Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2012

City mulls on-call T bus service

July 5, 2012


Tim Utter can tell you that it takes about an hour to walk from the Santa Fe Industrial Park near the Kansas Turnpike to east Lawrence.

He knows because he made the walk several times when he unexpectedly was moved to the third shift by his industrial employer. Utter relies on public transportation to get to and from work, and the city’s fixed-route bus system runs only from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“You really are at the mercy of getting someone to give you a ride, or else you just walk,” Utter said. “I walked several times because that is what you do when you need the job.”

Soon, though, you may pick up the phone and call for a city bus.

City Manager David Corliss’ recommended budget calls for $250,000 to fund a pilot program that would extend the hours of the city’s public transit system to cover the time period from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

City officials still are developing plans for the service, but they’ve said it would operate significantly different than the daytime routes.

Robert Nugent, the city’s public transit administrator, said the plan is to operate only two 18-passenger buses to cover the entire city during the nighttime hours. Instead of the buses running regular routes, they would only be on the streets when riders call to schedule a pickup.

The city now uses such a “demand response” system during portions of the daytime hours on Route No. 3, which runs from downtown to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the industrial area along North Iowa Street. Come Aug. 1, the entire route will operate on the demand-response system all day long.

Under the system, riders call a number staffed by transit employees to book a ride on the bus — much like they would call for a taxi but at a fraction of the price. The service charges the standard $1 one-way transit fare.

With the nighttime service, Nugent said the city is still trying to determine how far in advance a rider would need to schedule a ride. Nugent said there is some concern that if a ride could be requested with only an hour’s notice, for example, that the system could become overloaded by college students looking for rides home from drinking establishments.

Nugent said Kansas University operates a robust safe-ride program, and the city wants its new service to focus on serving workers who don’t have other options to get to work.

“We definitely don’t want somebody on Mass. Street calling at 3 in the morning taking away from somebody else who needs the system to get to work,” said Nugent, who also said workers likely would be able to make a standing appointment if they knew they would need the bus on a regular basis.

Morris Harding, a frequent rider of the T, said the focus on serving late-night and early-morning workers was appropriate.

“I know there are people out there who pass up jobs, even though they have the experience, because they just don’t have viable transportation,” Harding said. “This is one of those things that could really make a difference in some people’s lives.”

Utter said he thinks the new service also could be beneficial, but he’s not sure it ought to be the first priority for transit improvements in Lawrence. He said he wants the city to improve the efficiency of existing routes, noting he often has to wait for 30 minutes or more on a transfer to get from his east Lawrence home to Checkers grocery store in central Lawrence.

But Nugent said the request for extended hours is a frequent one.

“People talk about how they want later hours and how they want service on Sundays,” Nugent said. “You basically hear those requests at every public hearing we have.”

If approved by city commissioners, the $250,000 would come from a portion of the two sales taxes voters approved for transit operations in 2008. Specifically, the money would come from a 0.05 percent sales tax that is set aside to provide “enhancements” to the city’s public transit service. The tax generated about $645,000 in 2011.

City commissioners will discuss the bus proposal and other budget-related items at a 4 p.m. study session Tuesday at City Hall.


Janis Pool 5 years, 2 months ago

This is a great idea! I suggest they City charges $2 a ride like the do for the lift. And that goes for students too. The KU ID freebie shouldn't count. That will weed out the safe ride from the shift work. I also think Sudays should be covered. I have a neighbor who works for a food establishment that serves on Sunday, which thereby requires her to walk every Sunday morning.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 2 months ago

Lose $3 million what do you do? Simple, find a new way to lose more. Wrong timing Corliss.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 2 months ago

Tell the guy to buy a bicycle. If he was going to the bar or checking out a new girl, I'll bet he could figure out a way to get there.

The city has no business competing with the local taxi cab companies. How in the world could you justify sending a huge bus on call to move one moocher somewhere for a buck?

The empT has had long enough to prove that it is a worthless waste of tax dollars. Riders complaining about having to wait 30 minutes for a ride, reminds me of when I helped at a place giving out grocery sacks of food for needy families for thanksgiving. I never have seen such ungrateful people when the food was free.

By providing these people rides you teach them nothing except how to beg, mooch and spend other peoples money.

5 years, 2 months ago

^This has got to be the longest running troll session ever. Because no human being could be as obtuse, unempathic and cruel as this person is.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 2 months ago

what I would like every single Commissioner to ask of Corliss before approving this measure is very simple: When the $250,000 we have already taken from the taxpayers to provide this T Taxi runs out, then what? In a city without a 5-year plan, it would not surprise me one bit to learn that we have not yet considered the possibility that the $250,000 we are using to start this program will eventually one day run out. Given how quickly the T lost $3 million, I'm guessing it won't take long for that money to turn to dust. Don't be surprised in six-months to a year when the city will meet to discuss a sales tax/property tax increase to salvage the program. There is a reason that taxi cab drivers in Lawrence charge you more than $1 to drive you anywhere you choose- the reason is that they would lose money and go out of business quickly. Why would we expect the T, which operates a larger, more inefficient vehicle than a taxi to do anything different than that? I voted against it once, and when that $250k runs out, I'd love to have the opportunity to vote against it again. Perhaps this time, a few more Lawrencians who can see the writing on the wall will join me.

50YearResident 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow, now a bum can call for an 18 passenger bus to take him back to the shelter for $1. oh wait, he may have a free pass ticket for that ride. I can see it now, a person calls for a bus ride at 11 PM to go to the local liquor store. As he is departing, he says to the bus driver. Wait here for 5 minutes because I am going to need a ride back home. These buses will be making a lot of late night runs for errons.

joes_donuts 5 years, 2 months ago

Why shouldn't students be able to use this service to get a ride home from drinking establishments? Would we rather they drove while drunk?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

What an interesting coincidence, because when I was a student stumbling home drunk (walking), I used to stop by Joe's Donuts and get the best egg salad sandwich.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 2 months ago

Apparently you missed the part about how there is already a Safe Ride program for students. This doesn't take that program away.

lawslady 5 years, 2 months ago

Call a BUS to pick up one person??? Why not use a car instead? Cheaper to buy/maintain/drive. Doesn't make much sense to use a vehicle that is bus sized for only one person & such specialized pick ups. Do we have so much extra money that we can afford to spend money like this? If so, may I suggest a tax cut?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

I think the idea would be to schedule the rides so that multiple people are picked up/dropped on any given trip.

Topple 5 years, 2 months ago

Really? $250,000 for the benefit of a handful of people? This commission sure does understand the definition of frivolous.

Poor guy, having to wait 30 minutes for a ride to Checkers. There should be a fleet of on-call helicopters ready to fly people wherever they need to go at a moments notice. Who cares it if costs taxpayers tens of millions annually?

jnasty22 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh, yes. I'd forgotten that Bill Self is lobbying for the T to run 24 hours. And that the City of Lawrence is responsible for his salary.

Let's do a better job of staying on task.

usesomesense 5 years, 2 months ago

The empT is just a rolling billboard to falsely advertise our city as a progressive and bustling metropolitan area - which it is not. First of all why do we feel the need to advertise ANYTHING much less the opposite of what this city seems to try to be?

The entire empT system could easily and more cost effectively be replaced by contracting with Taxi services - not to mention the current suggestion.

I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to help those with financial need get around - especially if they're trying to get to work. (Although I seem to have always managed - even when that meant a bicycle in bad weather) but the system created is large and cumbersome and is really serving the true needs of very few.

I also understand the environmental argument for mass transit. Unfortunately in our community we are pumping way more pollution into the atmosphere driving empty buses around than individual cab rides would generate.

Dear City Commissioners - get over it. It (the empT) doesn't work, it's a huge waste of tax dollars and those that really should use the services would be better and more cost effectively served by other means, freeing up those valuable tax dollars for other more beneficial things.

Dear Community of Lawrence Voters - if you're going to pass every tax increase that's placed before you please be sure and elect city commissioners that won't put a tax increase in front of you that is a pipe dream waste of money for things that look and sound nice but are quite frankly excessive.

1southernjayhawk 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm familiar with that route, also. I bicycle it every week. Takes about 15 minutes.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

You can't be serious. Which City Commisioner charged Corliss with the task of increasing ridership on the M-T? Wherein Corliss devised the single dumbest idea I've yet heard. Corliss can't just sit around dreaming up stupid ideas, can he? I'm paying him for this?

I hate to say it but once again, this has Cromwell written all over it. Can we just get that clown away from taxpayer funds and services??

usesomesense 5 years, 2 months ago

Also of note - there was a lot of press about the county appraiser's office lowering values last year. I don't know about everybody else, but while my property value went down my taxes went up.
I believe the county and city want everybody to think values are down and consequently taxes are down. However; when values go back up tax dollars will be abundant so they're trying to figure out how to spend them before the general public figures it out.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

here's a few suggestions for Mr. Utter and the rest of the moochers

  1. get a car
  2. get a bike
  3. move closer to your job
  4. hire a taxi
  5. enjoy the fresh air and exercise

or, even get a moped.

what are thee people going to do if their company leaves town? Expect me to pay for them to not work?

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

", who also said workers likely would be able to make a standing appointment if they knew they would need the bus on a regular basis."

why not just pick them up in a Limo?

I know there are people out there who pass up jobs, even though they have the experience, because they just don’t have viable transportation,” Harding said

experience must not matter a whole lot if you can't even afford to buy a freaking car, buddy

Who spits out this propaganda? Why didn't the LJW interview a single person that didn't give some fluffy quote on the M-T? Who was the driving force behind this idiocy? Do som reporting LJW. This is lazy journalism.

christinaholt 5 years, 2 months ago

This is such a needed service in our town, and would enable so many people to more safely get to and from their jobs. I wholeheartedly support this idea, and personally can't think of a better way to spend $250,000. Thank you to the progressive and thoughtful community leaders behind this idea.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Seriously? in your world in makes sense to pick up ONE person in a 20,000 lb bus? Oy vey.

5 years, 2 months ago

First off, the buses that will be used with this service are the smaller, 18 seat, para-van style NOT the 20,000lb 32-footers. They're lighter, more maneuverable, and more fuel efficient and cost efficient.

Second, these buses aren't going to be deployed to pick up just ONE person. They will be picking up the many people that need the service during the off-hours. I've heard so many people requesting the service be extended later and now the city is responding. This is a GOOD THING.

I'm getting so very tired of the constant hate and vitriol being dumped all over the T and it's customers. Any city worth it's salt requires a public transit system. The service has been improving drastically over the years and the people running the show are listening to the needs of the customers and doing the best they can to provide appropriate service. The money "wasted" on the service is going in large part to all the drivers and employees, most of whom live and shop and pay their bills in Lawrence so the money is circulating within the community. No public transit service makes a profit, that's just the way it is. A teeny tiny fraction of your sales tax goes to provide this wonderful service and I for one am happy to pay it. Many thanks to everyone who supports the T. Keep ridin' and show the haters the error of their ways.

50YearResident 5 years, 2 months ago

Maybe they should put a dinning section and a sleeper compartment in the bus to accommadate the riders. Might as well take advantage of the extra space. A doorman would be nice too to help passengers enter and an usher to seat them in a nice window seat. sic.

begin60 5 years, 2 months ago

Scheduling is a great idea. I was going to say I never felt safe on the streets of Lawrence during the day--don't know what type of clientele would be riding at night. Stamping out street harassment of women and those who are perceived to physical limitations needs to be a priority in Douglas County.

There's no excuse that the vicious HR officials at KU would stoop to trying to criminally prosecute someone subject to these unacceptable violations by street harassers: hillybillies rule at KU. Get a clue--this predatory, scripted BS is a function of ignorance and advertisement of true incompetence to leave a positive impression on others. It's the ultimate of disrespect. Don't use strangers to extort gratitude. Chivalry died a happy death a long time ago in civilized parts. It's offensive and politically unaware. Stop bullying strangers with ignorant, backwoods aggression. No one invited you into their life, so be careful about rudely inviting yourself.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 2 months ago

"No one invited you into their life, so be careful about rudely inviting yourself."

Looks like we now have a tie for Ironic Post of the Day!!!

Topple 5 years, 2 months ago

What the heck are you talking about?

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Right on que, a completely irrelevant and nonsensical rant that has absolutely no bearing on the conversation.

Mark Lee 5 years, 2 months ago

This is an interesting idea. I think it is well worth the money to see what the need is and how we can increase mobility around town after 8PM. It would've been nicer to have it around all summer, but it is smart investments like this that make me proud of Lawrence. It may sound like a lot of money, but if enough people use should pay for itself in increased GDP of Lawrence. I don't ride the bus a lot, but when I is far from "EmpT."

Topple 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure you have a firm grasp on the meaning of "smart investments."

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

What evidence do you have that the M-T incresases the "GDP" of Lawrence? What does that even mean?

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone even measure the "GDP" of Lawrence?

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

What the T needs is to better provide on the west side. We are building apartments like they are going out of style with only car transportation available. Jack must sell cars the way he pushes them. But these days with business cutting benefits (and complaining about health insurance via government) and freezing or cutting wages and laying people off left and right all with the reason of the bottom line, the only choices many in this community have is insurance or a cheap car. Many can afford neither becuase we have one of the highest cost of housing in one of the poorest counties. If we spent more time providing jobs, which fit our skill sets we might have a better chance of buying cars. Yet we want to be a green community. Can't only get anywhere by car and still be a green community. Commissioner Cromwell may have his faults, but a green community is not one of them and he was not in office when the residents of Lawrence supported the T in a vote. And Jack not one voting district voted against the T. So the majority of Lawrence disagrees with you.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Are you talking about the temporary "road and infrastructure" sales tax? A lot of the same people that worked on the library/parking garage Big Lie were also attached to that first one. Which wasn't really a referendum on the M-T at all, but nice try at spin. You fail. The origins of the M-T in Lawrence was federal funds, aka "free money". I wonder, as the costs continue to increase for the M-T and our property taxes and sales taxes continue to increase, will the next vote on the M-T be as easy a sell to Lawrence voters? The M-T is easily one of the least popular city services offered. I have no doubt that if the voters were presented with the true costs, revenues, ridership and given an opportunity for an up/down vote on the M-T that it would go down in flames.

I'm glad that we can partially agree on one thing, Cromwell is an absolute disaster of a City Commissioner.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

Jack The parking garage and library have nothing to do with the T. The community was given the opportunity to vote the T up or down.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Wrong, the M-T was cleverly bundled with road/infrastructure maintenance. It's hard to tell exactly what each voter intended, but it's pretty safe to bet that most votes were to prevent decrepit and crumbling roads. Many of the the same people involved in the library parking garage were also advocates for the road/infrastructure/M-T temporary sales tax.

Also, it's really hard to get the true costs/revenues/paying ridership numbers to make a critique of the M-T. The city does a pretty effective job at propaganda on the M-T. And that's another similarity to the library/parking garage. In both cases, some members of the community and the city itself have misled the voters. Maybe you like to get lied. Maybe it's only when it suits your personal ideological agenda. I, on the other hand, don't care for it very much.

I'm in favor of public transportation, provided it is used in a rational and economical manner. I believe there are services that more citizens could benefit from and would be a more effective use of resources than driving around mostly empty buses. Even, gasp, a tax cut.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Wrong, the vote was cleverly bundled with road/infrastructure improvements. They sold it as a vote to improve the horrible Lawrence roads, which honestly have not gotten much better.

If there ever was a vote just on the bus. hasta la vista M-T.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

"Wrong, the vote was cleverly bundled with road/infrastructure improvements.

They were completely separate issues. They were not "bundled." (nor were they wadded, as your panties clearly are most of the time.)

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

JW Why did the comment post before going through the check steps?

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

As for the call to get a bus. As stated earlier. To many places in town are not close enough to a bus stop and unfornately that is where some of our retirment communities are. Like Prarrie Commons. We are pushing to be invitning to the retirement community. Yet we are not able to properly support transportation needs of the elderly or disabled. This is a step in correcting a flaw in the quality of life we are offering to the retiree and our own.. Most communities have spent the monies needed to make sure their workforce can get to work and people who they invite to come and live do not lose their ability to be indepedent. We also need to take care of the people who have been members of this commuity and help build it who are now retired or have been disabled. We have many in this community who presently are not old or disabled who do not want to accept that if they are lucky they will also live beyond their use to corporate Amercia and no longer have the benefits they now expect. American people are not lazy. We have people who have problems, but the average American is not lasy and with corporate America creating a new slave labor ( stated earilier, cutting or freezing wages, cutting benefits and laying off people right and left) with no or very little benefits and insurance companies ramping the costs the average American soon will not be afford things like cars, home and insurance. The T is a growing need in this community.

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

"The T is a growing need in this community."

Prove it.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree. We need some regional transportation. As we invite more retirees, they will need access to Dr. in KC or Topeka. I know when I was first injured I was sent to Topeka for shots in the spine and then to KC for back surgeries. I was lucky to have someone who could take me during the day or supposed working hours.

mr_right_wing 5 years, 2 months ago

Are we talking "door-to-door" (they pick you up at the front door or your job and take you to the front door of your house)? Or 'curb-to-curb" (nearest bus stop from where you are, to the nearest bus stop of where you need to go)?? Or perhaps that's one of the details they're still working on.

A fare increase should be considered too. (MINIMUM 25-cent increase across the board!)

What about the poor who have no phone? Aren't they being discriminated against here? Could we squeeze a few more dollars out of the budget to get those people phones?!?

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 2 months ago

I do not know who, but there is a group that collects old cell phones for seniors and, hopefully other, who need some ablilty to contact needs. I.e. 911.

workinghard 5 years, 2 months ago

Doesn't the bus for the elderly and disabled charge $3 a ride? Something doesn't seem right.

usesomesense 5 years, 2 months ago

I really don't think most Lawrence residents are against helping those in need. I think the real problem is that most reasonable people that can do basic math have a very difficult time believing the current system is the most cost effective and/or efficient.

I truly believe that if we provide services to transport those that really need help we wouldn't do it with gigantic buses. A gigantic bus that is frequently empty is FAR from GREEN - it drives around empty burning fuel, wearing out the roads and burning up the engine in the bus. If our population were about 5 times what it is then it might be more efficient with the size buses we are using and the frequent routes.

A few small buses on regular routes would likely provide reasonable (and true) mass transit. The term 'mass transit' describes moving a mass of people - not a massive bus. Small and efficient means - like taxi vouchers that would further support local businesses - would provide better service to patrons and have a significantly smaller carbon footprint and cost.

estafel 5 years, 2 months ago

I would love to see transit available at later hours, and I believe it would benefit many areas of Lawrence. However, to me this seems doomed, at least for the suggested intention. Allow for scheduling, and I imagine when the students get wise, the buses are going to be stealthily (or outright) appropriated for use by social clubs, the greek system, parties, etc. More buses out on route then? Deny the privilege to reserve and board?

Sunny Parker 5 years, 2 months ago

This is unbelievable! Pay your own way! Try WALKING!

Society has grown to believe someone else owes them something! What happened to the days where one would work to buy what they want instead of expecting a FREE RIDE!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago


How often do you walk to the grocery store, or anywhere else, for that matter?

Topple 5 years, 2 months ago

I bike frequently to the grocery store.
The problem with people is they think they are entitled to everything, regardless of who pays for it.

workinghard 5 years, 2 months ago

Looks like we can add begin60 to this list of user names, OldSoul, socialintelligencecounts, goodcountrypeople, equalaccessprivacy. Evidently he thinks if he comments under many different names we will think there are others out there that agree with him.

Windemere 5 years, 2 months ago

While not an expert on the financial health of the T (though it seems there's little or no dispute that it loses a significant amount of money every year), one has to wonder if this escalation of give-aways is a prudent use of taxpayer dollars in these tough economic times. As an aside, it seems puzzling (or maybe ironic) that the same people who voice the strongest support/insistence on "sustainability" seem to be the same people who think more, more, more entitlements are A-OK. The funding comes from people, people who earned their money, who dream of sending their kids to college, hoping the kids can graduate with as little debt as possible, hoping they can save for a comfortable retirement, etc. It's not a bunch of Bill Selfs who have deep pockets. Of course people have sympathy for truly deserving people who have health or other problems. We are lucky to live in a community of generous, concerned citizens. But at some point, it just is not sustainable to the citizenry to continue requiring them to fund more and more projects that provide free or greatly subsidized goods and services to others. This discussion is about When is enough enough.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

I'd feel a whole lot better about this if I knew that members of the city commission regularly rode the "T", even if it were just one day per week.

How about we lower the pay of city workers, just a tiny, tiny bit, but gave them bus passes as part of their compensation. That would increase participation as well as giving the commissions a large pool of regular riders who could then give commissioners feedback on what parts of the system are working well and what parts need improvement.

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