KC Light Rail

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

Archive for May, 2007

KCDC: ‘It’s not a plan’

KCDC's Daniel Serda presented the urban design competition results today to the City Council's Transportation and Infrastructure committee weekly session. Serda reiterated that his organization's interest in the light rail issue is not to propose a new plan, but to open the discussion on the impact light rail would have on Kansas City's urban fabric. We presume KC is an unwieldy bolt of gently worn burlap looking for a hot wash and lengthy tumble dry.

Serda reviewed the top two proposals — by BNIM and Gastinger Walker Harden — but ended his presentation by encouraging the committee to lead the way and to view light rail as more than just a transportation system, but a way to transform the urban core.

For the record, the RTA's Kite Singleton — a major proponent of connectivity to Union Station and present at today's session — endorses the BNIM concept of extending Union Station to Grand to connect with a proposed alignment there. Since the extension would run along the terminal tracks and below street level, it could easily serve as a future commuter rail platform for service to Johnson County.

As reminder, all committee meetings are carried live on KCCG Channel 2, available on city cable systems and online. The Transportation and Infrastructure meetings are held at noon on Wednesdays. The public is also welcome to attend in person.

Meanwhile, MARC and KCATA stay busy allocating funds for ridership forecasts and Mayor Funkhouser ruffles feathers as he restates his intent to cast the wide net of regional funding.


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."

Troost BRT Public Meeting this Wednesday

The KCATA is hosting the first public meeting to discuss the first expansion of the MAX BRT system — light rail's evil step-sister — along Troost Avenue. Details are as follows:

Wednesday, May 23, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Rockhurst University Science Building, Richardson Hall, Room 115
5301 Troost Ave.

See you there!

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The Transit Future

Taking a break from the local scene today, check out this photo gallery from Business Week that highlights some visionary transit systems and vehicles spurred by environmental enlightenment and the peak of oil.


The Star says “yes” to 2008

Yesterday's editorial page of the Star says: 2008 makes sense. Will a tie to the expected high turnout of the presidential election be a boon or a bane to a revised light rail plan in Kansas City? Will the technocrats be able to resolve the routing and funding issues in a way that will placate voters, even with that "protracted" amount of time?

Separately, former city council hopeful Mark Forsythe is doing some wonderful light rail analysis and commentary Medicamento at his fledgling blog, The Kansas City Post.

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Revised Plan on Ballot in 2008?

During a special working session of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday, city council members discussed the options on how to revise the approved plan for light rail in Kansas City. There was little advance public notice of the working session, other than a brief mention at the end of the committee's normal meeting the previous day. The city's communications office has yet to confirm if the session will be rebroadcast on Channel 2 or on the city's website. UPDATE: The video can be viewed here.

The committee has pledged to invite Clay Chastain, author of the voter-approved ballot measure, to speak at future sessions, an important move as Chastain has proven that he is unlikely to either go away or calm his rhetoric.

Expect a question — or two? — on the November 2008 ballot, a priority for Ed Ford, committee chairman representing the 2nd District (one of the three critical districts impacted by any initial light rail spine, the others being the 1st and 4th). That date would coincide with the already-hot presidential election and subsequent high turnout. Once again, the city will be crashing the schedule to meet the expiration date of the existing 3/8-cent transit tax that's in play; it expires on April 1, 2009. Thankfully, 2nd District newbie Russ Johnson asked for the ATA to come up with a back-up plan if a revised vote fails. We're quite confident that this entire process might have completed without someone ever asking that very simple question.

On a side note, William Erdman, Kansas City Southern's VP of Corporate Affairs, pledged to work with the city on using KCS's existing freight tracks (east to Oak Grove and south to Belton) to support commuter rail lines to feed into the light rail system, thus boosting ridership from the suburbs. This offer makes it very apparent that whatever route is chosen must make a north-south connection with Union Station, where the KCS tracks pass as part of the Kansas City Terminal Railway. The approved route passes through the Carriage Pavilion on the west side of Union Station — passing above the terminal tracks — before reconnecting with Broadway. As an alternative, a Main Street route could pass under The Link and offer sheltered connections to Union Station from both sides of the street.

One other item to note: 1st District Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem Bill Skaggs made it patently clear in Wednesday's regular committee meeting that the first phase of light rail must cross the river. Skaggs represents the eastern portion of the Northland, including North Oak Trafficway and a majority of the shared borders with the Gladstone and North Kansas City.


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