KC Light Rail

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

Archive for January, 2008

ATA moves Federal process forward

Mark your calendars for Feb. 27. That's when the next round of public meetings for light rail — part of the next step in the FTA New Starts funding process, the Environmental Impact Statement — will be held. According to ATA Director Mark Huffer: "For anyone who is interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of light rail, this is the time to get involved." See the PDF for more details.

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Bus ridership on the rise metrowide

The Star's Brad Cooper digs up 2007 ridership numbers for area transit agencies — you certainly won't find the data on each agency's website or even in a press release — and shows where the biggest surge in demand lies: the suburbs. Doesn't this trump conventional wisdom about suburbanites and their cars in this town? Granted, much of The JO's demand came from the new K-10 Connector premium service — it costs $2.50 each way — but it's certainly not paying for itself, so money is coming out of The JO's limited funds to provide it. The story is the same on the Missouri side: suburbs like Independence, Blue Springs, Lee's Summit, and North Kansas City are clamoring to find increased or dedicated funding to meet demand. This is good news for the ATA in advance of the April vote to extend the bus tax for another 15 years, but what about the rest of the metro? Where is the leadership to secure dedicated transit funding?


The Task Force Letter

The Kansas City Post has the letter from some members of the Light Rail Task Force decrying the process and what little political support they've received. Our favorite quote is the reference to members of the Task Force who don't want light rail in the first place. Sad indeed. Even worse is that this task force followed one that expertly managed to hammer out the city's economic development policy (televised meetings, media coverage, regular council updates, etc.). Granted, the Chastain vote, subsequent council repeal, and lawsuits muddied the waters quite a bit… still no excuse for transparency and listening to the group you convened for the sole purpose of providing recommendations.

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3/8-cent, 15-year bus tax election ordinance passes unanimously

The full city council voted 12-0 today to approve the ordinance that puts the 3/8-cent "bus tax" renewal on the April 2008 ballot (with the smoking bans!). Mayor Funkhouser is out of town this week and was not present to vote.

Here's the updated ballot language:

Shall the City of Kansas City continue a city sales tax for the purposes of developing, operating, maintaining, equipping and improving a bus transit system by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority for Kansas City, Missouri, as authorized by Section 94.605 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri at a rate of 3/8% for a period of 15 years?

____ YES ____ NO

Previously, the question did not specify buses ("transit" was the only identifying word) and there was much discussion about the duration of the tax (it would be the longest sales tax in the city's history… 12 years is the runner-up). The last tax had a 5-year sunset because MARC expected to launch regional tax votes to support SmartMoves.


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.


Tonight’s Task Force meeting

The Light Rail Task Force will meet tonight with a full agenda, including evaluation of east side routing options (see PDFs for 18th/Truman, Linwood, and Brush Creek… as well as late-comer Independence). The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the HNTB office at 715 Kirk Drive.

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