Slashing The Jo is a mistake
The Kansas City Star
Henry Fortunato enjoys riding The Jo bus system, calling it a “very productive use” of his time.
The director of public affairs and communication for the Kansas City Public Library says he reads, texts and can even take short naps on his 40-minute ride from Rosana Square in Overland Park to downtown and back.
Fortunato offers some solid advice for transit officials: Market their services better and make sure routes are offered frequently and regularly to build ridership.
But there’s bad news for Fortunato and thousands of other riders on The Jo.
Because elected officials aren’t willing to invest in a better transit system, The Jo is being forced to propose cutbacks, including the elimination of eight entire routes, in early 2013. Buses would run less frequently on other routes, including Fortunato’s.
The recommendations are ill-timed. Johnson County is growing in the number of people who rely on transit the most — the elderly and the impoverished. Making it tougher for them to get around diminishes the county’s ability to provide a solid quality of life for the broadest number of residents.
The planned cuts are at the behest of the Johnson County Commission, led by chairman Ed Eilert. Other commissioners moan about the “empty buses” they see and transit’s supposedly high subsidy costs.
Of course, those empty buses often are just coming back in the morning to Johnson County after taking commuters to Kansas City. Otherwise, many buses are 50 percent full or more. That’s a higher occupancy rate than you’ll find for the average vehicle cruising down a Johnson County freeway.
Speaking of highways, take a look at the cost of subsidizing the car-fueled sprawl in Johnson County. Just three large projects to expand Interstate 435 and Highway 69 are costing $310 million in public funds.
That far overshadows the $12 million that could be spent to move nearly 600,000 Johnson County transit passengers this year.
Director of Transportation Alice Amrein outlines some ways to be more efficient. Parking buses in Kansas City in the morning rather than driving them back to Johnson County could save money. So could using smaller vehicles for special-needs residents. But to really cut costs, she would have to eliminate transit options for thousands of people. That should be unacceptable.
Amrein says her staff’s recommendations might change after public hearings in July. Unless residents stand up for a responsible transit system, Johnson County’s elected officials will continue slashing it.