KC Light Rail

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

Archive for April, 2008

Vote Tuesday, attend light rail workshops

It's big week in transit for Kansas City: Tuesday's bus tax renewal election and light rail workshops in all four "nodes" along the proposed Plaza-to-Northland route. Here's the language that will appear on Tuesday's ballot as "Question 1″:

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?


Not sure where to vote? Polling locations can be found here.

While a full schedule is here, below are the light rail workshops being held this week:

East Meeting #2 (East of Main Street)
6-8 p.m.
Monday, April 7
Gates Headquarters
4621 The Paseo

Downtown Meeting #3 (Missouri River to Linwood Boulevard)
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 9
Scarritt Building (Scarritt Ballroom)
818 Grand Blvd.

Midtown Meeting #2 (Linwood to UMKC)
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 10
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
11 E. 40th St.

No comments

Car-Free & Carefree, Part 3: MetroLink

By Joe Medley

As I said before, sometimes the world can be downright hostile to pedestrians. The St. Louis Amtrak station turned out to be isolated. I debarked to find no MetroLink station and no bus stop. What was worse, the Amtrak station was in middle of a construction zone with no pavement and no sidewalks on the street near the station. Yet there were plenty of cab drivers willing to take my money. Fortunately, an Amtrak employee told me that the MetroLink line was less than a block away.

Unlike Kansas City buses, the St. Louis MetroLink uses off-vehicle ticketing. The vending machine in the photo above sells MetroLink passes for varying amounts of time. It even sells multiple tickets in a single transaction. The strange thing is, to get on the MetroLink, I didn't need to show my pass to anyone or pass it through any kind of reader. It didn't look like anyone else did either. I suspect St. Louis is getting the short end of the stick on this.

The boarding platform of a typical station is shown above. Trains are identified by the place where they terminate. To navigate, I locate my destination on the schematic map. I scan along the route line until I find a red or blue termination flag. That flag tells me which train to board. Then I wait for the train labeled with that termination point. For example, lets say I wanted to go from Civic Center to Wellston. The map shows that Wellston is on the line that terminates at Lambert Airport, so I would board the train labeled “Lambert Airport.” On the other hand, if I wanted to go to Grand, I could get on either the “Lambert Airport” train or the Shrewsbury train because both pass through Grand before they diverge at Forest Park. This probably sounds more complicated than it is. The good news is that when Kansas City gets light rail, this will be easier for area residents because we know our own geography.

In case you still thought it was an open question, yes, light rail lines can go around sharp corners, as the picture above shows. It's hard to see in the photograph, but this looked like a 90-degree turn to me. The caveat is that a train cannot take this very fast or it will jump the tracks. It's not a problem here because this bend is right next to a station where a the train has to stop anyway.


Car-Free & Carefree, Part 2: Amtrak

By Joe Medley

It took me longer to make my first report than I anticipated. I didn't have time to send an early morning report like I had planned. Amtrak ran about two hours behind. Then I had to learn to navigate the Metro (which takes a lot less time than learning to drive). Finally, the most difficult leg of the trip to navigate without a car was the last quarter mile from the Metro station to my Hotel. More about that later.

The day began with a bus ride from the end of my street to Crown Center and a short walk to Union Station.

7:17 AM I thought I was going to send my first post from the Union Station waiting room complete with pictures of the current waiting room and the old North hall where passengers once awaited departure. I didn't get the chance. I arrived about 7:00 and barely had time to get my ticket when they announced boarding for the 314 to St. Louis.

I managed to snap a picture of a model of the Pioneer Zephyr. This vehicle was the first diesel electric locomotive to enter revenue service on a North American railroad. Operating on the Chicago Burlington and Quincy railroad, the Zephyr began hauling passengers between Chicago and Denver in 1939. The Zephyr ushered in a fad for streamlining that eventually influenced the shape of cars and even kitchen appliances. You can tour the actual train at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Boarding was a breeze. I didn't need to check my baggage. I didn't have my personal belongings searched. I wasn't forced to open my belt in front of 150 strangers. And I wasn't fondled by Barney Fife. The best part wasn't the lack of dehumanizing security. The best part was that I could have arrived at 7:15 for a 7:30 departure and would not have been rushed for ticketing and boarding.

7:20 AM The spaciousness of the business class compartment must be seen to be believed. Seated with my arm fully extended in front of me, there is more than a foot between the tips of my fingers and the back of the next chair. The tray table is too far away, if you can believe that. I also get a free drink and a place to plug in my laptop. This cost me $45 one-way. A coach ticket costs $25. Coach seats are smaller than business class seats, but it looks like they have more room than an airline seat.

7:26 AM The conductor just came on the PA system and announced that it is time for visitors to leave the train. So, if I had an elderly parent, or a handicapped friend, I could board the train and help them get settled.

7:40 AM The view out my window so far has alternated between housing and older industrial areas. Another way to put it is that the view has alternated between places to live and places to work. Why don't we have commuter rail in this town?

8:05 AM We've stopped in Lee's Summit. I was surprised at how much open space there was between Independence and Lee's Summit. I thought sprawl had long since gobbled it up. If gas prices keep going up, I know good place to do some real estate speculating.

I only have two complaints about the accommodations. The temperature is too warm and the ride is a bit bumpy. I forgot to take my Dramamine, and I can't find it. All I can do is hope for the best.

Even though I had breakfast already, I decided to buy one of the club car offerings just to try it out. I had an egg and cheese bagel sandwich heated in a microwave. I had assumed there would be only one meal available which would be lunch. The bagel sandwich turned out to be same kind you get at a convenience store. Terrible. I noticed later that I could have a bowl of cold cereal. That's what my breakfast at home is.

10:00 AM The train stopped to allow an oncoming passenger train to pass. The conductor said that six years ago that passenger trains across Missouri were on time most of the time. But in the last six years, freight trains on this route have jumped from six a day to more than 40 a day. I've heard that this can sometimes lead to some terrible delays. Luckily, that is not the case today. We were moving again within ten minutes.

11:00 AM Jefferson City. On the way in, I caught a glimpse of the capitol building which is withing walking distance of the tracks. There are two wonderful Civil War-era buildings next to the tracks. They are of the same general style as those that existing on Kansas City's river front in that period. The yellow building looks very much like the Gillis House Hotel that stood on 1st street in the 1880s.

Between here and Kirkwood sat several towns with numerous structures from the mid 1800's, including Hermann and Washington. I've rarely ever seen that much 19th century architecture in a single day. I've never seen it in Missouri. These buildings are much more appealing to look at than the suburban-style sprawl that lines our highways.

2:30 Arrival. It's two hours later than I expected to arrive in St. Louis. I'm not complaining. I knew when I bought the ticket that Amtrak sometimes had to wait on a siding for an oncoming train to pass. To be fair, sometimes oncoming trains had to wait for Amtrak to pass.

The next leg of the trip showed me that our world isn't just unfriendly to pedestrians. Sometimes it can be downright hostile. More about that in my next post.


Collateral damage for the bus tax?

Prime Buzz digs deeper into the smear ads that popped up on TV in the last week opposing the bus tax renewal (Question 1). Obviously a stealth campaign, as the only campaign finance filing before the election showed $100 in the bank, certainly not enough to buy a local cable spot during prime time on CNN. The next filing is conveniently April 15, one full week after the election.

PB's Brad Cooper suggests that the effort might have nothing to do with the bus tax itself, but rather a way to get negative votes on the same ballot as the other questions: regulating payday loans (Question 2) and a city-wide smoking ban (Question 3). See PB for details on the money behind these other two campaigns (hint: Big Tobacco and Predatory Lenders) and judge for yourself.

No comments

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.


« Previous Page