Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bus to work? For 82 percent of residents, it's not feasible

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge Longer waits for buses are a fact of life in KC.
  • Longer waits for buses are a fact of life in KC.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is advertising the cost-effectiveness of commuting by bus at a time when gasoline is selling for north of $3.50 a gallon. The trouble is, fewer than 20 percent of the jobs in the Kansas City metropolitan area are reachable in 90 minutes via public transit.

Job access (or lack thereof) is one of the reasons that Kansas City ranked 90th out of 100 U.S. cities in a recent study of transit coverage. In a typical metropolitan area, residents can reach about 30 percent of jobs via transit, according to the Brookings Institution. In Kansas City, only 18 percent of jobs are reachable.

Kansas City also lags in the share of working-age residents who live near a transit stop: 47 percent, versus the the national average of 69 percent. Median wait times for transit vehicles are four minutes longer here than in an average city.

But you know all this, right? Folks just visiting -- including pro-football star Chad Ochocinco -- quickly come to the conclusion that Kansas City is cruel to people who don't own cars.

The problem seems insolvable because the metropolitan area set a course for sprawl before a coherent transit plan could be developed. As a result, communities are too spread apart for, say, a fancy light-rail system to make much sense financially.

It's a chicken-and-egg dilemma, and the individual who figures out a way to get people out of their cars in substantial numbers and at a reasonable price should be recognized with a giant statue melted from Clay Chastain's clipboards.


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