He adds, “Once we get AVL/MDTs next year, we just flip a switch and now that program will go automatic — real-time scheduling.”
Banasiak explains a challenge WT is facing. “Paratransit. It’s not only growing, it’s getting more expensive.
“It used to be way back in the 1990s, the ADA was 7 percent of our budget,” he explains. “Now it’s creeping up to about 27 percent of our budget.” He exclaims, “And this is for 300 some thousand passengers compared to 2 million bus passengers.
When talking to Banasiak, he mentions that they were going out to bid in a few months for a total ITS package that will improve efficiency. “That’s going to be AVL, automatic vehicle locators; we’re going to have mobile data terminals for the bus and van. We’re going to get an operation software package, a customer service software package and then update our paratransit software package we have now. Hopefully we can control better the rising ADA budget.”
As for the other challenge at WT? “Fuel is the biggest concern we have,” stresses Banasiak. “We’ve more than doubled our fuel budget in less than three years.
“It’s a funny thing, but my office sits where I can see everyone come in and out of the facility.” He continues, “It used to be back in ‘99 when we first got here in our new facility, a diesel truck would go by, I wouldn’t even think twice about it.
“It was like $8,000 a load, an 8,000-gallon fuel tanker.” He states, “Now, the last one that just passed my office was $22,000 for that fuel truck. Every time a fuel truck passes by I just cringe because it’s just killing our fuel budget.”
He also states that it is delaying some of the capital programs from going faster because they have to rob other programs for fuel. There was always a contingency for fuel and by the end of the year there was contingency left over that could be used elsewhere.
“Now, the last two years, we have no contingency anymore,” he says. “I can’t fund enough money in contingency so I’m robbing from other divisions and other line items just to make sure we make ends meet with fuel. Every service I operate, that fuel thing is creating a challenge.”
The city of Wichita is starting a program that will be making a difference at WT. “I think the biggest thing that I’m really looking forward to in the next couple of years, the city has got a program that they’re calling Transforming Wichita,” says Banasiak. “We are trying at Wichita Transit to include our employees in how we develop programs and update procedures and policies.
“What that is, we’re going to set up some committees,” he explains. “We’re going to get input from our employees — our drivers, our maintenance folks and our admin people, on all the things we’re doing now.” Some of the things he mentions are all the routes WT has, how maintenance is done, how WT serves the public, how complaints are answered, every policy.