Despite Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent announcement that the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority faces $3.6 million in budget cuts, routes in Independence will remain unaffected in 2010-11, according to city officials.

Despite Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent announcement that the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority faces $3.6 million in budget cuts, routes in Independence will remain unaffected in 2010-11, according to city officials.

The city of Independence has not received any notification of changes to its 2010-11 contract with KCATA, according to City Manager Robert Heacock. The Independence City Council unanimously approved that contract June 21, along with a separate ordinance that will create a new bus route in Independence.  

As the city’s first bus route to intersect with existing fixed routes at points other than the Independence MetroCenter off Truman and Noland roads, the Silver Route will begin July 6, operating from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“I think this says volumes on the commitment of the council,” Mayor Don Reimal said. “When the funds are there, we’ll add services, but you can’t have what you can’t pay for.”

The new service will cost $96,071 in its first fiscal year, with passenger revenue accounting for $5,900 of the cost. The HCA Midwest Health System tax increment financing agreement will provide the remaining balance of the city’s expenses, not the city’s general fund, Heacock said. City staff also are researching additional grant opportunities to fund an expansion of the Silver Route services, Heacock said.

When the two former hospitals in Independence closed three years ago, the redevelopment agreement asked for funding to provide transportation services to and from Centerpoint Medical Center.  

Meanwhile, KCATA continues to face budget pressures. The Missouri House and Senate had requested a one-time appropriation of $3 million for transit services. Those are restricted indefinitely, according to KCATA.

The governor also restricted more than $600,000 received from the state of Missouri on an annual basis under the State Transit Assistance Program. While Independence officials maintain that these changes have no effect on this year’s contract, KCATA states rural transit will receive $158,000, a decrease from $1 million in funding. Urban transit, according to KCATA, will receive $400,000, a reduction from $2.6 million.

“We understand the extraordinary pressures in the state budget and the very difficult decisions Gov. Nixon is facing,” KCATA officials said in a release. “Under these conditions, we are not necessarily surprised at the outcome. However, we continue to be disappointed that Missouri funding for public transportation is among the lowest state funding in the nation.”

KCATA also states that public transit “is key to economic recovery, stability and growth, in that it provides Kansas City residents with access to jobs and provides employers access to the labor market.”

“Without transportation to jobs, new job creation is not fully effective,” the release states. “For these reasons, it is in Missouri’s best interest to give public transit first priority should state revenue exceed budgeted amounts.”

Impact in Blue Springs

It is still unknown how the KCATA cuts will affect the city of Blue Springs, according to Todd Pelham, Blue Springs assistant city administrator. Blue Springs’ contract runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, with the city’s contribution at $74,420. The total annual service cost is about $380,000, with fare revenue and federal and state grants contributing to most of the expenses.

“We are still evaluating what the exact impact will be with the nine Missouri communities that contract for transit service with us,” wrote Cindy Baker, KCATA director of marketing, in an e-mail. “Once we have made that determination, we will meet with each community mayor to discuss (the effect).”

The Independence 2010-11 KCATA contract includes $913,284 for bus service, the same as the previous fiscal year. The city’s actual cost to provide bus services next year is $2,093,328, though federal and state support and expected fare revenue reduce the city’s share of expenses to $913,284.

“Just to help dispel the rumors: This is a contract for a year. There will be bus service in the city of Independence for a year,” At-Large Council Member Lucy Young said. “We are not cutting any services. This has been a big rumor that has gone through the city, so please tell your friends and neighbors, we’re adding routes and there is bus service for yet another year.” 

Silver Route: Get on July 6
The new route will start at Independence MetroCenter on Truman and Noland roads, travel east to Lee’s Summit Road and then travel south on Lee’s Summit Road to the Midwest Genealogy Center, 3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road.

From there, the route will travel west on 35th Street to Noland Road, where it will intersect with the Purple Route (No. 284). The Purple Route runs north and south primarily along Noland Road and included stops at 35th and 39th streets.

While returning east along 39th Street to Lee’s Summit Road, the new route will go south and will stop at the Social Security Administration office, 4240 S. Lee’s Summit Road.

The route will stop at Centerpoint Medical Center, where it will intersect with the Green Route (No. 183). The Green Route runs north and south mostly along Missouri 291.