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What Free Transit Means to Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri will be the largest U.S. city to operate a fare-free system that officials say will make transit more accessible.
December 29, 2019, 1pm PST | Camille Fink
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David Wilson

As reported earlier in the month, the city council of Kansas City, Missouri voted to make buses in the city free. Laura Bliss provides follow up coverage to explore the potential of free transit in the city. The plan will cost $9 million annually, but officials say free transit is a worthy investment. "By increasing mobility overall, KC is looking to boost economic activity. And proponents of the plan say that helping marginalized communities move around more easily will translate into deeper benefits," says Bliss.

The plan has skeptics who argue that free fares will not necessarily boost ridership, especially if infrequent service and network gaps are an issue. Bliss also discusses other fare-free transit programs in the U.S. and European cities, where the outcomes have been a mixed bag.

Still, Kansas City is taking the lead in trying out new and innovative transportation options, as it has in the past and even if they were not always successful, Bliss points out. "At a time when public transportation systems face greater competition from ride-hailing services and other tech-enabled tools—and with climate change placing new urgency on shifting travelers out of cars—the City of Fountains has shown an unusual willingness to experiment with new ideas, transit experts say."

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Published on Friday, December 13, 2019 in CityLab
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