KC Light Rail

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Task Force: Linwood or Brush Creek

The Light Rail Task Force dumped a few east side spur options and is moving forward with just two: Linwood Boulevard or Brush Creek (Volker/Emanuel Cleaver II/47th). According to the Star article, the Task Force's work on routing is now done. The City Council agreed with the previous recommendations entirely, so transit watchers will be paying close attention on this last detail to make sure there are no last minute switcheroos ("We want to continue south instead… for the children!").

Buses that run in the Linwood corridor have higher ridership and there are strong redevelopment possibilities at Cherry, Troost, and Prospect; it's also in a historically downtrodden part of the city (see yesterday's USA Today article for a post-MLK recap). Brush Creek would tie in better with the city's massive investment along previously-flood-prone Brush Creek and the dedicated light rail right-of-way along US-71. We've had lots of comments here about which one would be better. Does it matter at this point? If it does, email your council representatives and let them know.

Brush Creek makes sense due to the ROW along US-71, which would allow a future extension along the highway to avoid running in the streets (something for which KC doesn't have a lot of opportunities). Neither corridor has much job density, so it will probably come down to development and expansion capabilities. Existing ridership arguments are valid… but when you're already serving the transit-dependent population along Linwood with frequent bus service, does it make sense to replace it with light rail when a major by-product is adding new riders of choice?

The good thing here is that there is no right answer, just a preferred option that will facilitate concensus. Both corridors have their benefits and both would definitely boost the urban core.

9 Comments so far

  1. James January 23rd, 2008 10:26 am

    Why would the EASTERN spur turn SOUTH along US-71? Isn’t the primary spine already running south and stopping at 51st? Why not have the EASTERN spur continue, oh I don’t know, EAST?! In my opinion, it would be a wise choice to build the eastern spur in such a way that it could be expanded later to eventually connect with the Truman Sports Complex and maybe even the Independence Commons area. Especially if we are thinking ahead to a regional transit plan.

  2. Dave January 23rd, 2008 10:54 am

    many transit systems have lines that don’t run in perfect north/south or east/west harmony. lots of barriers can prevent a perfect alignment. regardless, the ROW was reserved for this specific reason (transit use) during the redo of US-71. during initial public meetings, it was discussed as a routing possibility. if the extension could go beyond the grandview triangle you would have a real shot at making an argument for congestion relief (an argument the current spine proposal cannot make in any way).

    granted, it’s just as valid to express your support for straight eastward expansion towards the sports complex (assuming, of course, you think that’s the right place for the stadiums in the long term… which i do not). commuter rail along the existing freight rail corridor that touches the sports complex is a better bargain since you could run all the way to odessa for half the cost. once a spine is complete, commuter rail options can be revived since there will be way to distribute riders from union station once they’re in the city.

  3. James January 23rd, 2008 11:18 am

    I agree with you that it was foolish to build the sports complex out there. Unfortunately, it’s there now and it represents millions (or perhaps billions) of dollars of investment. But I do not think we should scrap the Truman Sports complex b/c it’s in an inconvenient location. It’s just that kind of wasteful attitude that creates sprawl and placed the complex out there in the first. Luckily, as you pointed out, the complex happens to sit at the intersection of a couple of existing railroad tracks that could be used for commuter rail. And I think the complex should become just such a transit intersection. However, commuter rail usually only runs during rush hour times. It’s not intended for frequent trips like light rail. I think the eastern light rail spur should extend to the sports complex, and the complex could act as an intermodal transit hub where commuter rail connects with light rail. It sucks that the complex is so far from downtown, but I think we should use it to our advantage rather than letting it rot.

    As for US-71, I agree with you that the ROW should be put to use, but not with the eastern spur. I think the primary spine should be expanded later to continue south on the trolley track trail to Brookside, from there turn east on Meyer to the Zoo, and then connect to US-71 making use of the ROW where it would terminate at the future Wizards Stadium at Bannister. Commuter rail could serve Grandview and Belton on existing tracks. Yes, I’ve thought about this considerably, cause I’m a big nerd.

  4. Brent January 23rd, 2008 11:18 am

    Dave, do you have access to any population density maps or anything for these two corridors? Other than the connection with the 71 spur southward (which is admittedly a big deal), I don’t see any validation for the Brush Creek line….what am I missing? Running the rail line right along what is mostly park space doesn’t seem to make any sense to me…

  5. Brent January 23rd, 2008 11:23 am

    Another question, at one point, the common thought was that a commuter line Eastward using existing rail lines would most likely come from out of the River Market (vs Union Station). Does that route connect in any way to the Truman Sports Complex or does it stay too far North? Which of these routes would least interfere with the River Market commuter line?

    Running the Eastern Spur to Truman Sports complex makes some good sense — it is really only 8 miles from downtown and I don’t see the football stadium being moved any time soon (I still wish we’d moved baseball downtown and could use the current Kaufman stadium sit for soccer, but that’s another story). The sports complex would also be very functional as a park-and-ride location since it is east of the 435 traffic jam…

  6. Dave January 23rd, 2008 11:48 am

    plenty of commuter rail info in MARC’s 2002 study:


    the ATA posted PDFs (see yesterday’s post) of the corridors that included population and job densities on subsequent pages.

    as far as brush creek goes, the area could be completely transformed into a TOD village along the creek, sort of a “plaza east”. something to consider, even though linwood will probably win out in the end.

  7. enough January 23rd, 2008 7:55 pm

    ^^^^^ the rail line that goes past the stadiums is the rock island line, which has been inactive for about 20 years. it runs thru the center of raytown and past lee’s summit (between us 50 and longview community college.

    the line that goes to odessa is the kcs (originally gmo / gulf, mobile and ohio) line. it runs thru independence crosses under i-70 in the little blue river valley, then through blue springs. it’s been studied by marc and rejected for communter rail service, at least for now — too much freight traffic to take it in to union station, according to the terminal railway, and taking it in to river market would require expensive new rail viaducts and a circuitous trip for commuters.

  8. EJ January 25th, 2008 1:11 am

    Well I guess you have all the answers dont you? You have some nerve talking about bus riders like that. Public Transportation is supposed to be there for the masses to move large numbers of people in and out of a centralized location. KC is spread out and doesnt have this issue, so naturally anyone who has used a car their whole life would look down on people who ride the bus. I grew up on the east coast, trust me, if you drive into NYC or DC you are a fool. Public transit is the way to go. There isnt a population center in Kansas City worth building a light rail for. If it was going to be built, it needs to fan out in every direction from downtown, the Airport, Liberty, the stadium complex, through midtown to suothtown, a line should go strait out i-35, and one out to the racetrack. Imagine how that would benefit the whole region.

  9. Dave January 25th, 2008 9:51 am

    EJ: what exactly are you offended by? the ATA maps that show where the transit-dependent actually are? study after study that show rail attracts riders of choice, thus elevating the entire system versus just replacing one mode with another at a dramatically higher cost?

    where is the money going to come from for your multi-line system? and where do you start first? how are you going to decide who gets served first when there is a federal matching program that forces you to make decisions based on such criteria as transit-dependence, job density, and political concensus?

    to answer your rhetorical question anyway: no, i don’t have all of the answers… but i have a lot of ideas and this blog is where we discuss mine and others.


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