KC Light Rail

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

New Starts Evaluation and Rating

New Starts is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) program for supporting locally-planned, implemented, and operated transit "guideway" capital investments. Basically it's the federal funding for light rail starter lines.

At last night's Citizens Task Force meeting, project manager John Dobies presented on the criteria used to evaluate a project's eligibility. Based on a five-tier system, a project's worthiness is scored with a Summary Rating as High, Medium-High, Medium, Medium-Low, or Low. To even be considered, the project has to be rated at least a Medium. You can download the 25 page document here if you're up for some light reading. Obviously High is where you want to be when you're competing with scores of other municipalities looking to fund their own light rail projects.

The overall Summary Rating is split into two areas. The Financial Rating and the Project Justification Rating. This means half your score depends on your financing. How are you going to raise the money to build? How are you going to finance the day to day operations? Think of it like your credit score when you're applying for a car loan or home mortgage. The FTA spells out your homework for you with their Guidance For Transit Financial Plans document.

So half your score is based on financials. The other half is everything else. The FTA breaks it down to Mobility Improvements, Environmental Benefits, Operating Efficiencies, Cost Effectiveness and Land Use. Each of these is of course drilled down further. We were told that the two of the five are most heavily relied on almost to the exclusion of the other three. They are Cost Effectiveness and Land Use. So in effect, Cost Effectiveness, how wisely you're spending your money ends up being 25% of your total project rating. The other 25%, Land Use breaks down to things like population densities, employment, character of stations and my favorite, parking ratios. The less parking you have available along your rail corridor, the higher your score. On a route through downtown, Kansas City doesn't even make the chart because we have too much parking. The ultimate irony as we continue to publicly finance parking garages for anyone who can fill out a TIF application.

1 Comment so far

  1. Dave September 29th, 2007 9:48 pm

    check with the pollsters… you will find quite a different story.

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