Board of County Commissioners candidates on the issues: Public transportation for growing JoCo population

Photo credit RideKC.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of November’s general election. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for seats on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to item #3:

Unlike the majority of the state, Johnson County continues to add population. What kinds of planning for public transportation should be taking place right now to ensure that we can accommodate the needs of residents 20 years from now?

District 2 (Parts of Shawnee and Lenexa and all of Lake Quivira)

Jeff Meyers

Vision is a very important characteristic of elected officials. It is hard to think about future needs that are going to require funding when you are experiencing a tough economy. I believe planning for public transportation is important for future needs of residents. I know we have been experiencing low gasoline prices but I think everyone knows that can change very quickly. Two groups of people due to population growth that are going to have the greatest needs are seniors whose population is definitely growing and college students’ population is going to grow and have a need for increased public transportation if fuel costs increase and more students attend schools closer to Johnson County.

In years to come it could be possible and likely probable for additional electric charging stations to be added throughout the county. More and more the automobile industry is going to turn to alternative fuels. Also, I think expanding the Micro Transit/Ride KC program will be required. More routes to meet the needs of residents and travel for services in and near Johnson County.

Continuing to address traffic regionally is ideal. Consolidating Johnson County’s transit program with the Kansas area transportation in 2015 gave county residents with jobs outside the county more transportation options and allowed employers to recruit from a wider area. Having a voice in regional transportation is important to our continued success. Planning, preparation, performing and reflection is the best way of approaching all types of problem solving.

Rob Patterson

Just like any other responsible government entity, Johnson County should continue to analyze current traffic patterns along with population growth forecasts, future housing and business developments, and projected traffic densities. With proper data collection, the county can make the case for road improvements that will support future demand. I believe the data will not support the addition of a light rail system.

District 3 (Southern Leawood and Overland Park plus Stilwell and Spring Hill)

Stacy Obringer-Varhall

Successful cities provide reliable transportation options to promote an economically diverse economy. Using a fixed route system with micro transit options to access it will provide a more cost effective and environmentally friendly transit system. We should focus on denser areas of development where public transportation will be more impactful and economical. If we focus on these areas where it is most needed, we will be able to provide appropriate public transportation for citizens over the next several decades.

Charlotte O’Hara

Obviously running empty buses around is not the answer. If elected, I will be on the forefront of demanding that County Commission address needs of our residents rather than going after political correctness points by pretending we have viable public transportation.

District 6 (Much of Olathe and western Johnson County)

Mike Brown (incumbent)

Johnson County was designed in the 1950s as a “driveable” county with beautiful roadways and massive highways. Johnson Countians love their cars and the freedom that comes with an automobile. Regarding public transportation, the conventional thinking of giant inefficient buses running back and forth across the county ignores the biggest challenge of our transit system; the first and last mile. The solution to these challenges is “micro transit” where smaller hyper-fuel efficient cars arrive at your driveway and take you to the front door of your destination. The micro transit solution addresses convenience concerns for some riders but more importantly overcomes the great challenges and difficulties in the “first and last mile” meaning how to get to and from their home or a final destination and the fixed bus stop. This door-to-door solution allows many the option to overcome current challenges with transit and provides them the ability to be mobile in our community — and as an outcome we can all agree this is truly a huge benefit to our entire community. Micro transit is the future of public transportation in Johnson County.

Shirley Allenbrand

Public Transportation’s number one priority needs to continue to be to provide service for the elderly and disabled. Also, it should be tested where there is a perceived need and the cities should attempt to increase densities in redeveloping areas to promote the demand for increase services..

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item #4:

Are there any areas of public service where you believe the county is currently not investing enough, or is at risk of underinvesting for the future?