Letter to the editor: Empty buses

To the editor:

Being a Lawrence bus driver must be the loneliest job in town.

Here’s hoping our new city manager, as one of his first major hires, takes a chance on a bus-system director bursting with imaginative ideas. I suspect I’m not the only one tired of watching $250,000 buses, fueled by $4 million in local sales tax dollars and an equal amount in federal and state subsidies, roll around Lawrence devoid of people.

The claim that the system increased “overall ridership” by 250% on the watch of the departing director is a little misleading. When the city started coordinating its system with KU’s bus service, a system that was already thriving, it also began counting those students in overall ridership. Subtract them out — they account for two-thirds of the ridership — and you could service all but a small handful of routes with Chevy Volts.

That doesn’t make Lawrence unique. Most public bus systems struggle.

What’s the point in having a system that hardly anyone uses?

Why not eliminate bus fares? They contribute only modest revenue. Offer complimentary drinks? Pretzels? Live music? Movies? Explore-Lawrence-by-bus tours? Put mannequins in the windows? Perform a marriage in transit? Do something?

Or just park the buses and provide taxi/Uber fare to the few regular, nonstudent bus riders and keep only the two or three routes that actually have significant ridership?

Surely City Manager Craig Owens can bring on board an eager, think-outside-the-box individual and give her or him a free rein to fill those buses with passengers.

Jerry L. Harper,

Lawrence

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