JoCo to approve public comment period on proposed 10% cut to fixed-route bus services at meeting tomorrow

Route 403 from Antioch to Olathe is one of the fixed-routes that is facing potential reductions and adjustments based on JoCo staff recommendations.

Stephanie Iser rides the 403 Antioch to Olathe fixed-bus route from the Mission Transit Center to work in downtown Kansas City, Mo., every day. But if Johnson County moves forward with a recommendation to reduce bus routes, she may have to start driving to work — an option she’s weary of due to wanting to preserve her older car.

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday morning will vote to authorize county staff to begin a 30-day public comment period to gather community input on county staff’s recommendation to cut fixed-route bus services by 10%. After a comprehensive operations analysis was conducted in 2018 and the county got data on a  full year of microtransit service, staff looked at low ridership routes to determine if resources could be reallocated in a more impactful way, Johnson County Business Liaison Josh Powers said.

The federally required public comment period would last from mid-February to mid-March, Powers said. County staff would then take a few weeks to analyze the feedback received on the recommendations and then present it to the BOCC for consideration. Powers said it won’t be until April or early May that the BOCC might vote on an action item that would make changes to fixed-route bus services.

Staff’s recommendations include reductions, eliminations and reconfigurations to six  fixed routes, according to the BOCC briefing sheet. Below are the potentially affected routes and details of the proposed adjustments, as laid out in the briefing sheet:

  • 401 Metcalf-Plaza: Service to Prairiefire to be discontinued due to low ridership and “the southern terminus of the route will alternate between Johnson County Community College and Rosana Square,” according to the briefing sheet. Additional trips will be included during the route’s peak periods.
  • 402 Johnson-Quivira: The entire route will be eliminated as it averages less than 70 riders a day. Other options available to riders who use this route will be using the 403 route on Renner Road and College Boulevard in Olathe and portions of the 403 on Nieman Road and Johnson Drive in Shawnee; the 118 route at Roe Boulevard in Roeland Park and on 18th Street in Kansas City, Kan; the 475 route on Quivira Road south of 75th Street, at Oak Park Mall and at JCCC
  • 403 Antioch-Olathe: Reducing the number of trips, adjusting to serve portions of the 402. A portion of the route in downtown Kansas City, Mo., will serve the East Village Transit Center, and direct service to Crown Center and the Union Station will be eliminated.
  • 475 Quivira-75th Street: Extending the route to 75th Street and Prospect Avenue to serve the ALphapointe Transit Center, with additional trips. Service to KU-Edwards will be eliminated as there are “fewer than 15” riders a day.
  • 495 95th Street: The route will be eliminated, as a result of low ridership and “redundancy with other services.”
  • 595 Gardner-OP Express: Discontinuing service to Edgerton and Logistics Park Kansas City, due to “fewer than 10 riders a day.” Five trips in the morning and evening will be provided from Gardner to downtown (evening trips will return from downtown to Gardner), and two trips in the morning and afternoon with service to Oak Park Mall and the Gardner/New Century areas.

A MOVE TO MICROTRANSIT

Johnson County is looking to expand its microtransit program. Photo credit RideKC.

The proposed 10% cut wouldn’t represent a reduction in the transportation budget. Rather, it would be a reallocation of funds to the county’s microtransit service, District 1 Commissioner Becky Fast said.

And while early feedback has shown the microtransit service to be successful, it’s not as reliable for longer trips and will be more expensive in the long run, Fast said.

“If we don’t invest in [fixed-routes], we will be paying more in roads, we’ll be paying more in health with air quality,” Fast said. “There’s a real economic benefit for transit when it works, when you get people to their jobs.”

Although Iser can drive to work, she said she’s worried about her fellow riders who may not have an alternative. She said riders cannot rely on the microtransit option to transport them to and from work, and the service doesn’t go to downtown Kansas City. Additionally, she said it often does not arrive at destinations on time because riders share it with other people.

“There’s no way you can eliminate or reduce these bus routes and replace it with microtransit because that’s not going to help the people these cuts are going to impact get to where they need to go,” Iser said.

Powers noted that at this time, the county is not actively working to implement new route eliminations and reductions or reallocations of funding. The BOCC will have the final say once an action item is brought forward at a future date, following the 30-day public comment period.

Fast said those who wish to address the issue should contact their commissioners, or attend the BOCC meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 9:30 a.m. For those who cannot attend the meeting, it will be streamed via the county’s Facebook page.