Myth-busting Request: Bus Transit in Kansas City

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Whenever light rail or the streetcar gets talked about, inevitably the topic of bus transit, both “ordinary” and rapid transit gets discussed as a more reasonable alternative.

I’m someone who has never really ridden the public bus system in my life. Though I use the streetcar frequently, and if I’m visiting a city with rail transit, I use the rail transit given every opportunity. Yet, I avoid bus systems.

I’m probably like many, if not most Kansas Citians. I have a predisposed aversion to the public bus system.

What I would like to see from this thread, is for people who ride our bus system to take the opportunity to bust some of the myths about bus transit. As well as addressing said myths regarding systems (such as BRT) in other cities in the US.

Popular Myths that keep myself, and probably many others from using bus systems:

  1. Association with the poor. Though this is sad and unfortunate, many of us don’t want to ride bus systems because we believe we will be thrust into an environment where we are associated with the poorest people of society. The general myth goes that middle & upper class citizens ride rail, lower class citizens ride the bus. Many people don’t want to be associated with classes that they think are lower than they are.

  2. Fear of being accosted by “undesirables”. By this, I’m meaning the most downtrodden and maligned by society. The homeless, the drug addicts, chronic alcoholics and the mentally ill. One of my biggest anxieties when in urban environments (though I love being there) is being accosted by homeless, drug addicts and the mentally ill.

These are people that we can recognize are in need of help, but Kansas City has no shortage of helpful organizations, and my few dollars wouldn’t do as much for them as a trip to City Union Mission, Hope Faith Ministries, RESTART, Thelma’s Kitchen or many other options. This is especially true when someone is persistent about it, or rude about if you won’t help. For the mentally ill and drug addicts, it is honestly uncomfortable being in a confined situation with someone that you don’t know what they might do next. This connects into point #1, because on the streetcar, you are surrounded by people who are mostly like yourself, and those who are uncomfortable to be around are the minority.

The underlying fear of the bus system is being in an environment where you are the minority, or where you think most of the riders won’t care what happens to you. When you and friends are going out for the night, typically you are dressed in your best (and sometimes expensive) clothing, but you don’t want to be harassed for money, and women don’t want to be harassed or cat-called. It hasn’t helped my own personal anxieties when I’m accosted in downtown while I’m just walking by bus stations.

  1. Fear that buses are less policed than the streetcar or rail systems. Many cities seem to have regular security personnel or police officers riding and walking through the cabs. Yet bus systems have so many buses, that it would be difficult to sufficiently police them all. Leading to increased fears and anxiety related to points #1 & #2. But this also relates to the common myth that bus systems are misused as public restrooms by riders, which implies a lack of security. The myth also brings about further anxiety & fear to women travelling alone, or people using the transit system as a designated driver after a night out drinking, and being less guarded or aware of their environment.

  2. Buses are inherently unpredictable and run late. Not being a fixed system, and reliant on surrounding traffic patterns. This myth assumes that buses are usually unpredictable in their routes, time to destination and arrival times. A 20 minute trip could end up being 1 hour. Whereas rail systems, being a fixed system, and often on their own dedicated r.o.w. are only effected by factors within the system itself.

  3. Bus systems only service the lower income areas that can’t afford to support rail. This connects in with myth #1, in that bus systems are “for the poor” and only exist to service neighborhoods and areas of cities that cannot afford, or support a rail system. Often this ties into class discrimination, as well as racial discrimination. Such as “only blacks and hispanics ride the bus system” or “I drive my own car because only white trash ride the bus”, and “the streetcar is just a honky train”. The myth is that because buses are cheap, they are only practical and ideal for use in the poorest areas.

So for those who frequently ride the local bus system, and for those who are familiar with the actual BRT systems of other cities; please help out in busting some of these myths about bus systems.

submitted by /u/UrbanKC
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