Archive for Tuesday, September 23, 2008

City: Ridership on T increasing

Ridership on the city's bus system appears to be on the rise. Just weeks before voters determine the fate of the T, the city says more and more people are depending on public transportation.

September 23, 2008, 12:37 p.m. Updated September 23, 2008, 11:19 p.m.


Ridership on the city's embattled public transit system has begun to increase after months of ridership declines.

City Hall leaders on Tuesday trumpeted new numbers that show ridership for the city's T system increased by 8.3 percent in July and 8 percent in August, compared with the same months from a year ago. The fixed-route system provided 33,292 rides in July and 35,349 rides in August.

"We're pleased with the numbers," said Casey Toomay, interim public transit administrator. "I think it is evidence that the community recognizes there are benefits to public transit and that we're able to meet the needs of the community."

But city leaders in their announcement on Tuesday did not mention that ridership numbers for the entire year continue to be down by 6.5 percent from 2007 numbers. That decline is in sharp contrast to national numbers. Nationally, bus ridership was up by 3.7 percent during the first six months of 2008.

Voters on Nov. 4 will decide on two sales tax questions to provide funding for the city's public transit system. The two sales taxes - which, if both are approved, would create a new quarter-cent sales tax for transit - are the only funding sources identified for public transit in 2009.

Before the July and August totals, the T had been on a long losing streak. Ridership on the T - when compared with the same month in the previous year - had declined for 15 consecutive months, dating back to April 2007. Since September 2006, ridership on the T had declined in 20 out of the last 22 months.

City Hall leaders originally had pointed to fare increases from 50 cents to $1 as the likely reason for the decline in ridership. But the numbers show that the decline in ridership began before the fare increases took effect in July 2007. Instead, the numbers indicate ridership began to decline at about the same time Kansas University began its park and ride service in August 2006.

But now Toomay said a new partnership with KU likely is part of the reason that ridership numbers have increased. In August, the city began allowing any KU student or staff member with a valid KU ID to ride the T for free. City residents who have a T bus pass also are able to ride university buses for free.

"We think this really speaks positively about what we can do when we partner with KU," Toomay said.

City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who often has expressed concerns about the declining ridership, said he was pleased to see the beginning of a reversal, but said there was still much work to be done.

"There already has been a recognition that we need to do something different with the system," Chestnut said. "And I still think that's the case."

The city and the university have signed a memorandum of understanding to merge their systems if voters approve the sales tax questions in November. Exact details of what a merged system would look like haven't emerged, but commissioners have said they would expect more efficient routes to be part of a new system.


Ragingbear 9 years, 7 months ago

Objective is making stuff up. No... making stuff up would require more truth than the complete drivel that he posted under his name. I can make up random numbers to support my distaste for many things as well, but then I graduated 1st grade.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

Even if all of these numbers are legitimate (objective is right in general, although I'm not sure how the numbers break down), and even if we take this unusually high number and average it out over the year, we are still looking at about $2.35 per ride in tax dollars alone (not including whatever money is made by fares). You can debate whether this massive subsidy is good, bad, or necessary for the community, but don't pretend like the system is anywhere close to sustaining itself. If you show me that the ridership is going to double in the next few years, you may have a point. But it won't.

LeslieJeanne 9 years, 7 months ago

On a purely selfish level, I think the T is doing a good job because it meets all of my needs, I get everywhere I need to go and enjoy talking with the drivers and other passengers on the way. It can be fun riding the bus as well as economical. I tend to look at things from a people point of view more than a number point of view. I would like to think there is not an objective bone in my Irish body.

sjschlag 9 years, 7 months ago

"It wouldn't be if the people taking cars had taken the bus. Make the bus more functional so it is a better option. The bike racks are a great idea and disappointing the KU buses don't use them too. Next time KU get smaller buses with bike racks."The thing is, the city tried to re-arrange the schedule so that the T would be more user friendly, but so many people showed up from the neighborhoods saying "don't cut service on my route!"It's a catch 22 situation, we don't have enough money to make improvements, so we'd have to cut service on the routes that nobody rides. But if you do that, then people will yell and scream that the bus they never ride is being taken away. If the T is going to survive, cuts will HAVE to be made so that other routes can prosper. the system as it is functions well, but only for people who don't have a car, don't have a bike, or can't use either of those modes due to a disability or age. Some routes seem to work well for people who do have a choice between modes, but as a whole the design fails to attract choice riders. Your comment about smaller buses for KU- have you tried to ride a KU bus recently? If anything KU needs BIGGER buses. The current 40 footers are always jam packed, standing room only and sometimes too full to pick up other people. Bike racks on the front is a good idea, I'm sure as soon as they get the money figured out, we will see them on the KU bus. KU should also look into teaming up with the city after this new merger to help out with saturday service- run a few buses on campus and to popular shopping destinations- as it is the T (especially the 8 route) is swamped with people on saturday going out to do their shopping. And as far as parking downtown goes, get rid of some of it and charge money for the rest. put the garage to work. Of course, you'd have to implement better bus service to downtown and have it well advertised before you do any of that. Also keep in mind that many people who shop downtown don't even live here. I might go so far as to say that many local people (when they aren't in a hurry) bike, walk or ride the bus downtown as it is.

sunflour 9 years, 7 months ago

KU tried bike racks once -- with 6,000 rides per day, they were more of a hindrance than anything. Not likely to happen again anytime soon...JackRipper -- KU on Wheels' ridership has more than doubled this year, so even if a bus is empty on the minuscule part of the route where you crossed its path, people are getting on every bus on every route, every time it makes a trip.

kmat 9 years, 7 months ago

Every morning I see a bunch of people waiting at the stop closest to my house. Lots of riders in many parts of town.I'm sure most of those that chose to bitch about the bus system live in western Lawrence and wouldn't be caught dead on the bus. I work in JoCo and the sales tax here is much higher than in Lawrence. If our sales tax goes up a little, it's not going to make people go to other areas to shop. How moronic does someone have to be to waste the gas and extra money to drive farther away to do their basic shopping? The city council members are such complete morons. Please support the tax increase. There are unfortunately too many people in town that depend on the T.

sunflour 9 years, 7 months ago

Objective, The money used to purchase the Park & Ride buses was NOT originally meant for the city. It was given to the city by KDOT specifically for the purchase of the Park & Ride buses in order to encourage the merger talks now going on. The city would not have received, or been intended to receive, any of that million dollars otherwise.Also, the ridership for Park & Ride is submitted separately from the city's ridership data! If they were counting it together, the rides for August would probably be more than double what is reported here.

Objective 9 years, 7 months ago

For the last two years, the vast majority of those 400,000 to nearly 700,000 rides come from the KU On Wheels-operated park-and-ride route. The three buses for that route were purchased with money originally earmarked for The T. Lawrence could not provide the local match, so the Kansas Department of Transportation suggested that the money be utilized for KU (with the University paying the local match). If you look on the back of those three buses, there's a sticker stating something related to this. Due to the fact that the funding originally belonged to The T, they claim all the ridership from that operation. That being the case, the ridership on actual T buses is pretty poor. Johnson County's K-10 Connector service gets more rides daily (more than 1,000), than does the entire T system (when you deduct the KU park and ride system). I'm supportive of The T, and support a tax to keep it going. I just cannot stand people taking ridership numbers out of context. T supporters need to quit fudging ridership stats to make The T sound better than it really it. Fix the service instead of misleading folks into thinking it's doing a good job.

sunflour 9 years, 7 months ago

Oh, and I forgot to point out that KU put up the local match (20%) of the Park & Ride bus purchase price, while the KDOT grant was made up from federal funds (80%).

LeslieJeanne 9 years, 7 months ago

As far as I can tell I am the only actual bus rider that is writing in on this. Come on people! I know you are out there. Later this morning I am getting on the bus to go out to the Half-Price Bookstore which is quite a ways from where I live and I do need my books. I get the impresssion that every posting was made by someone who is, white, male, between 21 and 29, and gets in the car to get across the street. Am I right?Why aren't black people writing in and sounding off about racism in Lawrence. Is there any? Are there any?Seriously, it is high time there was some new people posting instread of the same five or six fighting amonst themselves.

sunflour 9 years, 7 months ago

LeslieJeanne, I completely agree with you about the folks posting being the same ones day after day. However, I want to add that I ride a bus (KU or the T) almost every day. :)

BigPrune 9 years, 7 months ago

The T Bus needs to go away. It is a waste of money to the taxpayers and it hurts the environment MORE than it helps. I am surprised the enviro"mental" people in this town aren't protesting its pollution, but would rather have this 5 miles per gallon diesel polluting behemoth on the road. Please tell me, do you want to keep the M-T because you can put your environmentally friendly bicycle on its front bumper? After you graduate from KU and move away, hey at least you got some free transportation. The cost/benefit analysis says the taxpayers are being screwed.

BrianR 9 years, 7 months ago

I think it has much to do with WHERE you see the bus, that is, what portion of the route they happen to be on, because I have never seen an empty T bus in Lawrence except when they're sitting at the stops downtown.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

2001 T News - First Year of Service155,737 Fixed route ridership44,408 T Lift Ridership-----------------------------2007 T News388,325 fixed route rideship57,497 T Lift ridershipThere has been impressive ridership increase since day one. The best year yet 2006 provided:421,864 Fixed route ridership55,497 T lift ridership

Chris Ogle 9 years, 7 months ago

To be cost effective, Fixed Route Transit in a city the size of Lawrence Ks requires.....1) a common destination, and..2) a common high density origin. Sound llike KU on Wheels???? YESSound like the "T" ??? NO Sorry,, the "T" is not worth the expense.

Godot 9 years, 7 months ago

Lets just make everything free. Then none of will have to work.

easmith14 9 years, 7 months ago

Ridership increasing on the T??? Lawhorn, that is T-riffic!!!!

alm77 9 years, 7 months ago

Leslie, I'm on the west side. My husband used to use the T to get back and forth to work. We still use it occasionally and we are two votes for the T! There will be loads of people who vote for it (and I think it will pass) we've just had this argument so many times with the opposition, it's just not worth wasting the time to type. It's better to talk to your friends and neighbors to get the word out than to argue with anonymous strangers that won't change their minds.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 7 months ago

"For the T, Lawrence voters in November are being asked to supporttwo sales taxes totaling a quarter percent to provide funding for the transit system."A quarter percent.Most people discard their pennies.I guess those quarter-pennies must be unusually precious.( Wouldn't want to break all those hard-working conservatives out there. )

notajayhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

"Increased ridership on public bus system attributed to gasoline prices"If that's true, then I guess ridership will soon return to its previous (dismal) level, with gas prices having dropped almost 70 cents per gallon.

notajayhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

"True, some will return to their personal vehicles, but there are some who will stay on the bus, owing to the fact that, just like every year, gas prices will rise again in the summer or the cost of vehicle repairs does not compel them to return."Which finally arrives at the crux of the matter.There's people who don't own cars. And those who can't drive because of some medical or other reason. And yes, those who can't afford gas or car repairs. Unfortunately, the real heart of the entire issue of mass transit is that people will, if forced to, utilize the system, but nobody really wants to. And until they do, the T will just keep spinning its wheels.

sjschlag 9 years, 7 months ago

"Unfortunately, the real heart of the entire issue of mass transit is that people will, if forced to, utilize the system, but nobody really wants to. And until they do, the T will just keep spinning its wheels."I would argue that some people would like to take the bus over a personal vehicle, and in some instances are "forced" into taking their own car because our bus system doesn't go to their destination, or their trip would take too long on the T. Many people don't like driving in Lawrence because of bad traffic, or don't like fighting traffic downtown. Unfortunately, riding the T can be just as frustrating and time consuming as driving a car. If the city really wants to see ridership grow, fix the T. Make it more convenient for people with vehicles to ride. Not enough money to increase service on high demand routes? Cut service on low demand routes. The 1, 2 and especially the 4 need to be looked at and either eliminated or combined or turned over to a ride-share-taxi system. The 3 route needs to be streamlined, skipping the peterson road stop and just going back down Iowa. Maybe even a new route going straight down Iowa from Packer plastics to Wal-Mart- more workers would ride it. Put another bus on the 7 route and the 8 route- they are high demand routes. Maybe another bus on the 5, but run a few rounds of the 5 around 11 at night so workers can get to and from their jobs. Same goes for Route 3. Half of the T's riders use it to get to and from work. Make the system work for people going to work. Don't Touch the 6- it seems to be doing fine. It's the only bus route this city seems to have in the right place, it just sucks to drive it with no breaks so maybe the schedule needs changed. I guarantee ridership will increase more if these changes are instituted. Oh, and maybe decrease service on some routes during off peak times and run smaller buses

hs_reader 9 years, 7 months ago

I ride the T twice a day at least 3 times a week to get to the K-10 connector. So many people have come to depend on it, students (jr. high, high school, college) and workers. And for all of you "buy a bike" people, can you imagine a 14 year old riding a bike along 23rd street in the icy snow to get to school? How unsafe is that? And people that complain about their routes being canceled? I'm all with them. While it looks good on paper, I know first hand how annoying and hard to schedule around an 80 minute bus route is. Every 40 min is already hard, I have to wait for 30 min sometimes just because the K-10 connector every hour doesn't match up with it. However, I do support little buses on the less popular routes/times. Why have a big bus if only one person is on it?

notajayhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says:"There has been impressive ridership increase since day one. The best year yet 2006 provided:..."Uh, merrill, I know thinking isn't your strongest suit, but you might notice the numbers you posted reflect about a 10% decrease from 2006 to 2007.Also, if the numbers merrill posts for 2007 are accurate (and yes, they do match the numbers posted on the T's website), how does 388,325 + 57,497 add up to 693,959? Not that I think they (or merrill) are trying to mislead you, or anything.******kmat (Anonymous) says: "Every morning I see a bunch of people waiting at the stop closest to my house."Care to try and put a figure on what percentage of the Lawrence population is represented by that "bunch?"

sjschlag 9 years, 7 months ago

"If that's true, then I guess ridership will soon return to its previous (dismal) level, with gas prices having dropped almost 70 cents per gallon."Not so fast, notajayhawk. Remember that KU students don't have to pay to ride the T anymore. Ridership will stay at steady levels as long as students, faculty and staff are getting a free ride all over this city. The increased numbers can more than likely be attributed to KU related rides.Additionally, after a fare increase (such as the one in 2007) it's not uncommon for ridership to drop 20% system wide, both on paratransit and fixed route. Ridership has finally rebounded with the aid of high gas prices. True, some will return to their personal vehicles, but there are some who will stay on the bus, owing to the fact that, just like every year, gas prices will rise again in the summer or the cost of vehicle repairs does not compel them to return.

texburgh 9 years, 7 months ago

To Kmat:I live in "western Lawrence" and I see people every day when I pass the stops on Wakarusa on my way to Topeka where I work. West Lawrence people ride the T - maybe not in enormous numbers but we do. I use it occasionally on Saturdays. Of course, if I said, "we don't need the T because it is only used by eastern Lawrence people," Kmat would probably be offended. I'm not supposed to be by his/her ignorant bias?Either make a cogent argument, contribute to the forum, or get off and take your biased griping elsewhere.

BigPrune 9 years, 7 months ago

Ridership shows increase but overall it's still down - even after the high gas prices - ridership is down.I live in the City of West Lawrence and I make it a point to count the rider through the windows whenever I have to maneuver around one. Yes, I said rider, because there is always just one rider. What a waste. I suppose we'll be seeing an article about a faulty firetruck in the near future?

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