Four months into his new job as president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Joe Reardon has several things to brag about, and a few still on the to-do list.
The former mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, appreciates being able to focus on a single mission for a change.
“It's an exciting time, and the first four months have been great. We're singularly focused on connecting people ... I'm loving every minute of it,” Reardon told Steve Kraske on Up To Date.
His charge is to connect multiple jurisdictions across the metro that have their own public transit system into a single, metro-wide system, under the brand, “Ride KC.”
“When we're out on a day-to-day basis, we don't pay attention to the jurisdictions. And this economy doesn't either, so were trying to develop a system that allows us to really answer to that call,” he said.
The KCATA has made some strides in blending the system. When Reardon started, the association had just begun to manage the Johnson County transit operation and integrate it into the rest of the system. As of July of this year, they began managing the fixed route and para-transit services in Independence, as well as maintaining the ongoing partnership with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.
But Reardon says that Kansas City is among the least effective in the country in connecting people to jobs.
“Only 18 percent of jobs are effectively connected by public transit in Kansas City today,” Reardon said.
“We need to revisit how the system works — is it connecting to where jobs are today?”
The KCATA, in collaboration with the Mid-America Regional Council, is launching a study called "Workforce Connects."
“The goal in ten years — I hope less — we double that 18 percent into the 30s hopefully into the 40s because I believe the viability of this system is connecting people to opportunity like jobs. I want to make sure that we're building a transit system that compliments economic growth, economic development and economic mobility.”
Besides connecting and improving fixed-route systems, Reardon says he is also focused on improving the user experience, which includes facilitating multiple forms of transportation, including bikes, rail systems, buses and even ride sharing services like Zipcar and Uber.
This year, they announced a $3 day-pass in Kansas City that will allow for seamless transportation across all jurisdictions in the metro. Reardon sees this as an opportunity to leverage technology in transportation services.
“On a daily basis, almost, I might go to Starbucks and use my phone to purchase a cup of coffee. In the same way, we ought to think about can we make it easier for those to use the devices they rely on every day to access the system and break down those barriers?” Reardon said.
And coming up, you could take that Starbucks coffee (with a lid on it) onto any bus and also have free WiFi access. The KCATA hopes to have all of its fleet Wi-Fi connected next year.
“Think about this — on your morning commute we'll allow you to do legally in the bus what you can't do legally in a car. Which is try to drink coffee, text, and drive all at the same time," says Reardon. "Total empowerment in our system is what we're after there.”