City commissioners gave ATA Bus permission Tuesday to put up bus stop signs along its fixed and Safe Ride routes.
Commissioners approved the project on a 4-1 vote with John Matta opposing it. Matta said he believed the cost of operating the bus service will become a burden to taxpayers, and characterized approving the signs as moving one step closer to having the city fund the fixed-route system. The city allocated $52,138 in the 2013 budget to ATA Bus to support the in-demand portion of the service, not the fixed routes.
Commissioner Wynn Butler said that after reviewing the financial statements provided by the service, the fixed-route system did not look like it was doing well, but he said he would support the installation of the signs because it would not cost taxpayers any additional money. He also said he would like to see next year’s ridership numbers to see how the signs influenced the fixed-route use.
Commissioner Rich Jankovich said he thought the request to review the financial status of ATA Bus was not relevant to this request because ATA Bus was paying for the fabrication and installation of the signs and it would not cost the city any money.
Several Manhattan citizens told commissioners about their experiences in riding the fixed-routes. Tim Lindemuth, who is retired, said he rode two routes just to see where the stops were in town. He said he knew the bus routes had a transfer station near K-State, but since there were no signs, he had to guess where the exact location was for the stop. He said he grew up in New York, was familiar with public transportation systems, and it was because of this experience that he noticed a small group of people gathering on the sidewalk a short distance from where he thought the stop was located.
He said he approached the group and asked if it was the stop, and they confirmed his suspicions. Lindemuth said if the city would allow signs to be installed, he was confident more people would use the service, and not have to guess where the bus stops were located.
Phil Anderson said the benefit to the city could not be measured in cost analysis alone. He said those benefits include reducing street congestion, parking congestion, and wear and tear on the streets. He said citizens who didn’t or couldn’t drive a car also benefited because they could get to various shopping venues by using the routes.
Mayor Loren Pepperd said he decided to ride one of the routes one morning just to see how many people used the fixed-route. He said riders varied from zero to four passengers. He said he also noticed the routes do not go to any of the senior living centers because “every organization in this town has its own bus service.”
The last two items on the general agenda passed unanimously with few commissioner comments. Commissioners adopted the amendments to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and awarded a contract for the Manhattan Core District Improvement Project in the amount of about $2.7 million. Matta said it looked bad that he opposed the library project, but supported the improvement project. He said he supported the latter because the project will be paid through special assessments and other revenue sources, not through the mill levy. The library project would be paid for though the library’s use of the mill levy.
The consent agenda passed, but with a few hiccups.
Butler abstained from the decision to award a contract to the Housing Rehabilitation Program because his family had a “significant interest” in it. Matta opposed the Fiscal Agreement for the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization because he said the city was fiscally responsible for more than it had authority to control on the MPO board.
The city commission holds three of the nine votes on the board.