KC Light Rail

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

Archive for April, 2008

Troost BRT open houses tonight, tomorrow

KCATA breaks out the easels again this week for two more Troost BRT open houses. Both locations are located along the existing #25 route.

Monday, April 28, 2008
6-8 p.m.
Cleaver Family YMCA
7000 Troost

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
6-8 p.m.
Metro Center
3827 Troost

No real news from the State Avenue BRT meeting on April 15. It's headed to the Unified Government Board of Commissioners on May 1, then to the KCATA Board on May 21. Formal project planning will begin in June.

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Google Transit coming to KC

Google Transit Event

We're not claiming any responsibility for this, but we did post in October asking KCATA and The JO to jump on board Google Transit, since it's free, requires very little technical work to join, and far exceeds the usability of most online trip planners (besides, who doesn't use Google Maps these days?). Kudos! Now where is The JO?

UPDATE: The Google Transit trip planner is Mac friendly, unlike the ATA's existing planner. However, not all mobile devices handle the pages well. We tested on a BlackBerry and didn't get very far, but Windows Mobile and PalmOS worked okay (it's useable).

UPDATE 2: According to this article, The JO is "still working on it." We've also confirmed that Google Transit works on iPhones, but only displays text instructions.

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A new leader?

We've never been a big fan of Councilman Ed Ford's work on light rail. It's not like it was a bad record, it just wasn't lighting any fires. Today, Mayor Funkhouser replaced Ford as chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with Councilman Russ Johnson.

To us, this is less about Ford's demotion than it is about Johnson's move into the spotlight. Although a bit cocky sometimes, his targeted questioning during committee meetings shows he has an eye for detail and complex, current issues.

So let the pundits wonder about Funkhouser's motives (a botched smoking ban, the Cauthen dust-up, too much focus on the starter line, Ford's own wish to be mayor), but we think it was a wise choice and even wiser to wait until after the bus tax passed.

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Round-up: This week in light rail

Local:

  • Maybe Funk's not so crazy (Prime Buzz)
  • Here's Funkhouser's plan to push for regional light rail (Midwest Voices)
  • Chastain ready to compromise on light rail (Kansas City Star)

National:

  • Secretary Mineta Testifies In Favor Of Rail (KHON)
  • St. Paul residents demand Central Corridor project (Minnesota Public Radio)
  • More money for roads? Don't bet on McCain (Prime Buzz)
  • Seattle mayor offers up some tips for Atlanta's future (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Scottsdale mayor, 3 on council targeted by light-rail foes (Arizona Daily Star)
  • DART: New proposed rail line is on time, on budget (Dallas Morning News)
  • No comments

Bus tax prevails, ATA not off the hook yet

A very strong majority (65%) voted to renew the 3/8-cent bus tax yesterday, which had been held hostage by a citizen initiative light rail plan since November 2006. This should leave all legal wrangling in the dust and allow the city to move forward with a (hopefully) somewhat regional funding election in November 2008.

Even with the strong win, KCATA cannot rest on its laurels. There are still systemic problems with existing bus routes and lots of missed opportunities with bus rapid transit. Some key issues:

  • Route complexity: Who would willingly ride a nearby bus line that changes routes between the workday, nighttime, weekends, or every other trip? Check #39 and #51 for proof.
  • Better east/west connectivity and connections: Enough said.
  • Project status and ridership figures: While not a critical item, ATA pales compared to peer agencies when it comes to reporting project status and ridership. Doesn't cost much to post these tidbits on the web.
  • Real MAX signal priority: Since straightening the route is unlikely, give every MAX bus true signal priority, which should result in a dramatic improvement in trip time between downtown and Waldo.
  • Night owl service: Especially in a truncated MAX corridor, where most of the city's nightlife is located. This is key in attracting the next generation of riders.
  • Implement BRT with lessons learned from MAX: See all of the above, plus make sure to color code the routes in line with SmartMoves.

Got your own ideas? Post a comment!

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Car-Free & Carefree, Part 4: Forest Park

By Joe Medley

I had intended to do a second post on Saturday, but things didn't quite go as planed. I found out at the last minute that my meeting started two hours earlier than I realized. This sucked up all of my spare writing time yesterday. Then I had trouble finding a free wireless hot spot. So here's part IV a little late.

On Saturday, I looked specifically to see if it were possible for someone to live without a car in the St. Louis area. About midday, I noticed that I had seen yet another transit rider toting a bicycle. Although there are plenty of cyclist in Kansas City, my impression is that I saw more people using it as a primary means of transportation than I had ever seen in Kansas City. This is just an impression, so I could be wrong. I would imagine that good public transit makes this easier by helping a cyclist cover longer distances. Obviously, cyclists are limited in the shopping that they can do, but is useful for getting to work, going to a baseball game, or visiting a friend.

I found an area outside the Forest Park stop where apartments, houses, shops, a bus stop, a park-and-ride lot, and the entrance to a major city park were all within 100 yards of the MetroLink station. This spot lacked a few local services like a grocery store, hardware store, and a drug store. I didn't have the time to find out how far away these services were, or whether I could get to them by foot, rail, or bus.

Yet, just being able to take a transit system to work is a noteworthy start. I recently guestimated that the 3/8 cent sales tax supporting the KCATA is costing me less than $100 a year. If I start taking the bus to work again, I'll spend $1500 a year. Out at North Hanley, there is public use parking garage right next to the MetroLink station. Even this will save residents money by decreasing the amount that a commuter will spend on gas, parking, and insurance.

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