Information on the Southwest Johnson County Transit Plan was handed out to shoppers Saturday at Gardner Price Chopper. Currently there is limited transit service to the Gardner Edgerton area. RideKC, in coordination with southwest Johnson County communities and the Mid-America Regional Council are developing a transit plan to address the area’s future needs. Anyone wishing to participate in the transit plan survey or make comments can visit their website at Staff photo by Rick Poppitz

As the area’s population and employment sectors continue to increase, public transit has not kept pace. There is currently limited transit service to the Gardner-Edgerton-New Century area; and as traffic continues to increase, so does congestion.
Most recently residents have been concerned with congestion near Center and 191st St. near the I-35 intersection. The I-35 interchange was originally constructed in 1959 when Gardner’s population was about 1600, today, Gardner’s population teeters at 20,000 and the Edgerton intermodal’s growth has brought traffic at that interchange to about 500 exiting I-35 per day.
The SW JOCO Transit committee is identifying changing paradigms in getting available workers to the available jobs, according to Greg Martinette, president, Southwest Johnson County EDC.
“Traditional buses mixed with vans and even smaller passenger vehicles in a hub and spoke system looks to be the most economical and effective system at the moment to move workers from throughout the region to southwest Johnson County,” Martinette said. “Mobility Centers” located strategically throughout the area will replace the old bus stops and transit stations.
“The major challenge is the seasonal workforce of some of our employers with multiple shifts at varying times,” Martinette continued. “There is no easy solution and with our growth the need becomes more urgent as each week goes by.
“In Edgerton we have heard from a few employers that have an interest in public transit,” said Don Roberts, Edgerton mayor. “Companies like UPS, Amazon, to name a few have all expressed an interest in seeing increased transit in the area.”
Input is currently being sought from area residents and stakeholders regarding the need for transit service. Nov. 19, consultants from Mid America Regional Council held a “pop up” meeting at Gardner Price Chopper, providing information and asking for input to determine the impact of transit service if it were developed over the next 20 years or more.
The Southwest Johnson County Transit Plan is currently taking comments at citizens and local employees.  The data will be used to formulate the best path forward.  The study is funded through MARC but is being coordinated by RideKC, KCATA, and Johnson County Transit.
“Participating in the survey about transit in Southwest Johnson County is a great way for us to hear what you think and how transit can best serve Edgerton and the surrounding area.  The
survey will be open until the end of November so the time is now to help shape how transit could look for our area,” Roberts said.
“In recruitment of companies like the Amazon HQ II transit is a requirement to be considered in selecting the location in which they will build.  If Edgerton and surrounding areas want to stay competitive in the national business market we need a transit system available that provides safety, convenience, and an affordable transportation option.”
Roberts said there are many ways that transit can be a positive for a community.  “Of course it is an advantage, if not a requirement for large employers, to have access to people that are willing to work but are disadvantaged by not having reliable transportation.  Transit is also something that can add to the quality of life and provide safe transportation for local community members to travel to destination spots around the Kansas City Metro.
“We should also look at the potential of improved safety of communities with fewer people having to drive during busy times on the local highways, decreasing overall traffic at peak times.  Transit is also used by many Senior Citizens to go shopping, pick up medicine, and remain independent for as long as they can,” Roberts continued.