The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority joined up with transit agencies across Kansas last week to make the case for public transportation to the state Legislature.
A delegation from the KCATA, led by Chief Government Affairs Officer Paul Snider, traveled to Topeka for Transit Day at the state capitol.
KCATA representatives mingled with lawmakers, explaining the KCATA’s role in managing bus service in Johnson County. They also met with Johnson County lawmakers and testified on behalf of a bill expanding bus-on-shoulder operations in Wyandotte County.
Kansas Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson addressed state transit agencies in a brief speech at the capitol, explaining how the agency supports roughly 150 cities, counties and non-profit agencies in providing transportation for those in need.
“Public transit is a key part of our transportation system as it provides access to social services, medical services and general public transportation to those that are otherwise unable to access these essential services,” Carlson told transit agency officials.
The trip to Topeka was another example of how the KCATA is fulfilling its regional mission as a bi-state transit organization. Working on behalf of Johnson County, the KCATA is lobbying for a couple of bills in this year’s legislative session that will make bus service better and safer.
“In addition to ongoing conversations in the Kansas City area about creating a better public transportation system, policymakers in Topeka are starting to hear the same message about the value we provide,” Snider said. “We’re building momentum.”
Lawmakers are already advancing a bill allowing buses to run on the shoulder of Interstate 35 in Wyandotte County.
Buses can now use the shoulder on I-35 in Johnson County from 95th Street to Lamar Avenue. The bill would extend the area from Lamar to the Missouri state line through Wyandotte County.
Another bill would give new protections for bus operators in Kansas. The pending legislation would increase the penalty for an assault against a public transportation employee to a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of six months in jail. The penalty is now a one-month maximum.
The penalty for battery against an operator would increase to a Class A misdemeanor and a maximum of one year in jail. The punishment is now a six-month maximum.
The bill also would allow transit systems to bar anyone from a bus who’s been convicted of assault or battery against an operator.
The proposed penalties in Kansas come after the KCATA successfully won approval of a law that started this year increasing the punishment for assaults on operators in Missouri.