Kansas City votes to make its bus system free
Kansas City, Missouri, is set to be the largest city in the country to offer free bus rides to all of its citizens.
The big picture: Kansas City is effectively a guinea pig, as other cities wait to see how the free bus ride system will play out.
- Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told Axios that Seattle has reached out to him to see how they will be implementing the free bus ride system.
Why it matters: "I think this is only the beginning for the next step in good transportation equity," Lucas said.
- For working people, saving "$1,500 or $2,000 a year on bus fare makes a difference when you make $8" an hour, Lucas said.
- He also says it will increase access to jobs.
The state of play: The base bus fare in Kansas City is currently $1.50 and a regular bus pass costs it is $50 a month.
- Students, veterans and residents receiving domestic abuse services already ride for free.
- A monthly pass accounts for 3.5% of a commuter's median income, which is $17,190, based on data from ValuePenguin.
By the numbers: The entire cost to make the bus system free is about $12 million annually, and the city will have to front $8 million, per NPR. In a city with a $1.7 billion budget, Lucas said enough cost-saving initiatives should make free bus fares possible.
- Lucas said it costs the city $2 million a year to collect bus fares and maintain the system, so that money can now go toward the free fares.
- Kansas City has a free streetcar system in some neighborhoods that's built up a healthy reserve fund, so $2 million that goes to the streetcar system will now be redirected to free busing.
- Lucas told local TV station FOX4 that the city already spends $58 million a year on its bus system.
- The city manager is tasked with finding the remaining funds needed for the free buses in the city's 2020 budget.
What's next: Lucas hopes the buses will be completely free for all residents by June 2020.
Worth noting: Other places have free bus fare for residents, but it's mainly in college towns as a service for students and university employees such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or Ann Arbor, Michigan.