KC Light Rail

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

Archive for May, 2009

New Chastain petition drive starts Monday

After a failed attempt at working directly with the Parks Board, Clay Chastain is starting another light rail petition initiative. He will be gathering signatures from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Union Station. Laugh if you must, but Chastain is the only person who's actually doing something about light rail right now. What better way to keep the city's feet to the fire than sign the petition again?

No gondolas this time — which we feel was a pretty good idea… ever walked from Union Station to Liberty Memorial? Yeah, didn't think so — but the electric buses are back, fueled this time by wind turbines on the riverfront. And if you think that's koo-koo, check out Oklahoma City's plan again.

And even though the Missouri Court of Appeals struck down Chastain's legal challenge from the last initiative, he's still threatening to take that one to the Missouri Supreme Court.


Senate takes first step on transpo bill rewrite

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (WV) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) have created a marker for the next federal transportation bill being drafted by Rep. Jim Oberstar (OR). The marker dictates that the next bill:

  • Reduce national per-capita motor vehicle miles traveled on an annual basis;
  • Cut national motor vehicle-related fatalities in half by 2030;
  • Cut national surface transportation-generated carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030;
  • Reduce surface transportation delays per capita on an annual basis;
  • Get 20 percent more critical surface-transportation assets into a state of good repair by 2030;
  • Increase the total usage of public transit, intercity passenger rail and non-motorized transport on an annual basis.

What affect does this have on Kansas City's chances for light rail? Any renewed emphasis on public transit usage, reducing VMT, or cutting carbon emissions would support an increase in funding for urban rail transit, which would in turn help KC's chances. Most vehicle trips are within cities, so that's where you get the most bang for the buck (second place would probably be high speed rail in popular 100-500 mile corridors). Current funding formulas would need to change dramatically since they are now focused more on commuting trips and the cost/benefit of serving them with a particular mode.

There have been rumblings, of course, that this is not a top legislative priority this session. We remain hopeful that will not be the case.

As a reminder, KC has a completed Alternatives Analysis for the "north-south" corridor along Main Street. All it takes now is the political will to go back to voters for a new, dedicated funding mechanism or the creation of a public-private partnership (see Portland Streetcar and Detroit M1-Rail).

Oh, and did we forget to mention that Oklahoma City is putting a light rail before voters in December? Yes, Oklahoma City.

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MoDOT continues lobbying against Complete Streets

Read this update from the Missouri Bicycle Federation. Complete Streets is a concept that makes streets accessible to all users, not just cars. Similar measures are being debated and passed around the country (Hawaii is the most recent).

So does it make sense for a state DOT to spend taxpayer money to lobby against legislation that affects them? We'll answer that for you: NO.

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Chastain appeal rejected

The Missouri Court of Appeals put the final nail in the coffin of Clay Chastain's only successful light rail petition initiative today by denying his appeal. Chastain argued that the city council's repeal of the petition initiative was unconstitutional, but the robes disagreed.

The city's charter was amended years ago to allow the council to undo any petition initiative. Opinions on the wisdom of applying that option in this situation vary. It was, at a minimum, short-sighted to reject Chastain's plan entirely (which was approved with 53% in a low-turnout election) than to put all of our eggs in a similarly-problematic basket in a replacement ballot question (which was swept under the rug with only 44% approval in a tide of "change").

Of course, it all seems obvious in retrospect. The council was simply not given adequate information on the options.

In the interim, KC transit riders endured a fare increase and an unsuccessful attempt to secure state funding to prevent service cuts. Brights spots actually exist, however: County leaders are poking around in the commuter rail attic, the city is getting somewhat serious about bike and pedestrian issues (vital to supporting transit), and SmartMoves is progressing with our Bush-era BRT-lite template (the Troost Avenue corridor is next in 2010).


HOT! Details leak on new surface transpo bill

Check it out here. The biggest item: modal equity (all modes would get an equal match instead of 90/10 for airports, 80/20 for highways, and 50/50 for transit).


Take the Car-Free Challenge next week

Stop complaining that we don't have enough transit around KC and lace up your walking shoes (or get out your bike) for the Car-Free Challenge, which kicks off Saturday and runs through May 15.

When most people think of using transit or some other transportation mode besides a car it's for your daily work commute — an easy motivator since there's always frustrating levels of traffic during rush hour. Since our commuting distances in KC are long, however, try non-work trips if you're a newbie: grocery store, dining out, or any other errand that's under 5 miles from your home.

If you choose to give transit a try, use Google Transit (also good for walking directions). It's a life saver and far easier to use than any other online trip planner. KCATA has posted some great How To Ride videos to help you out.

You can also email us if you have any questions that you can't get answered anywhere else.

Here are a few car-free blogs worth reading:

  • Carless Parenting (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • The MinusCar Project (Sioux City, SD)
  • Car Free with Kids (Cambridge, MA)
  • Car Free Days (Seattle, WA)
  • Car Free America (Parkville, MD)

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