Jake Jacobson, Colby Jones, Sloane Simmons and Casey Simmons mingle at the Philanthropy Awards Luncheon.

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KCATA launches free bus pass program for nonprofit clients

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new Kansas City Area Transportation Authority bus program that launched Thursday is one of the first of its kind in the nation.

The Opportunity Pass Program provides free transit on both sides of the state line to clients of safety-net providers.

"Transit is the one thing that can connect it all or be the barrier to it all," KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen said in announcing the initiative last week.

The pilot launched Aug. 1 with a group of 10 nonprofits chosen in partnership with the Health Forward Foundation:

Sheffield Place, a treatment and transitional living program for homeless mothers and their kids, said the free Opportunity Passes will save the nonprofit thousands of dollars each year.

That's good news for some of its clients, like Kathalina Pires, a mother of four.

"It'll relieve a lot of money from them and let them be able to do more things with us and provide more services," Pires said. "Maybe more outings with the kids. That's what helps a lot."

The pilot program is funded by the partner agencies and the KCATA.

While the Opportunity Pass Program is a nice start, Kansas City, Missouri, civic leaders said it isn't the end goal.

"This is the first step to free buses in Kansas City," Mayor Quinton Lucas said in helping launch the program.

Lucas reiterated that goal in his inaugural speech Thursday and newly appointed Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McManus believes the finish line is within reach.

"It's very doable actually," McManus said. "You'd be amazed at the amount of revenue we can actually save by not charging."

The KCATA already provides free transit for veterans and for students in the Kansas City, Hickman Mills and Center school districts.

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