City and school district leaders are hoping the city bus service can fill in where the district's bus system comes up short.
The city has recently been promoting its bus pass for K-12 students, which for $10 per semester provides students unlimited use of public transit.
City Commissioner Matthew Herbert, who also teaches at Lawrence High School, said he’s observed fewer students driving than in the past. He said one of the benefits of providing the student bus pass is that it can normalize riding the bus for this generation of students.
“It gets young people in our community engaged with riding the bus at an earlier age,” Herbert said. “It makes it more of a habit, and I think that’s going to translate into more ridership as adults.”
And for some students, riding the city bus is the only busing option. The state of Kansas only provides funding for school districts to bus students who live 2.5 miles or more from school, leaving some students to find rides or walk significant distances to and from school each day.
School Board President Shannon Kimball has long expressed interest in encouraging more K-12 students to use the city bus system, a topic she brought up at the joint city, county and school board meeting in September.
At that time, Kimball said the school bus service leaves out a significant number of students due to the distance requirement. She also noted that many schools are in high-traffic areas, causing congestion in the morning and when schools let out in the afternoon. One of Kimball’s concerns was getting parents and students more comfortable with riding the city bus, both in concept and in practice.
In a press release about the student passes, the city noted its new app, “My Bus Lawrence.” The smartphone app provides real-time bus information and lets riders know where a bus is and when it will arrive at a given stop.
Herbert said getting more students to ride the city bus could also be a good option for students who must cross multiple busy intersections when walking to school. He said many schools — such as Lawrence High School, Free State High School, and Southwest Middle School — are near major roadways.
“Where they sit, they’re in heavy traffic areas,” Herbert said. “There are very few (schools) tucked away in neighborhoods, at least at the middle and high school level. That’s a consideration.”
When riding the city bus, travel times may also be a consideration.
After years of discussion, the city is moving forward with site selection for a transit hub. The city has set aside $5 million for a hub, and five potential sites and concepts were recently revealed. In addition to providing an indoor facility, one of the goals of a transit hub is to make routes more efficient and reduce travel times. The City Commission will consider the potential sites early next year.
More information about transit routes is available at lawrencetransit.org or by calling 864-4644. The spring semester K-12 student bus pass can be purchased at City Hall, the city’s parks and recreation centers and The Merc, Dillons and Hy-Vee grocery stores.