Wichita downtown Q-Line an expensive ride

On the first Friday in June — that’s the outdoor music night in Old Town Wichita — I went downtown. One of the things I did was to ride the Q-Line. That’s the free trolley or shuttle bus that provides service in Old Town and downtown, including Exploration Place.

Wichita Q-Line riders and costWichita Q-Line riders and cost

I rode the entire route, and I was the only passenger. So I got to wonder about ridership and costs.

The Q-Line service has been offered three nights per week, Thursday through Saturday. In early October it started operating six nights a week after Sedgwick County added some funding.

For the May though October season, the City of Wichita committed $66,000, or $11,000 per month, to run the Q-Line. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation agreed to spend $20,000 marketing the service.

Considering only the $11,000 per month of operating costs, you can see that the cost per rider is quite high. Most months it’s around eight dollars or so, and much more in some months.

If two or three people traveling as a group get on the trolley, the cost becomes much more than a taxi ride anywhere in downtown — or across town, for that matter.

The problem with the high cost per rider on the Q-Line is representative of the high cost of public transit and the huge subsidies it requires to function. According to Michael Vinson, Director of Transit for the City of Wichita, for the city’s regular bus service, fare-box revenue covers 22.5% of operating cost. The remainder is paid for by grants from local, state, and federal government.

So those who might think that the $1.25 fare to get on a city bus is a good deal might want to realize that their contribution to the fare box is matched by $4.30 from other people.

And that’s for operating costs only. It doesn’t include capital costs.

As we move forward in the planning for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, transit is always mentioned as a central component. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the cost per rider down to a reasonable figure. Wichita hasn’t shown the ability to do that so far.

8 Comments

  • Wichitator -

    This line is a big part of local government’s plan for parking/transportation of folks in and around the downtown arena. If ridership does not grow after the arena opens, what next?

  • Can you imagine the real cost per ride when you figure liability that the City I am sure is self insured, initial capital outlay, repairs & maint. the 1000’s of hours City staff spent deciding on the right vehicles, routes, and signage, my goodness I’m sure it’s closer to $30 per rider some months.

  • Joe Williams -

    Every road, sidewalk and drainage pipe is also subsidized. Might as well figure all that in with the taxi fare. ;)

  • Stephanie -

    As a general rule, I usually agree with you. Here, I have to politely disagree and point out a few things. First of all, April was the first month that “First Friday” was attempted, and it’s turnout was expected to be low due to a lack of advertising. I volunteer for RokIct, the group that organizes and promotes First Friday, as well as other live music options in Wichita. I understand the cost of the Q Line is high right now, but I think it will drop as people get used to it and word of it’s existence gets out. Personally, I didn’t know about it until this weekend. There is nobody promoting it’s use, really. I am going to talk to RokIct about putting a message on our flyers about the Q line. Without the support of the city, events like First and Final Friday would not exist. The least we can do is give back by helping promote something that helps free up parking, traffic congestion, and utilizes the funds to their fullest potential.
    You may ask, how could I not know about the Q line? Well, I don’t live in Wichita. I live in Cheney. I drive in for these events, and for AFP events, and so on. I don’t always read the Wichita paper because I have no interest in the crime or the liberal bias. I was still under the impression that the trolley was running in oldtown. As for being down there: when you’re a volunteer, you’re stuck in one place all night, so you don’t have a chance to make use of any kind of transportation until it’s time to go home!

  • Stephanie,

    The fact that you didn’t know about the existence of the Q-Line says something about the value of the $20,000 in marketing that the WDDC committed to spend. If I’m not mistaken, the meaning of “marketing” is roughly: “get the word out” or “promoting it’s [sic] use.”

    Also, the Q-Line is the downtown trolley.

  • Bettysue Petty -

    I am another Wichitan that never heard of the Q-line and its purpose.
    What appalls me is the amount of taxpayer money to subsidize the bus service,and the miniscule amount passenger fees pays!
    How many people realize,as they complain about fees,that we are paying far more than they??

  • Hi, the Wichita Final Friday website came up as an adult website here at work. Hope I don’t get fired now, Thanks. Why is the City of Wichita funding a pub crawl anyway?

    Mike

  • Alden Wilner -

    Penny-wise and Pound Foolish… the Kellogg and Rock Road intersection cost $155 million. And how much does the city receive in fees from it? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a “free” way.

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