KC Light Rail

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

Archive for December, 2007

Seattle mayor leading by example

Local leaders went on a much-publicized trip to Seattle a few months ago and brought back lots of cool ideas about what it's like to be a Big City (light rail!. Another of these great ideas appeared in today's Post-Intelligencer: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed giving all city employees free bus passes by 2009. But wait… isn't KC's bus system "anemic"? Well, yeah, if you live in Olathe and work in Blue Springs — downtown workers are the best served in the entire metro. Even though the schedules aren't that flexible in the far-flung areas, just about anyone in the entire metro can catch a single-seat ride to the Loop. KCMO is the only city that could seriously offer this with the current system… and wouldn't it be a great step towards leading by example? It's worth noting that Jackson County employees already enjoy this amenity.

The City could also make immediate improvements to the existing MAX line by reversing previous administration (not ATA) policy that prevents MAX buses from always getting traffic signal priority at intersections, especially now that almost all of the signals on Main have been replaced. We're guessing you could cut at least 5 minutes from a Plaza to downtown run.

If improved transit is really the highest priority, shouldn't we be thinking about improving what we already have while the consultants and the Feds do the light rail dance for the next decade? In short, transit leadership is not just about light rail.


Funkhouser’s Regional “Concept”

Mayor Funkhouser laid out a few details for his vision of a regional transit "concept" during his appearance on Up To Date this morning. The podcast is here.

Why it's different this time:

  • KC has never had a mayor who has made light rail such a high priority (debatable, but we think it's true)
  • Climate change concerns makes the situation more urgent, especially on the Kansas side
  • Transit ranks high in importance in Johnson County and low in satisfaction… "exactly the kind of thing you want to fund," Funk says
  • The KC metro job growth rate is decreasing and is now below the national average; KC needs transit to be competitive with peers

The concept:

  • Shared governance across the state line and by elected — not appointed — officials (possibly just to manage light rail, existing bus systems retained?)
  • Equal amount of rail miles on each side of the state line
  • Shared funding:
    • 1/2-cent sales tax collected regionally
    • $138 million collected annually, bonded to $3.5 billion to finance construction and operations
    • Lower percentage of federal matching funds (about a third, or $1 billion) for the entire system, versus just "one project at a time" model; Salt Lake City just set a precedent for this approach by requesting a 20% match for five new lines (four light rail and one commuter rail)… Houston will likely follow suit
    • Dedicate 5-10% towards Metro Green (bike and walking trails) for intermodal connections

He thinks he has a "10-20% chance" of making it happen, so what does he have to lose? Valid points all around. We're quite relieved to hear him state, unequivocally, that if he can't make the regional love-fest work before the November '08 election, then he'll back a KC- or Missouri-only starter line.

All that said, is there anyone who actually listened today that isn't satisfied?

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No big news on KC light rail planning, but here are some other recent transit-related tidbits:

  • KCATA has updated their trip planner: it's now MacOS friendly. Think you can't take the bus to work? Better check again!
  • Last night, KCPT and By The People held a follow-up to the Oct. 20 transit forum. This event was not televised, but this time we were chosen to participate. We'll post the final report here once we receive it. The original forum will be re-broadcast on Jan. 4.
  • MARC is also hosting a follow-up to their SmartMoves workshops that were held in various parts of the metro throughout the fall. This time there are only two sessions — Dec. 10 and 12 — and they're both accessible via public transit. RSVPs are recommended.
  • Mayor Funkhouser will be on KCUR's Up To Date Wednesday and light rail will be a topic. Air time is 11:00 a.m. CDT and the call-in number is 816-235-2888. Also available as a live stream and podcast.
  • MoDOT announced the winning design/build team for the new Paseo Bridge — soon to be "a landmark cable-stay Missouri River bridge expandable to eight lanes and capable of accommodating a future bicycle/pedestrian facility once connectivity is established" — on Nov. 14. While it won't accommodate light rail and will open by 2011, be on the lookout for a new river crossing upstream that will be part of the revised light rail plan from KCATA and HNTB. The Heart of America and ASB bridges are out of the picture. We're guessing that will make Grand Avenue the south shore landing point and Swift Avenue in North Kansas City the north shore landing point.
  • Bike racks have been installed along 12th Street as part of the downtown streetscape improvements in that corridor. If you've got more than a few blocks to walk to the bus stop near your home, remember that every city bus has a fold-down bike rack on the front. Instructions and pics are here. Word has it that bike racks are also coming soon to the Power & Light District as a last-minute addition. City bike parking rules are here.
  • Charlotte's new light rail line is attracting solid numbers now that fares are being collected. The next light rail newbie, Phoenix, has started testing their new line — which is on-time and on-budget; it's due to open in December 2008. New Haven is seriously talking streetcars, and there is chatter that Savannah will be launching a streetcar circulator next year. In the bad news column, St. Louis Metro lost its lawsuit against the contractors who built the "Cross County" light rail extension to Clayton.
  • Expanding Amtrak service to Oklahoma is the topic this Saturday as the Northern Flyer Alliance holds a public meeting at Union Station to build grassroots support for plugging a big hole in Amtrak's national network. Only 200 rail miles separates Newton, Kansas, from Oklahoma City, and Wichita (the largest city in Kansas) is not currently served.

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