KCI loops around privatizing airport buses



The city is considering outsourcing airport buses.
  • The city is considering outsourcing airport buses.
As the city debates whether to award the airport bus service to Standard Parking (the lowest of three bidders that already runs the airport's parking lots) on a contract that would begin in November, this is the time when we get into exaggeration.

In a Kansas City Star story yesterday, the drivers maintained that the "public loves the service they provide." Even in our universe of Midwestern civility, I've never heard someone in casual conversation mention their undying devotion to the blue buses at the curb. Meanwhile, Standard Parking's Jack Ricchiuto suggested that drivers could earn as much as $20 per hour with tips. Even at the drivers' current pay of $17 per hour (the drivers believe it will fall to $11), show me the guy who has netted more than $3 per hour in tips, and I'll be up there putting in an application of my own.

But some numbers can't be ignored: 50 accidents in 30 months costing the city $200,000 in settlements; Aviation Director Mark VanLoh's estimate that outsourcing the job could save the city $7 million over five years; the 45 minutes I once waited for an economy bus after arriving on the last flight of a brutal December night, cursing each loop of the red bus as it winked by.

At a hearing yesterday, the City Council's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee delayed voting until next week. It would seem that even in meetings, the airport buses may not be hurried. But while the idea might need to take one more lap before the council members are ready to get onboard, that call for pickup is coming. The drivers will be paid less. The public will not be outraged. It's time for the airport to let go of running its bus system.

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