KC Light Rail

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

Archive for July, 2008

Mayor pumps gas to promote transit

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser pumped gas (check the photo and video goodness) for customers of the QuikTrip at 43rd and Main today to promote transit, specifically some upcoming meetings where the public can provide input to the regional and KCMO light rail efforts that are underway. Here's the meeting schedule, starting tonight!

Hosted by MARC
Wednesday, July 23
7-8:30 p.m.

North Kansas City Community Center: 1999 N. Iron Rd. North Kansas, MO [map]

City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Thursday, July 24th
10:00 a.m.

City Hall, 10th Floor [map]

Hosted by MARC
Thursday, July 24
7-8:30 p.m.

Liberty Community Center: 1600 S. Withers Rd. Liberty, MO [map]

Regional Leaders’ Meeting
Friday, July 25
8:30 a.m.

Gladstone Community Center: 6901 N. Holmes [map]

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Update to participants

We received this email update from the KCATA today:


Kansas City Council Committee To Take Public Testimony on Light Rail Initiative

Thank you so much for participating in the public process for light rail and transit options.

Last week the Kansas City City Council introduced an ordinance (Ordinance No. 080693) to place on the ballot on November 4, 2008, a light rail proposal which would enact a 3/8-cent sales tax devoted to a light rail system. A companion resolution (Resolution No. 080694) outlining the proposed 12-mile light rail route was also introduced. These documents can be found using the following link: http://cityclerk.kcmo.org/live. Use the ordinance and resolution numbers to search for more information.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will be taking public testimony on the Ordinance and Resolution that will put the light rail initiative on the November 4, 2008, ballot this coming Thursday, July 24 and Thursday, July 31 – 10:00 a.m., 10th Floor Committee Room – City Hall – 414 E. 12th Street.

The map on the proposed route can be found using the following link: http://cityclerk.kcmo.org/liveDocument.aspx?q=7GF8PibfD1LM%2b6i7PtOy04LobGtPCcFFTdPI0×8lgtt5OMgahwE2YlQkPrfDMcN2

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Please redirect your “boondoggle” comments to highways

And no, the gas tax doesn't cover the entire cost. Get the full report here (hat tip to Streetsblog).


Why waste money on fancy buses?

Just make the existing buses easier to use! Chicago has implemented a bus tracker that does for many bus routes what a BRT upgrade does for just one. The biggest complaint about bus service is timeliness, and this system addresses at least part of that problem by providing a real-time status.

Too expensive for our regional plan? How about SMS updates when a bus will arrive (text stop and route number to a short code and receive an automated response) or an IVR that provides the scheduled bus arrivals for each stop. Portland uses the latter approach by assigning a short code on each stop; dial one central number, enter the code, and the system tells you the next arrival time.

You don't have to buy new buses or expensive LED displays to provide what centralized technologies can do for a much lower cost.

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Regional update… unbelievable progress?

It's almost too good to be true: Could we be voting on a regional transit plan by spring? Prime Buzz has the update. Take note that the next regional discussion (8:30 a.m. Friday) will have time set aside for public comment.

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Union Station: An intermodal dilemma

Like many issues, the debate about Union Station's role in a regional transit system is basically all sides talking past each other assuming they are in total opposition. In reality, there is common ground in the way an alignment along Grand can connect with future modes that might — or might not — terminate or pass directly through the station's historic footprint. We examine all of today's scattershot connectivity, but we ultimately leave it to you to decide if using the existing station will best serve the intermodal needs of Kansas City.


Air - KCI is 20 miles from Union Station, a path sparsely populated by both jobs and people. No direct transit connection exists between the two today. One bus route (#129) connects the 10th & Main transit center on weekdays before 6 p.m. LA's FlyAway service is a good model for KC, and now Denver's far-flung DIA has a solid bus option as well. A recent article noted that KCI's passenger base is spread out, presenting another hurdle for inclusion in a light rail line. A commuter rail connection from the station to the airport would require a lengthy new connection — cheaper per mile than light rail, but missing the loop — to the BNSF freight line running northwest from Parkville. About 11 million passengers passed through in 2007, but that number will surely decline in 2008.

Urban bus - Direct connections to Union Station are available. While most nearby KCATA routes favor transferring in the loop or at Crown Center, the MAX makes a stop at the station. The JO's suburban routes stop at the station — only during weekday rush hour — but after making stops in the loop. The top connecting point for all existing bus routes is the loop: western routes typically use 10th & Main, eastern routes typically use the area along Grand. A significant revision of routes is planned to coordinate with the starter line, but no consolidated transit center has been proposed. While light rail planners consider the strip from the river to the Plaza as the area with job density, the densest portion is the downtown loop.

Intercity bus - Greyhound and Jefferson Lines — both more popular than you think — serve passengers from a modern facility at 12th & Troost, with easy access to the interstates. Upstart Megabus stops only at the 10th & Main transit center. Another low-cost carrier, El Conejo (no website?), makes stops at a facility on Southwest Boulevard. Like all mass transit modes, ridership is rising after years of decline. No direct transit connection exists between the two; one transfer in the loop is required. The new Troost BRT project will skirt Greyhound by three blocks, while the current #25 stops right at the corner seven days a week. Is there adequate space on Union Station's grounds to accommodate intercity bus bays along with everything else?

Intercity rail - Amtrak provides the only mode that serves Union Station exclusively. A single passenger platform and two tracks are north of the original concourse in the same trench that houses freight tracks. 117,155 people used the Kansas City station in 2007 (boardings and alightings), a number on the rise in 2008. Years of redevelopment have rendered the original east-west track configuration useless: any direct connection from a north-south light rail would have to come from the streets above.

Taxi - A taxi stand serves the area along the southern border of nearby Washington Square Park, and taxis generally wait to meet Amtrak passengers in front of the station (the same applies at the Greyhound station). Newer pedicabs rarely stray outside of the loop.

Bike - No connected bike lanes, dedicated trails, or lockers exist near Union Station today, although that could change if the KC Trails plan ever gets moving. City buses have two-position bike racks and Missouri-sponsored Amtrak trains allow unboxed bikes for a $10 fee, offering some options for connections at the station today (no such luck on intercity buses). Did we mention it's uphill in three of four directions?

Pedestrian - Six lanes of fast-moving traffic make crossing Main Street at Pershing a daunting task, especially considering how family-friendly the area is intended to be (we won't even talk about approaching the station from Broadway). The sweeping vistas we all know and love make for long walks to just about anywhere except via the freight house pedestrian bridge. Can the pedestrian experience around the station be fixed? Does that even matter if most connections were to bus or rail? Did we mention it's uphill in three of four directions?


Commuter rail - Commuter rail has been more of a topic of late, but Mayor Mark Funkhouser's original concept had service running on Kansas City Southern's tracks, which lack a direct connection to the station (a mixed message coming from such a staunch proponent of the station-as-hub idea). Kansas abandoned a commuter rail plan along the busy I-35 corridor last year — which would easily terminate at the station, but could also terminate in the River Market for a single-seat ride east and north. Does it make sense to send all commuter rail riders to Union Station when a majority of them will need to backtrack or transfer for a one-mile ride to work in the loop? Or can we handle two urban commuter rail terminii like New York, Chicago, and Boston, especially if they're linked by light rail?

Light rail - Grand Boulevard is two blocks from the eastern edge of Union Station. The Link, an elevated and enclosed walkway, connects the station to Washington Square Park, Crown Center, and two large hotels. Streetcars once covered the area, but only a handful of routes stopped adjacent to the station on Main Street. The study area has no existing north-south freight rail tracks, so any direct connection to the station would have to run perpendicular from the streets above (although the original 2006 Chastain plan had light rail — and gondolas — running through a closed Penn Valley Park and connecting with the west end of the station).


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