Mobility -- Challenges and Opportunities

The primary mode of transportation in Olathe is by automobile. The community is served by a variety of interstate highways, state highways, and city streets; all of which form the surface transportation network that allows personal mobility throughout the city and beyond. Surface transportation plays a role for every resident and visitor in the area, whether that is personal mobility or the provision of goods to sustain life.  Every activity we undertake involves movement and in a geographically
diverse area much of that is through use of a vehicle. However not everyone has the ability, or the desire, to drive a vehicle. Thus other attributes of a community related to transportation have become increasingly important, such as a community’s walkability and the availability and access to public transit.

Several freight rail lines also pass through the Olathe region. The presence of these lines and their proximity to the local road network also plays a very important role in the circulation and movement of traffic in and around the city.

Public transit is a “life-line” service to people who have no other viable means of travel. This includes elderly who may be limited due to age in driving as well as persons with disabilities who may not be able to physically operate automobiles. It can also apply to people who are unable to afford private means of travel. Public transit can also be vital to the overall transportation network in that it can help alleviate traffic congestion or parking needs in high-density areas. Related to transit,
is the ability of people to walk throughout their community. A walkable community is seen by many as being a livable, healthy community.

Specific indicators in this section include:

  • Median Commute Time
  • Transit Access
  • Walkability
  • % of Population Carpooling, walking, using public transit, or other means

Today

Olathe has a median commute time of 23.7 minutes, lower than the national average of 25.1 minutes. This figure also compares favorably to other communities that are similar to Olathe. 

Transit access has been measured based upon the extent and layout of the existing transit system. In terms of transit access, the City of Olathe ranks alongside the national average. However, a survey of similar communities suggests that there is more that can be done in this area.

Another important indicator is that of a community’s walkability. The degree of walkability was analyzed for each of the surveyed communities through a web-based program called “Walk Score”. Walk Score uses a system to assign algorithms to housing and destinations. Based on this data, Olathe and is neighbors score near the national average with a score of 2 out of 5. The most walkable communities surveyed rank a 5 out of 5.

Related to walkability is the percentage of the population that utilizes means other than driving with a single occupant. This includes walking, carpooling, public transit, or other means, such as bicycling. 12.9% of the population of Olathe uses other means, which is somewhat lower than the national average of 17%.

In general, Olathe has some room to improve on it provision of alternative means of transportation. This would include providing more access to public transit, as well as providing incentives for residents to use alternative means of transportation. This may include improving future neighborhood design to encourage walking safely and providing additional off-street trails.

In the Future

The Plan includes measures to maximize existing street investments.  The capacity, efficiency and safety of arterial roads will be enhanced by controlling the number and spacing of signalized intersections and consolidating driveway access. Investments will be made in roadway design that will accommodate transit features, bicycle facilities and pedestrian access. Improved traffic signal timing will help to reduce congestion and improve air quality. 

PlanOlathe calls for walkable neighborhoods and districts built to include transit, and a variety of non-motorized options. The Plan addresses Olathe’s dispersed land use pattern that has tended to limit the choice to walk, bike or use transit. This new, more compact, land use pattern includes a greater mix of land uses that make transit and multi-modal transportation more viable.

Transit service quality has been measured based on the proximity of transit routes to housing. As with the indicating measurements for neighborhood quality, the key measurement is the distance from residences based on pedestrian activity.

The negative impacts of freight rail on community mobility will be addressed through improved coordination between the rail and transportation systems. Railroad quiet zones will continue to be investigated.