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Monday, July 28, 2014

Wichita seeks U.S. grant for Douglas bus shelters

By Bill Wilson
The Wichita Eagle

The city wants bus transportation to become a serious travel option downtown, and it is asking the Federal Transit Administration to help with that goal.

The city is seeking a $1.08 million grant from the FTA’s Bus Livability Initiative to establish eight bus shelters every two blocks along the Douglas corridor downtown. It also would establish electronic information signage at each bus shelter to provide real-time bus arrival and departure information for regular routes and the Q-Line downtown circulator route.

It’s part of a broader, $1.35 million plan to revitalize bus usage downtown, with the remainder coming from the city’s capital improvements program.

The goal, said city downtown coordinator Scott Knebel, is to encourage bus use as an alternative for intra-downtown travel – getting workers and customers to park once and use the bus system to move around downtown for meetings and events, providing a major boost to downtown revitalization efforts.

“You don’t have to provide excess capacity in your parking system at multiple locations that support those intra-downtown trips,” Knebel said. “It allows the use of that land for other things that in an economic sense represent a higher and better use of the resource.

“And the other thing is you don’t have to support as much of a street system because by reducing the amount of traffic and taking trips off the system you can design one primarily focused on your peak hour travel movements to get people in and out for weekday office uses and evening and weekend event uses.”

Ease of movement is essential for creating a “higher density level,” or getting more people downtown living, working and playing, said Knebel and Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

“We’d like to get wait times to 10 minutes or less at these shelters so the bus becomes a car alternative,” Fluhr said. “We have a large geographic area for our downtown, 800 acres, and within that we have a number of epicenters like Old Town, the Douglas corridor, City Hall, the arena and WaterWalk.

“Transit becomes a very important link, as we’ve seen in other cities, to linking all that together in a timely manner.”

Other Douglas corridor projects that would be covered by the grant project include streetscape amenities, parking for 175 bicycles, a signalized pedestrian crosswalk between Mead and Rock Island and pedestrian wayfinding signage.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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