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Study recommends merging city, campus bus systems

Merging Transit

Read the full report Coordinated Public Transportation Development Plan

A feasibility study conducted by the city of Lawrence and KU recommends the two entities merge their transit services, including city bus system "The T," KU on Wheels and Park and Ride Express. The draft report also recommends formation of a governing body made up of city and university representatives to oversee the system.

Dan Boyle, of Dan Boyle and Associates, presented the report to university officials late last month. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere approved acceptance of the recommendations and said a committee would be appointed to work with the city on coordinating the integration. The information was also presented to the Lawrence City Commission, but no action has been taken.

The report outlines several benefits to an integrated transit system. The first is an expansion of transit options for riders of all systems. Without adding any new routes, a merged system would greatly expand the transit network and increase transfer opportunities and general mobility, the report says.

The T and KU on Wheels have different markets but overlap more than often suspected, the report found. Students use KU on Wheels to get to and from class but would be more likely to use transit if they could travel to and from off-campus employment and to entertainment and shopping areas.

The report states that KU employees "have made it clear the KU on Wheels system does not work for them" and that combined service could increase the number of employees who would use the system to travel to and from work.

Among the other potential benefits of an integrated network, the report lists greater flexibility, routes that serve multiple constituencies, allowing the city to qualify for additional federal and state funding, a replacement plan for old buses, the reduction or elimination of fares and passes for students and assisting the university in its goal of not building additional expensive parking structures.

Among the chief concerns of an integrated system are governance and funding. The study found a consensus formed around an alternative that would create one representative board through an interlocal agreement between the city and the university to oversee the administration and operation of the transit service for the entire city of Lawrence and the KU campus. The board's membership would consist of representation from the city, the university and the students. Feedback from meetings held in September shows preference for separate funding sources.

The report also states that a transition plan would be necessary before forming an integrated system. It recommends an option in which an interlocal agreement would be adopted, a transition coordination committee would be appointed, a financial and capital consolidation plan would be developed, monthly integrated policy board meetings would be held and new funding sources would be sought. A policy board of 50 percent city representatives, 25 percent KU administrative representatives and 25 percent KU on Wheels student representatives is recommended in the report.

An increase in student fees is recommended to help the university purchase a fleet of "fully-accessible, used but newer vehicles," but such an action would not be required.

Lastly, the report recommends a timeline for a merger to happen in three phases with the first concluding in late 2007, the second in mid-2008 and the third in late 2009.

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