KC Light Rail

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Archive for December, 2007

Prime Buzz: Does the election date matter?

November seems to be the most popular month for light rail elections across the country, according to information pulled together by the Star's Prime Buzz. A few other tidbits gleaned from the 40 elections studied:

  • 40% of all 40 light rail questions passed.
  • Of the 23 starter line elections, 18 were held in November.
  • November and springtime starter line questions passed 33% of the time; the two summertime questions failed.
  • Non-rail questions passed 70% of the time.

Obviously, Prime Buzz notes, this is not scientific. For example, if they included the recent Prop. 1 election in Seattle, it was a combo package that included light rail AND roads. Regardless, it's interesting to see the data laid out as we continue our local decision-making process. The mayor and the light rail task force want November, while some on the council want earlier. We might find out for sure next month, but it's quite likely the council will drag it out until November is the only option left in 2008.


Brookings: KC at “competitive disadvantage”

A recent Brookings Institution report on walkability specifically calls out Kansas City — as well as peer cities Cincinnati and Detroit — as being at a "competitive disadvantage" for lacking walkable urban development, primarily tied to a lack of prior investment in rail transit systems. While this should come as no surprise to most of us, it adds to the chorus of non-transit-geek voices pressuring KC to move forward with light rail, if only to remain economically competitive. Of the 30 metros studied, the top 15 most walkable "also have the preponderance of full or partial rail transit systems and thus 95 percent of the rail transit-served walkable urban places." Place like Denver, Portland, and San Diego.

On a side note, the report mentions the Crossroads specifically as not yet being at critical mass, meaning "new development projects do not need significant public or private subsidies to proceed with the next new project."

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SmartMoves workshop recap

This blogger made tracks to the Central Library last night for MARC's SmartMoves workshop. I'd guess there were a little over 50 people. Attendees were asked to help identify key corridors for transit in the region. We were broken into smaller groups of about 8 and seated around a large map. My group was somewhat well-distributed with residents from the Northland, Downtown, East-central city, South Plaza and Shawnee.

Our group's discussion facilitators asked us what criteria transit should focus on when selecting a route. Popular criteria at our table included commuting, getting to recreation destinations (like stadiums), tourism (airport to hotels to cultural attractions), access to other transit lines / reducing the number of transfers to reach one's destination, and human services / security (hospital access, evacuation).

Our facilitator then asked us to use those criteria to draw lines along corridors on the large map of the metro in front of us. We could each draw two lines, and by about the fourth person, everyone's lines were on the map.

Our map looked like a trimmed-down SmartMoves map of olde, with corridors identified as I-35 from Liberty to Olathe (by far the most popular route at our table), I-70 from Blue Springs to the Speedway, KCI Airport to Belton, and Downtown to the Plaza. Most agreed a rail solution was preferred, but didn't think we'd see it initially due to cost; they seemed okay with buses.

Several people suggested their second route not be a corridor but more of a local circulator in areas like College Boulevard to the Grandview Triangle, Shawnee Mission Parkway, or Barry Road. The argument was after you park, ride and get off, you then have to get the last few miles to your door.

Other points brought up:

  • Connect the local universities
  • Will the Fed's really like us laying down Light Rail tracks in the same corridor they just gave us millions to add two pseudo-BRT lines?

Up next: MARC talks to elected officials for funding. I was told these officials have said in the past that they haven't heard from their constituents that there's a need for this kind of transit — too bad I recognized only one of them there — Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. If this is important to you then let your local and state officials know.

Look for updates from MARC in spring 2008.

More info: http://www.marc.org/kcsmartmoves/

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SmartMoves update meeting tonight

The second meeting for MARC's SmartMoves update is tonight at the Central Library. Originally scheduled for last Monday, the downtown meeting was moved due to inclement weather. The other session was held as scheduled last Tuesday in downtown KCK.

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NKC: May we have BRT in the interim?

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North Kansas City, the tiny municipality that occupies much of the land needed to take light rail north of the Missouri River, might be ready for transit improvements sooner than KCMO can deliver. During NKC's council meeting this week, council members wondered if an extension of the MAX BRT line north to NE 32nd (presumably along Burlington) might be an option worth funding while the light rail plan comes together.

Currently, MAX terminates south of the river at 3rd and Grand. The NKC area is served by limited bus service today (pretty much weekdays only), but is home to some large employers (Cerner, North Kansas City Hospital), a teeming downtown district, and truckloads of casino revenue. NKC is in the process of approving $257,871 worth of funding for the service they have today.


Light rail and the new KCI terminal

Kansas City International Airport will have a new terminal in 20 years and there isn't much you can do about it.

Okay, ready to move on? Good, because the new terminal design shown to locals at an open house on Thursday has a light rail station. While some may say "Duh!", it's a far cry from earlier comments from the Aviation Department, who basically intimated the existing revenue stream (parking) that keeps KCI self-funded would be at risk if we were offered an alternative way to get there. At least now we've moved beyond denial and have accepted the reality that the shoddy local bus (#129x) option isn't cutting it for just about everyone.

All that said, if you live downtown or don't mind transferring and happen to be departing and arriving between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday only from Terminal C, then this 45-minute bus ride is for you. $1.25 each way beats even one day of bargain parking.


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