Should the economic development portion of the half-cent sales tax be used to off-set the cost of the Metropolitan Planning Organization?
I don’t believe the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization (FHMPO) is an economic development function. That, to me would be “mission creep”. This is a core function of each of city/county that is a member of the FHMPO. I believe by using the economic development funds it could open a door which would add economic development activities to the mission of the FHMPO. This organization is about transportation planning only. Each community/county will be responsible for the funding of actual projects approved first by the FHMPO then by KDOT. However, it is not a stretch to believe that funds from the sales tax could go toward specific Manhattan transportation, road/bridge improvements, etc., projects. This would have a positive, direct impact on property taxes.
Should the city help fund a fixed-route bus system in Manhattan?
At this time no. I did vote two years ago to provide the $15,000 request to ATA, which would have been moved from the taxi payments. This would have shifted the funding to ATA not added new burden. The basis for my decision was the poor taxi service from the only provider at that time. Since then we have other taxi providers so I believe we should wait. To date the data on the fixed route indicates a high percentage of college students using the system. I just voted for and the commission approved the signage and shelters, which should provide riders a better indication of the stops, routes, etc. I believe we need to have a strong long term commitment from KSU for funding and better ridership data to then have the city step in with some level of funding.
Should the city increase, decrease or maintain the efforts to facilitate bicyclists’ use of city streets as a mode of transportation?
The cycling community is alive and well in Manhattan. The Bicycle Advisory Committee has done a good job of putting together a solid master plan to make the city more bicycle friendly and I am supportive this effort. When the new bike lane on Moro was brought to the commission, I did support and the commission passed that funding. I was also supportive of the proposed lane on N. Manhattan Ave. in Aggieville, which should keep the cyclists off the sidewalk along that stretch of road and then link into the N. Manhattan bike lane north of Bluemont. As funds are available, we should continue to expand the cycling lanes, which will increase the safety to the riders, pedestrians and vehicles. It needs to be a measured effort against other needs but should be a part of the overall transportation plan.
Should the city devote more funding to develop walking and bicycle paths around the city?
I believe we should. This is a carryover from the previous question. However, when, is the question? A great example would be to complete the Linear Trail to bring it up Marlatt Avenue and tie into the Hudson Trail. However, at the present time, funds are not available to widen Marlatt, which is critical to extending the trail. Rochester, MN has one of the most extensive bike/walking paths that I have personally ever seen. Many of the lanes go through neighborhoods to tie into the various sections of town to allow alternative transportation away from the streets. This should be studied as part of the overall development master plan for the city as we move forward and potentially be a part of new developments that are approved. The biggest element is the funding of these projects. As we see the income from the north and south redevelopment, once the bonds are paid, we should have significant funds to do new quality of life projects such as those outlined in this question.
Should the city spend $11 million (or more) on expanding the airport and airport services?
Obviously I have a vested interest in the success of the airport. This will be directly dependent on FAA funding. The airport with the existing air service is a tremendous economic engine. If the FAA provides the grant funding for the terminal and we are able to use passenger fees to pay for the city portion/match, I believe it has merit. The parking will at that time have to become a fee based arrangement as the parking will need to expand. It appears that this would be tax neutral, as the cost would be paid from parking fees. The improvements will allow for greater revenue from rental car providers and other retail opportunities. An improved terminal also should assist in finding the “Denver” route/carrier, which is a hot topic today, as the throughput of the existing terminal is limited. Having said all of this, the runway will also need to be addressed in the relatively near future and we need to fully study and understand the impact that could have on our commercial air service. Of course without the traditional FAA matching grant funding all of this discussion is a mute point. The repayment source should not be on property tax but rather from user revenues.