View schedules and maps, and watch a video explaining the system at the IndeBus page on the Independence website.
The shift from KCATA to First Transit for the local routes will cost Independence about $14,000 more than previously, but the city calculates a 30% increase in transit miles and 30% more hours of service by eliminating the current 2-hour break in the middle of the day. Service will run until about 6:00 pm.
First Transit will also operate the local para-transit (IndeAccess), and local senior service (IndeAcess+) transportation services within Independence. These services replace the local Dial-A-Ride service. There is a new photo ID and coupon program for qualified riders. KCATA will continue to provide the Share-A-Fare para-transit service from Independence into Kansas City and Share-A-Fare services will continue to be available in most of Independence.
KCATA will continue to provide inter-city service connecting Independence to Kansas City on routes 24 and 15X (previously the 24X). Check the new Metro schedules.
Beginning July 2nd, all questions for IndeBus, IndeAccess, and IndeAccess+ will be answered by First Transit at 461-IBUS (4287). For questions related to the 24 and 15x Routes or ShareAFare, riders can continue to call the KCATA Regional Call Center. Independence is currently including transfer information in its local training for the 461-IBUS call center. First Transit operators should work through alternatives for transfers and trips with riders. Independence is not contracting with the Regional Call Center to provide information about their local buses. The Regional Call Center can answer questions about all the Metro services.
Explaining the route changes and new operator, Independence Director of Community Development Jennifer Clark said, “Independence is responding to rider demand and interests. This is a rider focused model and reflects the best interests of the community.”
Improvements to the system include having a full time employee responsible for the Transit Center at Truman and Noland Roads to make sure it is clean and functioning. In addition, the new local buses will have two wheelchair slots instead of one. Buses all have GPS, and an app from TransLoc will be available for real-time information about buses using a smart phones. Check the city website to download the app in July.
At this point there is a compatibility problem between the Metro and IndeBus fareboxes, but the two system operators are working with the farebox vendor to resolve the problem. The solution may not be in place by July 2nd, in which case riders using both systems will be instructed on how to use a transfer or monthly pass.
For more information watch Clark’s presentation about the new transit system to the Independence City Council on June 25. Her presentation starts at 24:36 minutes into the video and lasts about 17 minutes.
The City Council Transit Committee plans to initiate a public input process. Although it hasn’t been defined yet, it will represent a mix of interests such as riders, residents and businesses, and will report back to the Transit Committee on matters such as efficiency of operations and customer satisfaction. We think this committee is a good idea, and that all transit agencies should have a similar stakeholder committee that meets regularly to provide feedback.
One cloud still hanging over the new service is whether Independence will receive a share of federal funds that come to the Kansas City region through KCATA for its local routes. Currently the cost of the transit service provided to Independence by KCATA is offset by approximately $600,000 annually, $400,000 of which is allocated for local routes.
Two issues affect this money.
- KCATA is in the process of defining a formula to distribute or apply these federal funds throughout the region, and Independence may qualify for less money under the new formula, especially since they are using a private operator.
- Section 13c of the Federal Transit Law protects public transportation workers if operations are shifted to a private provider. This law could be used to prevent Independence from receiving this money for the local routes. Jonothan Walker, president of local 1287 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, has told us the ATU is working on several fronts, including monitoring Independence’s use of these federal funds. “None of the new service shall receive funding except private. If Independence tries to use it (federal funds) for expansion of lines and for private use, they may find our ATU International legal team involved.” See our previous article for more information Independence Ponders Transit Options (Dec 6, 2011).
Independence was aware of these funding issues before contracting with First Transit, and is monitoring the funding situation. TAN is concerned that if the federal funding is withheld from Independence, it would have a negative impact on transit service in Independence. We hope that Independence has a plan to deal with that situation if it happens, and that Independence riders are well served by their new local routes.