At their meeting Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners will review an analysis of the city’s public transit operations and decide whether to move forward with a transit center study.
The city’s bus service has been using what was meant to be a temporary location in the 700 block of Vermont Street as its main transfer point for years. Lawrence Public Transit Administrator Robert Nugent said if city leaders intend to move forward with a transit center, a study is needed to determine the best location.
“There’s a lot that goes into a study like that,” Nugent said. “Most people think they can put a finger on a map, but it doesn’t work that way.”
If commissioners approve another study, it would use up-to-date ridership, traffic and demographic data to determine possible locations for the transit center. A location study was done in 2012, and several locations were considered and ultimately ruled out, some after vocal opposition from nearby neighborhoods.
Bids for the study are expected to be $50,000 or less. All but approximately $10,000 of the cost of the study will be covered by a Metropolitan Planning Organization grant. Last month, the commission voted to make a request for proposals for the study, but agreed not to move forward with a contract without further discussion and review of the transit operations analysis.
The Transit Comprehensive Operations Analysis collected data and stakeholder input to analyze the transit system and formulate potential improvements. The transit system currently operates a “hub and spoke” network with fixed routes, in which bus transfers are primarily done at the Vermont Street transfer point, but also at three secondary locations: 31st and Iowa Street; Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive; and Jayhawk Boulevard. The analysis made more than a dozen recommendations, including expanding amenities, service frequency and span of service to include later operating hours.
However, in a memo to the commission, Nugent noted that determining a permanent location for a primary hub drives all other decisions regarding the transit system: route planning, service levels, permanent amenities, bus purchases and staffing.
Mayor Leslie Soden said she hasn’t decided whether she will vote in favor of the location study, but doesn’t think she will vote for the study as currently laid out. Soden said she’s interested in the transit system adding amenities and pedestrian safety to its current transfer points as a way to have “mini hubs.”
“I don’t think that we should pursue a single hub,” Soden said. “I think that we should continue to work on the four mini-hub situation that that we have going on now, where we have four hubs across the city.”
Ultimately, Nugent said the need for more curb space for buses and amenities at the Vermont Street transfer point will require some change in how the bus system operates, as well as a decision from commissioners.
“I guess the question really to the commission is do they think we should have a transit center or not, and where it should be,” Nugent said.
Another aspect is likely to play into the commission’s conversation Tuesday. The .55 percent citywide sales tax — which includes .25 percent to help fund the transit service — is set to sunset at the end of 2018. The commission will discuss the renewal of the sales tax as part of budget discussion this spring, including timing of a possible ballot measure.
The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.