Quinton Lucas: A few years ago in Kansas City, we brought back our streetcar system. It’s a short route that runs into downtown. We made all rides free. The area where the streetcar is is a higher-income, majority white, gentrified area. That started the talk of why are we subsidizing free rides to people making good money, but the clientele on the bus system in the largely black parts of town are still forced to pay?
...Lucas: Fares cover about $8 million a year, but we lose $1.5 million in collecting fares. The shortfall is about $6 million, and we can find that in the budget. The streetcar took $2 million from buses to [get the project started]. It was necessary startup funding in 2014, but in 2019 and 2020 it’s not.
The other step is improving how we spend money to stimulate economic development. After the recession, national firms came to us and said we’ll invest in downtown, but in exchange we need real guarantees and asked us to subsidize parking-garage costs. [In the last 10 years] taxpayers spent about $100 million subsidizing parking garages for these companies.
...Lucas: We’ve crunched the numbers. Finding a few million in a large city budget is not that hard. We can wax poetic about fairness and equity in workforce opportunity, but there’s nothing more clear to me than saying, “Let’s help people, for many of whom $2,000 will make a world of difference.”https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/ask-an-expert-kansas-city-is-exploring-free-transit-should-seattle/