Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Transit planning should start before growth

September 27, 2007

Momentum for public transit, particularly bus service, appears to be building for southern Johnson County along the Interstate 35 corridor. That momentum has benefited from a recognition that bus service might be a more realistic way to move commuters from the convenience of their personal automobiles than light rail, which always depended on the less than enthusiastic support of the railroads.

Although it is good expanded bus service is being considered for the jammed I-35 corridor, it is too bad more consideration isn't being given to the Kansas Highway 10 corridor.

The lack of movement on this score isn't a snub. The expansion of transits systems is not a nationwide priority despite the realities of air pollution, highway construction costs and rising energy costs.

There have been some positive signs. A pilot program is now shuttling riders between the main Kansas University campus in Lawrence and its Edwards campus in Overland Park and is said to be a success. It doesn't, however, make stops along the route.

More than one year ago, Johnson County Commissioner John Segale led a group that made a number of transportation proposals. Among them was a recommendation that new Johnson County neighborhoods be designed with the expectation that they would be served by transit.

That seems a very timely and overdue suggestion. It is much easier to make transit work where it is seen as integral rather than to graft it onto a housing and transportation pattern designed around the automobile.

We would think that reasoning could be applied to the K-10 corridor, which despite increasing development on its eastern extreme is still relatively undeveloped. Given the reality of $3 a gallon gas in the summer months, it could well be critical to the future growth of K-10 communities, particularly the bedroom communities of De Soto and Eudora -- to say nothing of the Old Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

Those two small communities can't be expected to take the kind of planning measures Segale envisioned without the encouragement of a regional effort, the leadership of larger cities on the corridor and a realistic expectation that it would pay off with the existence of an operating transit system in the future. At the very least, the start of discussion of a future transit system and how to coordinate it with future neighbors would be welcome. The current housing slump offers an opportunity to make up some lost time.

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