KC Light Rail

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Archive for July, 2008

Starter line ordinance advances to full Council

Ordinance 080693 for the KCMO light rail starter line advanced from today's Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and is on its way to the full council. Approval is expected since all of the councilmembers have signed on as co-sponsors and route compromises enabled total concensus. This moves Kansas City another step closer to the 3/8-cent sales tax question appearing on the November ballot. Now all that's left is council approval — likely next week — before the Aug. 26 ballot deadline.

Some changes were made to the ballot language, basically codifying the route in the actual ballot language (versus leaving it in the separate non-binding resolution):

For the purpose of funding a light rail passenger system running from the area around the intersection of Bruce R. Watkins Roadway and 63rd Street on the south to the area around the intersection of Northeast Vivion Road and North Oak Trafficway on the north, which can ultimately connect to a regional public transportation system, shall the City of Kansas City impose a sales tax of 1/4 % under the authority of Section 94.577, RSMo, and a sales tax of 1/8 % under the authority of Section 94.600, RSMo, both for a period not to exceed 25 years, beginning April 1, 2009, and which may include the retirement of debt under authorized bonded indebtedness?

UPDATE: Here's The Star's coverage of today's meeting.

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Regional update: Bus or commuter rail?

This update from last week's third regional transit summit poses an interesting dilemma: at what cost rail? On one side, the normally pragmatic Mayor Funkhouser pushes for commuter rail and on the other side suburban mayors push for new bus service. Both will take some time to implement, as the waiting list for new buses has jumped to nearly two years due to crushing demand. Commuter rail, on the other hand, isn't experiencing quite the mad dash due to the higher comprar cenforce online capital cost and limited number of systems up and running.

Opponents of commuter rail cite:
- higher capital cost
- limited route options
- demand for existing bus service
- freight railroad insistence on expensive capacity upgrades
- freight congestion
- encouragement of sprawl and limited development potential

Proponents of commuter rail cite:
- higher fuel efficiency and similar operational costs as a bus
- higher passenger capacity per trip than buses
- limited exposure to severe weather and traffic congestion
- potential for electrification
- willingness of at least one freight railroad (KC Southern) to be a partner
- acknowledgment of sprawl

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Johnson: Extend starter line to 63rd

Councilman Russ Johnson will introduce a compromise tomorrow for the proposed starter line that will extend the current terminus from Brush Creek to 63rd Street along Bruce R. Watkins Drive. The effort is intended to secure support from the other council districts that aren't as well served by the route as the 2nd and 4th districts. While at first it may appear to be a "me too" grab, there are true benefits to terminating at 63rd (although they're not the ones you're hearing about):

- Directly serves Research Medical Center
- A potential shot in the arm for the struggling Citadel Plaza project and the Kansas City Zoo
- Utilization of reserved light rail ROW along Watkins Drive

What you are hearing is grandstanding from the 3rd, 5th, and 6th districts about transit-dependent populations and decades of economic neglect. While those are both undeniably true, they won't affect the federal decision-making process as much as job and population density.

So how will we pay for the extra two miles? The Star article references some potential cuts, but we're hoping a successful spring vote for regional funding makes that unnecessary.


Orange alert Monday!

Monday's SkyCast is the first orange alert of the year, which means the air will be hazardous for sensitive groups (the elderly, those with asthma). All others are encouraged to avoid prolonged exposure between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. This condition is our fault (humans cause 50% of ground-level ozone), so please:


KCATA and The JO's fares drop to 50 cents on ozone days. Remember when we didn't have a SkyCast?

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Today’s public comments

Big take-aways from today's public comments segment of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee meeting (watch it online):

- The Northland Chamber will debate support for the starter line in September, but cautioned support would diminish unless the northern terminus remains Vivion Road (updated 7/25/08).
- The Clay County EDC) will support the starter line if the northern terminus remains Vivion Road.
- Councilman John Sharp again urged extension of the starter line south to 63rd along Bruce Watkins (which is dedicated ROW).
- The Sierra Club supports the starter line.
- Several men in suits who think they know better complaining about Union Station.
- A letter from Union Station president Andi Udris stating his support for light rail and the inclusion of Union Station as a transit hub (we'll admit we didn't see that one coming).
- Dennis O'Neill hates light rail and conveniently forgot to mention the transit-dependent 6th District will be served by Troost BRT next year… oh, and some huge TIF project as big as the Power & Light District.
- The Regional Transit Alliance supports the starter line.
http://www.encyclopedie-incomplete.com - Councilman Ed Ford poignantly noted how far we've come when you see Crown Center and Union Station duking it out to see who will become a light rail stop.

Thankfully, committee chair Russ Johnson directly addressed two main concerns during the meeting: Union Station and the "tourist" label being lobbed by Councilmen Sharp and Terry Riley.

- Union Station will be served, exactly how is "wide open" until more design work is complete and won't be formalized before the November election.
- While the starter line route hits tourist destinations, the study area — by no coincidence — contains more job and population density than any other place in the metro and both are expected to grow in the near future.


More Lawrence service?

A trial run of weekday bus service connecting the KU Medical Center with the KU Main Campus in Lawrence might begin Sept. 2. "Pending administration approval," the trial would last three weeks and would be self-funded. In reality, we're confident that they won't be able to cover the costs of two, 70-mile round trips with fares and this is really a exercise prove that these services are valuable enough for a state subsidy. The service would be open to anyone willing to pay the fare (we're assuming at least $5 each way). The popular K-10 Connector ($2.50 each way) that serves the KU Edwards Campus, Johnson County Community College, and the Lawrence campus is funded by short-term CMAQ grant.

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