Long-range committee member Jim Ogle addresses his two
colleagues, chairman Rodd Miller and member Beverly Hall, and
Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority staff regarding the
smartphone capabilities of fare boxes. (Photo by Aly
Van Dyke/Topeka Capital-Journal)
The Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to push forward in its efforts to add and update amenities to the city's bus service.
The three-member long-range planning committee on Monday furthered its discussion of upgrading fare boxes on buses, installing ticket-printing machines throughout the community, incorporating bike and car sharing programs, and extending services farther south in Shawnee County.
Staff was directed to solicit more information on all fronts, though discussion on fare boxes appears to be inching toward a conclusion.
Board members Jim Ogle and Beverly Hall and chairman Rodd Miller were presented a price sheet to upgrade fare boxes — including such additions as a smart card reader and magnetic passes. The boxes also would be able to distinguish dollar bills, an ability currently not available on the Metro's 20-year-old fare boxes.
Costs per unit ranged from $12,950 to $16,845. Replacing fare boxes on all of the Metro's 45 fixed route buses would cost $688,870, according to the price sheet.
The Metro would apply for federal grants to help cover the cost of the upgrades.
Ogle asked staff to find out the cost to equip the fare boxes with optical scanning, which would allow people to upload and scan passes on their smartphones.
"I want to make sure that as we look at options we're not locking into older technology that for us is new," he said. "We're going to have to live with whatever we get for 10 to 15 years."
The vending machines the Metro board is considering would cost $58,000 each. The machines would allow riders to purchase and print tickets throughout the community.
Although staff is investigating the costs now, Miller said, he expected purchasing the machines wouldn't happen for some time.
Metro staff also is nearing a recommendation for a bike sharing program in the capital city, potentially partnering with Washburn University or the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Department.
Staff members have spent the past few months interviewing other cities, such as Kansas City and Fort Worth, Texas, about their programs. Fort Worth, interim CEO Denise Ensley noted, paid $1.4 million to start up the program and pays about $499,000 a year to keep it running.
Miller said Topeka's program wouldn't be near that size, but he was concerned about the annual operating costs. Ensley indicated community support and sponsorships are key to making the bike sharing program a success.
Ensley also informed the committee about two meetings scheduled this month to discuss extending bus services farther south in Shawnee County.
The impetus for extending services is a desire by Mars Chocolate North America, which is attempting to attain Gold LEED certification for its $250 million plant being built in the Kanza Fire Commerce Park. One requirement of the certification is providing alternative transportation to employees.
Creating a route for the southern part of the county also could service other large employers in the area. The estimated cost of adding the service is $40,000.
Miller will meet with Metro supervisors staff at 9 a.m. Tuesday to brainstorm, she said. Mars representatives also have requested a meeting on Aug. 29, though as of Monday, Ensley wasn't sure who was invited or whether it would be open to the public.
Many of the topics presented Monday will be up for discussion during the Metro board's upcoming retreat, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 and 3.