Archive for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How might the bus system change if sales tax proposals are approved?

Passengers board the T headed to the Prairie Park neighborhood at the bus stop at 9th and New Hampshire St. on Oct. 16, 2008. Lawrence has talked about signing a letter of intent with KU regarding the organization's two bus systems. The merger could bring better coordination of routes and use of the two bus systems.

Passengers board the T headed to the Prairie Park neighborhood at the bus stop at 9th and New Hampshire St. on Oct. 16, 2008. Lawrence has talked about signing a letter of intent with KU regarding the organization's two bus systems. The merger could bring better coordination of routes and use of the two bus systems.

October 21, 2008


A KU bus, part of the KU on Wheels transit system, runs a route into downtown Lawrence for driver training. Lawrence has talked about signing a letter of intent with KU regarding the organization's two bus systems. The merger could bring better coordination of routes and use of the two bus systems.

A KU bus, part of the KU on Wheels transit system, runs a route into downtown Lawrence for driver training. Lawrence has talked about signing a letter of intent with KU regarding the organization's two bus systems. The merger could bring better coordination of routes and use of the two bus systems.

Voters will decide

Voters on Nov. 4 will decide three sales tax questions, two of which are related directly to transit funding. The three questions:

¢ Question No. 1: A three-tenths of a percent sales tax to fund street maintenance, fire trucks, stormwater improvements, an east Lawrence trail project and other infrastructure-related items.

¢ Question No. 2: A two-tenths of a percent sales tax to fund basic transit operations.

¢ Question No. 3: A five-hundredths of a percent sales tax to fund enhanced transit operations. This tax only will be implemented if Question No. 2 also is approved.

When Lawrence Mayor Mike Dever was growing up on the outskirts of Chicago, there was no '68 Camaro or any other sweet ride waiting for him in the garage.

"Anytime I wanted to go anywhere, I had to take the bus," Dever said.

Dever knows there are people in the same boat today. And he's not entirely sure the city's bus system serves them as well as it should.

This week, Dever said the nearly 8-year-old T system has needed a revamping for several years, but the needed political effort to change routes, schedules and polices hasn't been undertaken.

"The reason it hasn't changed is because we haven't taken the time and effort to change it," Dever said. "There was good increases in ridership for a long time. It was kind of out-of-sight and out-of-mind."

That's certainly not the case anymore. Voters will be going to the polls on Nov. 4 to decide two sales tax questions that would provide 10 years worth of funding to the city's public transit system.

Dever led the move behind the two sales tax proposals, and he says - along with the four other commissioners - that if the taxes are approved there must be significant changes to the T.

For months, the talk has been about a merger of the Kansas University and city bus systems. This past week, that talk expanded some to include something less than a merger. The idea of the two systems living on but being much more coordinated also has emerged as a possibility.

Whether it is a merger or simply more coordination, Dever said he expects any city system to have several basic improvements: more hubs, greater frequency of routes during peak time periods, and a serious consideration of alternative fuel buses.

He also believes it is likely that the city and KU buses would operate from a single route map, that riders of both systems would be able to transfer seamlessly between buses, and that the two systems would not run duplicate routes unless high ridership numbers demanded it.

University leaders generally are nodding their head in agreement with Dever's thoughts, but nothing is a done deal yet.

"Anything I say right now is still purely conjecture," said Danny Kaiser, KU assistant director of parking and transit. "It may end up that way or it may not.

"I can say that both sides have a lot of great ideas that we're bouncing around, but they all need fleshed out."

Here's a look at some of the ideas:

Multiple hubs

Dever said any new system should be less reliant on a single hub in Downtown Lawrence. Currently, all but one of the six routes on the T system travel through the downtown hub at Ninth and Massachusetts streets.

"Geographically there are a lot of people a good distance away from the current connection point in downtown," Dever said. "If you are in West Lawrence and want to go south, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go so far east and go to downtown first."

Dever said a new system should include multiple hubs. He said a logical hub would be the KU park and ride lot, which is just north and west of 23rd and Iowa streets. That would allow people who ride the city system to easily connect with the K-10 connector bus that travels from Lawrence to Johnson County.

Other possibilities, Dever said, include a hub in the South Iowa shopping district, which is becoming a more frequent location for apartment complexes that cater to students.

Kaiser said hubs also are being considered for the area near Memorial Stadium near 11th and Mississippi, and near the Kansas University recreation center, near 18th and Maine streets.

Those hubs - combined with the park and ride hub and the downtown hub - would provide transfer points on all sides of the university. People wanting to get to the university could take a bus to any one of the four hubs and have a relatively short trip to the main portion of the university.

"The down side with that system is it would always require a transfer to get to the main part of campus," Kaiser said. "But the tradeoff is that your outlying routes would be able to go out farther into the community."

Routes and frequency

Dever admits that he starts to get frustrated when he has to wait more than eight to 10 minutes for a public transit bus. He knows that level of frequency is the expectation for many urban systems.

He's not sure Lawrence can afford a system that runs with that much frequency at all times. But he said he would like to get wait times down to 20 minutes or less on many of the busiest routes. Currently, many city routes run on 30- to 40-minute cycles.

"I believe you can physically plan around a 20-minute route much easier than a 40-minute route," Dever said. "Right now, if you have to be somewhere and you take the T, you are many times going to be there way early or a little late."

Dever also said he wants to focus on reworking routes to reduce a major complaint he often hears about the T.

"I know the biggest pet peeve of people is that certain times of the day we have ridership that is sorely lacking," Dever said. "But that's because we didn't adjust the routes to the peak time of travel."

Dever said a new system should consider using a "pulse" concept, where the number of buses and the frequency are increased on popular routes during the peak morning and afternoon travel times.

The tradeoff would be that during the mid-day, frequency could be reduced on many routes.

Kaiser said thought also will have to be given to operating two different levels of service: one when university classes are in session and another when they are not. Kaiser said he could envision a set of core routes that would be run regardless of whether KU was in session. But he said another set of routes would be developed for when KU is in session.

"The routes probably would look quite a bit different when the university is not in session," Kaiser said.

Kaiser said transit designers also would have to consider that there may be some parts of town where ridership just is not high enough to make a fixed route system feasible. He said in those areas a demand response system could be developed. That system could require people to call ahead for a ride and could use smaller, vanlike buses.

Different buses

Ah, smaller buses.

That idea has been raised several times by residents at City Hall.

Dever said he can't promise that the city would begin converting its entire fleet to smaller buses. He said he is concerned that going to smaller buses could be a mistake because they generally are not expected to last as long as the heavy-duty large buses.

Dever, though, said he could envision some smaller buses being used to travel routes during the midday, when ridership is reduced.

A larger change for buses could be the fuel that they run on. Dever said hybrid electric buses are a possibility, but he said a more feasible option may be buses that run on compressed natural gas.

The buses at Kansas City International Airport run on compressed natural gas, and Dever has been impressed.

"You can definitely tell a difference in what is emitted by the buses," Dever said.

Dever thinks compressed natural gas also would save the city on fuel bills eventually. But he also concedes there may be some significant up-front costs, such as installing the necessary infrastructure to fuel the buses.

Such issues stop Dever from making any promises that a new bus system will include alternative fuel buses.

That's much the same situation Dever is in on all the issues surrounding the transit system. He can talk about ideas but offer few promises about what the system will look like if the sales taxes are approved.

"What I can promise you is that I'm committed to investing the time, energy and political capital to make changes to the transit system that are real and tangible to the public," Dever said.


sunflour 9 years, 5 months ago

hawk, once again, you have made comments that have nothing to do with reality. Out of the 9 routes that KU runs, only three routes actually run through GSP and Corbin. Three routes don't go anywhere near there, and the other three routes turn onto 11th Street without stopping at GSP and Corbin. And the primary reason that the buses have to go to 11th & Louisiana is that there is NOWHERE else to turn around, no matter how long or short the bus. Would you rather have the KU buses doing a 3-point turn in the middle of traffic at the Union???It is too bad that you are so negatively impacted by KU on Wheels, too. It is a great example of a system that is adjusted on a yearly basis to meet its funding limitations, including adding, changing or eliminating routes as needed.

Eric Neuteboom 9 years, 5 months ago

A walking, talking slickster.You want my yes vote, then tell me what changes will be implemented, don't dance around the issue like a scared little girl and couch your language with the likes of "probably."Mike Dever, and other city "leaders," I am tired of your lack of leadership. It's time you step up and do your job. Comments like "we haven't taken the time and effort to change it" piss me off because it is your time and your effort that we expect to address these problems with the T. You have failed us as leaders, and the failure of this vote to pass is yours and yours alone. You should be ashamed of your lack of effort, lack of financial savvy, and lack of progress.

bmwjhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

I'll take a guess: People will use it?Nah.

sunflour 9 years, 5 months ago

The UDK is pretty notorious for getting facts wrong, and KU on Wheels only owns 38 buses of their own. The five Park & Ride buses make 43 total buses. Only 6 buses are committed to Park & Ride, with 22 on the other routes, (that equals 28), and the 10 "extras" are what they need to have a large enough fleet to meet all their needs, such as maintenance, increased service, etc. By the way, KU on Wheels' ridership has more than doubled this year, with their new 'fare free' system. There is absolutely no way to handle the increased ridership with buses any smaller than the ones they run. Perhaps campus wasn't designed for transit, but you can't claim that KU on Wheels isn't fulfilling its mission, to get students to class. In fact, that is its sole purpose, so traveling to the dorms, where many of its riders reside is exactly what they are supposed to be doing! Instead of making things up, you should find out the truth for yourself.

RogueThrill 9 years, 5 months ago

Or, if you want to buy my vote, you could PM your phone number so you can take me to work or Slimmer's everytime I need a ride.

Eric Neuteboom 9 years, 5 months ago

Well stated, mom_of. However, the city management has done such a poor job of "promising" change, that I feel this vote will more reflect the community's lack of faith in the leadership than a lack of desire for the T. I simply have zero faith in our leadership to make the changes that are so badly needed. If the city leaders really, I mean really wanted this to pass, they would have had two things done far in advance of the election. One would be to discuss the details (or not) of a merger with KU on Wheels; two would be to announce revised routes. Instead, they are taking a "trust us, vote yes and then we'll fix it approach" which begs our trust. I, for one, have no trust in their ability to live up to any promise, and my vote will reflect that lack of trust.

bluerose 9 years, 5 months ago

even though i seldom use the T, even being a car-less person, because it seems easier and quicker for me to walk or ride my bike, i am going to be considerate of others who truly need the T and vote YES.0.25 is a pretty puny amount to be so stingy would be lovely to see the service improve and expand and become truly useful. certainly worth the minuscule percent.

madameX 9 years, 5 months ago

The only guaranteed change to the system if the sales tax doesn't pass is that there will be no system. It will NOT "force a change." Scrapping this system and building a new one from the ground up will take more time and effort than fixing the one we have, not to mention having to re-apply for federal funds that we might not get this time around because there is more competition for them. Vote yes, then march down to City Hall and say "we gave you the money, now make changes if you want to be re-elected."

redneck 9 years, 5 months ago

Didn't Lawrence spend over $200,000 in legal fees trying to keep Wal-Mart from building their new store on 6th street? That money alone would have gone a long way to helping with the "T" expenses. That was a waste! Wake up Lawrence!

redneck 9 years, 5 months ago

Always vote NO on any tax increase! Didn't you're parents teach you any economics? As Lawrence grows and more people live here & spend most of their paycheck here the tax revenue should increase as well. The new Wal-Mart should create more revenue from sales tax. The city needs to do like the rest of us & tighten up the ole belt and figure out how to pay all the bills with what money they have now. I didn't get a raise because fuel, food, etc. prices went up. I'm pretty sure most of you didn't get a raise this last year either. Suck it up Lawrence!

bearded_gnome 9 years, 5 months ago

vote yes 2 and yes on 3. the "pulse" and on/off ku routing, all means more complexity. I have posted here before, we need the system to continue to have something to improve. then, question 3 gives us tools to do the improving better. I say: most routes, no hubs at all! use a grid system. remove all the duplication in herant in hubs, only hub a few routes downtown: the north lawrence bus, the 6th and 9th street buses, the mass st. bus. the haskell avenue bus. otherwise, you have a grid of buses, and if you want to go from the 6th st. bus to a place on iowa, you get off at 6th and iowa, and you catch the Iowa st. bus going your way! I say nearly no hubs at all! and put things on a 30-minute schedule, so your bus goes by at the same times each hour! again, less complexity! less complexity means more people use the system.

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

Here you have someone who is committed to changing the T system, but you can only change what is still around. besides, vote early and vote often remind me of the early days of Kansas, where missourians would flood to the polls to elect legislators for kansas territory, in hopes to make it a slave state. They would vote more than once, so you would vote early in one city and ride to the next and cast another vote.

redneck 9 years, 5 months ago

Here is another way to save money. Use a $50 stop sign instead of those stupid round a boughts. I can only imagine how much those silly things cost & Lawrence is planning on adding more of them.

Jeanne Cunningham 9 years, 5 months ago

Vote YES - and, please, ONLY vote ONCE. However, IF you ARE going to vote No, PLEASE vote several times. Then, when they discover your crime, they will erase all of them. Thank you very much!

Danimal 9 years, 5 months ago

CNG buses could be a good idea, as could installing multiple hubs. Heck, if I could get to work and back on the bus in a reasonable amount of time I'd do it to save gas $ and wear and tare on my car.

sunflour 9 years, 5 months ago

There is no "doom and gloom" card -- as other people have commented previously, if the sales tax does not pass, even Corliss admits that there is no money left to run fixed routes past January 1. They're going to spend the reserve down on limited paratransit and then poof! no more transit!

RogueThrill 9 years, 5 months ago

No, I am clearly voting yes to continue it.

jonas_opines 9 years, 5 months ago

cheesehead: Good post, and don't worry about Larry. He whines about government involvement until its something that he wants, like no smoking in restaurants, and then he whines about people not wanting government intervention. And then, of course, he whines about other people whining. Usually with pessimistic and baseless assumptions on those other people's choices and lifestyles, as well. It's probably because nobody loves him, but I'm really just guessing there.

CNA_Resident 9 years, 5 months ago

I voted 'no' on the bus issue, primarily after reading on Saturday that the KU Student transportation board rejected a merger with the 'T' late last week. This group of irresponsible kids are not supervised by faculty or staff at KU, and have run rampant for at least the last 10 years in their decisions to run a bus system catering to urban sprawl.Their latest stunt is completely contrary to the agreement in August to MERGE their system with the city's, and was reached after they learned they would NOT control either the buses or the routes under this merger. I attended a number of the student transportation committee meetings in the early part of this decade - and I was shocked and disappointed at how many three-piece suits would attend these meetings (after wooing individual members) with requests to extend KU busing out to their new development somewhere in town.There are at least FIVE other midwest university-dominated cities similar to Lawrence, Kansas in size - all of which utilize ONE bus system - all of which are run by the city. Regardless of a tax hike, the 'T' cannot survive (let alone operate successfully) without student use of the bus system offered by the city. Why anyone thinks it's okay to run a parallel system in Lawrence, Kansas - unlike any other similar-sized college town, defies logic and explanation.: I am tired of the Pink Elephant being ignored in Lawrence public affairs, causing unbelievable impact on land use, public infrastructure, and now public transportation, with impunity and contempt for that impact. It's true- I'm advocating burning down the barn to get rid of the rats - because there doesn't appear to be any. other. way. to get rid of the attitude those young little rats up at KU have.Let THEM provide public transportation for the city.

WWoftheW 9 years, 5 months ago

I find it very interesting that all of a sudden Dever is taking credit for the two votes for the T.It took weeks of people in the community telling the City Commission that .2 will not support the bus. The City Commission's sales tax was to kill the T and now that it looks like the T may survive this City Commission wants to take credit. The only reason there are two votes is becuase the city commission had to be forced to do the right thing.If the T survives it is not becuase of the good wishes of this City Commission, although I expect they will use it in the next election.

Christine Anderson 9 years, 5 months ago

Hello. I'm a conservative who plans to vote "yes" on #'s 2 and 3. (And probably write in Picard/Riker for pres.)That aside, I've got something to say to Moocher and all the other schmucks, jerks, shlongs, schmackelheads, etc. who don't want Lawrence to have any public transit whatsoever. I so badly want to take your cars away for a week or two, and watch you try to get done what you need to, and get where you need to go, on feet alone. Yes, of course, many times walking to your destination is a solution. I would love to see you need to buy items which are too large or too heavy to carry while walking. I want to see the "no votes" walking halfway across town in a cold rain, with two kids in tow, one of whom is presenting a psychotic break( courtesy of autism). Those of us who are transit dependent are not low-life's or moochers just because we do not own vehicles. Why do you think that if a person works, they can also afford a car?But wait, it doesn't concern you because it ISN'T you, right?

mom_of_three 9 years, 5 months ago

If you vote no, there may be no changes at all. It will go away as will the funding for it. Many more people use it that go unseen, such as junior high and high school students, who can't vote to keep it. You wanted a promise of change, and now you have it. It is vital to some folks in this town to get to work, doctors and to school, and they can't afford taxis, can't take bicycles, and can't drive or afford a car. The fees for the T can't significantly increase to cover the costs, because then it would be unaffordable to those who need it. A letter to the editor from Sunday stated it would cost him $160 a week in taxis if the T was to go away. That's more than it would cost him with the new sales tax. MOre than it will cost a lot of people if the new sales tax is approved.

bluerose 9 years, 5 months ago

yes indeed speak my many people are self-absorbed and don't give a flying s#$% about others these days. the tables could turn any second, though... then, let the whining commence.

sunflour 9 years, 5 months ago

CNA, you should be happy to know that there are now three non-student members on the new Transit Commission at KU. It isn't just student running the system these days!

redneck 9 years, 5 months ago

Raise the the riders fee if need be. My riders fee has increased because of the price of fuel, tires, oil and everything else that goes with owning a vehicle. The riders fee needs to be increased because we are already subsidising the our transit system.

d_prowess 9 years, 5 months ago

Coach_Eric, I completely agree with you about what this vote has turned into, however I will be voting Yes on the faith that the city is finally ready to do what it right. I would love the LJWorld to create a poll about this issue that reads something like:-I will vote NO on #2 & #3 because I don't think we need public transportation in lawrence-I will vote NO on #2 & #3, but think we need pulic transportion in lawrence and this is the only way to create the changes needed.-I will vote Yes on #2 & #3 and think this will enable the changes in the system that are needed.I think this would show that the majority wants Lawrence to have public transportation, but that this vote will fail due to the preception of the city and its leaders.

OzChicklet 9 years, 5 months ago

It's sad that some of you folks like Larry_the_Moocher have to associate the T issue with the "libs" and Bush and give the whole thing a big slam! Shame on you! This isn't about democrats and republicans, this is about a broken bus system, and not enough local people going down to City Hall and voicing their concerns, offering suggestions, and getting involved until it's too late. If all you do is bitch in the LJW, and don't make any positive contributions to foster change, then frankly you're just another closed mind with an open mouth that keeps yapping. Shame on the city commissioners and KU for not sitting down and putting a cohesive plan together 6 months ago to present to voters to fix the bus system. Environmentally speaking, in this day and age, in a college town where smart people are supposed to live, it's ridiculous that we cannot come up with a "green" plan for public transportation.If the vote doesn't pass, they will be forced to come up with an alternative. I don't like "them" pulling the "gloom and doom" card if the increased sales tax does not pass. There is a clear message that they have not done their jobs, and must now COME UP WITH A PLAN to address this issue.

sunflour 9 years, 5 months ago

hawk, I can tell you that those 3 routes have exactly 9 buses running on them, and as of next Monday, the total number of buses on all the routes combined is still less than 30 vehicles... And before you point fingers at the buses tearing up 13th Street, you should ask yourself WHY the buses aren't running on 12th Street as they always have in the past. It has everything to do with the Oread Inn construction, which I happen to know did not give KU any choice in the matter of how they have to reroute the buses this year. Student senate, the KU administration and the Board of Regents have to approve any fee increases, and this year's 'fare free' increase was voted on by a student referendum. If you were a student and felt KU on Wheels was "sticking it to you" then you should have voted!

OzChicklet 9 years, 5 months ago

Larry_The_Moocher (Anonymous) says: You see OzChicklet: you too, have no answers other than business as usual. I will guarentee you that if you were spending your money you would have dumped this program a long time ago. Now, why don't you get your checkbook out and start hauling around those who choose not to own cars, say transportation is to expensive, and/or otherwise "Mooch" off we, the working people.____I did not claim to have answers so your comment is invalid. I take offense to your comments in regard to "libs". I am a working person, and I have totally supported myself since I was 17 (sometimes to the tune of more than one job at a time) and never "mooched" off the "working people". The first years (get it? Years PLURAL) of supporting myself and my JOBS (plural) I relied on the Kanasas City bus system to GET TO WORK. I struggled and SAVED my money to buy a car. Moocher, you sound like you've never been in that position. I can say now that I am reasonably successful DUE TO HARD WORK and no handouts. Not all poor folks are poor by choice. Granted there are a lot of moochers out there, but it's wrong to categorize all lower class people that way. Some folks don't have the opportunities to begin with to get themselves out of that hole. I work with a lot of folks who depend on the bus system to get to their job each day. I believe most of them would like to earn more money so they can afford a car. It's tough for them when they make $10 bucks an hour and work overtime just to make ends meet.

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