City seeking feedback on bus route redesign to prepare for design of long-awaited bus transfer hub

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

A Lawrence transit rider boards a bus on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, downtown at Seventh and Vermont streets.

The City of Lawrence is moving forward with plans to build a new bus-transfer hub, starting with a yearlong process to determine how bus routes should be restructured.

The city has previously allocated $4.5 million for the project, but the project was delayed because of years of debate about where to build the Multimodal Transfer Facility. The process to restructure the city’s bus routes will include a community survey about transportation needs and a consultant-led process to redesign the routes. The design of the bus hub, which will be built on Bob Billings Parkway, will then begin.

Lawrence Transit Director Adam Weigel said the route study must be completed first because it will affect design aspects of the bus hub, such as how many bus bays are needed. Weigel said the redesign would necessitate some route changes and could also be a chance to make some foundational changes to how routes are structured.

“So it’s a good opportunity for us to take a step back and say do we really want to keep doing things pretty much how we have been doing it, or do we want to think differently perhaps?” Weigel said.

The city currently uses a hub-and-spoke structure for its bus routes, meaning that the city operates various routes that often require a bus transfer at a specific transfer location, currently located in the downtown. Following two location studies, which included pushback from some neighborhoods, the Lawrence City Commission voted in May 2019 to locate the hub on university property at the intersection of Bob Billings Parkway and Crestline Drive.

Weigel said one of the bigger questions was whether the city wanted to continue with the hub-and-spoke model or use a grid model, or perhaps some combination. He said over the past five to 10 years there has been increasing use of the grid model, in which buses move up and down major streets and riders transfer at various locations. He said for a grid pattern to work well buses need to come frequently, every 15 minutes or faster. The hub-and-spoke model offers more routes between specific destinations, but with less frequency.

Routes will be studied for a year total, starting with a survey created by students in the KU Urban Planning department, which will lay the foundation for a consultant-led route redesign planning process in spring 2021, according to a news release from the city. The survey is available now through Oct. 4 and will gather feedback on transportation patterns and needs.

The survey asks residents to rank their top five destinations in Lawrence for both weekday and weekends; their most common reasons for taking trips; and the bus routes or services they use most often, among other questions. The survey also asks what three origins and destinations — for example downtown to Holcom Park — should public transit serve with direct route connections. The survey is available on the Lawrence Listens platform on the city’s website.

Weigel said the survey responses would be used to create some route concepts, which will be put out for public feedback in October or November. He said the consultant-led route redesign would begin in the spring and should conclude by summer 2021. The design and construction of the bus hub facility are expected to take place from summer 2021 to fall 2022.

Once complete, the bus hub will serve as the primary station for the coordinated bus service provided by the city and KU. The goal for the bus hub is for it to provide amenities for transit users, bus drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.


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