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KCATA Seeks Input From Bus Riders As It Plans System Redesign That Could Affect 42 Routes

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Laura Ziegler
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KCUR 89.3
Terry Bradford is worried that the redesign of the bus system will make it harder to get around.

Waiting at a stop on Prospect Avenue and 31st Street, Terry Bradford, 71, has bad arthritis in his knees and it is hard for him to walk the couple blocks from his senior living center to the nearest bus stop.

Bradford relies on the bus for everything – for grocery shopping, to get to doctor’s appointments and maybe most importantly to him, to see friends. And sometimes, he wants to stay out later than the last bus.

“I still want to have fun,” Bradford, says, exasperated. He’s frustrated that when the more efficient Prospect Max came on line last year, express routes up and down the boulevard were cut back. The heated concrete and touch screen amenities at the new Max kiosks are little consolation.

“Now that the (local) bus stops running earlier, I have to leave wherever I am earlier to catch my way home, he says. "Sometimes I might want to stay out later.”

Even though they know they can't accomodate everyone's wishes, transit officials want to hear this kind of frustration as they enter the second phase of their redesign of the network. This is all part of a larger conversation the Kansas City Area Transit Authority is leading about how to more efficiently get people to jobs and maximize ridership in a rapidly expanding metropolitan area.

Last year, the KCATA held a series of public hearings to solicit comment. They got some 2,700 responses and came up with a draft plan. As they embark on the second phase of the effort, they’re seeking a wider pool of respondents by surveying people at some of the busiest stops in the urban core.

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Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
Yolanda Briggs is most interested in weekend service and better service north of the river.

Yolanda Briggs, 39, was getting off the Prospect Max across the street from the Lucile Bluford branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She’s a daily bus rider who spends more on transit than she can really afford. Her main message for transit officials is “zero bus fares,” referring to the ongoing conversation at city hall about funding free busses.

But in the meantime, she’s concerned about improving service on weekends north of the river, where she works at a Walmart.

“I work overnight, so I need it for the night and the morning,” she says. “It needs to be convenient down there, especially on weekends.”

Draft plan

Those who visit the tables and stops where transit officials are handing out information during this second comment period will get a survey and maps of proposed changes to existing routes. They’re available in English and Spanish and outline the so-called RideKC Next plan.

It includes:

  • 7 day a week service in the urban core  
  • adding hours to service on Truman Road
  • realigning 12th Street routes to provide service between Kansas City, Kansas, and downtown Kansas City, Missouri                                                                                                                                                   

You can go to the KCATA website to see the proposed changes, compared with existing routes, as well as take the survey to provide input as transit officials finalize redesign plans. 

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Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
David Johnson, a vice president with the KCATA, says transit officials want to hear from those who use the bus most.

David Johnson, KCATA's vice president of planning and strategy, was recently stationed at the Bluford Library. He says ridership has been down over the last few years because of inefficiencies and lack of proximity to services and jobs. So without spending more money, officials are trying to reallocate existing service and alter travel for as few people as possible. But he says inevitably, some people will see their routes disrupted.

“The good news for current passengers is that the network isn’t changing that much,” Johnson said of the proposed redesign. “The fundamentals (of the existing system) are good. The problem was it's hard to get east-west on the bus. That’s what we were hearing.”

CEO Robbie Makinen says this is a unique effort to involve the entire community in planning.

“The community has told us what they want to see in a transit system that fits their needs to get to work, healthcare and education,” says Makinen. “The system redesign is one way that KCATA is weaving itself into the fabric of the community.”

While there may not be many changes, they will, most likely, affect as many as 42 bus routes, impacting the lives of thousands of people who use public transit in the Kansas City area. Officials hope to get as much input as possible before the plans are rolled out in the fall of 2020.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org

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