KC Light Rail

Your source for news and information on Kansas City’s light rail progress

Archive for December, 2006

Safe Transit Tonight

There is simply no safer way to travel than by using public transportation. The probability that you will be injured or killed while riding a bus, subway, or light rail is far less than any other mode of local transit — especially the private automobile. If you're going out this evening, please consider staying overnight at or near your destination. You can also walk, take the bus, or — at minimum — ride with a designated driver or call a cab. Another creative option is take Amtrak into Union Station from any of the area towns that also have service (Independence, Lee's Summit, Lawrence, Topeka). Have a safe and happy new year!


Light Rail Support Growing With Local Business Leaders

The Kansas City Star reports that local business leaders — historically opposed to every single light rail proposal in the past — are now experiencing a change of heart. While this most likely has everything to do with the potential dollar signs they're seeing related to private development along the line, it's still a step in the right direction. It could be a double-edged sword, however, if these leaders feel compelled to pressure the city into changing the approach for routing or technology. Most impressive are the words of Tom Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City:

"People say light rail is a subsidy. But I watched the Grandview Triangle, and the amount of money spent redesigning it gives you a sense of the cost of maintaining a highway system as well. Light rail would relieve some of that and also provide cleaner air."

Elsewhere in today's Star, Teresa Williams rambles on excessively about light rail on the opinion page, finally leaving us with this nugget: "Woo us, tease us, make us want it." And no, we really didn't need another comparison between Clay Chastain and Don Quixote.

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Phoenix Light Rail Spurring Development

Arizona news outlets this week are touting (here, here, and here) all of the private investment — to the tune of $1 billion — that is occuring along Phoenix's 20-mile light rail line that is currently under construction.

A majority of the proposed urban route that voters approved in Kansas City last month aligns with Troost and Broadway. Troost is starting to see improvements north of 47th Street, but remains run-down (if still well traveled) to the south. Broadway is pretty much unchanged between the Plaza and the downtown loop and sees zero pedestrian activity north of Armour until you hit Quality Hill. What are Kansas City's options for transit-oriented development along the proposed route through the core? Are there any intersections or existing developments begging for a makeover?


Who Knew? Northlanders Kept Light Rail Vote Afloat

The Kansas City Star's Mike Rice points out that the part of Kansas City that is north of the Missouri River and outside of Jackson County helped the light rail initiative pass (Cass County at 51%; Platte County at 55%). Chastain himself notes that the route “will facilitate their commutes by allowing them to avoid the bottlenecks over the Missouri River bridges” and that “it could help revitalize areas of North Oak Trafficway, create more healthy mixed-use developments and reverse urban sprawl.”

What's more problematic, however, is that the proposed route passes through two municipalities in these counties that are not part of KCMO proper (Gladstone and North Kansas City). Both of those municipalities have remained quiet on what the vote means to their long-term plans for smart growth (both Gladstone and North Kansas City are landlocked by KCMO).

Rice also uncovers another group who could present a major roadblock to the plan up north: the Kansas City Aviation Department, which runs Kansas City International Airport — the northern terminus of the proposed route. KCI says in no uncertain terms that they perceive light rail as competition to the airport's parking and car rental fees (the latter are going to support the construction of the Sprint Center).


Penn Valley Park: Q&A With Clay Chastain

One of the more contentious parts of the light rail plan passed by Kansas City voters last month is the proposed closure of Broadway within the park's boundaries (from 26th to 31st streets). The Friends of Penn Valley Park met recently to discuss the effects of the plan on the park, and here are some of Clay Chastain's responses, care of the Kansas City Star:

If the roads are closed, how will police or medical personnel respond to emergencies?

The automobile roads would be replaced by “carriage roads” of crushed limestone that could accommodate ambulances and maintenance vehicles. Police could use horse patrols. Passengers in the gondolas with cell phones would add extra eyes to spot and report criminal activity.

If Kessler Road is closed, how will Liberty Memorial access its west loading dock and parking lot?

Memorial employees and delivery vehicles could use a carriage road to the dock, but Kessler would have to close. Further, Chastain suggests banning all automobiles on the memorial grounds, building an underground parking lot near Main Street and running an electric shuttle to the memorial.

What about people who use Broadway to get to businesses on Main Street and Linwood Boulevard?

They can use Southwest Trafficway or take 26th Street and West Pennway to Pershing Road and go around the park.

How flexible is the plan? Couldn’t we just slow down traffic on Broadway so it is not a thoroughfare?

No. The voters have spoken, and the plan cannot be compromised. The vision of a bucolic park is incompatible with automobiles.

Separately, the Sasaki Plan, which was developed by the Downtown Council and Sasaki Associates in 2005 as a precursor to a downtown masterplan, already recommended at least closing the on-ramp to I-35 from Broadway, thus reducing the amount and speed of traffic to create a more welcoming pedestrian experience in the park.

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The Feds Speak

The Kansas City Business Journal reports that the Federal Transit Administration is in town today and met with representatives from the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to discuss what it takes to request federal support for the light rail plan approved by voters in November. Confirming the obvious that it's "a lot of work" and very competitive, the FTA also revealed the following:

  • The FTA New Starts budget for 2007 is $1.5 billion.
  • FTA approves an average of five projects annually and covers about 50% of the total cost.
  • The four stage process includes alternative analysis, preliminary engineering, final design and financing.
  • Funding for the current bus system would need to be maintained "while securing federal money".

The KCATA is due to report their own findings to the Kansas City Council in January.


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