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Proposed KCMO budget includes $4.8M for free bus rides

Posted at 11:30 AM, Feb 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-12 23:38:51-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City has been in discussion with Kansas City, Missouri, officials to contribute up to $1 million to help launch Kansas City, Missouri’s “Zero fare transit initiative.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas made the announcement Wednesday night in his State of the City address. He said that due to a “cost-sharing agreement” with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, the city’s zero-fare transit initiative will be fully funded.

In a release also issued Wednesday night, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City stated that while “nothing is finalized,” the organization is committed to the health of its members, as well as the city itself.

Jerry Jones, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s director of community health, said that they recognize there is “more to good health than an insurance card.”

“By supporting the Zero Fare initiative, Blue KC hopes to be a part of a collaborative effort to make it easier for people to transport to all of the places that keep our people healthy and whole,” Jones said in the release. “We believe that the freedom for all Kansas Citians to connect to the places we live, work, play and pray is vital to making this the healthiest city we can be.”

On Thursday, Mayor Quinton Lucas will reveal the proposed 2020-21 budget for the city, which will include $4.8 million for the proposal branded as “Zero Fare Transit,” the mayor’s office told 41 Action News on Wednesday. More details on where in the budget that money will come from will be released Thursday.

The total projected cost of the proposal is around $8 million. According to the mayor’s office, the rest of the cost will come from a private entity, which is expected to be announced on Wednesday night, and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

Currently, a trip on a city bus costs $1.50 per ride or $50 for a monthly pass.

It’s estimated that KCATA receives about $8 million to $9 million a year from bus fares.

In a statement on social media, KCATA CEO Robbie Makinen said the agency was "optimistic" that the City Council would "honor their unanimous commitment to make transit zero fare for the residents of Kansas City."

"What greater responsibility do we have to the residents of Kansas City than the ability to break down barriers, create social justice and equality, and contribute to the economic vitality of the city through a zero fare public transit initiative," Makinen said in a tweet.

Lucas will give a State of the City speech at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the budget proposal will be presented to the City Council on Thursday.

A final budget is expected to be approved in late March. The city's new fiscal year begins on May 1.