Archive for Monday, June 2, 2014

Lawrence to consider moving transit hub to 21st and Iowa streets

June 2, 2014

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It doesn't have all the bars, restaurants and shopping that downtown Lawrence has, but the intersection of 21st and Iowa streets might soon be the center of the universe for the city's bus riders.

Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will be asked to move forward on a project that would move the city's public transit hub out of downtown and place it on university property near 21st and Iowa streets.

Yes, that's the 21st and Iowa area that's kind of next door to Fire Station No. 5, sort of across the street from Kansas University's park-and-ride lot and a couple blocks away from the shopping center that includes Hastings, CiCi's Pizza and other businesses.

That may not sound like the same pizzazz that downtown Lawrence has, but city transit leaders believe the move would be good.

"It is a great advantage to have the transit hub that close to the university," said Robert Nugent, the city's public transit administrator. "With this location, you could ride pretty much from anywhere in town and have a pretty direct route to the KU campus."

The current transit hub, which serves as the main gathering place for buses and as a transfer point for riders, is near Seventh and Vermont streets. Nugent said there's barely enough room on the block for the seven buses that sometimes have to be there at once. But the bigger issue is that the department has been forced to move from previous downtown locations due to development. Nugent said it is important for the service to have a location it knows will serve for the long term.

KU leaders have pushed for the 21st and Iowa area because they would like to have more robust transit service closer to campus. The city and KU operate separate, but coordinated, transit systems, and riders are encouraged to transfer between the two.

Nugent said the 21st and Iowa location is more centrally located than downtown, which he said could lead to dramatic improvements in service. He said his office is studying the possibility of making nearly all routes on the city's system run on half-hour cycles at the new location. Most city routes now run on an hour cycle, which can produce long waits for people who miss a bus.

"It would be a dramatic improvement," Nugent said. "When we have converted some of our routes to a half-hour frequency, ridership just explodes."

But Nugent said his department has heard concerns from riders about the system becoming less downtown-oriented. He said a new system would continue to have routes that serve downtown, but riders might be more likely to have to transfer to get downtown. Currently, many routes offer direct service to downtown.

Nugent said the department also has heard concerns from neighbors. A transit hub would require a traffic signal at 21st and Iowa streets. Nugent said neighbors have a legitimate concern that the signal would make it easier for motorists to use 21st Street as a way to avoid busy 23rd Street.

City engineers have looked at possible improvements for the street. Those include roundabouts at either 21st and Ousdahl or 21st and Stewart Avenue. Engineers also have looked at "entrance islands," which are devices that narrow the lanes of traffic at certain points. Making 21st Street one way also has been considered. Nugent, however, said fire department officials have expressed concern about the one-way street option.

As for increased bus traffic through the neighborhood, Nugent said the city would commit not to route more buses through the neighborhood. All buses would enter and leave the transit hub either along Iowa Street or Stewart Avenue, the short street behind Fire Station No. 5.

The transit hub — a series of canopies, driveways and a small building for bus drivers to take a break — has an estimated price tag of about $4 million. The transit department has money in its budget for the facility, which has been on the drawing board for years.

If the site is approved Tuesday, Nugent said it likely would be a year before the bus system would begin using the new facility.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

Michael Fraley 11 months ago

Keep the hub downtown. If you move it to 21st street it is going to be another feature geared for the University and not something that is for the general public.

What about the old Borders building and parking lot. The library is moving soon and that would be a great feature for downtown. The parking lot should be big enough to accommodate the buses and convert the building into a mini shop area for small cafe's and small specialty business stalls. The City could earn some money back from rents.

Keep Lawrence unique and stop trying to copy Johnson County by moving everything to the outlying areas.

Brett McCabe 11 months ago

Another traffic signal on Iowa, 2 blocks from the current one, transfers for downtown travel, etc. This sounds like a bad plan.

Julius Nolan 11 months ago

Not everyone wants to go downtown.

Richard Heckler 11 months ago

Borders seems practical IF that grocery store does not move forward.

Why take more business from downtown? Where will downtown bus stops be? Not one direct route to downtown without a transfer? If I read the LJW correctly.

Lawrence Morgan 11 months ago

This is a great idea. Why not the major bus stop at Borders and a secondary major one at 21st and Iowa or nearby? Is there any reason you couldn't have both with some planning?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 11 months ago

This would place the bus stop closer to the new roundabout that the city idiots are going to build at 2d and Iowa. You heard it here first

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