I lived downtown for several years before becoming a regular bus rider. Now that I use it, there is no going back. When I talk to other Downtowners who are reluctant or unsure about riding the bus, I hear many of the same questions and concerns that kept me away. The truth is that riding the bus is pretty easy, and there are a lot of benefits for those who do.
If your questions aren't answered here, don’t forget to check out KCATA’s rider guide!
“I don’t know where to start.”
One of the most common reasons I hear for not riding the bus is that people simply don’t know anything about how it works or how to use it. The good news is that downtown is the easiest area to learn. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) operates buses in 7 counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and downtown gets the most route variety and flexibility, and the highest frequency and quality of service. If transit serves a location in the region, there is a good chance a route will take you there from Downtown. For someone who lives and works downtown, I can almost always find a bus route to get me where I need to go.
If you are a brand-new bus rider in Kansas City, I would recommend planning a trip on the Main Street MAX. This route runs very frequently, so you can catch a bus every 10 minutes Monday-Friday, every 15 minutes on Saturdays, and every 30 minutes on Sundays. The MMAX runs from the River Market through the Loop, Crossroads, Crown Center, Midtown and The Plaza, with some continuing to Brookside and Waldo. The stops are designed with large blue beacon signs, shelters, and digital information that tells you how far away the bus is and where it is headed. The front of the bus has a digital sign that will tell you the end location.
Enter through the front door of the bus and you will immediately buy your ticket by inserting your bills and/or coins in the machine near the bus driver. Once you pay you will get two cards back—one for your receipt or change and one for your transfer pass. When you are ready to get off, pull the yellow cord to alert your driver that you want to get off on the next stop. You can exit through the front or side doors of the bus. If you are catching a transfer bus or if you want to return to your original location, you can use your transfer pass within two hours of the stamped time on your card. The drivers are very friendly so don’t hesitate to ask them for help!
“I don’t know where to get a bus pass.”
Anyone can buy a ticket when boarding the bus. It costs $1.50 — cash only — which includes one transfer within a 2-hour period. If you will be riding the bus multiple times in one day, you can buy a 1-day or a 3-day pass when you get on the bus. Be sure to tell your bus driver before you insert your cash if you want a transfer card or day pass. If you don’t have exact change, you will receive a change card that you can reuse until your balance is zero. The bus will not accept credit cards, so be prepared and keep $3 in your wallet. If you want a 31-day pass you can buy one at 30 area locations. Check with your employer, too, as many offer discounted rates.
“I don’t know the bus schedule.”
Finding a route is easy — just open Google Maps! Enter your destination normally, then choose the bus icon and select what time you want to leave or arrive. You will be instantly provided with multiple options, just like you would if you were driving. Google Maps will even tell you when to leave your current location and will provide walking directions to the bus stop. KCATA also has digital maps, schedules and a trip planner on their website. Happy hour at Le Fou Frog has never been easier!
“What if I miss the bus?”
Missing the bus is no fun. I remember the last cold and rainy day when I watched my bus drive away without me. Since that sad day, I’ve learned to always arrive at my bus stop 5 minutes early. If you are relying on Google Maps, it will almost always tell you to leave in time to get you to your bus stop exactly when your bus is scheduled to arrive. Google uses an average walking pace, so you may walk slower or faster than what it estimates. In my experience, unless there is a snowstorm, the buses in downtown stay very close to their schedules. If you do miss the bus, KCATA has real-time bus monitoring so you can tell when the next bus is supposed to arrive. Or, search for a different bus route. Since you’re downtown, you should have lots of options. If all else fails, downtown is very walkable, a BikeShare station is probably nearby, or Google Maps can estimate an arrival time for an Uber driver.
“What if there is construction or a road closure on my bus route?”
Don’t worry if there is streetcar construction or a festival on your bus route. The KCATA posts reroute bulletins on its home page which will tell you where the bus will be rerouted and where you will be able to catch the bus. There is also reroute information listed on each individual route page.
“I have a car. Why wouldn't I just drive?”
Compared to the costs of parking for the day, bus fare is a pretty good deal! My morning commute is much less stressful when I am on the bus and I can let my excellent bus driver deal with the hassle of rush hour traffic. Imagine attending an event at the River Market, Plaza Art Fair, Sprint Center or Kauffman Center and not having to worry about jockeying for a parking spot. In comparison to event parking, riding the bus is easy — plus when you don’t drive, you can enjoy some drinks while you are there! The availability of transit has also allowed my husband and me to become a one-car household. The cost of car payments, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other expenses totals around $9,000 per year on average. If access to transit can work for you, giving up a car can save a lot of money!
Remember, KCATA and Google Maps are very helpful resources. Grab a friend who is a frequent bus rider and have them show you the ropes. Don’t know anyone that rides the bus? Come to a Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting and you will be sure to meet some new friends that love the bus. Riding the bus in Downtown and Midtown KCMO is easy and I encourage all of you to consider taking the bus instead of driving at least once a week or more. You may even save some money in the process!