KC Light Rail

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

Archive for October, 2007

MARC conducting traffic study

MARC will survey random commuters today through Nov. 15 to update the region's travel demand model. If you happen to get pulled over (see the map), please ask for light rail. The last "external survey" of this kind was conducted in 1971, so we're due for an update.

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Second Public Meeting recap

First off, there are some details about the light rail route that are almost guaranteed:

  • Street-running for the entire route; no plan to acquire property for the tracks.
  • The northern terminus will be either the Kansas City Water Works [map] or Vivion Road, heading south through North Kansas City on Burlington Street.
  • An option for a new bridge crossing the Missouri River (it's included in the $600 million price tag).
  • Main, Walnut, or Grand between River Market and Crossroads (straight shot, no loops mentioned).
  • Main Street south to the Plaza (47th).
  • MAX components could be redeployed on another route with federal approval (replacing #71 Prospect, for example).
  • This is the only plan that's official.

After that is where it gets tricky. The consulting team presented three southern branches and termini for public comment:

  1. 51st & Main/Oak (UMKC).
  2. East on 47th/Volker to Troost Avenue, then south on Troost to 63rd (The Landing).
  3. East on Volker/Swope to Prospect/Bruce Watkins (Park-and-Ride).

Which would you choose? Alignment 1 saves money, especially if you elect to build true light rail (more on that below), but doesn't address any of the transit-dependent population on the east side of the city (important for a follow-up election). Alignment 2 falls into the city's most used transit corridor, but only half of it. Also complicating Alignment 2 is the already-approved Troost BRT project due in 2009. Alignment 3 would be well served by future extension possibilities along the Rock Island corridor (to Raytown and the Sports Complex) and reserved transit right-of-way along Bruce Watkins (only from 47th to the Grandview Triangle). Some, however, questioned Alignment 3's ability to properly serve the east side when most transit options run north/south.

The consultant team also sought input on the technology: traditional streetcar, modern streetcar, or full light rail. The answer basically boils down to speed and price. Full light rail (like Denver and Houston) costs more for two reasons: track depth/complexity and station/vehicle cost. Since the light rail vehicles weigh more and a dedicated lane would be used, utilities would be relocated away from the route. The track bed must also be deeper to support the extra weight. A new or rebuilt river crossing would be required. Benefits of full light rail are improved travel time, safety, and flexibility for future upgrades. Modern streetcars might have a dedicated lane, but the vehicles carry fewer passengers and track bed would have to be upgraded to support full light rail if needed in the future. Modern streetcars (like Portland) are less expensive, carry fewer passengers, and wouldn't require full stations. Traditional streetcars (like Little Rock and Kenosha) in mixed traffic carry even fewer passengers and are slow; they also didn't generate much interest last night. We should note that the Portland Streetcar system that is frequently referenced is essentially an 8-mile downtown circulator, not a spine. Portland's spine is full light rail, called MAX.

There was also some discussion about funding, but we were far more interested in route and technology. If you attended and took notes about the funding issues, please feel free to share them in comments. We'll also be linking to the meeting materials once they've been posted on the KCATA website.

UPDATE: The Star's Prime Buzz has video from one of yesterday's sessions.


Portland’s Modern Streetcar


Sunday Star Light Rail coverage

Today's Star is jam-packed with great light rail coverage and a "concensus plan" for a starter line. The only thing we'd change is to make sure the publishers leave this special online section active and not charge the typical archive fee. The timing for boosting the discussion is perfect, since tomorrow is the second public meeting where route options will certainly be discussed.


No alarms and no surprises

You probably already read or saw it somewhere else, so we're just posting it here for posterity: the City Council didn't vote on any of the three light rail ordinances this week. No surprise, as it's probably in their best interest to let these options sit in front of the community awhile before pulling any particular lever. Kudos to Ed Ford for introducing all of the options right now; the prior administration and council would have likely decided the fate behind closed doors just so they could present a smiling and unified front. That may work great for shareholders, but it's definitely not the way to engage constituents in a meaningful way.

Back on the ground, the KCATA is ready to unveil some route and technology options Monday. If you're truly interested in making your voice heard you should at least show up (attendance numbers are almost as important as your feedback at this point), especially since they've made an obvious effort to make the meetings more accessible by holding two sessions and referencing their own buses as an option for getting there.

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Next stop: 18th & Grand!

Is The Star creating a light rail plan?

starrail.jpgWe've been hearing rumblings that The Kansas City Star is working on their own light rail route. That's all we know right now, so there's no telling what the route, technology, or funding will look like.

Why would The Star design and then support their own plan? The editorial board has supported light rail in the past. We haven't seen their plan and are not casting judgment, but too many plans muddy the waters for voters. If voters get confused, they'll get irritated and vote against any and all plans. There are already several proposed or being planned. If The Star's board does still support light rail in Kansas City, they'll need to be careful on how this is presented.

They'll also need to take care with their reporting, as they've said repeatedly that the editorial board does not decide content. It will also be interesting to see how they qualify themselves as a qualified route designer.


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