Posts tagged with Transportation

County expands bus routes

Several Johnson County Transit route improvements that will increase options for Shawnee area residents went into effect in March.

Johnson County Transit announced that the JO’s Route 575 and Route 875 have been extended to connect to the new Troost MAX service operated by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, or KCATA. The eastern terminus of both JO routes will now be the MetroStation at 75th and Troost Avenue. In addition, route timepoints have been adjusted to better reflect actual travel time, allowing passengers to reach their destinations sooner.

Both routes began service in July 2010 and travel along 75th Street and Quivira Road. They connect the KU-Edwards Campus at 127th and Quivira Road to the Waldo MAX station near 75th Street and Wornall Road in Kansas City, Mo. Other popular destinations along the route include Johnson County Community College, Oak Park Mall and Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Route 575 provides fixed-route service along the corridor, while Route 875 is a midday flex route that also travels along 75th Street and Quivira, but will deviate up to three quarters of a mile to provide curb-to-curb service, by reservation.

The JO also connects to Troost at 47th Street, where passengers can take Route 556 or Route 856 to the Country Club Plaza and to destinations along Shawnee Mission Parkway and Metcalf Avenue in Johnson County. Route 856 will also begin serving select medical and civic facilities just outside the route’s flex boundary, including Menorah Medical Center and the Kansas University Medical Center.

Another improvement to The JO involves Route 667/R, which offers “reverse commute” service from downtown Kansas City to Olathe. This route will now stop at The JO’s primary transfer center at 6000 Lamar in Mission in the morning and evening. The route will also be extended south to provide service to Garmin at 151st and Ridgeview, Olathe.

For route details, visit thejo.com.

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5 Questions: Saving Gasoline

John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, answers questions about simple steps that can help drivers save money on gasoline.

Q: What makes driving slower save money on gasoline?

A: Driving at high speeds makes your engine run at more revolutions per minute — and consume more fuel. And when your car is traveling faster, it’s also facing greater air resistance, which requires the engine to work harder. Driving 55 miles per hour instead of 65 miles per hour can improve your car’s fuel economy by about 2 miles per gallon.

Q: Why should drivers avoid abrupt stops and starts?

A: Starting from a full stop is a particularly energy-intensive activity for an engine. And the extra gas each rev-up costs quickly adds up to a much bigger bill at the pump.

Q: Any tips for using the air conditioner in my car?

A: On a blistering summer day, of course, it’s fine to turn on the air conditioner. But once you’ve cooled down, don’t keep the inside of your car at refrigerator-low temperatures. Overusing the air conditioner can reduce a car’s fuel economy by up to 2 miles per gallon.

Q: What does low tire pressure have to do with gasoline consumption?

A: When tires start losing pressure, the engine has a tougher time pushing the car forward — and thus consumes more gas. The average vehicle on the road right now has its tires under-inflated by over 7 percent, which can cause about a 3 percent loss in fuel economy.

Q: Any other advice?

A: Too many American drivers don’t get their vehicle the regular tune-ups it requires. Properly maintaining your car can dramatically cut down on gas consumption and save you money.

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Authorities identify victim of fiery crash at I-435 and K-32

The fiery semi crash that closed part of Interstate 435 Monday killed a Florida man and seriously injured a Missouri man, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported.

The accident happened about 2 p.m. on northbound I-435 at the Kansas Highway 32 exit in Edwardsville.

All lanes of I-435 were reopened by 8 p.m., according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. The right lane of eastbound K-32 was expected to remain closed several more hours.

According to the patrol’s preliminary report, the tractor trailer was northbound on I-435 when it left the roadway, hit a bridge, crashed down the embankment, came to rest on the railroad tracks and caught fire.

The driver, John Douglas McNeal, 57, Pomona Park, Fla., died at the scene. A passenger, a 47-year-old Ava, Mo., man, was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.

It was unknown whether the men were wearing seat belts, the report said.

By Sara Shepard

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Gas stations’ switch to summer fuel could mean a rise in gas prices

A change in the season could soon result in another increase in gasoline prices.

Gas prices, which are hovering around $3.39 per gallon in Lawrence, could rise another 10 cents to 15 cents when gas stations begin switching out winter fuel for summer fuel, said Jim Hanni, executive vice president of AAA Kansas.

The summer gasoline blend, which produces less pollution but is more expensive, uses different fuel additives. Before each winter and summer, production slows at refineries as the transition is made.

“In some parts of the country, (the switch) has already happened. In other parts it hasn’t happened yet. The general feeling is that it could be a 10-cent to 15-cent shift upwards as blends switch out,” Hanni said.

Last month, gas prices in Lawrence were at $3.03 per gallon, and a year ago they were at $2.66. In the past two weeks, prices have stabilized, but that could change as the summer fuel arrives.

Hanni doesn’t expect Kansas to hit the $4-per-gallon mark anytime soon, but notes that international factors make prices hard to predict.

Along with unrest in Egypt and Libya, the market could be shaken by the earthquake in Japan. Already driving prices upward was an unusually cold winter in the Northern Hemisphere, brisk consumption of oil in China and strong investment in oil futures, Hanni said.

To help ease the pain at having to pay high prices at the pump, Hanni offers some advice on how to conserve gas.

  • Drive more efficiently: Driving less aggressively also means driving more efficiently, Hanni said. Rapid acceleration and breaking uses 33 percent more gas at high speeds and 5 percent more gas while driving in city traffic. For every five miles drivers travel over 60 mph, Hanni said it is like paying an additional 24 cents a gallon. Another tip is to use cruise control, which allows for a constant speed and saves on gas.

  • Maintain your vehicle: For cars that have failed an emission test or are noticeably out of tune, fixing them can improve gas mileage by 4 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Having properly inflated tires and the right grade of motor oil also helps improve fuel efficiency.-

  • Plan combined trips: Driving less is a great way to save on gas mileage. Finding people to commute with or combining errands into one trip helps cut down on gas use.

By Christine Metz

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If you have to drive in snow, AAA offers tips to be safe

This week’s dangerous combination of a layer of ice followed by heavy snow will make for some treacherous driving conditions. For people who must navigate the slippery, snow-covered roads, AAA has these tips: Before you go

  • Be sure to check highway road conditions and reports. The Kansas Department of Transportation’s website at ksdot.org is a good place to start. If needed, postpone your trip.
  • Clean ice and snow off windshield wipers, the windshield and all windows.
  • Check fluid levels to make sure the engine oil, radiator coolant and windshield wiper fluid are filled.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the car that includes blankets, boots, water, nonperishable food, first-aid kit, flashlight, candles, matches or light, and a shovel.
  • Be sure your gasoline tank is full and your cell phone is fully charged.

On the road

  • Steer clear of slush mounds. Heavier, wet snow can form slush mounds, which can pull a car deeper into slush.

  • To keep traction and avoid skidding, use gentle pressure on the accelerator pedal when starting. If your wheels start to spin, let up on the accelerator until traction returns.

  • Minimize brake use on slippery, icy hills. To slow down while going down a hill, put pressure on the brakes slowly to avoid losing control.

  • If you hit a patch of ice, avoid braking. To regain traction, remove feet from the situation, look where you want to go and steer to get there.

  • Increase your following distance behind other vehicles to 8 to 10 seconds.

By Christine Metz

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Proposed legislation calls for prison in hit-and-runs

After hearing from victims’ family members, Kansas lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make those who leave the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident face prison time. The bill would increase the punishment for the crime to up to 32 months in prison.

Charles Branson, Douglas County district attorney, said that one of the hardest things he has to do is explain to families of victims why the law doesn’t allow defendants to be held accountable for their crimes.

“We have a problem in Kansas with DUIs and people circumventing DUI laws,” Branson said.

And in many of these hit-and-run cases, that’s exactly what’s happening, he said. Defendants are leaving the scene, and often turning themselves in the next day to rob the state of evidence in a DUI case. As it stands today, someone who leaves the scene of a fatal crash would likely face only probation.

“I think everyone knows it’s the right thing to do, to stay at the scene of an accident, and at least call the authorities for help,” said Jeff Stolz, whose sister-in-law, Rachel Leek, died in a hit-and-run accident in October 2009.

Leek was riding her bicycle just south of 10th and Tennessee streets when she was hit and left unconscious.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said at a Friday news conference that they supported the legislation.

Davis said he introduced it after he heard from families who had been affected by the law, and saw defendants get off with lighter sentences than they deserved.

“As folks in Lawrence and Douglas County are well aware, we’ve had a couple of terrible tragedies in the last couple years,” Davis said.

Leaving the scene of a fatality accident would increase from a level nine person felony to a level five person felony. The severity of the punishment for the charge of leaving the scene of an accident that caused great bodily harm would also increase under the bill, as the charge would increase from a level 10 to a level eight person felony.

Davis expressed optimism that the bill would become law, and hearings for the bill will be scheduled soon.

“I’ll be ecstatic if it happens,” said Ryan Crum, who has also fought for the changes in the law since his father, Thomas Crum, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in May 2008. “Basically what I wanted to do was force people to do what’s right.”

By Andy Hyland

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Kansas Departments of Revenue and Transportation sending warnings about dangers of 15-passenger vans

Owners of 15-passenger vans should expect a letter in their mailbox soon — and it isn’t good news. Kansas Departments of Revenue and Transportation are sending out 5,000 letters to all the registered owners of 15-passenger vans in Kansas to alert them to the safety concerns surrounding these vehicles.

The letters, which are rare, were prompted by a consumer advisory from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That advisory came after two fatal rollover crashes in New York and Georgia.

“I think it is the fact that 10 people lost their lives that really sparked this,” KDOT spokesman Chris Bortz said.

The NHTSA has found that the 15-passenger vans have a higher risk of rolling over and those risks increase when the van is fully loaded.

Research also found that fatal rollovers of the vans most likely involved tire failure.

Since 2005, federal law prohibits schools from using 15-passenger vans to transport high school age and younger students.

In particular, the NHTSA wanted to alert church groups, nonprofit organizations and colleges that were keeping older 15-passenger vans in service because of tight budgets.

In Lawrence, the safety concerns surrounding 15-passenger vans has already prompted changes.

Of its fleet of 90 vans, Kansas University has only two vans that carry 15 passengers, said Steve Green, associate director of facilities operations.

About a decade ago, KU adopted a policy that outlawed the purchase of 15-passenger vans because of a study that showed the high risk of rollovers. Most were replaced with 12-passenger vans, Green said.

Of the two remaining vans, one is a 1998 model and the other one was purchased after a special request was made by the geology department.

The letter the two state agencies sent to van owners will arrive in the next few days. Included in the letter are these safety tips for owners:

  • Properly maintain the vehicle.
  • Make sure the van is operated by a fully-trained and experienced driver.
  • Never overload the van.
  • Use the right size of tires.
  • Check the tires to make sure they are properly inflated and not worn.

By Christine Metz

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Kansas texting law takes full effect Jan. 1

Come Jan. 1, Kansas motorists might want to think twice before picking up a cell phone to send or read a text message. f they are spotted by a law enforcement officer, that action could cost them a $60 ticket.

Following a six-month warning period, the state’s ban on texting goes into effect at the start of 2011.

“It will be enforced like any other Kansas law. You see it, you take care of the problem,” said Lt. Robert Baker with the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Technically, the state law extends beyond texting to instant messages and e-mails. The law states that drivers are prohibited from using a “wireless device to write, send or read a written communication” while driving.

Exceptions are provided to law enforcement officers and emergency service personnel using their phone on the job. Texts messages also can be read for emergency, traffic and weather related alerts, and for receiving information related to operating or navigating the vehicle.

Texting is allowed if it would prevent injury to a person or damage to property and to report a crime.

Baker isn’t concerned that law enforcement officers will have trouble discerning when a driver is sending a text message versus when they are dialing a phone number.

Someone making a phone call looks down for just several seconds. Drivers who are texting can be looking at their phones for 30 to 40 seconds.

“It is very obvious when you are driving down the road,” Baker said.

For those who claim they were dialing, not texting, Baker said they can always contest their ticket in court.

Over the past several months, Baker has written his share of warnings to texting drivers.

“They sit there and apologize. It’s just that folks have so many things going on at one time, but they don’t realize just how dangerous it is,” he said.

If someone has to send or read a text message, Baker recommends they pull over to the side of the road to do it.

Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kim Qualls said the law couldn’t come at a better time. With winter weather at hand, drivers need to be focused on the road, not their phones, she said.

By Christine Metz

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AAA, Kansas City International Airport predict increase in travelers for 2010 holiday season

Prepare for busier highways and skyways this holiday season as more Americans prepare to travel. Both the Kansas AAA and Kansas City International Airport are reporting a boost in travelers.

Across the country, AAA is reporting that 92.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2. That’s a 3.1 percent increase from last year.

“There is a growing consumer confidence, a modest economic recovery and some pent up demand that continues to drive travel increases,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for the Kansas region and public affairs at AAA.

Travel is up despite rising gas prices.

The national average for self-service gasoline is $2.98 per gallon. Experts predicted earlier this month that the national average would inch its way to $3 by Christmas.

This week in Kansas, the average is at $2.87 per gallon, which is 33 cents higher than last year.

“Holiday travel plans made with the family trumps the increase in gas prices,” Hanni said. “But cuts in other areas may be made.”

As for air traffic, the Air Transport Association of America predicts that between 1.7 million and 2.3 million people will fly daily during the holiday. Throughout the winter holiday, air travel is up by about 3 percent compared with 2009.

The busiest days of the season will be from Dec. 21 to Dec. 23, Dec. 26 to Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 to Jan. 3. On those days, airplanes are expected to be 90 percent full.

At KCI, more than 679,000 passengers are expected between Dec. 16 and Jan. 5. That’s a 5 percent increase from last year.

To make your trip through the airport run smoother, KCI spokesman Joe McBride advises getting to the airport about 90 minutes before your flight leaves, using the airline’s online check-in 24 hours in advance and following the Transportation Security Administration guidelines when packing.

“The volumes of people are going to be heavy,” McBride said. “Typically, people traveling for Christmas or other holidays are not seasoned business travelers and not as prepared for the whole process.”

The increase in travel plans is good news for the economy, Hanni said. When the economy took a nosedive in 2007, the travel industry was among the first to take a hard hit. Now Hanni believes it is one of the first to rebound.

“Now that the economy is starting to come back, travel is ahead,” he said.

By Christine Metz

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Price of gasoline could reach $3 per gallon by Christmas

Typically it’s the start of summer — not winter — when motorists can anticipate a jump in gasoline prices. But this holiday season, drivers should expect to pay more at the pump. Most of the increase has occurred within the past month following a year of stability, said Jim Hanni, executive vice president of public affairs for Kansas AAA.

“This is a little unusual, this kind of run-up,” Hanni said.

Crude oil recently reached $89 a barrel, a price that hasn’t been seen since fall 2008. If the cost of crude oil continues to climb, analysts predict that by Christmas Day motorists across the country could pay more than $3 per gallon.

Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco 66, said it’s too early to say whether gas prices at his four Lawrence stations will go up over the holidays. Prices at his stations haven’t moved in four days.

“Commodity prices don’t seem to be in line with supply and demand,” Zaremba said.

In the past week, Hanni said three events have occurred to contribute to the spike in gas prices.

  • After the European Union took steps to stabilize its sovereign debt, the euro strengthened against the U.S. dollar.
  • Chinese manufacturing had grown at its fastest rate in seven months, easing concerns about a looming industrial slow down.
  • Automatic Data Processing, the country’s biggest payroll processing company, announced that private-sector employment had 93,000 new jobs in November.

Hanni said he would have a better understanding next week of how higher gas prices will affect holiday travel.

So far, Beverly Falley, owner of Lawrence Travel Center, said she hasn’t seen a boost in airline tickets based on higher fuel prices. Instead the increase in plane ticket prices are attributed to fewer seats being available. And John Novotny, manger of Travellers Inc., said prices haven’t increased enough for airlines to tack on fuel surcharges, as they did when gas prices skyrocketed in 2008.

By Christine Metz

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