By Kevin Collison
An online, Uber-style ride-hailing service originally established for disabled passengers by the KCATA is being quietly offered in the downtown area to the general public on a pilot basis and is expected to be expanded metro-wide early next year.
The program, RideKC Freedom On-Demand, allows users to download an app or call a dispatcher, and be transported by either a vehicle operated by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority or its private partner, Transdev, through the 10/10 Taxi, Yellow Cab Co. and zTrip services.
“It’s a phenomenal program and very exciting,” said Robbie Makinen, president and CEO of the KCATA. “We’ve had 20,00 users since May, I can’t imagine what it will be like when we open it to the region.”
Currently, RideKC Freedom On-Demand is open to disabled passengers and seniors 65 and over in a large service area that includes most of Kansas City proper as well as parts of northeast Johnson County, according to the KCATA.
But Makinen and Jameson Auten, KCATA vice president for service delivery and innovation, said the program also has been available on a pilot basis since spring to anyone hailing a ride in greater downtown and a small area north of the river.
“No other transit agency in the U.S. offers the same service,” Makinen said.
Fares for the on-demand service are $3 for the first eight miles and $2 each mile after for senior passengers or those with disabilities.
For the general public, the fare is $10 for the first five miles and $2 for each mile after. And as opposed to other private ride-hailing services, there is no surge charge.
Makinen said the KCATA on-demand program may be particularly appealing to older people because the drivers are either employed by the ATA or Transdev, as opposed to contract drivers with Uber and Lyft.
Officials said the RideKC Freedom program improves on the former Share-A-Fare service, a KCATA program for disabled passengers that required 24 hour advance notice and one-hour window for pickups. While it only charged a $3 fare, it cost the KCATA $35 to operate per ride.
The RideKC Freedom On-Demand partnership with Transdev has cut the cost to the KCATA in half, Makinen said, and provided disabled riders much more flexibility.
“For disabled people, they get the same service as everyone,” he said.