Cities Turn to Transit Improvements to Shape Their Future

The idea to bring fare-free transit to Kansas City, Mo., started much like any other annual budget planning session and grew into something more.

“And it just leads you to kind of dream a bit,” is the way Mayor Quinton Lucas described the idea’s origins during the American Public Transit Association (APTA) TRANSform Conference last month.

He explained how the review of budgets brought to the foreground some realizations about fare collection — and the many complexities around it, like acquiring new equipment, counting money, and interactions between bus operators and riders…

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s (KCATA) move toward eliminating fares started off with “taking off small bites,” said Lucas, which meant removing fares for certain groups like those residents experiencing homelessness, school children and veterans. By 2020, the city’s transit service then removed fares for everyone, in an experiment watched anxiously by other transit agencies, city officials and naysayers.