Yael T. Abouhalkah

Joe Reardon needs to politely kick some butt as ATA’s new leader

Joe Reardon is a good choice as the new president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
Joe Reardon is a good choice as the new president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The Kansas City Star

Congratulations to Joe Reardon, named Wednesday as the new president and CEO of the long-beleaguered Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

Now it’s time for Reardon — the low-key former mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. — to politely kick some butt as the ATA’s new leader.

Reardon’s top priority should be working hard to change this fact: The area lacks a true regional public transit powerhouse, and that’s a huge weakness for our local economy.

People can’t get around this sprawling metroplex either conveniently or cheaply enough on buses.

Reardon will need to work closely with The JO, Johnson County’s bus service, as well as with transit agencies in Independence and Wyandotte County that serve other parts of the community.

If Reardon can help create a more regionally unified transit agency, people more easily could get to their jobs. Plus, residents in poorer parts of the region could get better access to good public transportation.

Reardon also will need to focus on saving money and making sure the ATA has the right-sized bus with the appropriately paid drivers on those routes.

Finally, he must make sure the ATA follows through with plans to change its service in downtown Kansas City as the new streetcar comes on line in early 2016.

ATA chairman Robbie Makinen told The Star: “The bottom line is that we’re hiring Joe Reardon because he is uniquely qualified to advance the new vision of the ATA, which is to create an integrated transportation system and for the ATA to become the regional transit authority it was meant to be.”

Reardon is one of the too-small number of leading officials on the Kansas side of the state line who has talked about the importance of regional cooperation being a high priority in bolstering this area’s economic future.

That’s a mark in his favor, and should help give him credibility as he reaches out to both Missouri- and Kansas-side elected officials.

“I think a unified transit system is a key component to moving Kansas City as a region forward,” Reardon said.

The ATA gets plenty of tax money from Kansas Citians each year, who pay seven-eighths-cent in sales taxes toward transportation. Residents have not received a good enough return on that money for years.

Reardon can help change that fact, not just for Kansas Citians but also for other metropolitan area residents, as he tries to make the ATA a true facilitator of regional bus service.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.