Kansas City is about to become the largest city in the country to eliminate bus fares.
On Thursday, the Kansas City Council enthusiastically supported the idea, voting unanimously to order the city manager to identify up to $ 8 million of the city budget to fund the free bus service.
Fourth District Councilor Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the measure along with Mayor Quinton Lucas, recognized the importance of the change.
"I don't want to do it for any kind of national recognition, I want to do it because it's the right thing, I think people have the right to move around this city," Bunch said.
Return money to the local economy
Robbie Makinen, head of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said a $ 1.50 fee would go much further to boost the economy out of the fare box.
“It will not leave the state. He will return to the local economy, buy a pair of tennis shoes, buy some bread, buy whatever, generate sales taxes … Anyway, we get a piece, ”Makinen told KCUR last month.
Makinen estimated that approximately 20% of bus passengers in the metropolitan area already travel for free. That includes veterans and high school students in three districts of Kansas City.
Kansas City resident Michael Mumford told KCUR in November that he travels at least once a day. He felt that eliminating fees could save you up to $ 1000 a year, which would help you pay for classes at Metropolitan Community College.
"It would help me a lot. Put a change in my pocket … buy some books for the class," Mumford said.
Makinen said that going without fees throughout the system will cost around $ 12 million a year. The Kansas City share of that is the $ 8 million approved by the city council.
Free buses at what cost?
Kansas City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who chairs the city's finance committee, said $ 8 million for free buses means $ 8 million less for other services.
He added a clause in the resolution that would require the city manager to return to the council and explain where the funds come from.
"Because I know there is no $ 3 million, $ 5 million or $ 8 million," Shields told KCUR.
Even so, council members reiterated that they have the total intention of eliminating bus fares and that Shield's request was merely informative.
Councilman Kevin McManus said he would ensure the funding is sustainable.
"When we remove the fee boxes, nobody wants to be on this board by returning them," McManus said.
Other cities watching with interest
The zero fare option would only apply to buses in Kansas City, Missouri, although Ride KC serves the entire metropolitan area, which is divided into seven counties in two states.
Only buses that originate and return to Kansas City, Missouri, would be free.
Josh Powers, who oversees traffic services in Johnson County, Kansas, said someone can travel for free in parts of the metropolitan area, but not in others.
He said all the different jurisdictions have worked hard to make traffic smooth since they were under the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
"We have worked hard to ensure that our rates are the same throughout the region, to ensure that our brand is the same throughout the region and our messages are the same," Powers said.
Powers said other municipalities are looking forward to seeing how the idea develops, but says Johnson County is currently not considering going without fees.
Lisa Rodríguez is the news anchor for the afternoon and the reporter for the city council of KCUR 89.3 Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.
. (tagsToTranslate) public transportation (t) Quinton Lucas (t) Kansas City Council (t) Kansas City Missouri (KCMO) (t) Spot