Planning board supports bus routes

Resolution forwarded to City Commission

By Burk Krohe

The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board approved a resolution supporting fixed-route transit in the city at Monday’s meeting. The resolution will be forwarded to the Manhattan City Commission.

Phil Anderson, board member, introduced the resolution at the end of the board’s work session. Anderson felt the city needs to be invested in public transportation as it grows and the need increases.

Board members Linda Morse, Stephanie Rolley and Gary Stith were also in favor of the resolution. Board members Mike Hill and Jerry Reynard opposed the resolution and Mike Kratochvil abstained.

Recently, the Flint Hills Area Transportation Agency (ATA Bus) announced it will implement a fixed-route transit system with two bus routes. ATA Bus will use the same operating plan it previously presented to the City Commission when commissioners rejected the proposal on a 3-2 vote last summer.

The system will begin without city funding. The proposal brought to the city last summer would have called for $15,000 in funding from the city for the first full year of operation. Funding and the long-term success of such a system were sticking points for a majority of commissioners.

Hill and Reynard had similar concerns. Hill said he was reluctant to forward such as resolution without identifying a funding mechanism. He added that a fixed-route transit system has been talked about for years, but the funding situation has not changed.

“I’m in favor of public transportation, but I’m not in favor of it if it raises property taxes,” Hill said.

Rolley disagreed with Hill, saying such a recommendation was in the board’s purview. She said funding is not necessarily the board’s focus, but, rather, adherence to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and responsible growth.

“We make proposals based on the health, safety and welfare of the community,” Rolley said. “As a planning board member, I think it makes sense.”

Morse said it’s better that the board speaks to fixed-route transit than not. She said it’s frustrating when the board doesn’t take a position on pressing matters and applauded a proactive approach.

“My question simply is, what has changed?” Hill said. 

Currently ATA Bus is only seeking a right-of-way agreement with the city to locate signs and shelters on city property.

“That really isn’t a cost to the city at all, and it does further the effort of public transportation,” Stith said. “That minimal amount of support is something the city should consider.”

Kratochvil abstained because he said he would have liked more information on the issue and more time to prepare in order to make an informed decision.

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