Northeast Chamber of Commerce discusses Independence MAX and Employer Pass Program at monthly meeting

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

Tuesday, November 27th, the Northeast Chamber of Commerce held their monthly luncheon to discuss the Employer Pass Program and plans for Independence MAX bus service.

Residents and local business owners in the Northeast gathered for a presentation by Shawn Strate, Planning Manager with Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), on the proposed Independence MAX, a bus rapid transit line that would stretch along the densely-populated nine-mile span of Independence Avenue, connecting downtown Kansas City to downtown Independence.

A study was conducted early this year by KCATA to determine if incorporating a bus rapid transit line along Independence Avenue is feasible and to seek an optimal way to connect these two destinations. Public meetings have been held to address questions and concerns of those living and working along the Avenue.

Some unique features of MAX include frequent service, traffic signal priority, fewer stops, MAX stations with lighting that are larger than average bus stops, dedicated bus lanes, interactive kiosks, off-board fare collection, distinctly sleek-designed vehicles, and unique branding. In addition, one of the customer-friendly MAX features includes real-time arrival information that helps transit customers know exactly when MAX will arrive.

This would be the fourth MAX transit line in Kansas City in addition to Troost, Main St, and Prospect. Main MAX opened in 2005 and Troost MAX opened in 2011. Prospect is still currently under construction. Both routes have positively impacted the community with improved job access, streetscape improvements, transit-related economic development, improved safety, and public artwork.

KCATA estimates Prospect MAX project will cost approximately $54 million. The project will be funded through a mix of federal and local funds and service is anticipated to begin in 2020.

The Independence MAX project could result in the first East-West BRT route in Kansas City. While it is still in its embryonic stages, if approved, it would be roughly six or seven years before services are offered to the community. The proposal is in such early stages of development there is no estimated cost at this time.

Ultimately, this project would result in a more frequent and reliable form of transportation for those living and working along Independence Avenue.

JoLene Taylor with RideKC also spoke during the luncheon, highlighting the Employer Pass Program, an incentive for employers in Kansas City to offer a 31-day bus pass at a reduced price to employees.

Currently, a regular bus pass is $50 and is good for 31 days on all MAX, local RideKC routes (numbers 1-499) and 519, 563, 569, 571 and 595. The Employer Pass Program would allow employers to pay a portion of that cost (between $5 and $45) and Ride KC would take an additional $5 off. If employers and RideKC both contributed $5, this 31-day pass would be reduced to $40 for employees.

This offers employers a host of benefits. Contributions toward the cost of a bus pass are tax deductible, it would give employers an edge in hiring, and it would promote public transportation that could assist businesses that have limited parking space or limited budget for parking lots.

This reduced pass would also be an advantage to employees.  With a discounted bus pass, employees would be saving money on the pass itself as well as not purchasing as much fuel. Workers would also not put as much wear and tear on a personal vehicle and are offered two free taxi rides home every year in case of an emergency.

RideKC also offers a  free one-day pass for riders who download the new app, available on both Apple and Android. Riders can pay their fare, plan their trip, and track their ride via the app. To get the app, search “RideKC” in the app or Play Store, or visit ridekc.org/fares/mobile-payment-app.
KCATA and three area school districts also offer a new Student Pass Program that give ninth through 12th graders free, unlimited access to public transportation throughout the region.

The one-year pilot program is designed to connect students to opportunities for jobs, internships and extracurricular activities outside of regular school hours.

Veterans in the community receive bus passes for free. All U.S. Veterans may visit the Veterans Community Project at 8900 Troost Ave to sign up and receive a free pass.

Students currently enrolled at UMKC, MCC, KCAI, and KCKCC receive a student I.D. which doubles as a free bus pass.

Reduced fare cards are also available to youth ages 6-18, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and Medicare card holders.

For more information on the proposed Independence MAX project, visit kcata.org. To learn more about the Employer Pass Program, visit RideKC.org.

Bus passes can be purchased through the RideKC app, on-board the buses, online at RideKC.org, at the RideKC Headquarters at 1200 E. 18th St., or at all official pass outlets.

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