Tuesday, April 2nd is the election for Mayor of Wyandotte County /KCK. This re-print of our February online mayoral transit forum contains only the responses from Ann Murguia and Mark Holland. We appreciate the candidates talking the time to respond to our questionnaire and sharing their philosophy, vision and ideas on transit.
We chose questions on Transit Philosophy, Funding, Meeting Increased Transit Demand, KCATA, and Creating a Transit-Friendly Environment.
Be sure to send this article to citizens of Wyandotte County so they can be informed about the candidates’ positions. Transit is a major issue in Wyandotte County since there is significant demand for a good transit system from the citizens.
The answers are given in the order TAN received them. We do not endorse a particular candidate but believe voters should be well-informed as to candidates’ knowledge of the subject and their positions. The responses are color coded in order to improve ease of reading and finding the response from a particular candidate. The candidates’ initials are used to identify their responses.
Section 1- Transit Philosophy
A. What do you see in the future for transit in Wyandotte County?
AM – We need to create the kind of public transportation system that incent ridership. I think we are off to a good start with the $10 million grant we received to improve the State Avenue corridor, but we need to do more.
MH – I think we are going to have to be very creative in addressing the needs of our community. State and Federal funding has been under attack, and these funds are essential to providing the level of service necessary to serve our community. My hope is to improve access to transit.
I supported the “Complete Street” initiative that calls for more sidewalks. Without access for people to walk to the bus from their neighborhoods, it becomes very challenging to increase ridership.
B. Do you support continued county funding of public transit as an essential service throughout Wyandotte County?
AM – Yes….many WYCO residents depend on public transportation to meet their daily needs. The government needs to assist in developing a quality state of the art system that will create such demand, that over time, through ridership, will pay for itself.
MH – Yes. I wish it were stronger, but I believe there will always be a need for a local match for State and Federal funds.
C. Federal funding is dramatically decreasing for ALL transit. A decrease in State transit funding is also a possibility. Should Unified Government replace these lost funds, both capital and operating, in order to maintain the current level of transit service?
AM – I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. I have good relationships with this community and would hope to be able to work with them and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.
MH – We are facing State and Federal funding cuts in numerous areas. Transit is one that is heavily dependent on this funding. It would be nice to say that we will not cut services, but the reality is that if this is not a national priority we will be hard pressed to replace the loss dollar for dollar.
Section 2 – Funding
A. Currently local transit funding in Wyandotte County comes out of General Revenue Funds. 1. What local transit funding mechanisms do you think are best for Wyandotte County?
AM – I think there needs to be new ideas in addressing funding for transit. This is a long-standing problem for governments across the metropolitan area and nationally. As I said above, I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. Public transportation promotes a healthier lifestyle. I would hope to be able to work with charitable organizations and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.
MH – I think General Fund dollars are the best place for this fund.
2. Would you consider a small county-wide transit tax to help sustain the transit system Please explain your reasoning.
AM – I think any time we talk about taxing the people in WYCO that needs to be placed on a voting ballot.
MH – That would not be my first choice. When we unified the government 16 years ago, we brought a whole plethora of “special taxes” back into the General Budget. I understand the thought that it looks like more of a priority if it stands alone, but I think it is unnecessarily cumbersome in annual budgeting process.
B. Transit demand in Wyandotte County continues to increase. How and where would you get additional local transit funding to meet the increasing demand?
AM – I think it is simple supply and demand. As transit demands increase our product will become better and ridership will increase and therefore revenue from riders will increase.
MH – I think this is where we need to be creative. It is very difficult to put the cost on users, who in our particular community are often the least able to support it. We need to continue tracking which lines are running at capacity and which ones are not. Are there areas where we can expand call for service? Are there areas where we can run smaller vehicles? We need to keep in mind the goal of transit is to get people from point A to point B, not just to run buses.
C. How will you work to increase Wyandotte County’s level of transit funding
1. at the state level?
AM – On many occasions I have been successful in reaching across party lines and will use that experience to lobby for public transportation.
MH- We need to continue to lobby for State funding based on ridership and not on population. This is one of the biggest challenges. Transit money should follow the need, not the area.
2. at the federal level?
AM – Again I have good relationships with our elected officials on the federal level that will allow my voice to be heard for the people of Wyandotte County.
MH – We need to continue to engage with regional lobbying efforts. These collaborative conversations with the entire Metro area will yield far better results than if we go individually. I think the ongoing success of KCATA is the best hope Wyandotte County has for more funding.
Section 3 – Meeting increasing demand
A. Areas such as Rosedale, with very limited transit service, are trying to get additional service to meet the needs of its residents, many of which are transit dependent. What process should exist and/or what criteria should be met in order for residents to get new or expanded transit service?
AM – I think we have many great opportunities in Rosedale specifically to improve transit in some very creative ways. We already have a great relationship with University of Kansas and I definitely think involving them in discussions about public transportation can help improve services for that area of WYCO. But do not forget that there are other areas that struggle to get their fair share of public transportation like the Turner area. Those residents tax dollars pay for that service yet they receive nothing for it at this time. This situation needs to be addressed as well.
MH – Again, creativity. Is there a way to add call for service? How can we partner through KCATA and the Jo, leveraging the proximity to KCMO and Johnson County?
B. Route 101 will change to the Connex service later this year. Will you make sure that the upgrade in service level is enough to alleviate the current overcrowded conditions, without negatively impacting other services?
AM – As to the details of the routes, we hire professional transit staff that make those decisions. These are not made at the Commission level. I have confidence in our staff and their ability to manage over crowding without impacting other services they provide.
MH – Absolutely. It looks like this improvement will make a huge difference.
Section 4 – KCATA
A. What characteristics would you look for in making appointments to the KCATA Board of Commissioners?
AM – I believe that the characteristics of the current Board members are what we need to maintain in the future.
MH – We need collaborative, regionally minded individuals who have a heart for all the benefits transit brings to the people and the environment.
B. Unified Government currently contracts with KCATA for only 90 days at a time. This policy gives a negative impression regarding the stability of the transit system in the county. What needs to happen to return to a full year contract like other municipalities?
AM – This is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff to better understand why we are contracting in this manner.
MH – This looks like a reasonable request. I would need to speak with our team at the city to see why this policy is in place.
C. Would you consider contracting with KCATA for all fixed route services? Please explain why or why not?
AM – Again, this is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff before making any changes.
MH – With the State and Federal spending cuts, I don’t think we can take anything off the table. This would have serious considerations for our UG employees and I would not do anything without seeking assurances about their future. Again, we need to be creative in how we serve the community.
Section 5 – Creating a transit-friendly environment
What non-financial actions can be taken to create a more transit-friendly environment in
1. Kansas City, Kansas?
2. Village West?
AM – I currently use our transit system on occasion and I find it to be a very friendly environment. However, I am sure there are always ways to improve and in order to know how to create a “more” friendly environment we need to ask the people using the current system on a regular basis.
MH – 1. KCK – We are looking at residential developments in and around the new 7th street transit center downtown. The more we can foster “transit friendly” development and encourage growth nearby, the better. We are also looking for a major redevelopment at Indian Springs around the new transit center there. I think the strategic location of this center automatically makes Indian Springs a new kind of destination.
MH – 2. Village West – Coordinating routes with businesses and restaurants to make sure the buses are running at the right times for opening and closing. This makes the use of transit a more organic, and less onerous option for the employee.