Improved transit could address workplace needs

Jeff Fox
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Jeff Fox

Employers are scrambling for workers, an issue made more acute by pandemic disruptions but also in line with a long-term trend.  

Worker skills are part of the equation, as discussed in this space many times. Crucially, so are transportation and child care. 

A big boost in transportation could be coming to the benefit of employees and employers in Independence and elsewhere. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is taking a hard look at a “bus rapid transit” route connecting the Metro Transit Center just off the Square with the Legends commercial area in western Wyandotte County in Kansas. 

It’s early in the process, and some local money would be needed, but most of the cost is in the federal infrastructure bill that President Biden signed Monday. 

Such a line with relatively few stops would help address that RideKC Development Corporation President Brien Starner calls a metro area with “lots of islands and very little connectivity.” 

Starner and corporation Vice President Frank White III outlined this idea and others as a gathering last week sponsored by the Independence Council for Economic Development. 

More mobility options, as Starner refers to them, put more pieces in place for a worker trying to make a job workable.  

“This isn’t social service,” Starner said. “It is just good Economics 101.” 

He also pointed to other benefits. Giving a family the option to go from two cars to one – or even one to none – equates to a significant improvement in family finances.  

The funding for this possible bus line is just one of many things coming Missouri’s way under the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Missouri stands to get $6.5 billion for highway programs over five years and another $484 million to address the state’s large backlog of bridge repairs and replacements.  

Other infrastructure money coming to Missouri: 

• $100 million to address the state’s inexcusably slow build-out of broadband access. Roughly one Missourian in 20 lacks such access, and that’s a business-development problem. 

• An expected $99 million over five years to add EV chargers for electric cars. 

• An expected $674 million over five years for public transportation options.  

Whataburger opening in Independence nears 

Whataburger says its Independence location at U.S. 40 and Valley View Parkway will open Nov. 29.  

It will be second in the metro area. The first, in Lee’s Summit, opened Monday and generated long, long lines. The Blue Springs location at the old Winstead’s site on Missouri 7 opens in early 2022, the company says. 

The company, based in San Antonio, Texas, has more than 850 locations in 14 states. Altogether it plans 14 metro locations – Parkville to Olathe to Raymore – by 2023 and about 30 from Wichita to St. Joseph over the next several years. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or jeff.fox@examiner.net.