Politics & Government

Wichita making major changes to free downtown shuttle service

Wichita Transit has reworked its Q-Line free downtown trolley service to make it easier to go farther on Douglas Avenue, while eliminating all other lines, officials said Tuesday.

The new routes will expand Q-line service to the west and to the east on Douglas. On weekends, it will run all the way from Seneca on the west to Edgemoor on the east.

Trolleys will run approximately every 10 to 15 minutes during service hours.

The changes will take effect Dec. 15.

“We think this is the next iteration of a very successful program that has been run so far,” said Mike Tann, director of Wichita Transit.

The current circuitous color-coded routes that now serve Old Town and the city/county government center will be eliminated, Tann said.

He said those lines were underused and “it’s more valuable to be on Douglas.”

Shifting to the Douglas-only route will allow for longer routes and will be much simpler and easier for riders use, he said.

“The key to any of these systems is simplicity,” he said.

“It follows Douglas; all you will need to know is what day of the week it is and what time of the day it is,” he said.

The new schedule:

Lunch: Trolleys will run from Seneca to Hydraulic from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Weeknights: Seneca to Hydraulic from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Fridays: Seneca to Edgemoor, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Saturdays: Seneca to Edgemoor, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

At present, the longest Q-Line route runs from the site of the now-demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Sycamore to Clifton Square, a small cluster of shops and restaurants at Douglas and Clifton.

Patrons had to change trolleys to ride west of Sycamore through the Delano district to Seneca.

Q-line has been an increasingly popular park-and-ride alternative to trying to find a space during peak hours downtown, Tann said.

“In this last calendar year alone, we’ve seen a 35 percent increase in ridership and that’s not including the events that were associated with the NCAA (basketball) tournament,” at the Intrust Bank Arena in March, he said.

The service is jointly funded by the city, the federal government and contributions from downtown-area merchants, officials said.

“It’s expensive, but with the (private) financial contribution it makes it free (for users),” he said.

Vice Mayor Bryan Frye said he hopes the expansion of Douglas trolley service will encourage more people to do their Christmas shopping at the local mom-and-pop stores between College Hill and Delano.

“Typically a local business puts about 48 percent back into the community, whereas some of the national chains and big-box stores it’s only about 14 percent,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much it means to us that people are using (Q-Line) and continue to support this fantastic system,” he said.