Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Why Eliminate Route 669?

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 17, 2012

Transit Action Network is at a loss to understand why Johnson County Transit (JCT) would propose to eliminate Route 669-I.

This route connects Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas (KCK), with employment locations in Johnson County, including Southlake Business Park, Downtown Olathe, Villa St. Francis, and Lenexa City Hall.

At the beginning of this year, Route 680-V was eliminated and 669 was adjusted to serve Villa St. Francis near 127th and Strang Line as well as KCK. As a result, 669 ridership increased substantially.

KCK residents who work at Villa St. Francis wrote a letter to JCT and they have given us permission to publish it.

To: Cris Lowe – Community Relations Director – Johnson County Transit
 From: Villa St. Francis employees who ride 669I ROUTE ON A DAILY BASIS to and from our job at Villa St. Francis.

We, the employees of Villa St. Francis, wish to make our concerns known regarding the bus route cuts involving 669I that are to take place on January 2, 2013.

If you recall, last year about this time, we were again facing bus route changes.  JoCo Transit took away our job link bus that we had for approximately 14 years. Twenty of us, which by the way you have received all of our signatures in protest of the changes, paid for transportation to and from our job like everyone else.  You provided us with a quick route and we were taken care of in 20-30 minutes.  Straight down I-35 to 18th St. to Central Ave. at 16th and to 7th and Sandusky and done.  We Thank You for getting us to our destination quickly.

Then comes the so-called “Budget Cuts” and we are thrown into public transportation.  We were grateful to still have bus service.  Its been 5 months now, and we have adapted to the 4:03 [PM] pickup time [from VSF] getting us back to k.c.ks. at 5:03PM.  On days when traffic is heavy, we get to 6000 Lamar a little later and don’t have to sit there as long.  If we have a clearer run down I-35, we get to 6000 Lamar and just sit which seems like forever.  Plus, if we have to wait on other passengers, that also gets us away from 6000 Lamar later.  A lot of days we don’t get back to k.c.ks. until almost 5:10PM.

It must be said that our bus driver Ray is great.  He is the best heavy traffic driver and is so nice and patient.

Now, we are going through this again.  With riding the 669I bus, we found that there are a lot of people who ride this route.  All of us going to our jobs.  This bus is almost packed in the morning, and half that in the afternoon.  We all depend on the JoCo Transit.  It’s hard to believe that with all the people depending on the bus and riding daily that cuts are again having to be made.  People don’t have cars, but depend on transit to get them to their jobs.  People come from Missouri [Note: 669 originates at 10th and Main in Missouri] to Olathe and farther South depending on the bus to help get them there.

With the rough draft you proposed, you still have buses going back and forth from Missouri to 151st and Murlen for example.  You have to go through Kansas to get to Missouri.  Why cut our route which stops in k.c.ks.?  The 669I should stay in service.

So, we the employees at Villa St. Francis wish to be heard.  We ask you to consider providing Villa St. Francis employees with some transportation, having us leave VSF at 3:30PM and take the same route we had before straight down I35 to 18th St. to 16th and Central to 7th and Sandusky.  Our group doesn’t even need a larger bus.  We would be very grateful.  We just want something.  If this cannot be done, then we ask that you not change the current 669I route and give all of us at VSF and others a way to get to and from our jobs.  Thank you, and please take VSF into consideration when making your final decision.  Please do not cut the 669 route.  

Respectfully,
Villa St. Francis Employees

Route 669 is the only transit connection between downtown KCK and Johnson County. It starts at 10th and Main in Kansas City, Missouri, then to KCK and on to Lenexa and Olathe. The 669 service was re-routed in January 2012 to KCK. It is particularly disturbing that the KCK workers at Villa St. Francis first lost a bus service they had for 14 years, only to be told they might lose the only remaining KCK/JoCo transit option to work in 2013. This route and route 677-R are the two ”reverse commute” express routes to Johnson County, and they are both proposed for elimination. This gives riders the unfortunate impression that workers from Missouri and Wyandotte County are not welcome in Johnson County.

We have received communications from other workers who use this route to get to work. The following excerpt is from a rider who wrote to several Johnson County commissioners and lives in KCMO and uses this reverse commute bus.

I would also ask you to carefully consider that not all transit riders have “no other option” and that people like me, considered “choice” riders, use this vital public resource to help manage a rising cost of living. Since the JO has experienced considerable growth in ridership over the last year, its clear there are many reasons for people in Johnson County to choose public transportation. 

I’ve been without a car for 2 years in an effort to pay off my student loans and while it’s not always easy, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in this tough economy. Many of the people I’ve met on I and D routes of the JO are a part of hard-working families, people who make the choice to spend over an hour, each way, on the bus to save money. I’ve met several nurses and Sprint engineers, warehouse workers and municipal employees from 3 cities who are all trying to squeeze a little more from their budget by using public transportation. Yes, we choose the bus but many choose it pay for sports teams for their kids, visiting nurse care for their elderly parents or to keep the one family car in good repair. We may be choice riders but if the choice is to pay the rising cost of gas or to pay for quality child care, the options are limited.

The proposed JO service eliminations for 2013 will make tough choices even tougher for people like me who aren’t looking for the easy way, who aren’t asking for a handout, who just want the chance to work in Johnson County. Eroding service levels when ridership is on the rise is not a sound approach and I hope your dedication to careful and serious consideration of the facts will lead to continuing current JO service levels at least.

Route 669 and Route 546-D both serve Lenexa City Hall, and both are proposed for elimination.  That would leave no transit to the 87th Street corridor of Lenexa. The Route 669 service area also includes the new EPA location on Renner Road. So instead of the EPA having limited transit to what is considered a “non-sustainable location” it would have NO transit at all. See our previous article.  GSA and EPA Make A Bad Move

Using information JCT made public, TAN evaluated route 669 and it compares favorably in performance measures to several routes being retained. In fact, it has a better farebox recovery ratio, lower annual cost per rider, and higher daily ridership per trip than routes 556, 575, 856, or 875 — all of which are proposed to be retained with slight modifications. It is important to compare the routes using measures such as riders per trip or cost per rider since the raw numbers can be misleading. Route 669 has only 4 trips per day (2 each way) so the ridership can look low compared to the 556, which has 20 trips per day. However when riders per trip or cost per rider are used then the routes can be compared in a fair manner.

If anything, this route should have increased service. When KCATA completed a comprehensive transit analysis last year, one of the recommendations from the national consulting firm, Nelson/Nygaard, was that commuter routes should have a minimum of 6 buses a day, three out in the morning and three returning in the evening. Four buses limit the ability to attract riders since there isn’t the flexibility to cover enough work hours, which is needed for a serious service. Despite this limitation, ridership is up.

When Johnson County cut its transit budget at the beginning of 2012, JCT made a round of service cuts. They tried to combine and re-route buses in order to cover the needs of the same population as in 2011. They hoped these changes wouldn’t hurt too many people. However, in a desperate attempt to do more with less, they ended up with some poorly designed routes and schedules which make it harder to use the system. Yet, ridership is up.

Now JCT is proposing to make even more severe cuts. Instead of some riders having long poorly designed routes, they won’t have a route at all. Significant populations and sections of the region won’t be served.

Politicians keep saying it is all about jobs. In this case we are talking about working people who may lose a job or have to look for a new one in this economy because they lose the ability to get to work.  If these cuts are implemented, riders on 18 of the 20 routes, whether they ride by necessity or by choice, will have to make personal decisions and ask if there is still enough transit in Johnson County to allow them to use the service. The answer will be NO for many of them. Transit provides access to jobs, helps the economy and improves the environment.

Johnson County is going in the wrong direction. Tell the commissioners to “Stop The Cuts” and start building a reasonable transit system that is worthy of one of the richest counties in the country.

See our action list to Save The JO and join our Facebook event to share your ideas and tell what you are doing to help. Watch our Save The JO video interviews.

Please attend the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Public Budget Hearing, July 23rd @ 7 pm at the  Johnson County Administration Building, 111 S. Cherry, Olathe, KS 66061

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