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What Will it Take to Make Transit a Priority in Wichita?
"Wichita is far behind peer cities in the provision and use of public transit," reports Chase M. Billingham.
The sluggish pace of Wichita's transit funding isn't due to car culture, which is also present in other similarly sized cities, notes Billingham. "The true source of divergence is funding. Wichita Transit is severely underfunded, even compared to its peers in nearby car-friendly cities such as Omaha, Oklahoma City and Tulsa."
Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows Wichita Transit receiving approximately $4.2 million in local funds in 2017. "By comparison, local agencies that year received $7.4 million in Tulsa, $14.1 million in Oklahoma City, $14.5 million in Omaha, $15.4 million in Des Moines and $70.4 million in Kansas City," according to Billingham.
Local leaders are looking for new sources of revenue to fund transit projects, but a frequently floated idea of implementing a dedicated local sales tax has never been made a reality.
"Transit was one of four priorities that the city identified when it held a referendum on imposing a new 1-cent sales tax in 2014. Amid well-funded opposition and much controversy, that referendum was decisively rejected by voters."
The article is the third in a four-part series of guest commentaries on the subject of transit funding and planning in the city of Wichita.