KC Light Rail

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

Archive for September, 2007

NKC: Real frustration or drama?

North Kansas City Mayor Gene Bruns says light rail has "worn" him out. Considering how long the process will take, it seems a bit early to be throwing in the towel. While Bruns does have a point about the number of groups — including this site… guilty as charged! — seeking to influence the planning process, it's certainly no worse than any other billion dollar civic project the metro has undertaken (Bruce Watkins? Brush Creek?).

What's more interesting, however, is the insistence that the revised route will likely use the Heart of America bridge. For those with short-term memory problems, this is the same bridge that the city and ATA leaders said would cost lots of extra dough to re-engineer to support light rail. Did MoDOT swoop in recently and sprinkle their magic bridge dust to make it better? We'd love to hear how the HoA plays into the 10- to 12-mile project cost that is being thrown around these days.


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

KCATA testifies before Congress

Mark Huffer, KCATA general manager, will testify before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Thursday about proposed changes to the FTA's Small Starts and Very Small Starts programs. You can wade through Huffer's comments, but rest assured this is less about telling Congress they're on the right track with BRT than it is more about putting KCATA in front of the people who might be funding light rail for KC in the very near future.

And while we're on the topic of BRT, Wired has published a four-part series detailing the pros and cons of the "poor man's light rail".

1 comment

City Transit Advocates

We've been added to a new, pro-transit blog aggregator hosted by the people behind The Overhead Wire. It's called City Transit Advocates… controleer het out!

No comments

Star editorial: “Seattle offers hope”

We like Seattle. It happens to be very late to the light rail table, just like our beloved metropolis (although they did keep their trolleybuses). One wonders if they were getting "served" in the transit game by their smaller and scrappier neighbor to the south (Portland); kinda like we're a decade late to the light rail party that started in St. Louis circa 1993. Yup, they're on their next expansion already and we're stuck on Step 1 of 12. The Star's editorial page today reminds KC residents that — duh! — our situation is neither unique nor any more complicated than what othere cities have gone through.


One KC Transit Meetings

MARC and the region's transit agencies are hosting a series of public forums with the intent of updating Smart Moves based on the light rail vote. The meeting schedule is here. Tonight's meeting is at the Shawnee Public Library, 13811 Johnson Drive. We appreciate MARC's nod to actually using public transportation to get to a meeting about the very subject.


Next Page »