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Archive for Monday, July 9, 2012

Extended service

A plan to expand overnight public transportation service in Lawrence is a reasonable experiment.

July 9, 2012

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For Lawrence residents who depend on public transportation, life pretty much has to happen between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.

If they work a late shift or attend an evening meeting or performance, they may find themselves stranded after the city’s T buses have gone home for the night.

Extending the hours of the T is a top request of its riders, and setting aside money in next year’s budget to fund a pilot program that provides limited transportation coverage in the evening and overnight hours is a reasonable experiment.

The budget draft that Lawrence city commissioners will discuss on Tuesday includes $250,000 to fund a “demand response” transportation system between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., Monday through Saturday. The money for the program would come from city sales tax revenue designated for public transportation. The plan is to have two 18-passenger buses available overnight for people who have scheduled rides in advance. Riders would pay the standard $1 one-way transit fare.

City officials still are refining the plan to address such issues as how far in advance rides must be scheduled. The goal of the on-demand bus system is not to replace Kansas University’s safe-ride program, which gives students a ride home after they’ve been drinking, but to provide transportation for people who need to go to or from work or other activities that can be predicted and scheduled in advance.

There are other issues the city should consider as it sets up and evaluates its overnight transit program. For instance, does the city really need to run 18-passenger buses overnight or would smaller, less-expensive vans do the job? Is $1 the appropriate fare or would people willingly pay more, maybe $2, for an after-hours ride? The city also should assess whether this service is a higher priority than other improvements that might be financed with the $250,000. Even one potential late-shift rider interviewed by the Journal-World said it would be more important to him to have a shorter wait time when he changes buses on his way to the grocery store.

To those who don’t need or use public transportation, this service and perhaps the entire T system may seem like a waste of taxpayer money, but for those who don’t have cars or are unable to drive, the city transportation system can be the key to having a job, attending events, shopping and living independently. It’s worth a try to see if the proposed extended transportation system will help more of them achieve those goals.

Comments

nativeson 2 years, 5 months ago

If the overnight service can be funded with the budget alloted by the sales tax referendum passed several years ago, I have no issues with expanding the service. However, I have concern that the result of the "experiment" will be a request by transit to fund additional service outside of what the taxpayers voted for in the first place.

Overnight service may need to come at the expense of a reduction in fixed route service during daytime or evening hours. Use the resources that have been provided to serve the greatest amount of people.

Leslie Swearingen 2 years, 5 months ago

Good editorial and right on the mark. If you are lucky enough to have your own car you probably don't even notice those around you who don't have the money to buy or maintain one or cannot drive because of age or a medical condition. I wonder why the midwest is so adverse to public transportation when it is taken for granted in other cities. Taking a cab should be considered a luxury. Walk or ride a bike because this town is small enough to make this feasible? No it isn't, it is big and getting bigger. Where I live it is about two miles to a grocery store, walk there and then two back carrying groceries? I don't think so. There are many people for whom only a bus is going to be the answer to their transportation needs.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 5 months ago

Even if one believes that extended bus service is a good thing, the question should be is it at the top of our priority list? There are lots and lots of things that would be good, yet we can't afford them. Is extending the T hours so important that it should jump to the top of the list?

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 5 months ago

The editorial is right on. There are many people who can't drive, for many reasons. I do think, however, that smaller busses are the answer.

As for many of the above comments, they wlll wait until something happens to them - always unexpectedly. Then they have to have the bus - and we'll see what happens.

Twenty four hour service enables people to live a full life.

But why can't Kansas University's safe ride program be combined with this program for the community?

streetman 2 years, 5 months ago

With the mTs already costing us a $3 million/year loss with daytime non-use, expanding their "use" to "off-hours" is absolutely insane. I have yet to see an explanation of why it is my responsibility (i.e. tax dollars) to provide transportation for someone else.

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