It’s the end of a brand for Johnson County bus riders, as county transit continues to integrate itself into the metro-wide public transit system known as RideKC.
Gradually, the perky JO logos on buses and at bus stops that have been a fixture since the late 1990s will give way to the new RideKC brand. The 50-55 buses that serve Johnson County will still have the county’s sunflower logo on the rear quarter panel, but “the JO will be a thing of the past,” said George Lafferty, of the county’s transportation council.
Most Johnson Countians will get their first glimpse of the new look when eight new buses hit the streets in the next few months.
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Transit officials said the change is meant to support the idea of a more regional transit system.
“Our goal is to regionalize public transit with emphasis on the whole metro area, not just Johnson County,” said Lafferty.
That means one design and name for the buses. Kansas City, Kan., is expected to make the change in its buses as well, said Cynthia Baker, spokewoman for the Kansas City Area Transit Authority.
Kansas City is also on an ambitious campaign to rebrand 260 of its vehicles within a year.
The brand consistency should make things easier for riders in general, Lafferty said. Although a Johnson County-bound bus may be harder to spot in downtown Kansas City, many riders will still be able to keep track of them with smart phone apps.
When the new bus color scheme came up at a recent county commission meeting, Commissioner John Toplikar questioned whether it was good to get rid of a brand the county spent money establishing that residents can now identify easily.
Commissioner Steve Klika answered that most bus riders care more about the route number displayed on the bus than the JO logo. The consistency of the new paint will also make the coaches more interchangeable within the entire system, and that could save money, he added.
The rebranding announcement did not come with a request for more funding. Unless they are factory painted, new buses come to the county white and have to be painted before taking to the streets. The decision was made too late for the factory painting deadline, so the eight buses on order would have been painted one way or the other.
The last big rebranding of the county bus system happened after Johnson County broke off its transit service from Kansas City’s in the 1980s. The JO logo, with its looping roadway, has been the symbol of the county system for years.
The JO has served mainly as an express service taking commuters north and south during the peak morning and evening times. But the county bus system is in the midst of major changes. After route cutbacks in 2012, the county signed a joint management agreement with KCATA for further savings in administration costs.
This year, transit officials have asked for increased funding to add routes and hours, improving connection possibilities both within the county and with the rest of the metro area. That request is part of the budget the commission is considering for next year.
Officials are still working out when the brand changes will be made on the rest of the buses and on kiosk signs.