Come August, riding the bus in Lawrence will be different.
Leaders with the city and Kansas University said that when the fall semester begins at KU, a new era in bus service also will begin.
“I think people will notice some huge improvements for riders,” said Casey Toomay, the city’s interim director of transit.
Among the big changes:
• The city and university will publish a joint route map that shows how riders can use both city- and university-operated buses to get around the community.
• A new jointly operated route that will run from downtown to the KU campus and to the retail areas of South Iowa Street.
The city currently has a route that runs to those three locations, but it runs only every 80 minutes. The new route will run every 30 minutes.
“I really think people are going to like this new route,” said Danny Kaiser, assistant director of parking and transit for KU. “We anticipate very high ridership on it.”
The changes are coming about as part of a new initiative for the university and the city to better cooperate on transit issues. Last year, both groups agreed to honor each other’s passes. For example, any student with a KU ID card can ride a city bus for free. Anybody who has a city bus pass can ride a KU bus for free.
Toomay said both sides are looking for other opportunities to coordinate their efforts.
“I think we’re in a place we haven’t really ever been before when it comes to cooperation with the university,” Toomay said. “We’re both really open to the idea.”
Toomay said the new jointly operated route could show the way for other joint routes in the future. The new route was the first recommendation from a city and university-hired consulting team. The consultants said the new route could serve as the “spine” of a new system of routes that take advantage of the strengths of both systems.
“It is an exciting time for transit,” Kaiser said. “We think we’ll provide better service for the transit-dependent, but we also think we’ll make it more convenient that we’ll attract people who choose to use transit service.”
The new route that will begin in August, called Route 11, could provide a revenue boost to the city as well. Although the route will be jointly operated, all the riders on the route will be counted as riders of the city-operated system. That’s important because the city receives federal money each year through a formula that includes ridership. The new route is expected to double the city’s ridership from about 1,400 riders per day to about 2,800 riders per day.
“The increased ridership could help us qualify for other federal funds,” Toomay said.
Consultants by early next year are expected to make further recommendations on how the city and university could create new routes.