Representatives of the Kansas City Area Transit Authority (KCATA) spoke at Code for KC’s Learn Night on August 20, 2018. They spoke about the problems KCATA has faced in the past, the progress it’s made, and where it will be in the next few years. This discussion was centered on RideKC.
Through RideKC, the KCATA wants to become a reliable service provider with a fixed route network. This network will include diversified service modes, including on demand, fixed routes, bike share, car share, and bird scooters. KCATA representatives want to make use of the sharing economy that’s taking hold. This service will need to be coordinated, involving the public and private sectors. And the KCATA plans to be the one point of access to provide all transportation needs in the Kansas City area.
KCATA employees are confident in their ability to get there because of how much work they’ve done in the past several years. In 2014, there were four autonomous transportation entities with very little coordination across state or even county boundaries. From that beginning, they’ve created a regional brand with a new management structure. They’ve gotten funders and providers in the same decision making process and expedited that process. They’ve been able to work across the state line and move from one bus company to a mobility company.
This shift toward broad mobility came out of the bridge microtransit pilot. While the scale of ridership wasn’t what they’d hoped for, it illustrated to the board and decision makers that there was a ridership group who wanted, and would use, something new. This meant the KCATA could viably change their business model. This new model would include new, non-bus options for people who wanted to get out of their cars. It would include more on demand services. And the idea is to put the two apps currently being used together in order to plan, track, and pay for transportation all in one place.
Along with all these outward changes, the KCATA has been restructured internally, becoming a home for innovation and strategy, better managing budgets to put it to innovative projects. They’ve taken on an unsolicited proposal policy to encourage innovative ideas in the region and be able to actually test them through a two-year pilot process.
The challenges the KCATA has faced are largely related to the large amount of data and its many sources. Not all of the programs are well integrated; there are multiple apps with not enough customer information regarding which service is best for what kind of travel and what area. There is also an issue with services not always going where people need to go at the time they need to be traveling.
KCATA presented to Code for KC to explain their need for better data management in order to reduce costs and redirect the savings toward solutions to the above challenges. This will improve the customer experience by, on a large scale, aligning the right services to the right places. Long-term, this will lead to discounts, travel packages, and even partnerships with other industries and other cities. This all starts with better data management and better alignment of data processes.
Code for KC hosts Learn Nights every third Monday of the month from 6-8 pm.