Posted Jul. 16, 2002 in the Kansas City Star

A bold move on transit

Special to The Star

Billions of tax dollars -- our dollars -- were wasted on the Kansas City School District. The money may as well have been flushed down the toilet. On. Aug. 6, Missourians vote on highway and transit taxes. Let's not make the same mistake again.

Yes, there are real highway and transit needs. But I don't trust the Missouri Department of Transportation or our local transit agency, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, to meet those needs no matter how much money we give them.

Thirty-seven years ago, the ATA was created to provide public transit in the seven-county metropolitan area. Now two of those counties (Leavenworth and Cass) have no regular transit services, and two counties in Kansas (Wyandotte and Johnson) have all but given up on the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. They've set up their own transit systems. That is corruption of regional transit service.

To the vast majority of people in the metropolitan area, the ATA is totally irrelevant. By any measure, this 37-year experiment in regional public transit is an abysmal failure.

Voters have repeatedly rejected high-profile options such as light rail and dedicated transit funding. Clearly voters don't want to vote a tax on themselves for something they cannot use, provided by an entity that they do not and cannot trust.

The ATA commissioners are not elected. For decades they have existed out of sight of the voters, unaccountable to taxpayers.

It is time for a bold transit initiative. It is time for Missouri and Kansas to replace the failed ATA with a high profile, regional-transit system with directly elected leadership -- dynamic leadership that will offer assurance of true metrowide transit system. The citizen-based Regional Transit Alliance has recommended creation of a system that would be known as the Heart of America Regional Transit.

The high profile of the Heart of America Regional Transit system will make it possible to attract the best of metrowide political leadership and the highest level of skilled management from throughout the country.

It is time for Missouri and Kansas legislators to dispose of the failed ATA and bring in the new Heart of America Regional Transit system created for the 21st century.

But until then, let's not waste more tax money on the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. On Aug. 6, vote no on Missouri Proposition B.

Anthony Saper is a [former] locomotive engineer, ATA bus driver and founding member of the Regional Transit Alliance.