Kansas City To Make Its Bus System Fare-Free. Will Cleveland Do the Same?

Blair Alexis

Kansas City is taking a fresh approach to its public transit system.

Beginning in 2020, all fares will be eliminated for its riders. This will make Kansas City the first major city to offer free public transportation. This approach will not only break financial barriers for residents of Kansas City, but will also eliminate fare evaders.

An increase of passengers is expected for the pioneering city which would create environmental benefits as well. By moving more people with fewer vehicles, public transportation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to its 2018 budget, the Kansas City bus system services about 44,000 passengers on an average weekday, and 1.2% of Kansas City residents commute to work via public transit.

So, what about a city like Cleveland, where more residents are using the public transit system. “The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) provides transportation services for 150,000-200,000 customers on a typical weekday” (riderta.com/overview).

With approximately $280 million in Operating expenditures and nearly 50% being salaries and overtime, eliminating fares could decrease the need for security. This reduction in salaries could cover the fare revenue. “Passenger fares cover approximately 18-20 percent of the operating cost of RTA’s service” (www.riderta.com/financialmanagementinitiatives).

Could this be a possibility for residents in our own city? And how would this change the passenger experience?  It’ll take time before we can truly measure the success of Kansas City’s bus initiative. “I believe that people have a right to move about this city,” Kansas City district councilman, Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the measure along with Mayor Quinton Lucas, told a local radio station. “I don’t want to do it for any sort of national recognition; I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do.”


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