Kansas City becomes first major American city with universal fare-free public transit

Kansas City's streetcar has been free since it opened, and is now joined by the city's bus system. PHOTO BY NATE SHEETS

Today, Kansas City became the first major American city to have fare-free public transit.

City council voted unanimously to make city bus routes fare-free, reports KSHB, directing the city manager to develop and enact a plan. The city’s light rail was already free.

Free bus service, which is expected to cost about $8 million, has been pitched as a major help to low-income residents who rely on transit to commute to work.

New mayor Quinton Lucas helped spearhead the plan with the support of city opinion leaders including the Kansas City Star‘s editorial board.

Other supporters included City Councilman Eric Bunch.

“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,” Bunch told KSHB. “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.”

Public transit has become a focus on intense political activity in cities across the country as young climate change protestors demand investment in mass transit to help battle climate change.

While progressive Kansas City enacts universal fare-free transit, other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, are redoubling efforts to crack down on scofflaws and hiring more transit cops to deter free riders.

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