News & Opinion | December 6, 2019 10:01 am

Kansas City Votes to Eliminate All Fees for Using Public Transit

A city council voted unanimously to fund free bus service for the Missouri metropolis

Buses in Kansas City.
Buses in Kansas City. (RideKC)

Earlier this week, the Kansas City Council voted unanimously to make the city the largest in the country to eliminate bus fares.

The vote allows Kansas City’s city manager to allocate up to $8 million from the city budget to fund the free bus service.

City Councilman Eric Bunch, who co-sponsored the measure with Mayor Quinton Lucas, said making buses free across the city was “the right thing to do.”

“When we’re talking about improving people’s lives who are our most vulnerable citizens, I don’t think there’s any question that we need to find that money,” Bunch told KSHB. “That’s not a ton of money and it’s money that we as a city, if we want to prioritize public transportation, it’s something that we can find.”

Robbie Makinen, the head of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, estimated that about 20 percent of bus riders within the city’s metro area already ride for free, including veterans and high school students in three districts.

Makinen told KCUR that going fare-free across the entire system will cost about $12 million a year and that keeping the current $1.50 would be a better boost to the economy than eliminating it entirely.

“It’s not going to leave the state,” Makinen told KCUR. “It’s going to go right back into the local economy, buying a pair of tennis shoes, buying some bread, buying whatever, generating sales tax … Which we get a piece of anyway.”

The city’s light rail is already free.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.