Government & Politics

Bus service will improve access to south Johnson County jobs

Area bus service could link urban core to southern Johnson County jobs

The metro’s bus system is proposing more service from downtown KC and KCK to Johnson County employment hubs. It could start in April.
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The metro’s bus system is proposing more service from downtown KC and KCK to Johnson County employment hubs. It could start in April.

Expanded bus service begins April 2 from Kansas City’s urban core to south Johnson County jobs hubs, after the Johnson County Commission unanimously approved the plan Thursday.

“The need to get people to the growing jobs market in south Johnson County has been known for quite some time,” Dick Jarrold, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s vice president for regional planning, told the commission before the vote.

Jarrold said the bus agency has discussed the issue extensively with employers over the past six months, and has designed the service to help fit shift times at the Logistics Park companies in Edgerton. Buses will run from both downtown Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., in the mornings and again in the evenings, including on Saturdays. The route will also stop at the New Century Air Center in Olathe.

The commission approved the new RideKC service, which will cost $300,000 in this first year, from money already authorized in this year’s county budget for transit.

Commissioners endorsed the idea of using transit to connect people with good jobs in Johnson County but also emphasized that it will require employers’ commitment to promote the program, to provide incentives to use the bus passes, and to make sure the service succeeds.

“Partnering with the businesses is important,” Commissioner Steve Klika told Jarrold. “The marketing is needs to be put on high power.”

Jarrold assured him that will be the case. He said a bus pass normally costs $50 for 31 days, but the KCATA and employers can partner in subsidizing those passes so they might only cost employees $25 per month.

The service is designed for workers who lack other transportation options or want to save on gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance. It would be the region’s first transit route designed specifically as a jobs connector.

Commissioner Mike Brown, who represents south Johnson County, said he also hopes it helps a bit with significant morning traffic congestion on Interstate 35 near Edgerton and Gardner.

The goal is to have 300 riders per day by the third year. But the commissioners also called for a thorough review after two years to make sure the program is working.

Jarrold said it will be evaluated regularly, and the route and times can be tweaked to maximize ridership.

Overland Park resident Reed Plate asked why Johnson County taxpayers are funding a program to get workers from Kansas City and Kansas City, Kansas, rather than getting Johnson County residents to those jobs.

Jarrold responded that the route will include a stop at Oak Park Mall, which Johnson County residents can also use to get to those jobs. But he said the Logistics Park and New Century Air Center employers have more job openings than applicants from Johnson County.

Edgerton City Administrator Beth Linn said about half the employee cars in the Logistics Park parking lots come from south and west of Edgerton, including from Miami and Douglas counties. She said the other half come from Johnson County or from the Missouri side.

She told the commission that the Logistics Park companies, including Amazon and Jet and about a dozen other companies, always have job openings and are eager for this transit service, as an added incentive to bring in new employees and applicants.

“They were very excited about that service,” Linn said, adding that she is confident they will use it as a recruiting tool and will strongly encourage their workers to use the bus option.

The Commission also approved the use of $200,000 in budgeted funds to improve and expand Johnson County paratransit service for the disabled and special needs populations.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley