By Daryl Penner
There must be a reason that the word “bus” is contained within the word “business”. If you ask KCATA (the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority) CEO and President Frank White III, he would tell you that businesses in Kansas City would be greatly impacted without the bus system to transport workers and consumers to businesses. “It would affect so many of our businesses, negatively,” he said.
White III was the keynote speaker this month at the KCSA (Kansas City South Alliance) meeting, which was held at the KCMO Police South Patrol Offices at 9701 Marion Park Dr.
KCATA is responsible for transit services in the Kansas City metro area, on both sides of the state line. White III is hoping that the citizens of Kansas City will vote on and pass ordinance/committee substitute (#230324) on the Nov. 7th general election ballot (Question #1), to extend the 3/8 cent city sales tax for 10 more years, as it is currently set to expire next March. The tax will generate several million dollars annually for transportation-related items.
White who has been with KCATA for about 7 years, and CEO for the past 13 months, said that he likes to think of the 620-employee agency as more than just a bus line. He considers the agency as an Economic Development Agency, which happens to primarily run transit for the city. He explained that “just about everything we do, has economic ramifications,” as he shared unique insight into the workings of the operation, such as how he and his staff choose what bus types to purchase and how he deals with security issues. KCATA now employs 32 security personnel, as opposed to just one five years ago. He is confident that only five security incidences, in 6 million trips reflects positively on his staff’s preparedness.
He said the buses’ on-time performance is approximately 93 percent. And staff is preparing for the upcoming World Cup competition in Kansas City, which will extend buses possibly all the way to Columbia, MO. His job also includes determining and devising new rider programs. But most importantly, his job includes explaining why voters need to extend this tax.
Just one bus can cost approximately $650,000, according to White. Electric buses are more than double that price and very hard to obtain currently. “We are always hiring for good-paying positions,” White III said.
Because the meeting was held on 9-11, two first responders, including Major David Jackson of the Commander of South Patrol Division and Asst. Fire Chief Jimmy Walker were invited to speak about their experiences on that tragic day 22 years ago. Their stories were emotionally invigorating as they talked about how they were very used to being in control of their surroundings, but in this case, they were nearly completely uncertain about how the rest of the day, week and months would unfold, after the terrorist attack.