Getting Around Kansas City: Guide to Public Transportation

Downtown Kansas City Skyline Streetcar

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Even though Kansas City is primarily a car-driven city, it has a fantastic transportation infrastructure with a plethora of options to get you where you need to go. Public transportation operates under RideKC, which offers buses, shared bike rides, and a free streetcar. The streetcar runs the length of 2 miles downtown, shuttling passengers to and from some of the most popular neighborhoods and attractions. This is your complete guide to getting around Kansas City.

How to Ride the Local Bus System

The local bus system, RideKC is clean, reliable, and offers dozens of routes across the metropolitan area.

  • Fares: Most routes start at $1.50 and can increase depending on which route you ride and/or if it is an express route. All fares can be purchased on the bus at the time of your ride with coins (excluding pennies), $1, $5, and $20 bills. Reduced fares and half fares are available for children ages 6 through 11, senior citizens ages 65 and older, Medicare Card holders, and people with disabilities. Children ages 5 and under ride for free.
  • Routes and Hours: Hours of operation vary depending on routes. Buses in Kansas City operate every day of the year including major holidays, although they may operate less frequently.
  • Service Alerts: The best way to stay updated on any delays or service suspensions is by using the RideKC app which is free to download in the App Store or by visiting the RideKC website which posts service bulletins at the top of the page.
  • Transfers: Transfers can be requested after paying for a ride but sometimes incur an additional cost if switching to a route that has a higher fare.
  • Accessibility: RideKC buses are equipped with a variety of accommodations for passengers who need them. Priority seats in the front of the buses
  • Planning Your Route: Use the RideKC app, visit RideKC.com to view routes or call (816) 221-0660 for assistance.

How to Pay for RideKC

  • Change Cards: Similar to a New York City MetroCard, you'll receive a Change Card when you pay for a ride on the bus with $5, $10, or $20 bills and continue to use it until it runs out.
  • RideKC Day Pass: Day passes cost $3 and allows you to ride the bus an unlimited amount of times until midnight on the day of purchase for one price.
  • Ride KC 3-Day Pass: If you plan to use the bus for multiple days during your visit, 3-Day passes are also available for $8 which provide unlimited rides within the time window.
  • RideKC App: If you have time to plan ahead, download the free RideKC app, on which you can purchase fares and passes, as well as track buses, and view routes.
  • Cash: Bus fare can be purchased with cash with $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills, as well as all coins except for pennies.
  • Credit Cards: To use a credit card for fare or passes, use the free RideKC app or order online at store.kcata.org and passes will ship out within 5-7 business days.
  • At an Outlet: Passes can also be purchased in person at more than 40 locations throughout Kansas City including Crown Center, 63rd Street 7-Eleven, and Cosentino’s Downtown Market.

Riding the Kansas City Streetcar

Totally free to ride whether you need to go just one stop or the full length of the tracks, the Kansas City Streetcar is the best way to get around downtown. The two-mile route runs from Crown Center in Midtown Kansas City to the River Market District on the bank of the Missouri River. It makes sixteen stops from end to end and operates from 6 a.m. through midnight Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sundays. Thanks to its stops in some of the most popular neighborhoods, enjoying restaurants, bars, and art galleries has never been easier. Walk on and off at your leisure.

Other Transit Options

Since the streetcar doesn’t take you throughout the entire metro and buses can take longer to get around, sometimes bicycles, rental cars, or shared rides like Ubers are better options.

  • Park & Rides: RideKC offers several dozen Park and Ride options at major centers throughout the metro area for commuters. Parking is typically free and rates vary depending on the route. Check the RideKC app or website for more information.
  • Scooters: Shared scooter company Bird currently operates in Kansas City with 500 available throughout the metro area. Scooters can be reserved through the free Bird app and cost $1 to unlock and are then $0.15 cents per minute. After a temporary hiatus, Lime scooters will resume operation in the city beginning spring 2019.
  • RideKC Bike: Electric bikes are available for sharing at major locations throughout Kansas City. Download and use the Drop Mobility app to locate bikes. The bikes cost just $2 per hour or $5 per day making it an affordable way to get around.
  • Airport Shuttles: The Kansas City International Airport offers several shuttle services directly from the airport to downtown and other surrounding areas. No reservations are required for trips on the SuperShuttle but for those planning ahead, private limousines and cars can be booked in advance.
  • Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps: Lyft and Uber operate in Kansas City but only with the private car options, so no shared or pooled rides. Lyft rides from the Kansas City International Airport are subject to a $3 surcharge.

Renting a Car

Since the most popular form of transportation in Kansas City is by car, renting one is highly recommended for a stay, unless you plan on staying downtown where the streetcar is easily accessible or have ample time to travel via the bus routes by RideKC.

Avis, National, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, and Alamo all operate at the Kansas City International Airport (MCI) for easy access as well as other locations throughout the metro area. The bottom line is there are plenty of locations and price points at which to select a rental car.

Tips for Getting Around Kansas City

  • Kansas City might be a smaller city but it still has a rush hour. The rush hour takes place starting at approximately 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The heaviest traffic is Southbound in the morning and Northbound at night.
  • Most neighborhoods are pedestrian friendly within bounds. Downtown, the Crossroads Arts District, Power & Light District, Garment District, and River Market are self-contained and easily walkable so once you park it is easy to get around on foot. However, it is not recommended to try to walk between neighborhoods as they are spaced out and do not have consistent sidewalks connecting them.
  • If you’re exploring the stretch of Midtown to Downtown, just take the streetcar. Parking is not impossible but can be a hassle if you’re in a hurry. And while many spots are free, some are metered or have parking lot attendants who you pay up front, so heed signs and don’t assume all spots are free of charge.
  • The Power & Light District has parking garages that offer validation. The KC Live! Garage is free during lunch, and free for up to three hours with validation from any shop Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. After that and on weekends, it is $3.
  • Ride-sharing is reliable for rides but not pricing. Due to varying demand and peak hours, ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft are relatively inconsistent in pricing and frequently surge. 
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