Johnson County’s decision to expand its Special Edition bus service has opened up a new, inexpensive way for Olathe’s Micah Ruzich to get to work.
Legally blind, the 32-year-old Ruzich had been a regular for years on the Special Edition, which offers transit service to seniors, riders with disabilities and less affluent residents.
Ruzich, who is totally blind in her right eye and uses a cane to get around, turned to a cab when her employer hop-scotched across the state line into Missouri where Special Edition doesn’t run unless she had a medical or dental appointment.
Now, that’s changing. Johnson County’s decision last summer to spend more on transit is clearing the path for Special Edition to now serve parts of Kansas City, Mo., and Wyandotte County without requiring a medical appointment.
The new service will benefit between 1,300 and 1,800 people who now rely on Special Edition for transportation in Johnson County, but might want to get to work or go shopping in parts of Kansas City or Wyandotte County. It’s estimated there are as many as 123,000 Johnson County residents who meet either the age, income or disability requirements for Special Edition.
The expanded service means Ruzich can save between $26 and $30 that she spent on cab fare to make the 16-mile trip from her Olathe home to work just across the state line near Interstate 435 in south Kansas City.
“It really helps,” Ruzich said of the new policy. “It not only helps me be more independent, but it’s going to help other people as well. This will benefit a lot of people.”
Up until this year, Special Edition served Johnson County riders in an area generally bounded by 159th Street on the south, Kansas 7 in the west, State Line Road in the east and 47th Street in the north.
Trips had been limited to the service area with the exception of medical and dental appointments outside the county.
Now, the county is giving Special Edition riders the flexibility to leave the county for any reason, but within an area including downtown Kansas City, Mo., the Country Club Plaza, the Waldo/Brookside areas in Kansas City, Mo., and downtown Kansas City, Ks.
The expanded transportation options are a step to creating a single, regional transportation network, said Steve Klika, chairman of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and a member of the Johnson County Commission.
“We’ve got to give people accessibility beyond the county and the state lines,” Klika said. “We have people who have got to get to jobs in Johnson County from Kansas City and vice versa. We don’t have to stop at the state and county line anymore.”
“The cornerstone of the KCATA is breaking down barriers that keep people from easily getting around,” said Robbie Makinen, president and chief executive officer of the KCATA. “Whether it’s regional transit policies, or people who simply don’t have a car, or those who have disabilities, this service expansion is a major step toward building one regional transit system for everyone.”
Riders interested in using Special Edition can find more information here. Special Edition operates Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. It doesn’t operate on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To be eligible for the service, a Johnson County resident must live within the service area boundaries. They also must be: