County Update: Commissioner Hanzlick encourages JoCo residents to voice opinions on bus service proposal

Commissioner Janee 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.

If you care about the future of public transit in Johnson County, now is the time to make your voice heard. Through online and written surveys, as well as six community open house meetings, Johnson County’s transit department is currently gathering public comments and feedback about proposed eliminations and reductions to six of the county’s thirteen fixed bus routes. In this column, I explain why your input is critical to the future of Johnson County, and how you can participate in the public survey.

In 2019, Johnson County’s RideKC services provided approximately 595,000 rides, including rides for seniors, workers, students, families, and people with disabilities. At the County Commission meeting on January 30, the Board listened for an hour to people opposed to the proposed route eliminations and reductions. Commissioner Fast and I asked the Board to table the changes and instead consider a long-term solution to strengthen and expand the system. As I commented at the time, “I personally think this is the completely wrong way to go about improving our transit system, by continuing to cut and change. We’re disrupting people’s lives. We need a system that’s consistent and reliable.”

Johnson County should improve, not weaken, fixed route bus service. The greatest strength of fixed route bus service is its capacity. Buses can move large numbers of people in a cost-effective, efficient manner, in a way that Uber, Lyft, Microtransit, and driverless vehicles can’t. A strong public transit system is essential infrastructure for successful communities. Benefits include economic development, reduced traffic congestion, reduced carbon emissions, and lower cost of living. According to the American Public Transit Association, every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns.

You can support public transit in Johnson County by completing the online survey or attending an upcoming public meeting.  Visit this page for details on the proposed route eliminations and reductions, to leave a comment, or take the survey.  The direct link to the survey is available here. You can also email your comments directly to Transit.Comment@jocogov.org.

Transit staff will hold six, in-person open house meetings the week of March 2 – 6 to gather feedback and comments on the proposed changes. The dates and locations for those meetings are:

Johnson County is at a crossroads. We have the opportunity now to develop and build the foundation for the kind of transit system our community needs in the next five, ten, or twenty years. I encourage you to be part of building a bright future for Johnson County by completing the survey, emailing your comments, or attending a public meeting.