Of all the late budget slices he made to fit in the retirees health insurance agreement for half a year, Independence City Manager Zach Walker said the most painful one was cutting an hour of bus service.
The same week the Kansas City Council voted to make bus fare free within city limits starting next year, the Independence City Council approved budget adjustments that included ending IndeBus weekday service an hour earlier, at 6 p.m., for a half-year at least.
That came after the initial budget already reduced IndeBus service three hours on Saturdays and an hour on three weekday routes, based on ridership data.
“That was not done in haste,” Walker said, adding he knows the city ideally would move in the opposite direction with regard to transit.
Kansas City's planned move will involve Kansas City Area Transportation Authority bus routes that are fully within city limits. Routes that go into Independence (or other cities) still would have fares.
Whereas Kansas City's move will mean about $8 million to account for in the budget, Walker said a similar move would cost Independence about $1.5 million.
“I believe transit is an economic development driver,” Walker said, as for many people it means access to jobs, doctors appointments and groceries. “Anyway we can take down barriers (is good).”
Walker said he's received no inquiries from members about the possibility of Independence going the same path Kansas City – likely because they recognize the city's current financial constraints – but he said it should be a goal for the community.
By ending service an hour earlier, Independence will negate the hour it added starting in July 2018.
Ideally, transit cuts would involve expenses but not access, Walker said.
“That is affecting somebody's quality of life,” he said.