KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In less than one year, veterans in the Kansas City area rode the bus for free more than one million times.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority launched a free bus pass for veterans in May 2017. It was the first transit group in the country to give veterans free rides. Organizers never expected to reach one million free rides this quickly and say that number proves the need for affordable transportation in the region.
"At the end of the day, this is about people," explained KCATA CEO Robbie Makinen. "If you don't look at public transit as inanimate objects going up and down the street, and you look at it as the lens of this is about people and connecting people to opportunities and giving people access and opportunity, that changes the whole mindset."
The KCATA partnered with the Veterans Community Project to offer the free rides. Organizers say giving free rides opens an entire city of resources to veterans.
Brandonn Mixon at Veterans Community Project said he's heard success stories of veterans getting jobs thanks to a free ride.
"We are motivating and driving these guys now that never had transportation before," Mixon said. "You see this program is making a huge impact."
Makinen said over the past year, several cities have reached out to Kansas City for advice on how to replicate the program. Makinen said Ride KC is exploring ways to offer similar programs to safety net organizations, schools and non-profits.
Veterans interested in getting a free pass need to visit the Veterans Community Project at 8900 Troost. Click here for more information.
The Greater Kansas City Labor Unions/AFL-CIO has sponsored this program through 2020. Makinen said the program will stay in Kansas City on a permanent basis.