Government & Politics

KCATA offers helping hand — and a free bus ride — to federal workers during shutdown

Federal government employees in the Kansas City area will be allowed to ride the bus for free for the duration of the government shutdown, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority officials announced on Monday.

Beginning immediately, all government employees will be able to ride all forms of KCATA’s city-wide, regional transit for free by showing their government ID.

The announcement comes as a response to what has now become the longest shutdown of the U.S. federal government in history.

The partial shutdown, which began on Dec. 22 and has put some 800,000 federal workers on furlough, stems from President Donald Trump’s struggle with politicians in Washington on issues of U.S. border security, particularly the funding of a border wall on the southern border with Mexico.

The Federal Executive Board estimates the shutdown has left about 9,000 federal workers in the Kansas City area without pay.

Robbie Makinen, KCATA’s CEO and President, said the idea to extend free rides to area government employees came from KCATA workers themselves, who were brainstorming how they could help the furloughed workers.

“Our mission statement is connecting people to people,” Makinen said after a news conference Monday afternoon announcing the policy. “We at the KCATA see this as a necessary and critical path forward in doing just that and allowing those workers to take a load off their shoulders.”

The KCATA said the policy is the first of its kind enacted in the nation and will affect some 19,000 federal government employees in the region.

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Aaron Randle is the Star’s “Divided City” enterprise reporter, tasked with exploring the cultural intersections that shape — and divide — Kansas City and Kansas Citians.