West-side bus service on agenda for Thursday’s Wichita Transit meeting

Wichita Transit officials will meet one last time with the public Thursday, to tie up the loose ends on the future of west-side bus service.

On April 12, the city will eliminate the west-side connector route, replacing it with an extended West Maple route and a West Central route. Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. meeting at the transit office, 777 E. Waterman, is the public’s last chance to review the changes and make suggestions.

In addition, the city will implement a neighborhood feeder service in specific areas on Wichita’s west side, said transit director Steve Spade.

“This meeting closes the loop on our public meetings, and gives us a chance to show the public what we’ve finally come up with,” Spade said. “It’s a chance to see if there’s anything we’ve missed.”

The changes are designed to bring bus service closer to where Wichitans live, work and seek services on the west side, Spade said.

“We do think we’ve done that,” he said. “These plans do a better job connecting with New Market Square, for example, where people shop and work.”

Public meetings on the west-side changes began in October.

City officials are studying the future of the financially-embattled transit system, which will run out of money at the end of this year without a new long-term funding source. City Hall contributes $3.9 million of a roughly $13 million transit budget, which includes fares and a loan from reserves expected to run out this year.

Then there’s the issue of eroding state and federal funding. The system receives $1.8 million from Kansas and $6.9 million from the federal government - money the city is not guaranteed long-term.

Funding the city’s bus system is one project on the shopping list of City Council members, who are considering a sales tax increase vote as early as this fall to finance a growing list of city improvements.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle