Wichita Council Avoids Eliminating Bus Routes

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To the pleasure of the vast majority of citizens who attended the Wichita City Council meeting Tuesday, the city council voted to find money from other sources in order to prevent eliminating three city bus routes.

The city's mass transit system is failing, director Michael Vinson has said in the past. If funding sources weren't identified or routes eliminated, he said the transit system would go under.

The council was poised to vote on the elimination of the West Side Connector, the Goodwill route and weekday half-hour peak service until District 6 representative Janet Miller proposed moving funds from three places in order to save the routes.

Miller's first proposal was to delay a project to renovate the Century II Kennedy Plaza for one year, which would save $250,000.

Her second proposal, however, came with much opposition. Miller said eliminating half of the neighborhood cleanup budget would allow $120,000 to be diverted to the transit authority. Several people in the audience audibly disagreed with that idea.

Lastly, Miller asked each council member to identify $25,000 to $30,000 that could be eliminated out of their street maintenance budget in order to give to transit.

After more than 30 minutes of discussion, Miller's proposal was put to a vote. Mayor Carl Brewer and council members Pete Meitzner and James Clendenin joined Miller in support. Council members Michael O'Donnell, Lavonta Williams and Jeff Longwell opposed.

In one instance, Longwell argued that the West Side Connector route was simply a waste, considering the transit authority spends $80,000 annually to carry an average of 52 people per day on that route.

Director Michael Vinson also said the Goodwill route costs the department about $20,000 every year to transport an average of 7-10 people back and forth to work every day.

The transit authority originally said it had an $800,000 budget shortfall to make up, but recently was awarded a $200,000 federal grant for fuel.

Vinson made it clear that raising fare prices would not be feasible, considering the last fare increase about a year ago actually made fewer people ride the bus. Although he said revenues from fares were slightly up, it wasn't nearly what was projected due to the loss of ridership.

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