Regional planners are looking at ways to make bus service more convenient and readily available.

“We’re hoping to connect more communities to get more people to work,” said Karen Clawson, senior transportation planner at the Mid-America Regional Council. MARC, working with cities such as Independence and with service providers such as the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, has been updating its Smart Moves long-range plan for more than two years and is getting ready to roll out that update as early as this month.

The plan could mean more buses rolling through Eastern Jackson County.

MARC officials say right now less than one metro job in 10 is readily accessible by mass transit, a figure far lower than in other American cities similar to Kansas City. The aim is to double that figure.

Clawson said officials see expanded service as a matter of economic development.

“It helps everybody in one way or another, either directly or indirectly,” she said.

MARC takes note that there isn’t service between Eastern Jackson County cities. For instance, several ATA buses run from Independence to downtown and mid-town Kansas City, and IndeBus runs within Independence. An ATA express route runs from Blue Springs to Kansas City. But no bus service directly connects Independence, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.

That could change. Planners are looking at an Independence-to-Lee’s Summit route at some point. Also, they acknowledge the need to find ways to get workers from Eastern Jackson County to jobs on the Kansas side of the state line. Expanding the system will depend in large part on finding funding, Clawson said.

Planners also are looking at adding MAX service on the No. 24 route, which for decades has connected Independence with downtown Kansas City.

The ATA has two MAX routes, on Main Street and on Troost Avenue, both in Kansas City. That service has more frequent service with fewer stops than a regular bus line – meaning faster service – and the ATA says it uses sleeker buses with amenities such as Wi-Fi. The agency says it can see economic development benefits from MAX lines.

A recommendation for a 24 MAX could come in 2018.