Protest At KCATA’s Board Meeting Delays Plans To Reinstate Bus Fares

Sunrise Movement’s “Better Buses” campaign triumphs as in-person testimonies and hundreds of emails resulted in KCATA dropping plans to reinstate fares. The post Protest At KCATA’s Board Meeting Delays Plans To Reinstate Bus Fares appeared first on Kansas City Defender.

Protest At KCATA’s Board Meeting Delays Plans To Reinstate Bus Fares

Sunrise Movement KC leaders protest in front of RideKC’s office in 18th & Vine. (Photo by Mason Andrew Kilpatrick and Sunrise Movement KC)

KANSAS CITY, MO — On Wednesday, December 20, 2023, Sunrise Movement and various others packed the KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting (online and in-person) to protest reinstating bus fares. 

The move comes as a result of an agenda document uploaded prior to the Board meeting, in which Frank White wrote“It is recommended that the Board of Commissioners authorize the KCATA to prepare an implementation plan during the first quarter of 2024 for reinstituting a fare system in 2025…”

KCATA Deprioritizes Community Input

Earlier this year, KCATA hired consultants to begin studying the effects of bringing bus fares back. These consultants argue that bus fare revenue would be more liquid (“unrestricted”) and address issues related to ‘loop riders’ (a dehumanizing term to address people who may ride buses for shelter or other non-transportation needs)–a clear target placed on Kansas City’s houseless population.

On December 19th, Sunrise Movement Kansas City posted KCATA’s Board of Commissoners meeting agenda with the caption: “BREAKING: KCATA LIED to Us! When we met with KCATA staff to discuss our Better Buses campaign, they told us to our faces that this Wednesday’s KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting would simply include a review of their private consultants’ study on reinstating fare. […]agenda documents for the meeting show that CEO Frank White III is requesting that the board authorize an implementation plan resulting fares coming back starting in 2025.” (@sunrisemovementkc, “BREAKING: KCATA LIED to Us!”, Instagram. December 19, 2023.)

Prior to the meeting’s start, KCATA’s Vice President of Communications Cindy Baker informed Sunrise Movement’s leaders that public comments would be limited to 10 people sharing. Later during the meeting, Chair of the Board Melissa Bynum stated that the KCATA reserved the right to limit public comments at their discretion.

Of the people who shared was Terrence Mickens II, a Kansas City Public School Teacher, who expressed how his disability first qualified him for reduced bus fare in 2018–and how much weight has been lifted off his shoulders now that bus fares are zero.

An organizer with Sunrise, Joy Mart, shared the impact Zero Fare had on their ability to secure a job recently:

“The only way for me to show up for [recent job] interviews was by riding the bus. I can tell you that had there been a fare in place this fall, I would not have been able to ride the bus as often as I did. I can also tell you that I was recently offered a job and I want to stress that I would not have this job had I not had access to a fare free bus.

Various others shared about their experiences—all expressing the common theme that bus fares have been critical to their livelihood, and that they would suffer greatly should fares be eliminated.

ZeroFare is a Life-Saving Program

A Table from the “RideKC– ZeroFare”
Executive Summary in Urban League’s State of Black Kansas City 2021 report. The table sorts 1,686 survey responses based on percentage of “Strongly Agree + Agree” responses to the series of questions “The ability to ride the bus has…” (Linwood Tauheed, Ph.D.
and Panayiotis Manalakos, Ph.D., “RideKC-ZeroFare,” State of Black Kansas City 2021. Urban League of Great Kansas City. Kansas City, Missouri

According to a study conducted by UMKC Center for Economic Information’s (CEI) for the Urban League’s 2021 State of Black Kansas City Report, a vast majority of bus riders “are quite satisfied with the ZeroFare program, and they moreover reported that it has led to a considerable improvement in their quality-of-life.”

Prior to Kansas City eliminating bus fares in 2019, the revenue collected from bus fares only constituted about 7% of the KCATA’s budget total––a point raised by several who shared during the meeting’s public comment section.

Having a zero bus fare is critical to several Kansas Citians’ survival; reinstating fares would have detrimental impacts on poor people, and be yet another attack on Missouri’s houseless population.

Reinstating fares does not address transportation as a basic need. Beyond transportation, Kansas City’s bus system connects people to community, food, healthcare, and provides a source of warmth for unhoused people. Making sure that transportation is accessible and mindful of different accessibility needs is vitally important. 

How To Take Further Action

Sunrise Movement KC, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and fighting for a livable future, initiated their “Better Buses for KC” campaign last October. Recently, they hosted a town hall meeting where they presented their demands, including the proposal for free bus fare forever. Their next town hall is scheduled for Thursday, January 18 at 6:00 PM, taking place at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church on 3800 Troost Ave. For those interested in getting involved or staying up to date with the Sunrise KC Movement, they can visit To support the Better Buses for KC campaign, which includes the demand for “Zero Fare Forever” and challenging KCATA Bus fares, a petition can be signed at

​​Sunrise Movement KC demands that by 2025 there will be fast, reliable, green, public buses for everyone in Kansas City.

1. Every Kansas City resident will live within ten-minute walking distance of a fast, frequent, reliable bus line.

2. Buses will come every 15 minutes and always be on time.

3. Public mass transit will be powered by good, dignified, unionized jobs.

4. Zero Fare forever.

5. All buses will be electrified.

6. All bus stops will be clean, accessible, and provide protection from the elements, with sidewalks, benches, and real-time transit information.

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