What links exist between a city’s transportation system and equity? Perhaps, this is a question that seldom crosses the minds of many Americans.

Kansas City, MO will build on its rich history of entertainment, culture, and sports activity as one of the sites of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The only problem with that? The city’s public transportation system has not significantly evolved since the Kansas City Monarchs and Blues drew crowds to Muehlebach Field in the early 1900s. So the City’s FUSE Corps Fellow, Andrew Ngui, engaged Medici Road to bring community members and public officials together around the question of how Kansas City might design a rapid transit system that meets the near-term needs of the FIFA World Cup audiences as well as the long-term needs of Kansas City’s most vulnerable residents.

Medici Road Executive Director, Thomas Houston (extreme left) and FUSE Corps Executive Fellow, Andrew Ngui (third from the left) with other participants of the Innovation Lab.

Our Executive Director, Thomas Houston led the session and as always, began with the foundational process of building empathy. All participants were invited to leave their cars at home for a day and put themselves in the shoes of residents who do not own cars. As of 2016, just over 11% of Kansas City residents do not own a car, 10% of which are Black and 16% of which are Indigenous.

From the participants’ meeting point at City Hall, they navigated to the public bus that takes them to the airport. When reflecting on this experience in a journey mapping activity, participants described it as inconvenient, and inducing pressure and anxiety. This experience led to the  participants engaging in a design thinking process to ideate solutions that would address the pain points they experienced. Ideas for the growth of the public transportation system included everything from a hub-and-spoke model that integrates shared vehicles and scooters to an all-inclusive transportation and culture pass that offers access to unique KC experiences like the Negro League Museum, KC Friends of Alvin Ailey Theater, and the American Jazz Museum. 

This Innovation Lab was unique in the sense that the top-line objective was to prepare Kansas City’s transportation system to host the World Cup, while also solving for the long-standing access challenges that exist for Kansas City residents. There were many ways that participants could respond to this complex set of challenges, but where we landed was that the experience of riding public transportation is most important for all stakeholders–residents and tourists alike. With a combination of strategies such as reducing walking time with electric scooters and increasing access for riders with disabilities by instituting inclusion measures that go above and beyond ADA requirements, Kansas City has an opportunity at this moment to co-create a holistic, sustainable transportation system with and for its residents. This is the link between a city’s transportation system and racial equity.

Medici Road is grateful to support the City in centering the voices of residents of color at the outset of this process and we look forward to seeing how they utilize the tools we have exposed them to in executing the project.