KC Light Rail

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

Peer City Status, Part 1

Here's what's shaking in the rest of the country while we wait for the Regional v. Starter discussion to be resolved. We present to you the status of urban rail transit in the MSAs that are between 1 and 3 million in population* (KC is about 2 million with 1,407/sq. mi.), from largest to smallest:

San Diego (2.97 million, 3,872/sq. mi.) - The 22-mile Sprinter commuter rail service began in March, using DMUs like those proposed in Mayor Funkhouser's regional plan. This new line doesn't terminate in the city center, but instead connects suburban nodes on existing commuter (Coaster, MetroLink) and inter-city rail lines (Amtrak). The 3-line San Diego Trolley system recently announced it would scrap it's zone pricing and move to a $2.50 fare for each trip.

St. Louis (2.80 million, 5,716/sq. mi.) - The pricey 8-mile "Cross County" light rail extension opened in 2006. A handful of other extensions are on the drawing board, but no funding has been secured. St. Louis has no commuter rail lines, but does have five daily Amtrak trains to Chicago, in addition to the two that run to KC (a new inter-modal station is near completion). A big TOD project was just announced near light rail stations in Maplewood. Fare increases ($2 today) are being discussed to cope with the cost of fueling diesel buses and a reduction in county funding. Our closest peer also deals with state line issues: MetroLink is managed by a bi-state authority.

Tampa (2.72 million, 2,970/sq. mi.) - A regional transit agency — TBARTA — was approved in 2007. A vintage trolley line serves downtown and Ybor City, but a 21-mile modern light rail starter line is being discussed for a 2010 ballot. Interesting to note that Gov. Charlie Crist recently signed a state budget that includes $2 million in funding for the new entity.

Baltimore (2.67 million, 8,058/sq. mi.) - Almost completely absorbed by the DC metro, Baltimore has one light rail line and is actively planning it's second (the Red Line); BRT is being discussed as an alternative. One-way fare is currently $1.60. Extensive commuter rail services to DC and a major spot on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor offer more alternatives to driving (these two services also provide airport connections).

Denver (2.46 million, 3,797/sq. mi.) - In the midst of a regional "railgasm" of sorts, Denver is building 119 miles of light rail and commuter rail through 2016 (including a billion dollar redo of their Union Station to support inter-modal connections). One-way light rail fare is $1.75 and a fare hike is being discussed. It's important to note that Denver's first line in 1994 was a locally-funded and "touristy" 5.3 miles through what was a dead downtown. Extensions opened in 2000, 2002, and 2006. Connections to the airport won't arrive until 2015. Special SkiTrains haul passengers to resorts during high season.

* By request, we added population density (city only). Please note that KC appears sparsely populated, partly based in reality and also based on years of semi-rural annexation north of the Missouri River that has ballooned the area to 318 square miles. Atlanta's area, by comparison, is only 132 square miles.

Stay tuned for more…

5 Comments so far

  1. Shay July 1st, 2008 9:25 am

    What I’d like to see in these in addition to population size is a couple stats about the sq. miles of the city and/or population density. Detractors always say that Kansas City is too sparse to support public transit and light rail, and I’d be curious to see how we compare.

  2. Dave July 1st, 2008 9:28 am

    can do. although cities that have had urban rail transit consistently over the years will probably have higher density. i will try to note “apples-to-apples” comparisons like denver and minneapolis.

  3. Marty July 1st, 2008 11:19 am

    Isn’t Tampa pretty sprawled?

  4. Jameson July 1st, 2008 11:33 am

    Check out this train that never stops; I wonder if the car that gets scooped up could also act as a ferry for automobiles?

  5. Tom in St. Louis July 1st, 2008 1:35 pm

    Ridership on MetroLink topped 90,000 in May, now almost double what it was prior to the Cross County extension opened.

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