County Update: Meeting Thursday could have far-reaching impact on future of transit in Johnson County

Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick.

Each week we provide a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to share an update on what issues are catching their attention. This week, we have a column from District 4 Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick, whose district includes much of central Overland Park.

In an article I wrote for the Shawnee Mission Post last August, I discussed the important role that transit has played in the history and growth of Johnson County, and the choices we face in continuing investment in this vital public service. This Thursday the Board of County Commissioners will consider important and potentially far-reaching transit options. The resulting decisions could have a significant impact on economic development and workforce expansion, especially in the cities in the northeast and central area of the county.

Since taking office, I have advocated for the adoption of a strategic plan that provides a path to a strong multi-modal transit system in Johnson County and expands transportation options to better connect people to jobs and critical county services, including mental and physical healthcare. I support the goals of Smart Moves 3.0, a 20-year transit plan for the Kansas City region, developed by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) in 2017. Under this plan, fixed-route bus service provides the spine of a network of high-use “hubs,” supplemented by services like micro transit, express routes, local routes, van pools, park and ride lots, high occupancy vehicle and bus lanes, and bike and car sharing.

There have been discussions of eliminating all fixed bus routes (including those on Metcalf and 75th Street) and putting in place a potentially costly on-demand van or car service throughout the whole county. This proposal presents a very different direction than is recommended by either the Mid-America Regional Council or the Johnson County Transportation Council.

On Thursday, December 12, at 1 pm, the Board of County Commissioners will meet to hear recommendations for changes in the county’s transit system. Although there will not be an opportunity for public remarks at Thursday’s meeting, I encourage you to attend in person or watch the meeting online. You can access the agenda and live broadcast of the meeting here.

I look forward to the Board of County Commissioners’ continuing discussions in 2020 on transit policy and priorities. I welcome your thoughts and input as we consider how to best invest in Johnson County’s future.