
Park and Ride buses, which transport students from a parking lot on West Campus near Clinton Parkway and Iowa Street, are becoming crammed during peak hours.
Kaiser said the department is considering eliminating a stop on Daisy Hill, as students who live in residence halls are hitching rides on the Park and Ride buses. That means people who need to get to the Park and Ride lots are forced to wait for a later bus. "We're not meeting the needs of our Park and Ride users," Kaiser said.
Riders of the Park and Ride system agreed.
Jared Flewelling, a Lawrence sophomore, rode the bus frequently last year, and has noticed more students piling onto the free bus and getting off near Daisy Hill residence halls. "It's very convenient," he said of the Park and Ride system. "They've realized how convenient it is, too."
Michael Keller, a Maple Hill junior riding on the same bus route, noted: "This year, all the freshmen get on and it's packed. Once it hits the dorms, it's cleared out."
The department has also seen the need to add buses during peak riding hours along the Campus Express route, which runs from Daisy Hill to Gertrude Sellards Pearson Hall, stopping at several key points along Jayhawk Boulevard.
With the ongoing changes in the system, November's sales tax vote could bring even more change. If the sales taxes pass, the Lawrence bus system and the KU on Wheels bus system would merge, creating one system for both entities.
If the tax measures were to fail, city officials have indicated the city no longer could support its own bus system.
Either result would have an impact on KU, said Donna Hultine, director of parking and transit.
If the measures fail, some students who now have free access to the Lawrence public transit system with KU ID cards would have to get to campus another way - likely by driving, Hultine said.
And more drivers means the need for more parking.
"Really, it would have to be remote parking," Hultine said - something similar to the Park and Ride system.
Also, if the measures fail, some KU students could be placed in a tight spot, Hultine said.
"I know that there are a lot of international students that really count on the city's transit system," she said. The students often don't have vehicles with them, and sometimes live in areas not served by KU buses, she said.
Hultine said the city and the university had not discussed specific changes, but she hoped to ensure any new system would appear seamless to KU riders.
Brian Hardouin, a third-year law student from Denver, is the chairman of the University Transit Commission, a board that oversees KU on Wheels. That board has begun to look at ways the two systems could co-exist.
A merged system would benefit students by providing more coverage and extended hours of service, he said.
"A lot of it's just waiting to see what happens," Hardouin said. "And we'll plan the contingencies after that."