Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

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earthling
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Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:47 am
earthling wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:38 am
Am hoping KC strongly pursues a 2-3 year trial for free to ride buses. If it doesn't have the impact expected, then go back to fares. But needs to be more than a year to allow impact to spin up. I think KC would be largest US city to have free city-wide buses.
Working on it! Please continue sharing your thoughts! The decision makers are listening.
So let's create a dedicated thread. Probably would help to understand some financial scenarios to make it work. What ideas do others have. Should it start with major lines first or all lines? Will running free turn into running less often?

Pursuing a trial rather than a permanent path out of gate might be easier to pull off. But the trial needs to be long enough to gain some traction and properly analyze the cost/benefit. A year may not be long enough.

Let's find a way to make it happen!

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by DaveKCMO »

No one is interested in running less frequent buses just to make them free. Number one, you'd run into a major union issue (as you should!) and two the network would be less useful for job access (the other part of job access is frequency, rather than just coverage, which is why the streetcar improved our job access numbers despite not providing new coverage). https://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/ ... ement.html

The only peer-reviewed study indicates there are increased operational costs by eliminating the fare (security, higher passenger loads) so that will also have to be taken into account. http://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/167498.aspx

Currently, 100% of KCMO bus service is funded by two citywide sales taxes:

- 1/2-cent authorized by the state of Missouri with no sunset (deposited with KCMO)
- 3/8-cent authorized by voters that sunsets in 2024 (deposited with KCATA)

KCATA does not have the power to tax. The only existing mechanism is a "regional investment district" approved in the 2000s that was intended to be a bi-state thing, but Kansas never enacted their matching legislation. That authorization is capped at 1/2-cents in the three Missouri counties and the funds would be administered by MARC.

A very real scenario is the city simply provides more of the 1/2-cent sales tax than it does today. That would mean a reduction in the Public Works budget and/or a reduction in the city's $2 million contribution to the streetcar TDD. The streetcar TDD currently generates a surplus and serves one council district, so that's not a big fight.

KCATA's last three budget documents are here: https://www.kcata.org/about_kcata Note that the city's contribution from the 1/2-cent sales tax is LESS THAN the contribution from the 3/8-cent sales tax! The state requires KCATA spend 7.7% of the 1/2-cent sales tax on capital costs, so that portion can't be used for operations unless we change state law.

The RideKC Next "Choices Report" also discusses the existing KCMO network in great detail: https://ridekc.org/planning/ridekc-next

All other transit is supported by general funds from a handful of cities and counties (Johnson County, UG, and Independence representing the vast majority of remaining spend). The region underspends compared to peers and way less than "aspirational" peers like Atlanta and Minneapolis. St. Louis alone spend 3x what the KC region spends and they don't even have great frequency outside of their light rail lines and one major bus route (Grand). https://www.marc.org/Transportation/Pla ... sit-Report

Everyone should be aware that public transportation in the US is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act https://www.kcata.org/about_kcata/entries/title_vi as well as the Americans With Disabilities Act, https://www.kcata.org/about_kcata/entries/ada, so route changes and associated costs are not 100% flexible.

You should also be aware that "on demand" or "demand responsive" services have a geometric limit: You literally cannot provide many trips if you take people door to door (or "curb to curb") as you can when you ask people to come to the bus as we do with "fixed route" services. Cost per trip with on demand is $20-40 and fixed route can run as low as $1-2 (almost "profitable"). Uber's economic model is flawed -- their minimum trip charge in KC is $5-6 and that's with a major VC trip subsidy. In short, you'd never pay the full cost of an Uber trip just like you'd never pay the full price of a fixed route bus trip.

Ultimately, free service should be funded by a dedicated, regional bi-state sales tax. That would require authorization from both states and approval from voters. To get there, the business community will need to step up and make transit a priority. There's no shortage of elected officials that support transit if it wasn't competing with other general fund needs like cops, streets, and parks.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by KCPowercat »

Is there any idea what free would do to relieving car commuter traffic and hence could be sold as a cost savings to the next 500 million highway rebuild project? Getting workers to jobs that are struggling to find bodies?

I think that's the only way you get the burbs on board.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by shinatoo »

You spoke about cost increases from security and passenger loads. What about cost-saving for the elimination of the fare system. Fare collection hardware, security around the holding and processing of fares, and the personnel in the accounting department?
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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

Dave, thanks for the informed comprehensive background.

You said "Ultimately, free service should be funded by a dedicated, regional bi-state sales tax." JoCo could be a challenge. Is there another way to trial this with just KCATA system?

Also, this shows 2016 operating run rate. Looks like fares cover about 11% of operating costs for KCATA. Can a trial occur if finding another way to cover the lost fare? Or not that simple?

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by DaveKCMO »

earthling wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:38 am
Dave, thanks for the informed comprehensive background.

You said "Ultimately, free service should be funded by a dedicated, regional bi-state sales tax." JoCo could be a challenge. Is there another way to trial this with just KCATA system?

Also, this shows 2016 operating run rate. Looks like fares cover about 11% of operating costs for KCATA. Can a trial occur if finding another way to cover the lost fare? Or not that simple?
There will be some sort of trial without regional funding. Regional funding is the ultimate goal, as it keeps transit from competing with other general fund priorities and allows truly regional services that don't stop at a jurisdiction's borders.

A trial could occur at any time someone steps up to fund it. As you've seen with our free ride days, it's easy to just say we're not going to charge for a short term. We'd need to be prepared for anything longer than, say, 90 days with a plan to handle security and higher passenger loads.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by DaveKCMO »

shinatoo wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:07 am
You spoke about cost increases from security and passenger loads. What about cost-saving for the elimination of the fare system. Fare collection hardware, security around the holding and processing of fares, and the personnel in the accounting department?
I think our annual cost for fare collection is about $750,000, but it's in dire need of a multimillion dollar upgrade that isn't funded. The fareboxes are 20 years old and failing frequently (which is why we're switching to passenger counters for ridership, like streetcar). Not sure what JoCo, UG, and Indy are spending on fare collection, but it would be in addition to that. UG-operated vehicles don't even have a farebox, it's just a coin drop so their fare collection cost is very low.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by DaveKCMO »

KCPowercat wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 9:09 am
Is there any idea what free would do to relieving car commuter traffic and hence could be sold as a cost savings to the next 500 million highway rebuild project? Getting workers to jobs that are struggling to find bodies?

I think that's the only way you get the burbs on board.
There isn't enough service on I-35 or I-70 today to make a dent in congestion. You'd need more service in those limited places where KC actually experiences congestion. Also, it's a bit of a charade that transit reduces congestion overall because of induced demand. Transit gives you the opportunity to avoid congestion if there is dedicated right of way (I-35 buses can run on the shoulder if traffic is running at 35mph or less, so I'd count that but not I-70 or US-71 routes).

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:49 am
A trial could occur at any time someone steps up to fund it. As you've seen with our free ride days, it's easy to just say we're not going to charge for a short term. We'd need to be prepared for anything longer than, say, 90 days with a plan to handle security and higher passenger loads.
Would take a 90 day trial but ideally over a year so that all seasons can be analyzed and allow opportunity for the ecosystem to develop around presence of free buses everywhere. Sep-Nov would be good period, might get some snow days to analyze if more/less people would ride free bus on snow days (avoiding potential car wrecks/hazards).

A vision of how this could play out if a 2-3 year trial could somehow be pulled off...
- Free city-wide bus would allow businesses to require less/little employee/customer parking.
- Developers rely on less parking for projects.
- Businesses raise prices of the limited employee parking, encouraging more employees to take free bus.
- Maybe even Midtown/Plaza starts to charge for parking except for residents within zips (neighborhood window stickers) given presence of free buses.
- (Insert other potential impacts here)
- Near end of 2+ year the trial, the impact is assessed.
- If a reliance has built up around the free bus ecosystem, businesses will help support/fund to keep free bus city/metro wide.
- If the overall cost/benefit (including intangibles) isn't there, bring back fares.

90 days wouldn't be enough time to allow this dependency to build up or to complete a comprehensive CBA, though would give everyone a taste of what could be... and the free streetcar has already given a tasty idea of what could be if expanded city wide.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

What thoughts/ideas do others have about free city-wide bus? Dave implied that KCATA is listening to us. Let's build up some momentum and keep this on their radar.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by Anthony_Hugo98 »

earthling wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:52 am
What thoughts/ideas do others have about free city-wide bus? Dave implied that KCATA is listening to us. Let's build up some momentum and keep this on their radar.
Just for clarification, this would encompass all of the Ride KC bus fleet, even the ones operated in Johnson County and other suburbs? If so that might bring an entirely new demographic of people onto the bus because of the savings it would bring many in commuting.
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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

Dave may have meant RideKC or MARC is listening, which represent the metro. He can bring better perspective on the reality of bringing in JoCo early on but they compete with downtown and probably don't want to make it easier to attract businesses downtown. One of their cards to play is free surface lot parking in office parks, which is less effective if businesses don't need as much parking downtown. I could see JoCo joining in last at some point, when the benefit outweighs the risk for them. A good chunk of JoCo residents might also push for it eventually, except for those who fear it will 'bring in crime'.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

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dadgummit eleanor they're opening a crime max stop near our friendly neighborhood combination pizza hut and taco bell, get sherry on the line!!

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

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in all seriousness i don't envy anyone who has to figure out the logistics of a trial run, or especially to make any projections from it. presumably the value in a real free city-wide bus system would be freeing people who previously had no choice but to tie up significant percentages of their available funds in acquiring and maintaining vehicles. nobody's going to be able to do that for a trial run. so the extent to which you see "full" adopters and the attendant network impacts is going to be pretty limited.

i'm curious how the security costs alluded to above scale with added demand/ridership. one possible answer is that the routes are the routes and the security costs are on a per-leg, per-stop, or per-mile basis, but i doubt any of those answers are quite correct.

i would be very happy to see this all come together someday.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by DaveKCMO »

wahoowa wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:11 pm
in all seriousness i don't envy anyone who has to figure out the logistics of a trial run, or especially to make any projections from it.
And, unlike other projects, there are no consultants we can lean on to build a plan for us.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by smh »

wahoowa wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:56 pm
dadgummit eleanor they're opening a crime max stop near our friendly neighborhood combination pizza hut and taco bell, get sherry on the line!!
This is a quality post. =D>

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by mean »

wahoowa wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:11 pm
presumably the value in a real free city-wide bus system would be freeing people who previously had no choice but to tie up significant percentages of their available funds in acquiring and maintaining vehicles. nobody's going to be able to do that for a trial run. so the extent to which you see "full" adopters and the attendant network impacts is going to be pretty limited.
I agree, but also (and unfortunately) there must be a great majority of people who, like me, would be a lot more inclined to take the bus more often if it were free who would hang onto their vehicle because of the great many places we regularly go where bus service is so inconvenient, if not nonexistent.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

Owning a car is a luxury, not a necessity when public transit meets your needs.

And with Zipcar type services, owning a car might be considered more of a liability. You can save a lot on insurance/maintenance etc if only needing a car once in a while. Less likely the case for families in this town but % of kidless households are apparently at their highest levels.

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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

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earthling
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Re: Pursuing FREE City-Wide Bus

Post by earthling »

DaveKCMO wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:59 pm
And, unlike other projects, there are no consultants we can lean on to build a plan for us.
Worth the effort to attempt collaborating with SLC? Planning, lessons learned, challenges, etc?

Separately.. here's a list of free public transit in US. Most are a free line or two or downtown free zones. Doesn't look like any US city of significant size is doing free city or metro-wide transit.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_f ... ort_routes

Pros/Cons of city-wide free transit with list of cities doing free transit, no large cities...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_public_transport

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