Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Big Win for Seamless Transit – The JO Returns to KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 17, 2014

The Chair of KCATA Board of Commissioners,  Robbie Makinen, and Ed Eilert, Chair of the Johnson County Commission, took part in a signing ceremony transferring management of Johnson County’s transit to the KCATA.

Johnson County Commissioner Ed Eilert and KCATA Chair Robbie Makinen

Johnson County Commissioner Ed Eilert and KCATA Chair Robbie Makinen

After 30 years KCATA will manage the transit operations for Johnson County Transit again, which includes both The JO and the Special Edition (Johnson County service for seniors and people with disabilities). The signing of the inter-local Cooperative Agreement took place at the beginning of the KCATA monthly board meeting today. KCATA will take full responsibility for management on February 1, 2015, so this is a transition period.

To make this historic change happen Makinen said the “ATA needed to establish confidence and credibility within this region and with the re-structure that is the message they wanted to send.” Makinen lead the effort to re-organize the KCATA with the purpose of REALLY being the area transportation authority and managing (or both managing and operating) all of the public transit in the region as intended when the two states signed the bi-state compact creating the agency.

Commissioner Steve Klika

Commissioner Steve Klika

Steve Klika, Johnson County Commissioner, the County’s appointee to the KCATA Board and a major player in getting this agreement accomplished in record speed of six months, talked about his commitment to this goal for a long time. He joked that his personal effort toward Johnson County Transit was to figure out how to “turn the lights out, close the doors and turn the keys over to a regional entity”, which happened today. Klika said, “We have to understand that this is a big deal. It is starting to lead a path to the regionalization of transit.” He also acknowledged that there are funding issues to deal with going forward.

When asked about the benefit to riders, Commissioner Eilert felt the benefits are going to be “the ability to offer additional connections for transit services across the metro area and a major benefit is the ability of ATA to coordinate those efforts”. He said that Johnson County ‘s struggle has been to create ridership and they hope that ATA’s abilities will lead to an increase in riders.

Signing ceremony at the KCATA Board of Commissioners Dec 17, 2014

Signing ceremony at the KCATA Board of Commissioners Dec 17, 2014

Highlights of the agreement:

  • 2-year term with an annual base cost of $475,000 with a 3% annual cost escalator
  • Johnson County retains all final decisions relating to service policy and budget
  • KCATA staff will coordinate through the County’s Transit Liaison on management and administrative activities

In addition, KCATA has agreed to implement priority placement for Johnson County Transit staff affected by this agreement through March. 2015.

The KCATA Board of Commissioners authorized staff to enter into the inter-local agreement with Johnson County to provide transit management and administrative services for $430,000 in 2015 and $489,250 in 2016.

This agreement is the first major action to utilize the functions of the recently re-organized KCATA. Earlier in the year KCATA created separate departments for the KCATA relating to transit service

  1. KCATA Managed AND Operated bus service,
    1. the METRO,
    2. The METRO buses are driven by full and part-time KCATA employees; public transit bus drivers who belong to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).
  2. KCATA Managed but NOT Operated transit service
    1. Manage existing Share-A-Fare service for seniors and people with disabilities, for the areas served by the METRO
      1. Operated by a private contractor
    2. New function: Manage (not operate) transit service for Johnson County.
      1. The JO and the Special Edition buses will continue to be operated by a private operator.
      2. In Johnson County, the operator doesn’t own the buses or set the routes or the schedules. They provide part-time drivers to operate The JO and Special Edition buses. The JO currently runs 42 commuter buses during peak service hours, which is considered a small service. Riders will not see any difference in the operations to start.

KCATA management will replace management functions previously performed by Johnson County Transit (JCT), a department of Johnson County. The personnel changes will result in approximately $455,000 savings for Johnson County.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAdditional savings are expected in the future since KCATA’s size provides greater purchasing power in capital acquisitions, such as buses, and operation costs, such as fuel. We also expect to see cost savings due to improvements to connections.

Users of the Johnson County services will still see familiar JCT faces at KCATA. Chuck Ferguson is now the KCATA Director of Planning. Shawn Strate is currently splitting his time between the two organizations, but he is now a Transit Planner at KCATA. There are several back office people from JCT that have moved to KCATA. Alice Amrein and Chris Lowe are staying at Johnson County. Amrein will be the liaison between the County and KCATA.

Riders shouldn’t expect immediate benefits or changes. There will be a transition period where KCATA learns all about The JO and Special Edition. KCATA has to evaluate the best way to integrate the services. Eliminating duplications or inefficiencies in service will take some time, but we hope the improvements are sooner rather than later and we will monitor the progress.

 In the short-term we hope to see better communications such as more schedules posted at bus stops for the JO and hopefully the electronic information boards working properly at the Mission Transit Center.

Once the full extent of the cost savings is evident KCATA should recommend more service. The Johnson County commissioners have committed to using the cost savings to improve and expand transit and not to divert the money for other purposes.

There are independent activities led by the Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC) that will have an impact in 2015. A regional fare study is already being conducted as well as a study to create a single eligibility procedure in the region to use special transportation.

Transit Action Network sees this agreement as a big leap forward toward the seamless transit system we want to function in the region and we want to thank everyone involved in making this agreement happen.

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