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Voters ensure bus merger talks to continue

Sales tax measures to help supplement city transit system

Lawrence voters overwhelmingly approved two sales tax measures on Nov. 4, allowing talks to continue between KU and the city on the possibility of a merged transit system.

City and university leaders have been in talks for several months about combining services to produce a more efficient transit system. Had the two sales tax measures been defeated, the merger possibilities would have been severely damaged. Danny Kaiser, assistant director of Parking and Transit, said now all options remain on the table.

“This should guarantee the city can come to the table with the same level of services they currently have,” he said of the sales tax measures. The university and city signed a letter of intent in October to study the feasibility of consolidating systems. Because students provide funding for KU on Wheels, Student Senate would have to approve any plan involving service paid for by students.

Kaiser said negotiations will continue along two lines. First, the parties will need to determine how the working relationship will be defined and managed. Second, both sides will examine their services and how to better coordinate them through reduced duplication of routes, efficient transfers, honoring of each other’s passes and how to maintain the current level of service for the KU system and enhance the city’s service levels. Kaiser said they will likely bring in outside expertise to help with the details of route planning and timing. Both sides will consult with the Federal Transit Administration and the Kansas Department of Transportation during the process.

The letter of intent calls for the first round of changes to take effect before the fall 2009 semester begins.

No money generated by the sales tax measures will come to KU. The two sales taxes equal 0.25 percent, or 25 cents per every $100. They will begin in April and expire in 10 years. They are expected to generate $1.88 million in 2009 and $3.28 million in 2010.

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