This region’s long-fragmented public transit systems are moving in some positive directions at the start of 2016.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has removed more than 60 bus stops in the downtown area, part of a larger reduction of stops throughout its system.
These actions should lead to smoother rides for passengers, who won’t be jerking to a stop every block or so along various routes but especially in the sometimes congested downtown.
As ATA officials acknowledge, some passengers will have to walk a bit farther to reach a stop in their neighborhoods when catching a bus to work or after work when heading home. However, few if any passengers used most of the removed stops, according to data compiled by the ATA.
The authority also hopes to save some money on fuel because buses will be stopping and starting less often.
Finally, it will take some time to see whether the smoother rides also cut the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B on ATA routes. Some of the time savings created with fewer stops will be eaten up by slightly longer waits at existing stops as buses pick up a few more passengers at a time.
In another upbeat development, The JO bus system that serves Johnson County residents — and connects to other metro transit lines — has set all of its local fares at $1.50 a ride. That’s actually a price reduction on some routes.
This is part of a coordinated strategy to establish a one-price-fits-all system for the four major bus providers in the metropolitan area. Passengers will know it costs $1.50 to ride ATA buses as well as those that serve Johnson County, Independence and Wyandotte County.
The price cut by The JO is part of a noteworthy larger plan to reduce confusion over fares, making it a little more convenient for potential passengers.
ATA board chairman Robbie Makinen properly notes that transit agencies are trying to connect their routes more seamlessly, while reducing confusion over fares. And the four major organizations have joined to promote a RideKC branding effort.
All of this could help public transit “break down the wall” between Johnson County and Kansas City, Makinen said this week.
The ultimate goals are to attract more riders and more efficiently get them to and from work and school. Later this year, the ATA should provide updates on whether the authority and its partners are meeting these goals.