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Would you be in favor of a commuter bus system running from Lawrence to Johnson County?

Asked at Westridge Shopping Center, Sixth Street and Kasold Drive on December 6, 2004

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Photo of Bob Kincheloe

“It wouldn’t matter to me. I would be lukewarm to the idea, but it might cut down on some road rage from the morning traffic on K-10.”

Photo of Mark Henderson

“It would depend how it was funded. I guess it makes sense in some respects, but you couldn’t tell how many people would use it unless they try it out.”

Photo of Dianne Summerville

“That would be a good idea, but I really don’t travel that way. There are a lot of people who go to Johnson County Community College, so I think it would work.”

Photo of Hildegard Rickmers

“I certainly wouldn’t use it, but it would be good for the people who work there. They could save money on gas, and it would be better for the environment.”


Richard Heckler 13 years, 5 months ago

The commuter bus is an absolute great idea. Perhaps in a few years we move on to a commuter train. This is good for the environment,cut back on oil demand and give sleepy drivers an option.

Jay_Z 13 years, 5 months ago

Screw the buses and fire up a train!

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

don....loved your post!

A few thoughts of my own, if I may....

  1. Whatever becomes of the Topeka, Lawrence, KC rail service, considering what's involved, you're right when you say that something so massive would probably be completed (and ultimately enjoyed/utilized) by our children!---However, since most of the things we do in our lives are for the benefit of future generations anyway....I say it's a worthwhile venture, nonetheless!

In the short run, I think increased bus service is the way to go. And only those who live in its area will pay for it.

Now, why do I say that? Well, for practical reasons, that's why.

See, the Topeka-Lawrence-KC corridor reminds me of the Fort Collins-Boulder-Denver corridor along the Colorado Front Range. Unfortunately for us here in Kansas, that Colorado corridor is...well.....just a wee-bit ahead of us in terms of how well its developed. The only thing they're lacking is an improved highway system---but that's coming along, however. And it won't be too many more years before their highway system will be the envy of the entire mid-west. In addition, the Front Range of Colorado has been debating the whole "train thing" for a number of years....and just like what is sure to happen here someday....too many "powers that be" can't seem to decide just where it should go and to what extent it may (or may not) harm the surrounding environment. But Colorado's bus transit system is a model for us here, I believe. It is operated and funded jointly by six counties that it serves. I mean, after all, why would/should some guy living out on the plains of Colorado have to pay slightly more in taxes to fund a system he'll never use? The same issue will inevitably be brought up here someday. Why should some guy living in Liberal, Kansas pay anything out of his pocket to help fund a transit system hundreds of miles away that he knows he'll never use. So whatever happens in this area thing is for sure.....only those in a select few counties in Kansas (and perhaps a few in Missouri) will pay for it.

Also, I just think that the future of Lawrence should include its neighbors. (Topeka and KC area). For anyone to say/feel like we here in Lawrence should remain an "island unto ourselves" is myopic/nearsighted, to say the least! The entire Topeka-Lawrence-KC corridor needs to be brought closer together!(In, oh so many ways! Too many for me to list here!) We here in this part of the mid-west could become a beacon of success (and in the process, become the envy of Denver)! but to do so means becoming "better connected"! So in the future, the economic success of Topeka, Lawrence, and the KC area will depend on all three places relying on one another and working together as a team!

Up to now, I really haven't seen too much of that "teamwork" of which I speak.....but this transit thing sounds to me like a step in the right direction!

donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

"Voluminous Manifesto" is my middle name! How did you know, Original_Bob! :)

cybermaiden 13 years, 5 months ago

I would gladly ride a train to KCK or Topeka. I have night blindness and driving home from work is a real scare. I would pay whatever cost to have peace of mind to travel too and from work, not to mention I could socialize again if I had transportation to clubs, theaters, and etc. A train would provide much more than gas savings to someone like me. It would give me freedom and independence again.

Au_contraire 13 years, 5 months ago

I welcome the idea. With reservations, however.

People drive their own cars so they can go at their own schedules. People drive their own cars because they are confident of their own abilities to schedule arrival and departure times. With ones own car, one can be spontaneous and stop somewhere to grab a bite to eat, pick up flowers or drycleaning, etc. along the way.

When resigned to take the bus, one relinquishes all of the above.

The worst part is the initial wait. Am I early? Am I late? Is the bus running ahead of schedule? Is it running behind? Such uncertainty at a time when it is crucial to be on time is exasperating. Same goes for the return trip should one need to be home at a specific time.

Many of us only realize that we have forgotten something important just minutes before arriving at the door. Basically there is nothing you can do about it if you are at the mercy of the bus schedule.

I would bet that most folks using such a commuter arrangement would do so at last resort, or if they didn't own a car.

PigFarmer 13 years, 5 months ago

Johnson county immigrants have already caused our housing prices to sky rocket. Why not provide them a subsidized ride to work so they can live in Douglas county and make their dollar stretch further than it can in Johnson county? Johnson county's ghetto.

mrcairo 13 years, 5 months ago

Skip the bus. Do it right. This is the only major metropolitan area in the country without mass transit. Build a train.

Start in Topeka. 2 stops in Lawrence. 1 stop in DeSoto. 1 stop just outside K-7 1 stop just outside the 435/35 exchange. a few stops inside 435. take it all the way to the airport.

and back.

Run the thing from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The Feds love to fund this kind of stuff. Think of the mooola this thing would generate. With gas easing up to $5.00 per gallon over the next decade, the time to act is NOW.

I'd even consider buying an american made piece of crap to park - N - ride.

lunacydetector 13 years, 5 months ago

why not a rail system to everyone's doorstep? there could be a railroad on every block. it would be far out man. imagine the drunk driving decrease.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

Bob Kincheloe (pictured above) has a rather interesting take on why someone might want to take a bus to work, don't you think?

I can see the billboards now....

"Take the bus.....not a bullet! The Transit System.....It works! Quick, convenient, AND SAFE!!"

(Unless, of course, the bus driver unexpectedly loses his marbles one morning because he got cut off by some inconsiderate motorist!--Uh-oh! Now everybody on the bus is screwed!)

And to Au_Contraire........There's one sentence in your post that made me smile!

You said...."Such uncertainty at a time when it is crucial to be on time is exasperating."

Oh, I'm sorry, Au_Contraire, was there ever a time in the entire history of man when it wasn't considered "crucial" to be on time for work??!!

Also, I get the feeling that the idea of taking a transit bus to work each day just doesn't work for you, personally.

Okay. That's fine!

Nowhere in the article does it state that if such a plan were to be to put into action.....EVERYONE would be rquired to take the bus to work!! --So take a deep breath, Au_contraire.

I like the fact that, if for nothing else, a commuter system does give people an option to get to work. Especially if it is a snowy, miserable day and some (or many) people might prefer that someone else do the driving for them. In addition, I think that if more and more companies help to chip in (as far as the cost of taking the transit system for their employees is concerned), then perhaps more and more motorists/employees would consider utilizing such an option. There are plenty of companies in other states that do that sort of thing! And if it works in other states, it can (at least in theory) work here!

remember_username 13 years, 5 months ago

A bus commuter system is worth a try but I have my doubts it will work. It is very hard to divorce Americans from their automobiles (almost as if there is some kind of covenant system in place). This isn't SF Bay when commutes are so frustrating and long. Driving from west Lawrence to JC is 45 min worse case, and people are not going to give up their flexibility, personal music, and comfortable seats.

I hope I'm wrong. How many commuters currently car pool? I don't see that many double and triple occupancy vehicles now.

Au_contraire 13 years, 5 months ago

My apologies, Hi_Jinx, if my comments seemed to be from a personal viewpoint. My intention was to merely point out the rather obvious problems of the mass transit paradigm. (I took a deep breath anyway--thanks for the advice)

The reasons commuter trains are profitable (read-successful-) in the US northeast result from a concentrated population density which warrants trains running every ten minutes or so.

The trouble with implementing bus/train connections between Johnson and Douglas counties is there just simply is not a concentrated enough population base in our area to make mass transit successful.

rhd99 13 years, 5 months ago

The commuter bus system is a great idea, however there is a caveat in this proposal. The city commission better tell the bus company that they want flexible schedules for ALL who use this commuter bus system. That means, the bus company must be available at all times. That also means that the bus company does NOT shut down operations after a certain time period in a day. I'll tell you what this plan lacks. This plan lacks a provision that would take people to KCI if they had to travel in the middle of the night & they had no car to get to the airport. If this had been included, then the bus company would have to hire in shifts, therefore running 24/7. If the commission wants this to work, they (the infamous four that voted for the smoking ban) better cut their pet projects by more than half or they pay for these pet projects out of their own pockets because those pet projects cost too much. In today's society, the 9-5 world no longer exists, much to the dismay of many.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

To A_c.....

I think we're specifically talking about a bus system here. Although, ironically, now that you mention train service.....I'd be willing to bet that if there was train service from Lawrence to Topeka and/or JoCo, many people would use it! Imagine how much quicker one could get to and from work or some sporting event or shopping mall?! Actually, from a personal standpoint, I find the idea of train service far more appealing than bus service....but train service isn't going to happen anytime soon! Way too much money, bureaucracy, and headaches (environmental impact) involved for any train service!! I'm just saying that having the option of taking a bus to Topeka or the JoCo area is a worthwhile option. I think it needs to be explore further....and judging from the sounds like it will! Good!

And as far as my "take a deep breath" comment goes....

I only said as much, because it seemed to me that your first post gave a rather one-sided (Lop-sided?)impassioned view as to why bus service is a complete waste of time. And if you reread your first post (or anyone else, for that matter), I'm sure you would agree. Your second post, however, had a decidedly different tone and take/point to it altogether.

I think that such an idea could fail.....but it's worth a shot. Besides, the first step in all of this is a study/review. Maybe the powers that be behind this idea will come to discover that such a plan has more than a few backers/supporters? Maybe not? We'll see!

Jayhawk226 13 years, 5 months ago

I grew up riding the eL and taking public transportation all around Chicago. When my family moved out to the suburbs, which sprawl over 45+ miles away from the downtown loop, I then learned Metra rails existed everywhere to transport commuters throughout the suburbs and mainly downtown.

Forget the it right, get a train moving from Topeka, through Lawrence, looping in Kansas City.

Why is Kansas generally so far behind in practical ideas?

Oh and by the way, on Chicago's Metra rail lines, you can bring open containers and alcoholic beverages onboard--Sunday's included!

Au_contraire 13 years, 5 months ago

"Oh and by the way, on Chicago's Metra rail lines, you can bring open containers and alcoholic beverages onboard--Sunday's included!"

We'll see how long that lasts. Anyone for a Molotov cocktail?

rhd99 13 years, 5 months ago

Kansas is so far behind the practical ideas, Jayhawk226 because of our extremisms. I agree with you we need some kind of train/tram system, but the only question I have & maybe you know this: How much does it cost? So far, politicians in this state & locale have paid too little attention on forward thinking & long term strategies & offer quick, unnecessary fixes that cost too much. Our ideas mean only one thing: We are like a disease that never goes away! Look what happened five years ago. We were strapped to an extremist State School board that wanted to de-emphasize evolution teachings in schools & promote creationalism! Now, the legislature wants to waste MY & YOUR tax money on what marriage is in this state?! This is in no way directed to or against you or anybody here, but to the Legislature of Kansas I say this: GIVE me a BREAK!

Au_contraire 13 years, 5 months ago

Everyone involved in making decisions regarding the spending of State monies should be required to have taken at least a few hours of economics at the academic level. If they haven't, it should be required of them to enroll in at least an introductory course and pick up the tab themselves.

What I am getting at is the concept of scarcity. It means, basically, that there will never be enough to go around to support all of society's perceived needs. By understanding this basic premise, it becomes evident that our priorities must be ranked in an orderly and meaningful manner which reflects our collective social values.

Do we fix what we already have or do we build new-fangled fix-its without addressing the already pressing problems? (traffic donuts)

Do we support education and child care? Or do we cut teachers and infrastructure to make room for huge administrative overhead? (public schools)

Do we throw money down the well on pork-barrel but under-utilized social programs or do we fix the needs of the less fortunate one person at a time? (mass transit)

Etc., etc.

These are not merely opinions but are economic realities.

We will not succeed if we do not recognize this.

Liberty 13 years, 5 months ago

With a train service, it would not be long till Lawrence is gobbled up as another minor city of the Kansas City area. A bus would give Lawrence some separation before being "assimilated". I wonder where the bus would make it's stop at? How would the people get where they need to go once they are in the Kansas City area? Would they use a Taxi or would the bus make a lot of stops?

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 13 years, 5 months ago

I like the idea of a bus route that goes from Topeka to Lawrence to KC. It would definitely come in handy during these times of high gas prices. It might also generate some business by bringing people to Lawrence on Saturdays to shop and check out our town. I work with a lot of people in KC who have never been to Lawrence and have no idea what a great place it is.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago

Liberty, bus routes (I believe) would be determined by need. I'm sure buses would go to various malls, industrial parks, and business centers. If a bus route/schedule fits your particular needs/destination.... Well, the hope/idea is, that someone like you might consider taking a bus instead of driving your car!

Jayhawk226 13 years, 5 months ago

With the higher cost of gas prices...I couldn't even imagine the annual expense for 1/4 full busses need to refuel so frequently.

Ay yi yi...the fare alone would easily climb to $2.50 and up in no time at all.

We need a train service that runs parallel to I-70 or K-7 and up I-35 into downtown Kansas City.

Since the recent motto of Kansas City was "Think Big" since we're so darn "big,"....then busses are for a smaller town...a metropolitan area demands public transportation that works!

Libcon 13 years, 5 months ago

I believe all mass transit is bad. Our country would not demand that kind of transportation had it not been built in the first place.

Shame on all who have built these air-polluting devices, and save the enivironment.

donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

I'll try to bring everyone's opinion together, here...

Okay, so we're down to:

a) nothing; or

b) a train and bus combo system where trains run to/from KC & Topeka through Lecompton, Lawrence, Eudora, Desoto, JoCo, KCMO, maybe up to Leavenworth and out to Grandview, Lees Summit, and definitely up to KCI--and while we're at it, go ahead and send that spur up to St. Joseph. There'd also be express routes between city centers, bypassing smaller towns. Local bus systems like the T in Lawrence and the JO in Johnson County, et al., would then connect to the train stations and distribute the commuter population to high-demand areas like shopping centers, industrial areas, commercial districts, and centers of residential areas.

I can envision a long-run trip from Topeka to St. Joe (terminal to terminal, probably the farthest distance, through the KC city center) to cost a pretty penny, but Lawrence to Topeka could be $3 each way. Lawrence to Union Station in KC $5 or so. Add a bus ticket to/from each train station (say, from downtown Lawrence to a train station out near the East Lawrence Business Park, and from Union Station to Kemper Arena) at $1 each trip, and you've got a $14 round trip cost. That's savings on gas, mileage, and parking, and it'd pay for itself from a consumer's standpoint very easily, assuming that the schedules are decently arranged. As far as being profitable, no mass transit will ever be profitable if it's done in a half-hearted way. There's certainly going to be a transition period, and maybe the bus line to JoCo is a good start. I'd just hate to see it end there.

From a taxpayer perspective, this would cost a TON--but consider what it costs now to keep up roads and vehicles and so forth. How many major companies have not considered the KC/Lawrence area because of the lack of public transportation. Corporations include this in their scouting reports of likely places to relocate or expand, and they would support it if the benefit to them were made known. For that matter, presence of quality public transit affects college rating scores as I recall, at least in some guides.

donsalsbury 13 years, 5 months ago

(part two)

It's not a question of if Lawrence becomes a part of KC; it's a question of how we take to it. If we ensure that we have the most input possible in how that comes about, the more Lawrence will thrive in the midst of it. Who can benefit most from a well-conceived and well-implemented train/bus system? Lawrence, most of all. We natives resent so much those who move here just to work in one of our larger neighbors. Lawrence may lose some sales tax because of people shopping near work, but they still live in Lawrence, and the pay property taxes and support local schools and charities through local fundraisers. The more difficult we make it for people to live here (that includes letting property values get too high) the more we will end up regretting it. I've lived in Lawrence all my life and would be hard-pressed to move, but when I look for jobs the good ones are in KC or JoCo; I don't even bother because I hate the drive. With a train/bus system I'd be there, making more money I'd want to spend in Lawrence (a_c's point about grocery shopping, etc.--I'd go shopping after I get home or on weekends, and the KC stores would have stores in Lawrence and Topeka to compete with for prices), plus I'd be able to afford a nicer, newer home in Lawrence sooner than I can with my present job. Companies in Lawrence would be harder pressed to pay competitive wages, but they'd also have a ton of applicants from other areas. Again, the distance between all points would appear shorter because of the time and money savings.

It wouldn't be too difficult to get Topeka on board with this, because they would get an airport run and an influx of people 'from' KC to their area. KC would be up for it because of the economic benefits, and other suburbs would be okay with it as well. I'm probably being a bit naive, but I think only the proper motivation is lacking. Both state governments would be up for it, because there is economic synergy in mass transit, if done right. The federal government would be willing to fund it, because it's good for business AND the environment--a boon to both sides of the aisle.

The time is coming when the state and/or local governments will be subsidizing mass transit monthly passes, not only as an alternative to cars, but to assist low-income folks with getting to work. I hate it when we can't partake in things like this because our forebears were short-sighted 20 years ago. I want this NOW. At least if I advocate for it now my kids and their kids could enjoy it. Let's do it!

jonas 13 years, 5 months ago

Libcon: Is this where you say we should all ride bicycles? If not, your comment doesn't make any sense. The whole point of mass transit is to take the crowd and emmissions of many vehicles (cars) and put them into one (train, bus, etc)

All the same, it's hardly practical for here. The reason we don't have one is simply because the driving conditions and traffic are not frustrating enough, or bad enough, to make enough people want one.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 5 months ago


Presently, there is a seven mile stretch of I-25 in and around Denver that is currently being expanded. When it is will most definitely alleviate traffic woes in the Denver area....but for how long is anybody's guess. 10 years? 15 years? Who knows! Also, several miles north of Denver and leading all the way up to Fort Collins, there is a lot of work to be done widening the lanes of I-25! Whenever and wherever there is growth, highway improvements are always the last thing on the "to do list". As far as the train-thing goes....Money is always a part of the equation (here, there, or any place else) but there in Denver, just exactly what route(s) it would take and what sort of environmental impact it would have are the real hold-ups. I mean, you've politics galore out there! Every major city (and its leaders) wants a commuter train going through their neck of the woods!---And the ones who don't want it are usually the environmentalists who fear that laying down more train tracks here and there might mean the death of lots and lots of prairie dogs and the like.

NickoliJazz 13 years, 5 months ago

"Look what happened five years ago. We were strapped to an extremist State School board that wanted to de-emphasize evolution teachings in schools & promote creationalism! Now, the legislature wants to waste MY & YOUR tax money on what marriage is in this state?! This is in no way directed to or against you or anybody here, but to the Legislature of Kansas I say this: GIVE me a BREAK!"

Hey rhd99, did you ever consider the fact that YOUR view might be considered extreme by the other side of the debate? You are asking for moderation and tolerance, but not demonstrating any yourself. It appears that the "extremists" would like to provide a more rounded education for capable students to make an informed decision on a very important topic. An accountability to strict morals, or a lack of accountability to absolutely no morals at all will always be seen as extreme. So, join the club, you are an extremist by definition too. If you truly believe Christian ideals are unfounded and unscientific, why are you so afraid of their presence in the school system?

By the way, I think the mass transit idea is awesome. It is great stewardship of finances.

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