Mayor Longwell: City must address transportation budget shortfall

(KSN file photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell talked about the city’s transportation needs at a media briefing Thursday.

In a news release from the City, Longwell said, “Transit is at the top of our list right now because the need is so urgent, and not just for the transit-dependent, for the entire community. We need the community to become engaged around this issue, learn more about its impact, and start a dialogue. That way solutions will be in line with our residents’ desires.”

Longwell said a $2 million shortfall in the City’s 2016 budget is driving the urgency to address Wichita’s transportation needs. He commented that other U-S cities have lost out on major event and convention business because their transit systems weren’t able to handle such needs.

“Recognizing that we are going to host the NCAA in downtown Wichita in 2017, we can’t prop transit up just for that,” said Longwell. “The things that need to be in place to have a successful event, need to be in place for the long term for this community to be successful.”

The release said the Wichita Transit Department currently is studying what works, what doesn’t work, and where improvements might be made. Recommendations will be forwarded to the City Manager, City Council, and the public for feedback.

City officials say Wichita transit system carries two million people annually, and ridership has been up in each of the last nine months. in addition, it says ridership is up 3.5 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same period in 2014.

The city says Westside transit service improvements have resulted in an increase of 11 percent in ridership. That increase, the release says, includes route expansions designed to carry people to and from New Market Square, as well as neighborhood feeder service.

In addition, city officials say park-and-rides, vanpools, and other service improvements are being considered, as well as well as discussions about reaching out to surrounding cities and major employers who the city also considers key stakeholders in public transportation.

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