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.