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Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

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.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says that without focusing on basic city services in 2020, any goodwill that’s been built up means nothing.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is set to release his proposed budget Thursday, and it’s roughly $3 million short of what transportation officials say they need to get rid of bus fares.

Kansas City, Missouri, got national attention last year when the city council pledged to find the money to go fare-free. Officials at the time estimated that it would cost $8 million to pull off.

Segment 1: Kansas City's transportation stories to watch in 2020

A preview of the transportation issues KCUR will be following this year included the Kansas City, Missouri streetcar, free bus rides for those in the city, equity and mobility in the single-terminal KCI project and that futuristic 30-minute ride from Kansas City to St. Louis via the Hyperloop.

Transit isn't about vehicles. It's about people.

When Robbie Makinen lost his vision in 2013 and suddenly had to get around town without his sight, he came to understand that more clearly than ever. Here's his story.

  • Robbie Makinen, CEO, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The Prospect Avenue MAX bus line that begins running on Monday will charge no fares for the first three months. The $56 million system built with federal grants and local matching funds features faster, more comfortable buses with wifi, and heated concrete benches at the stops.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said making the service available at no charge is a step toward zero fare transit city-wide.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Two years ago, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority gave veterans free bus passes. The next year, students became the beneficiaries of the zero fare policy. According to KCATA, 23% of riders over the past several years have not paid a dime to ride the bus.  

Transit officials argue the policy gives individuals and families more money to pump back into the local economy and that it improves the safety and efficiency of the system.

Segment 1: How a fractured school system contributes to problems with transportation.

Kansas City, Missouri, public school kids travel to school on dated buses that crisscross the city inefficiently. That cuts into school budgets, as well as time spent in class and on extra-curriculars. Big thinkers are taking on the issue and envisioning new models for getting kids to and from school.

Segment 1: Schulte talks of the progress and set-backs Kansas City faced during his term as city manager.

Troy Schulte's 10-year term as manager of Kansas City, Missouri, will in a few months come to a close. He said one of the hardest things about his job was finding a balance in handling pressing crises and working toward long-term goals. Schulte talked about things he's proud of, like the new airport terminal design, which is set to acheive net-zero carbon emissions. He also spoke of critical issues, like the overcrowding in city jails.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is expanding the Safe Place to include bus routes in Independence, Overland Park, and Kansas City, Kansas.

Arnetta Young, 55, has been a Kansas City bus operator for 20 years. Kansas City busses have been part of the national Safe Space program all that time.

Segment 1: School across Kansas and Missouri struggle each year to fill teaching positions.

Having enough teachers to fill classrooms is a perennial problem for schools in all parts of the Kansas City metro. Raytown Schools has created a novel way to address the shortage in their district, but several factors, including pay, are working against Missouri and Kansas districts' efforts to attract and retain qualified talent.

Transit isn't about vehicles; it's about people. When Robbie Makinen lost his vision in 2013 and suddenly had to get around town without his sight, he came to understand that more clearly than ever. Here's his story.

  • Robbie Makinen, CEO, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

Anzacosf2010 / Wikimedia Commons

Free public transportation is a bold initiative, and the head of Kansas City's regional transit agency thinks it's viable for Kansas City.

Robbie Makinen, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, has been a leading proponent of several programs aiming to improve the efficiency of bus service in the region.

But he wants improvements to go beyond the physical transportation itself.

Segment 1: An overhaul of the public transportation system needs input from residents.  

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and RideKC is undertaking a system redesign that would bring more than just new bus routes to the metro. To help meet the current needs of riders, they are surveying residents and commuters to find out what's most important to them in public transit.

Segment 1: Race Project KC is educating high school students on structural racism in Kansas City.

Built off of Tanner Colby's book "Some of My Best Friends Are Black," Johnson County Library takes students on a bus tour to provide lessons on the ways that segregration is ingrained in the foundation of the city. Shawnee Mission East student Oliver Henry said the tour helped her better understand the lack of diversity at her school. 

Public Transit In Kansas City

Mar 27, 2019

Public transit is losing riders across the country, and Kansas City is no exception. In this conversation, we find out what's being done to adapt to the changing transportation needs of Kansas Citians.

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Students in Kansas City Public Schools will ride to school next year on new propane-fueled buses, part of a three-year, $60.6 million transportation contract with Student Transportation of America.

“We’re very excited about that,” said Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for the district, after the school board voted to approve the contract Wednesday night.

KCATA

The plans for a rapid bus line along Prospect Avenue in Kansas City are no longer on hold after long-awaited federal funding came through Monday. 

Big Stock

The father of a 19-year-old Shawnee Mission South student says his daughter was sexually assaulted last April on a school bus as she was returning home from school.

The allegations are detailed in a lawsuit filed this week against First Student Inc., which last year lost its transportation contract with the Shawnee Mission School District.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Changing bell times could save the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District more than $600,000 next year.

Three late-start elementary schools – Cedar Creek, Lee’s Summit and Trailridge – will start and end 40 minutes earlier next year.

For the first time, the district’s three high schools will all be on the same schedule.

Deputy Supt. Brent Blevins says current bus routes were set when the district was much smaller.

KCATA

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) describes the Metro Area Express, or MAX, as "light rail on rubber tires." The city's bus rapid transit launched in 2005, and serves residential and commercial corridors along Main Street and Troost Avenue.

Jarrett Stewart / Flickr-CC

Kansas City officials were disappointed last week when they found out Kansas City will not receive a federal Smart City grant to help pay for enhancements to the planned Prospect MAX rapid bus line.

This is the second time the city was passed over for a Smart City grant

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

Pull into the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot for a Kansas City Chiefs game and what do you notice? Besides the plume of smoke from the barbeque grills, you can’t miss the sea of red. Not only do fans wear the colors, more tailgate vehicles display them.

And, in recent years, more old school buses are converted into party buses. 

As time ran short before the Chiefs pre-season opener against Seattle on Aug. 13, Dallas Kidd and his co-workers used 30 cans of spray paint to transform a small, old yellow school bus into a party vehicle for Chiefs games.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

After months (some would say decades) of anticipation, Kansas City will once again have a downtown streetcar line. It opens Friday. You may have heard the buzz and the hype. You might have read about the delays and labor disputes. But now, really, all you care about is this question: when can I ride it? 

What would you do with $50 million?

Kansas City Chief Innovation officer Bob Bennett would incorporate autonomous vehicles into public transportation, enable your car to connect with other vehicles, and create a “smart” Prospect bus line that’s Wi-Fi enabled and can sense what’s going on around it.

Courtesy of KCATA

Kansas Citians will soon be able to request on-demand rides to stops not on the regional bus system.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority announced Thursday it will launch a new shuttle service called Ride KC: Bridj in March.

“We want to be a transit authority, not just a bus company,” says KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen. “What that means is offering options and connections. Connect the dots.”

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Every Tuesday and Friday, about a dozen seniors from the Santa Fe Towers Apartments in Overland Park eagerly drop quarters into the fare box of the 812 Flex route bus. 

Many of the passengers are old hats when it comes to public transit. They've got their fare ready well before they get on the bus, and some pull along wheeled baskets to tote around the groceries they'll get from Hy-Vee.

One of the riders on a recent Tuesday was a woman named Carolyn, who asked that only her first name be used. She's used buses to get around Johnson County for the past 7 years.

Paul Sableman / Flickr-CC

Just like the millions of people who will make resolutions this week, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is making changes in the new year. 

The transit service will extend its 107 line in Kansas City, Kansas, to connect the transit center on Johnson Drive in Mission to KU Med Center. Riders can also go from there to downtown Kansas City, Missouri, if they choose.

Cindy Baker with the KCATA says officials consider the expansion to be the metro's first truly regional route, and hope KU Med employees take advantage of it.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Around two dozen community members joined Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) officials and Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed on a tour of Prospect Avenue Wednesday to give feedback on the proposed Prospect MAX bus line.

The $54 million project is currently in its early development phase while the Federal Transit Administration mulls over the ATA's application for federal funds. The ATA asked for $30 million, and the city just passed a resolution pledging matching funds of $12.4 million. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The Federal Transit Administration has given first-round approval to a big overhaul of Kansas City's Prospect Avenue bus line.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has been working for several years to turn the route into a MAX line like the Main Street and Troost Avenue routes.

The Transit Administration's approval means the project can now move into its development phase, and the KCATA can start trying to secure federal funding to help offset the estimated $54 million price tag.

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