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Kansas City Enters 'Microtransit' Market With New Bridj Bus

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority CEO Robbie Makinen takes a ride on Bridj, the new microtransit bus service. It launched Monday.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority launched a new shuttle service Monday called Bridj.

Credit KCATA
For now, the Bridj service area connects downtown Kansas City to Hospital Hill and KU Med. Bridj users can ride within a service area or connect between them.

It’s app-based microtransit that creates a bus route around where users request to be picked up.

“When the technology works together, it’ll tell you, ‘OK, go down the street half a block,’” says KCATA’s Robbie Makinen. “It’ll tell (me) to go down the street a block. We’ll meet at that place. It’s the pop-up bus stop.”

Most of the riders Monday were reporters, which Makinen said gave KCATA a chance to make sure the system is working. For now, Bridj is only available near downtown, Hospital Hill and KU Medical Center, but in the future it will expand to other parts of the metro.

“Let’s say you’re not in one of those service areas,” Makinen says. “You can drop a pin there, and that data will then show us that there are folks over here who really have an interest in using this service.”

Makinen thinks Bridj will attract new riders who aren’t already using public transit.

“I think one of the unique and interesting features of this service is ... if you’re using this service to get to work and back, you can actually get to know your bus driver,” Makinen says.

Robin Gray, a former KCATA bus driver, now drives the Bridj route from Roeland Park to KU Med.

“Typically it takes us 38 minutes to do the Kansas route, so it’s a lot faster than riding the regular transit system where it might take 45 minutes to an hour,” says Gray.

Not only is Bridj faster, she says, but it’s easier for passengers and drivers because it’s app-based. You even pay in the app.

KCATA plans to begin promoting Bridj later this week. The plan is to offer new users 10 free rides. After that, it’s only $1.50, the same as bus fare.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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