Archive for Thursday, May 5, 2005

K-10 transit service to be explored

Joint study to look at Johnson County to Lawrence bus routes

May 5, 2005

Monday at Meiner's Market, Tim Baldridge had to look at the pump before noting he was paying $2.27 for a gallon of gasoline.

The small compact car he uses for his daily commute from Lawrence to Prairie Village got excellent mileage, the Lawrence man said. He was generally aware of rising gas prices, but didn't feel a pinch from the increases of the past few months. The cost of gasoline wasn't going to spur any lifestyle changes, he said.

Still, Baldridge said he would welcome a chance to end the five-day a week drive back and forth to work if some form of public transit were available.

"I would love that," he said. "I've never been so stressed out as I am on K-10."

Johnson County, the city of Lawrence and the Kansas Department of Transportation plan to see if there are enough commuters like Baldridge to make a daily bus service from Johnson County to Lawrence on the Kansas Highway 10 corridor viable, which could include De Soto.

Late this summer, the county would invite consultants to submit proposals to complete a study of bus services possibilities on the K-10 corridor from Johnson County to Lawrence, Alice Amrein said. The study will look at such things as basic as the goal of the service and destinations, to specifics like hours of operation and bus stops.

Amrein said her department was currently focusing on a similar study for the I-35 corridor. Also, Johnson County officials were waiting for Lawrence Transit to name a new director before proceeding with the study.

Although reluctant to make any assumptions in advance of the study, Amrein said offering service to De Soto "was certainly in the realm of possibility."

Terry Heidner, director of planning and development for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said he envisioned the route would serve students heading to Lawrence or Johnson County Community College and commuters.

"I would think that the primary times we would be looking at would be the morning and afternoon rush times, but nothing's settled," he said.

KDOT had several goals, Heidner said. It would like to get transit service established before the ever busier K-10 became as choked as the I-35 corridor. That could delay the expensive requirement of adding more lanes to K-10.

Like Baldridge, motorists might be more inclined to give up the daily commute from stress and hassle than increased gas prices, Heidner said.

"Obviously, the higher gas prices get, the more it pushes people toward public transit," he said. "Having said that, there is tremendous elasticity to gas prices in terms of what people will tolerate."

Gas prices have had an effect on Johnson County Transit's ridership, Amrein said.

"Actually, our ridership has been up since January," she said. "We've had a lot more calls for service because of fuel costs."

The possibility of reduced traffic, delayed road expansion and better air quality are important enough to the state that it is willing to make a financial commitment if the study came back with a positive recommendation, Heidner said.

"We -- the state -- would certainly help the service off the ground," he said. "We would be a financial partner in the rolling stock -- the buses."

While that would certainly help, ongoing operating and maintenance could require subsidizing from the two local partners, Amrein said. That, too, would be explored in the coming study.

Once the study gets underway, the city of De Soto and its residents would be given an opportunity to express their interests, Amrein said

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