KCATA Balances Ridership, Bottom Line with Ward Parkway Service

Date:December 31, 2015
KCATA Balances Ridership, Bottom Line with Ward Parkway Service

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Bus service on Ward Parkway put transit planners in a dilemma.

The route had been steadily losing riders. Yet, hundreds of riders still counted on the service to get to Ward Parkway Center, the Country Club Plaza, Westport, Union Station and downtown.

What to do? Nobody wants service cuts. But taxpayer dollars needed to be spent carefully so they benefit the most riders and the community at large. It was a delicate balance for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

So, planners put on their surgical gloves and went to work on the 51-Ward Parkway route, which had seen ridership drop for 18 consecutive months from January 2014 through June 2015.

They studied extensive ridership data. They rode the route. They held public meetings. They fielded emails. They responded to phone inquiries.

It was typical of the issues that KCATA planners face as they continually assess routes and make revisions with the goal of attracting riders and ensuring efficiency.

The solution for the Ward Parkway route wasn’t easy. It meant sacrifice. Some service was cut. Other service was kept in place. And still other service was added for riders along this key north-south spine.

Saturday and midday service will be eliminated for the 51-Ward Parkway route starting Jan. 4. It will now operate on weekdays at rush hour when service is in higher demand.

But after listening to riders, the KCATA agreed to compromise. The 51 route will continue serving the University of Kansas Medical Center complex on State Line Road with three roundtrips each day.

A meeting at the MainCor offices in October presented the changes to riders and community members. 

For those riders who depend on the 51 during the middle of the day, the KCATA has some transportation alternatives for midday service. They include:

  • A newly created route – the 40 Crossroads/Plaza – will provide all-day service Monday through Saturday from the Country Club Plaza north into downtown. The new route starts Jan. 4. The Crossroads route will offer the same midday service north will be eliminated on the 51 route. The new Crossroads service will not extend out to the KU Med Center area since that service will remain in place on the revised Ward Parkway route. Frequent connections to KU Med Center can be made on 39-39th Street.
  • The 35th Street route will be moved to Roanoke Parkway from Madison and Belleview avenues. The change replaces the midday service on Roanoke that will be eliminated on 51-Ward Parkway. 35 runs east and west, giving riders connections to major north-south routes such as the new Crossroad service as well as the 71-Prospect, Main Street MAX and Troost MAX lines.

Service changes at the KCATA are never easy. They are made with a great deal of deliberation and discourse. The goal for 51-Ward Parkway was to concentrate services during the time of day at the places where it’s needed the most. Ultimately, our riding public and our taxpayers benefit.