From President & CEO Robbie Makinen
The year 2017 may be drawing to a close, but it has opened up new prospects for connecting the region to new opportunities in 2018. It’s been a year of internal assessment and external advocacy, of investing in the basics, and building on the momentum generated over the last couple of years.
The good news headlines were plentiful; yet the year was not without challenges. Because of budget constraints, a number of low ridership routes were modified to run more efficiently, and we had our first reduction in workforce in over a decade. While it wasn’t easy, I’m happy to report that expenses will be under budget for 2017, and the 2018 budget is balanced without tapping into reserves.
One of the things I am most excited about is the Veterans Pass that we rolled out last May. With this pass, veterans are able to ride all regional transit for free. This program means so much more than simply providing ½ a million free trips to veterans. It is a catalyst that drives economic and community development by providing veterans access to jobs, education, services and friends and family.
Our next major win is the launch of RideKC Freedom On-Demand. In just six months, more than 30,000 trips have been taken on Freedom, almost entirely by current paratransit users. With Freedom On-Demand there is no more advance scheduling or long wait times. It’s premium service at an affordable cost. This public-private partnership has the potential to be a socio-economic equalizer in our community. But we’ve only just begun. As we head into 2018, we will expand our market for Freedom On-Demand regionally. We’ll also promote the service to non-paratransit users. Each of those trips by the general public will bring five percent back to the agency to invest in paratransit services. It’s like paying it forward!
Safety continues to be our top priority. Our partnership with the Kansas City Mo. Police Department, along with extensive operator training and nearly 100 protective partitions for operators, is clearly paying off. KCATA received the first place Gold Award for Security from the American Public Transportation Association in May.
Rounding out the good news in 2017 was the Kansas City Chamber’s announcement last month that public transportation would be included in the Chamber’s Big 5 initiative. We have built a solid relationship with the business community, which will help us connect people to jobs.
I hope this greeting finds you at peace this holiday season, and in the company of those you love. Here’s to another great year for regional transit!
KCATA President & CEO