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Johnson County leaders look to improve public transit system

Johnson County public transit
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-02 19:01:26-05

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — On the heels of Kansas City, Missouri, approving a monumental fare-free public transportation system, Johnson County leaders are now looking at ways to improve their own system.

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners is considering the different options available. Commissioner Janeé Hanzlick, who represents the 4th District, wants to see more money devoted to help the current system.

"I think for many years the county has really uninvested in our transit system," Hanzlick said.

Only about 1% of the overall county budget goes toward public transportation.

"We expect it to do a lot more than it can do. At the same time, we are starving it of resources," Hanzlick said.

Public transportation is an issue Hanzlick said cannot be an afterthought when it comes to the local economy.

"We need to make sure that transit is at the table when we're discussing economic development," she said.

On Thursday, 41 Action News went to look at some bus stops in Johnson County, where they were sparsely used.

"We don't see as much use of public transit because the system is so limited," Hanzlick said.

As the demographic changes in Johnson County, Hanzlick wants the routes to reflect where the greatest needs are located.

In 2019, the county tried something new: It implemented micro-transit, which is a smaller vehicle used like an Uber, where users can request a ride for $1.50.

According to Johnson County business liaison Josh Powers, almost 30,000 riders used the service.

"We're really looking at how micro-transit can fill in the gaps in our system," Powers said.

Over the past year, Powers said the county has seen an 8.5% increase in ridership, and officials hope to see that trend continue.

"If it makes sense, we want to invest where people are using the service," Powers said. "It's possible in 2020 you can see some changes to fixed route services."

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners could take up the issue of public transportation at its Jan. 30 meeting.

To contact the Johnson County Commissioners, click here. To learn more about Johnson County public transportation, click here.