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Beginning May 1, 2017, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), in partnership with Transdev, will roll out an app-based public transit service called RideKC Freedom On-Demand. This one-year pilot enables customers to call on taxis any day, at any hour, to enjoy everything Kansas City has to offer.

“We can’t solve all of our transportation needs with a big 40-foot bus,” said Robbie Makinen, KCATA president & CEO. “That’s why KCATA is continuing to innovate and work collaboratively with the private sector to provide the best mobility solutions for the region, whether that’s a bus, a streetcar, a taxi or a bike.”

RideKC Freedom On-Demand is a new app-based transit option that begins with a strong core service for persons with disabilities and builds out to provide fast, affordable cab rides for everyone. Scheduling can be done when it’s convenient and does not have to be done a day in advance like the current paratransit system requires. Customers can pay with credit or debit cards in the app or in the vehicle, as well as cash in the vehicle, and they can even get change. There is a call-in option for those who do not use smartphones.

“RideKC Freedom is unique in that the service concept was created first to better serve persons with disabilities, and then build out for everyone,” said Makinen, who lost his sight nearly five years ago and became dependent on public transportation. “Traditionally, transit agencies create service for the masses and then try to figure out how to serve persons with disabilities. We have done the opposite here.”

RideKC Freedom On-Demand starts May 1 as a one-year pilot serving an area north of the river and an area south of the river. Customers must start their trip within the designated area to qualify for the ADA reduced fares. If their trip takes them out of the service area, they will pay regular a slightly higher fare on the return trip.

Customers can download the RideKC Freedom On-Demand app from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store. ADA customers have a personal paratransit number that identifies them as certified ADA customers so they are charged the lower ADA fare. All other customers using the app won’t have an authorization code, and will simply pay the required cab fare.

A single fare enables customers to bring three guests with them at no additional charge. As an added bonus: a portion of the regularly priced fares on non-ADA trips will be returned to KCATA by our taxi partner, Transdev, to reinvest in transit service.

ADA customers will pay just $3 for the first 8 miles in the service areas and $2 for every mile after that. Non-ADA customers 65 years of age and older, will pay $5 for the first 8 miles in the service areas and $2 for every mile after that. All general public customers will pay $10 for the first 5 miles and $2 for every mile after that, which is similar to other ride hailing services.

If partnerships are key to the future of public transportation, three Florida communities are already ahead of the curve.

Officials with Altamonte Springs, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit authority highlighted their efforts to partner with private transportation companies during the 2016 Building Florida’s Future symposium Thursday.

The partnerships, with both Uber and local cab companies, have helped their communities ease congestion, fill transportation gaps and give users more options. But they’ve also pushed local leaders to begin thinking about what new transportation technology means for economic development and future growth.

“I think it’s exciting. We’re moving away from ... regulatory fights where we’re trying to convince people of the value that we have,” said Stephanie Smith, the senior public policy manager at Uber. “You can already see the shift in the conversation, and that helps us move the conversation past whether it should exist.”

Uber has partnerships in both Pinellas County and Altamonte Springs. In Pinellas County, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority teamed up with the ridesharing company to provide more flexibility to make public transportation more accessible.

The transit authority announced the six-month pilot program earlier this year. Under the program, the transit authority pays half of the fare up to $3 for passenger traveling to a PSTA bus stop or home from one after work or an appointment. The trial was being offered in the Pinellas Park and East Lake areas.

The Spokane Transit Authority could soon partner with a popular ride-sharing company Uber.

The STA told KREM 2 they are exploring the partnership as an option, though there is a lot of work that has to be done before something like that could take form.

“We know that these are popular private sector companies that make transportation convenient so we want to make sure that if there is an opportunity for us to be a part of it, we can be,” explained Brandon Rapez-Betty, the senior communications specialist for STA.

The program they are considering is called the “First and Last Mile.” It is for people who would use transit if it were not for the distance to get to the nearest stop or from that stop to work.

“So it’s too far to walk, don’t want to take a bike, so it’s easy to just get in your car,” explained Rapez-Betty. “But if there was a way for it to be affordable that is the kind of programs they are looking at.

There are a few public transit jurisdictions that have given a partnership like this the green light on the other side of the state, and Rapez-Betty said they are keeping their eyes open for an opportunity to start up in Spokane.

“We have had an initial conversation with them to open the lines of communication but we not have identified any pilot programs just yet,” he said.

Officials told KREM 2 that these types of programs are so new to the market that they will need to track more developments from other pilot programs before meeting again.

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