KC Light Rail

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

Archive for June, 2007

Dump The Pump Day

Thursday, June 21, is National Dump The Pump Day. This is your opportunity to walk the walk and give what transit we do have in the KC metro (KCATA, The JO) a chance. There's no chance for rain and your employer will probably accommodate one day of flexibility so you can align with bus schedules or a carpool. Believe it or not, you can actually walk or bike to work in Kansas City, just wear a helmet if you choose the latter. We'd love to hear about your experiences, especially first timers!

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Another Letter to the Star

Yesterday's editorial page in the Star featured this letter from a Kansas Citian who is also fed up with the new administration's insistence on kick-starting light rail with regional funding. We promise that we are not Chad… we just like what he has to say.


Anyone surprised? Ozone sends KC over the edge

It was only a matter of time until the metro (yes, all of us) sent the ozone level over the acceptable level for the umpteenth time, triggering all kinds of federal hand-slapping and controls that could put a serious dent in economic growth. Costs in the billions, they say? Yup, about the cost of a more efficient transit system (both light rail and cleaner, more frequent buses). Could the revived light rail discussion have come at a better time? Gas prices certainly aren't forcing people to drive less and Johnson County seems convinced we need another parkhighway. Here are some things you can probably look forward to as an official Big Polluting City (see Houston):

  • Increased utility bills as utilities pass required emissions controls on to consumers
  • Local deliveries by truck would be curtailed to eliminate idling
  • Increased health care costs due to worsening asthma and other respiratory diseases
  • Involuntary mowing restrictions and costly emissions controls
  • Reduced speed limits on highways
  • Emissions inspections on private cars
  • Limits on construction projects across the metro by banning the use of diesel-powered construction vehicles during daylight hours

Are you ready? Discuss.


Biz Journal Poll: KC says ‘Move On!’

While the Kansas City Business Journal's "Business Pulse" online polls are nowhere near being scientifically measured (nor is there any way to ensure they're actually sampling business people), it is noteworthy that the #1 response (58%) in the current poll is for this option: "Move ahead with planning for a light-rail system, but go back to voters to change aspects of Chastain’s plan not deemed workable." Thankfully, only 8% said light rail won't work. After viewing the results, check out the reader comments, then come back and tell us why you think we're the only one's carrying the torch on this one…


Funding: Not just a light rail problem

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County recently confessed that they're going to come up short on funds for public transportation very soon. A front page article in today's Star exposes a very real side of the issue — getting people in economically-depressed areas (Wyandotte County) to jobs where they can make a living wage (Johnson County). No support for buses means no one's lovin' it or havin' it their way.

Separately, the JO is hosting a feedback session today on their 5-year strategic plan. Buried in the fine print is that there is no dedicated, long-term funding source for any suburban transit improvements — the #1 impediment to increasing ridership, according to community surveys. To illustrate the point, you can take a JO bus to this very meeting, but you'll have to walk or take a cab home because almost all JO service ends by 5:30 on weekdays. Currently, most routes focus on commuters to downtown KCMO. Very little service is available for getting around within the area. This presents a serious issue for an aging Johnson County population.


Message To Funkhouser: Think Regional, Act Local

In today's Star — and in many other places where light rail is being discussed (here, here, here, and here) — there is consensus building that a 5-mile, locally-funded starter route would be the best way to get moving and keep voters and activists content. Unfortunately, new Mayor Mark Funkhouser doesn't yet see it that way. Although Funkhouser has been 100% consistent in his stance about a regionally-funded public transportation system, the tide has turned and threatens to drive a wedge between him and an invigorated electorate — honestly, who doesn't have an opinion about light rail these days?

This site was started as a means of sharing information and viewpoints about the light rail vote. We are users of public transportation here (MAX and the lonely local and JO buses) and in other cities. It is quite possible — and not in any way ground-breaking — for the City of Kansas City to:

1. Complete a simply-worded, revised ballot proposal in time for a November 2008 vote that would rely only on the 3/8-cent transit sales tax (no federal funding). The route should reflect the consensus from all of the design discussions held recently (in other words, the modern streetcar on a Main/Grand alignment from Cleaver II & Troost to just across the Missouri River). This general route has already been studied several times by everyone under the sun, so let us remind everyone that they won't discover anything new. These streets also supported the original streetcar system for nearly a century.

2. Seek additional bus funding from other cities already served by KCATA on the Missouri side (Independence, Raytown, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Liberty, Blue Springs, Lee's Summit) to offset the loss of the 3/8-cent tax expiring in 2009. Oh yeah… and ask the casinos to pay for the Casino Cruiser (#173) — one of the KCATA routes, besides the MAX and a few other urban routes, with all-day Saturday and Sunday service.

3. Seek funding from adjacent local property owners (Highwoods, Block, Hallmark, Cordish, Copaken, DST, Tower Properties, AEG, Nicholson) who would in turn profit from development along the light rail line (instead of giving them tax breaks).

4. Eliminate tax incentive financing of public parking along the route. Eliminate all parking requirements within a one-mile radius of each station. Couple this with reduced rate monthly transit passes to all major employers along the route.

5. Ask Kansas to expedite the I-35 commuter rail (instead of "bus rapid transit") project to increase ridership on the starter route; send them to the federal funding trough. Continue Smart Moves talks with our metro brethren without affecting the starter line progress. BRT is not a logical solution for a route that is expected to be clogged with freight traffic within a decade.

6. Develop a plan to move the existing MAX route to an east/west alignment to serve the Northeast/Independence and downtown KCK, replacing the #12, #24, and #101 (or all three). Complete the Troost BRT line in time to offer light rail connections at downtown and the Plaza. To offset the loss of MAX service south of the Plaza, develop a plan to return a heritage streetcar to the right-of-way now being used by the trolley trail.

7. And finally, once the voters approve the revised plan (and if it's simply worded without any touchy pro-developer language, they will), give the KCATA a deadline when the system must be operational.

So simple, you say… right? Well, that's what leadership is: thinking, communicating, and delegating… clearly and concisely. Leave the details and tinkering up to the engineers and accountants, then go about setting direction on the thousands of other issues facing the City.

On a side note, the Urban Society will be trotting out it's original revised plan (strikingly similar to the winning BNIM proposal) at 5:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library.


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