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Kansas City Becomes First Major US City to Make Public Transportation Free

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It’s not surprising that fare-free public transportation is popular with commuters and Kansas City made history last week by becoming the first city in the US to do away with fares on public transport.

The city council unanimously voted to endorse the ‘Zero Fare Transit’ proposal for all city bus routes and directed the city manager to develop and implement the plan. The Kansas City streetcar has been fare-free since it started operating.

According to a report by WDAF, despite the estimated cost of $8 million, city officials see the plan as a good investment and not as ‘wasteful expenditure’ or a ‘burden on taxpayers.’

City Councilman Eric Bunch supports the plan, saying:

“When we’re talking about improving people’s lives who are our most vulnerable citizens, I don’t think there’s any question that we need to find that money.

That’s not a ton of money and it’s money that we as a city, if we want to prioritize public transportation, it’s something that we can find.”

New Mayor Quinton Lucas also strongly supports the plan as do many city residents, however the move also has its nay-sayers who believe the move will be expensive to taxpayers.

Resident Teresa Bradshaw said: “If you take it away, then where are our taxes going to go? How high are the taxes? It’s got to come from somewhere.”

The editorial board of the Kansas City Star, in favor of the new measure, argued that the money can easily be found elsewhere, as argued in an editorial last month:

“A good first step would be to stop giving away tax revenue to developers. Other efficiencies, including elimination of fare boxes on buses, could help. So could reclaiming sales tax dollars now subsidizing the streetcar.”

Supporters believe the move has numerous benefits, including strengthening the local economy and reducing the environmental impact of private transportation. With the increasing popularity of fare-free public transit for cities like Denver and Salt Lake City the idea was discussed in recent city elections.

Worldwide, climate change protesters and livable city advocates have demanded increased investment in mass transportation amid rising awareness of climate change.

And then, on the complete opposite side of the scale, cities in the US including Portland, Oregon, and New York City, municipalities are spending their tax dollars by installing cameras and hiring more transit police to crack down on and criminalize those evading their often-expensive transit fare. Go figure!

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