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March 4, 2020  

Will Kansas City Actually Offer Free Transit? Should It?

March 4, 2020

Kansas City, Missouri recently made news by becoming the first major metropolitan area to announce plans to offer free bus service throughout the city. Coverage of this story has been mostly positive...but there have been critiques and warnings as well.

Among the latter is “There’s no such thing as a free bus.” Writing last month in The Hill, Patrick Tuohey, director of the Better Cities Project, describes previous fare-free experiments in Austin and Denver that led to “overcrowded buses, disruptive passengers, and unhappy bus operators.” There are other concerns, says Tuohey, not least of which is that the money to pay for it isn’t there yet:

The city’s next fiscal year does not begin until May 1, and the just-released budget proposal does not include enough money for fare-free buses.

Kansas City’s free transit—and Tuohey’s article—are the subjects of today’s episode of Upzoned. Host Abby Kinney, an urban planner based in Kansas City, is joined by Chuck Marohn, founder and president of Strong Towns. Together, they discuss the promise and perils of “free” transit, the kinds of conversations (especially around equity and land use) this plan is spurring locally, and why the argument that we should subsidize transit because we’re already subsidizing cars doesn’t hold water.

Then on the Downzoned, Chuck recommends The Chaos Imperative, a book about why businesses and organizations should create room for disruption, and Abby introduces the new website for Gould Evans Studio for City Design.

Additional Show Notes