Topeka Metro explores workforce route south of the city

By Luke Ranker, May 15, 2017

A bus route to businesses on the southern edge of Topeka could cost The Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority more than $160,000, the board learned Monday.

Topeka Metro has explored off-and-on a bus route currently called “South Topeka Workforce Route” that would connect employers, including Mars Inc. to the metro system. In April the authority pledged to explore the route again after a call from Topeka Justice Unity Ministry Project, but Adam Weigel, director service planning, told the board planning the route will be a challenge.

Businesses in the area are spread out and don’t have consistent shift changes, he said, making it hard to know how when employees will need rides, where they will be going and how many will use the bus.

The metro conducted surveys that determined peak hours would be from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. during work week.

To connect the area to a stop at the south Walmart, Weigel estimated it would cost $160,000 per year to run hourly service during those peak times. That’s down for a previous estimate nearly $300,000 to run all-day service, but it ignores workers who shift changes comes in the late morning, he said.

The metro could provide a tax-like service during off hours, but Weigel said it’s unclear how many people would ride it. Expanding the bike share program is also an option, he said. The metro could also run shorter buses that seat 11 passengers, commonly called paratransit, that would be easier to drive in parking lots than the metro’s large buses. Costs have not been estimated for those services yet.

“I think we’re looking at any and all way so to serve, but what we don’t know is how many will ride and how much it’ll cost,” board member Jim Daniel said.

As the metro continues to explore the route, general manager Susan Duffy said metro employees would visit Louisville, Kentucky in June to study the transit system there. Lousville operates a similar workforce route to a FedEx center, she said.

Contact reporter Luke Ranker at (785) 295-1270 or @lrankerNEWS on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/lukeranker.

http://cjonline.com/news/local/local-government/2017-05-15/topeka-metro-explores-workforce-route-south-city

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