KC Light Rail

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KCDC gets us closer to Plan B

The Kansas City Design Center announced the winner this week of its urban design competition focusing on Transit-Oriented Development options for a revised light rail route through the city. BNIM Architects' winning proposal is available here [14.6Mb PDF]. The Kansas City Star's take is here.

Before you dismiss this as another "me too!" announcement, rest assured the final revised route you will vote on in November 2008 will be very close to what you see here, based solely on the panel of judges: North Kansas City Mayor Gene Bruns, Kansas City's 2nd District-at-large Councilman Ed Ford, KCATA Senior Engineer Dick Jarrold, MoDOT Assistant District Engineer Linda Clark, and Brad Scott of the U.S. General Services Administration.

First and foremost, we offer kudos for addressing the design abortion that is officially named Midtown Marketplace, though locals refer to it lovingly as The Glover Plan.

Winning aspects of the BNIM plan, from the KCDC website:

  • "Midtown Marketplace at Linwood and Main could convert its large parking areas to other uses, including local retail, offices and apartments, arranged along a re-established grid of streets.
  • Air rights development above a former railroad just north of Washington Square Park could support a new mixed-use development above a transit concourse connecting Grand Blvd. to Union Station.
  • A downtown transportation hub could be constructed over the I-670 freeway adjacent to the Sprint Arena as an intermodal station for buses, light rail and a downtown 'circulator streetcar.'
  • The forgotten Harlem neighborhood could serve as the landing point for light rail on the north bank of the Missouri River, and be re-developed as a high-density, mid-rise and high-rise neighborhood, complete with a central 'Great Street' and a spectacular view across the river to the downtown skyline."

18 Comments so far

  1. Light Rail Plan B : BlogKC May 27th, 2007 10:26 am

    […] Now the KC Light Rail blog reports on a possible Plan B.  The KC Design Center recently held a contest to design a different light rail plan, and BNIM architects have submitted the winning proposal.  Their plan shifts the rail over to the Main Street corridor and focuses heavily on opportunities to redevelop and increasing density along the route.  This development could then help pay for the system.  It looks like BNIM has produced something more thoughtful and visionary than anything the city or Clay Chastain has ever come up with. […]

  2. thepaintman May 28th, 2007 7:50 pm

    I didn’t see any park and ride hubs. Were they in the plans or you haven’t decided where to put them yet?

  3. Dave May 28th, 2007 8:26 pm

    you could assume that the harlem stop referenced in the BNIM plan serves as the park-and-ride for this initial spine. there are five parking garages (more than that new neighborhood would likely need) along the new “main street” that faces the river. there would be no use for a park-and-ride on the southern terminus since it will likely stop near or just beyond the plaza (which is too dense and far from highways to make park-and-ride facilities worthwhile).

    there is no contact information on the KCDC website specific to the light rail effort, but you could certainly contact any of the judging panelists directly to see what their thoughts are on the matter:

    ed ford (KC 2nd district) - lisa_minardi_at_kcmo.org
    dick jarrold (KCATA) - metro_at_kcata.org
    gene bruns (north KC) - cityhall_at_nkc.org
    linda clark (MoDOT) - http://www.mo.gov/mo/teledir.htm
    brad scott (GSA) - http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contactus.do

  4. norhtlander May 28th, 2007 9:27 pm

    So much for public input

  5. thepaintman May 28th, 2007 11:17 pm

    Dave, Dave, Dave………….. Dave. Stop interpreting what you want. It never says in the BNIM plan that there is a park and ride hub, anywhere.
    It also didn’t say how many garage spaces. Dave, you’re speculating. I guarantee you there will be park and ride hubs along the lightrail route. We can just wait. The city planners will surprise us.
    I’ll have to wait for the public forums. During the elections nobody said anything good about Ed Ford.

  6. Kyle May 29th, 2007 2:15 pm

    I for one actually like the design and hope it is concidered. I like the idea of capping 670 and having a hub by the expensive Sprint Center. It would be easier to also incorporate an East -West line from the Speedway to Independence center, by way of the Sports Complex as well as I35 from Joco at/near Union Station.

    As for the Park and Rides, Yes, it leaves a lot up in the air, but think about what currently has parking close- Union Station. and what is currently completely undeveloped, Harlem. You do the math.

  7. northlander May 29th, 2007 7:22 pm

    Why would light rail be used downtown when it won’t be able to go that fast because of stop? A streetcar system would be much cheaper and we could have a bigger line installed [more miles or more cars than if we used light rail. A million a car for streetcars,$3 million a car for light rail. Light Rail would be a good fit for Union station to KCI because of less stops and could pick-up speed,or Charles Wheeler Airport to KCI and use Avivation money to pay for it.

  8. northlander May 30th, 2007 3:19 pm

    What about the use of hybrid-electric buses that would burn Hydrogen fuel. Most plentiful element of earth,no more dipstick,twice efficient as a diesel and operates for 350 miles without a fill-up. Already in use to transport over 200,000 Californians. Can check with United Technologies. utc.com. Would be useful to replace the buses we use now.Stops global warming. This fuel would be made in the U.S.A.

  9. Dave May 31st, 2007 10:32 am

    hydrogen, CNG, or hybrid power for existing buses is a *great* idea for reducing the emissions of an entire fleet. however, the purpose of light rail is to get new riders and spur TOD investment that would support the line… buses just don’t do that effectively (although BRT did generate a lot of new interest).

  10. mainstream May 31st, 2007 2:23 pm

    I like the concept, but am very far away from endorsing it in any manner.

    Where’s the math and the demographics supporting the route? (1) enough people have to live close enough, and (2) be willing to walk to the route, and (3) have someplace they want to go to on the route. You take these factors and translate them into reasonably-expected forecasts of ridership.

    Platitudes, generalizations and inserting words like “multi-modal” and “economic engine” aren’t a substitute for good old-fashioned system design - design that involves math, demographics, where people live and where people work and where people play, travel patterns, and forecasts of reasonably-expected human behavior.

    I know I’ve said a mouthful, so here’s a simpler concept that gets at the point: will people walk in the rain, 105 degree August heat and snow 3 or more blocks to use this system on a regular basis.

    No one seems to want to answer this question.

  11. Dave May 31st, 2007 4:12 pm

    thousands of people brave the elements every day to take the bus in KC already. people in houston, minneapolis, and denver brave their respective “extreme” climates to ride those new systems — all at levels beyond what ridership forecasts predicted.

    - houston: http://www.progressiverailroading.com/transitnews/article.asp?id=9300
    - minneapolis: http://www.co.hennepin.mn.us/portal/site/HCInternet/menuitem.f25c437125254e89710ece04b1466498/?vgnextoid=0613d40a8bafc010VgnVCM1000000f094689RCRD
    - denver: http://www.rtd-denver.com/Projects/Fact_Sheets/SouthWest_Facts.pdf

    regardless, funding for an official ridership study was just approved my MARC and ATA. once again, this KCDC contest was just to study TOD potential, not to to create a revised plan.

  12. mainstream May 31st, 2007 7:02 pm

    Dave, that information you just provided doesn’t get at the point I’m trying to make.

    I get your point, but consider this: people “brave” the elements to take public transportation because the alternative is much worse. That’s the only reason why, it’s not out of environmental consciousness, or any other altruistic impulse.

    I commuted via rail into NYC, and took the subway to work when I lived in NYC, because the alternatives were 2+ hour commutes, no avaliable parking, or parking that cost $1000 per month.

    Lower income people take public transit because they cannot afford a car, insurance, or can’t drive for whatever reason.

    These are the reasons why public transit works.

    So tell me about the long commutes we put up with in Kansas City, our extreme density of work and living spaces, the extraordinary cost of parking, the unavailability of parking. Just document or even provide examples those issues that will drive people to use public transit.

    And if you can’t document or provide any evidence of those reasons, then give me another reason: show me all of the low income neighborhoods and people along main street between the plaza and downtown that are not currently using the MAX (and the MAX works great, btw) that will somehow crawl out of their poverty to now use a light rail system.

    I suspect all of the people that can’t afford car transportation are already using the bus system.

    So tell me where all of these new riders are coming from, and their reasons for using the light rail line….

  13. mainstream May 31st, 2007 7:05 pm

    I don’t mean to sound short, and apologize if I do. I’m just ready to get past the platitudes and get to the real reasons why a light rail system will be successful.

    I want it to be successful, that’s why the upfront design and direction should have a solid basis.

  14. mainstream May 31st, 2007 7:17 pm

    1,000 apologies, I have to continue my rant for just a few seconds longer.

    Incentives, or penalties, need to exist to change people’s behavior. Something will need to chnage to get more poeple to adopt mass transit.

    Here’s an example: the recyling program in KC didn’t really take off until the city put a two-bag limit - and charged people for additional trash. So to save money people started to recycle more. Recylcing hasn’t really taken off in KC because people are more environmentally consios, they just don’t want to pay to leave out an extra trash bag.

    Ok - There’s a little bit of increased environmental awareness that cuases more recylcing, etc, but that’s not what really causes most people to change their behavior - peopel have to be physically, emotionally or financially inconvenienced to change.

    So if you want to argue the cost of gas, or a carbon-tax, will change people’s behavior, that’s more along credible lines. But then we’ll have an argument over the elasticity of demand w/ regard to prices - how much people will have to pay a gallon to dramatically change their behavior.

  15. thepaintman June 3rd, 2007 9:11 pm

    We bought a Trash compactor years ago and we re-cycle. Sometimes all I could put out is 1 bag.

  16. northlander June 23rd, 2007 5:17 pm

    Drivers prefer going it alone. [KC Star newspaper 7-14-07]Where transit works best is in high-density corridors wher there is a large concentration of jobs residences and retail. About the only place that could be is the Plaza. Car pooling has droped from 12.2 to 10.7% from 2000-2005. so go figure.

  17. northlander July 4th, 2007 4:36 pm

    If we go by ridership on the bus then troost should be where the starter line goes.[highest boxfair]

  18. John September 8th, 2007 12:15 pm

    Ridership is essential to any transit system, and any lightrail system put in would need to attract riders. This means incentives, going off of what mainstream said earlier. If Kansas City could encourage recycling by making it more expensive to put out more than two trash bags per pick up, couldn’t the city essentially do the same for (dare I say it) gas? We all love our cars in Kansas City, but if the city were to raise the gas tax, this would hopefully encourage more ridership. Just look over to Europe. Gas over there is way more expensive because the gas tax is so high. Thus, more people use city transit systems.
    On a slightly different ridership note, I think we have forgotten one key group. Kids and teens. A lightrail system could prove to be quite popular with the young crowd that is old enough to go out but still to young to drive. This would also save their parents from being the chauffeurs every weekend.

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