Boarding a bus in Kansas City can be a lot easier.
Last year, researchers at the University of Minnesota ranked the Kansas City area 37th out of 46 cities for getting people to jobs with public transportation. The average Kansas City worker, the study said, can access less than one percent of all metro area jobs within 20 minutes by transit.
Regional leaders want that changed, and planners and engineers are just getting started at figuring out how to overcome that obstacle. They want to double the percentage of jobs in the Kansas City region that are accessible by transit within 90 minutes in 10 years. That number is at about 18 percent, according to a 2011 Brookings Institution report.
In pursuit of that goal, planners are working on a roadmap to link transit service to major employers throughout the region. Commuting patterns will be examined and major employment centers identified. Planners will pinpoint households without cars and assess their access to transit.
Among other things, planners will collect opinions from corporate leaders and educate them about the economic benefits of improved transit services. They also will work with community organizations to identify gaps in transit service and solutions to improving public transportation access to jobs. They will solicit public opinion about how to make transit work better for the Kansas City area.
In the end, this regional group wants to come up with a plan that better connects transit to jobs - whether that means developing new regional transit routes, extending existing transit service, adding new park-and-ride lots or identifying local service that links employers. They also will look at new and different ways to pay for service linked to employers.
The new regional plan is expected to be finished at the end of 2016.