Wichita City Council members approved the purchase of new city buses at Tuesday’s meeting. They will help update the transit system’s aging fleet.
A total of ten new buses will be coming from a California-based manufacturer. They will all be diesel powered.
“The total cost for the acquisition is $4.2 million and a little over 80 percent of that will come from the federal transit commission," Wichita City Manager Robert Layton says. "The rest will be local.”
Members of Wichita’s City Council spent much of yesterday discussing a new sales tax that could be used to shore up the city’s water supply, encourage job growth and keep the transit system running for five more years.
Tuesday’s meeting marked the first step in funding some key areas of Wichita’s future. A proposed one-cent sales tax referendum, worth $398 million over five years, was approved by council members.
The city of Wichita’s public transportation provides about 2 million rides a year; rides that can lead to jobs, to an education or to medical appointments. But the city’s budget is strained and the future funding of transit is far from clear.
A Need For Transportation
Wichita’s central transit station is located in the heart of downtown, just one street over from the stop-and-go traffic of Douglas St. It’s a busy place; there are 30 or so people waiting to board different buses and many people are here out of necessity.
Wichita officials ushered four new transit buses into service Wednesday.
Mayor Carl Brewer and Wichita Transit Director Steve Spade joined city council members and others for the "inaugural ride."
City council members approved a plan Tuesday to purchase as many as 20 buses in the next two years to upgrade the aging fleet of 56 buses. The transit center's fleet travels nearly 2 million miles annually, and it's one of the oldest in the region.
Amid budget problems, fare increases and services cuts, Wichita Transit welcomed a new director last month. Stephen Spade was most recently transit director in Chapel Hill, N.C. He also served as general manager for the transit service in Des Moines, Iowa.
Spade started work in Wichita on October 30, he says he was interested in the Wichita job because he and his wife are from the Midwest and wanted to be closer to family.
Wichita City officials took public comments Monday on the most recent round of proposed cuts to the city’s bus services.
Under consideration is reducing stops during peak times from every half hour to every hour, eliminating twice daily service to the Goodwill at 37th and Oliver, and eliminating the west side connector, which includes service to Mid Continent Airport.