Lynne Hermansen
Special to the Gardner News
Johnson County commissioners hesitantly approved eliminating five of the previously proposed nine bus routes at their Oct. 18 meeting.
Routes 669, 676, 677, 810 and 816 will no longer operate effective Jan. 2, 2013. These routes serve Lenexa, Paola, De Soto and Spring Hill.
“We made modifications due to the comments we received,” said Alice Amrein, Transportation Director of Johnson County Transit. “With the reduction in federal funding, expired grants and loss of state funding under T-Links, we were looking at a $1.3 million CMAQ projected loss in 2014.”
Johnson County Transit’s budget is made up of rider fares, county support, and federal and state grants. This budget totals approximately $15.9 million a year, and $7.23 million is from federal and state funding. Amrein said Johnson County only receives 11 percent of the Kansas City metropolitan’s allocated federal funds, and this is based on revenue and passenger miles.
Other bus routes in Johnson County will see reductions, including Route 670 which connects Gardner to Overland Park.
Janet Rogers, member of the Stakeholders Advisory Panel for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis, criticized the board’s priorities in transportation service for the County.
“Johnson County is not a poor county and is financially capable of providing for its residents,” Rogers said. “There is a great transportation need with the amount of jobs [the county] provides for the area”.
Rogers explained that the loss of these routes impacts senior citizens, the disabled and low-Income residents the most.
“Is commitment to seniors just a sound byte?” she asked. “And why do only severe disabilities get consideration? And why are the low income routes to be eliminated first?”
This is a long-term problem in Johnson County, Rogers said.
“Johnson County Transit is concerned about the future,” she said. “But continuing down this path by the commission could be discriminatory. It’s always going to be by the privileged and for the privileged.”
Chairman Ed Eilert used the Spring Hill Shuttle as an example for the bus route elimination decisions.
“It runs two days a week with minimal ridership,” he said. “These are difficult, but realistic decisions we have to make.”
First District Commissioner Ed Peterson explained their decisions were better than the alternative they started with.
“You go through the process, find the solution that is palatable, and now it’s time to move forward,” he said.
Maps of the eliminated and reduced bus routes can be found on the Johnson County Transit website.
Commissioners, also, approved zoning and preliminary development plans for Arvest Bank at 314 and 324 E. Main Street in Gardner, and a Recycle Within Integrity Storage Center at 408 E. Main Street in Gardner. The commission approves zoning and plans for development within one mile of New Century AirCenter.