Jeff Parsons, Liberal’s Economic Development Director, said this new grant will make it possible to start a third new route, which would mostly cover the middle section of town, since the current two routes split Liberal east and west. L&T photo/Elly Grimm
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Liberal citizens will soon be noticing some differences in the city’s transit system thanks to a new grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).
The annual grant, which totals $431,465 comes in two parts – operating ($262,500) and capital ($169,135). The capital portion will allow for the purchase of three additional new buses and a new wheelchair van. The operating costs will be used to pay the drivers as well as for gas and insurance.
The city was infomed of its reciept of the grant only a couple of weeks ago.
Jeff Parsons, Liberal’s Economic Development Director, said this new grant will make it possible to start a third new route, which would mostly cover the middle section of town, since the current two routes split Liberal east and west.
“When we started up the bus system, we knew we weren’t going to be able to do it with what we had with two routes; we knew we weren’t going to be able to serve the whole community,” he said. “There’s only so many places you can stop, so this allows us to increase the number of places we’re able to stop and it’s been kind of our goal all along.”
According to Liberal Transit Supervisor Melanie Lunceford, the need for a third route (yet to be designed) was based on increased demand for bus travel.
“With the third route, it’s for the people who don’t have the opportunity to get to a stop feasibly,” she said. “It’s a deterrent to use a bus stop if they have to walk too many blocks so what we’re trying to do is fill in the gap for people to be able to use the transit.”
The money from KDOT will be able to cover 80 percent of the vehicle costs and then 70 percent of the operation costs so the city will be required to provide the rest of those gap funds. This is the second full year that Liberal has received a grant from KDOT.
Lunceford added that the application process for this grant was extensive.
“It was an extensive process and we do it every year that KDOT has,” she revealed. “I think it was about 50 pages of what the grant actually is but it ended up being about triple that with everything that they asked us to provide.”
Parsons said the city plans to apply for the grant again in the future but for right now, there are no immediate plans to expand the bus system beyond the three routes. However, he said there could be some changes made to the routes should the need arise.
“We’re still pretty new at this, we’ve really been operating for one full calendar year so we don’t want to grow too fast, we want to get our feet under us and make sure we’re operating what we’ve got well before we would look to expand and I don’t look for us to expand for the next couple of years,” he said. “We’ll always tweak the routes that we’ve got, you know, we may change a stop here or there and those kinds of things, we’ll always be making those kinds of changes but this expansion will probably be it for a few years anyway.”