KC Light Rail

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Car-Free & Carefree, Part 1

By Joe Medley

I've long felt that one of the problems with public transit in Kansas City is that area residents cannot imagine life without cars. The editorial pages of area newspapers first gave me this impression during the debates surrounding Clay Chastain's early ballot initiatives. Recent events have reinforced this impression.

At one of the public light rail meetings, a midtown resident thought that buildings would be torn down so that the number of car lanes wouldn't need to be reduced. Eric over at Let's Go KC told me that in another meeting, residents complained about loosing parking on Main until he pointed out that they could just take the light rail line to get where they are going. I've also responded to comments on blogs and news articles about light rail that tax dollars should go to things that "everybody can use." (I guess it never occurs to them that a restricted transit line would be just as illegal as a restricted neighborhood.)

What these stories illustrate is that people do not imagine themselves getting around any way other than by car. I'm hoping to change these impressions. That's what this series of blog entries is about.

This coming weekend, I'm taking a trip to St. Louis for a meeting. I was happy to discover that I can do the whole trip by bus, train, and light rail. I decided to chronicle my experiences as close to real time as possible to help area residents imagine life without cars, and to stimulate discussions about alternative modes of transportation.

My posts from the road will begin early Friday morning when I walk from my house to the bus stop at the end of the block. They will continue through a train ride out of Union Station and through a weekend in St. Louis, ending Sunday afternoon when I return to Union Station and catch the next bus to the end of my block.

7 Comments so far

  1. mainstream April 3rd, 2008 4:01 pm

    I have a prediction Joe - you will have between a 6 and 10 hour train ride between KC and St. Louis going out or coming back.

    The KC - StL route, is, unfortunately, the least reliable rail route in the nation. It shares the rails with freight, and freight takes priority. Amtrack does not tell you this. 2 hour delays are the rule, and I have personally experienced delays far longer.

    Good luck!

  2. Ben April 3rd, 2008 4:24 pm

    Thankfully the KC-StL amtrack route has nothing to do with people’s largest concern, the daily drive. Good luck with the trip Joe!

  3. Dave April 3rd, 2008 7:09 pm

    it’s no secret.


    average eastbound delays (3 wk period):

    train 314 - 48 minutes
    train 316 - 61 minutes

    average westbound delays (3 wk period):

    train 311 - 25 minutes
    train 313 - 49 minutes

    joe knows what he’s getting into, as do most travelers on missouri’s trains. the point is being car-free, not being on-time to the minute.

  4. Joe Medley April 3rd, 2008 8:50 pm

    None of those delays is more than an hour. Doesn’t bother me. It will be longest uninterrupted stretch for relaxing with a good book that I’ve had in many months.

  5. northlander April 3rd, 2008 9:57 pm

    To give over a billion dollars in 15 years for the 12,000-15,000 who ride the bus and leave the other 99% of Kansas City who don’t seem right when the city’s in the hole for $78 million. The city just got on track to keep it clean and looking good.

  6. Dave April 3rd, 2008 10:17 pm

    How amusing! I made this very trip with my family last week — we took the train to St. Louis for 4 days, utilizing the Metro while in town. We took the train back to KC, and from union station / crown center, hopped on the 28 bus, to arrive within a block of our front door.

    Maybe next spring break, we’ll go to Chicago the same way…

  7. Shay April 4th, 2008 12:11 pm

    My husband and I are not yet 25, so rental cars are prohibitively expensive. For our vacations, we love flying or taking a train to some city with good public transit and spending entire weeks at a time without a car. Not only is it much less stressful than trying to keep track of a car, we usually end up losing weight that week. I would LOVE to be able to go about my own city that way…

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