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Sanders set to unveil commuter rail plan

Regional Commuter Rail Map
The Independence Examiner reports today that Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is planning to unveil a regional commuter rail system that covers three counties on the Missouri side of the metro — Jackson, Clay, and Platte.

Sanders has been quietly showing these plans to local leaders – mayors, economic development officials, railroads – for some time. He said the 2,000 or so people who have peaked [sic] at the plans have embraced the idea quickly.

“The majority of cities in Eastern Jackson County are on board,” Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said.

On the Kansas side, Wyandotte County could conceivably participate as it does today by contract with KCATA. Johnson County has denounced any sort of true, bi-state transit entity — and don't expect that to change anytime soon. There's no indication who would operate the DMU-style service, but a well-known operator sits right in our backyard.

The plan is the result of planning work that began in the spring.

No capital funding has been identified for the estimated $1 billion cost, but county officials pledge trips to Washington for a majority of the cost (presumably in an earmark from retiring Senator You-Know-Who, since the next federal transportation bill is in limbo).

When it’s needed someday, just adding a fourth lane to Interstate 70 from downtown Kansas City to I- 435 near the stadiums will cost about $3 billion.

Operational funding would require a new sales tax of as little as 1/8-cent for each of the three counties, which share a population of just under one million. Presumably, some routes would negate the need for KCATA express bus routes paid for today out of affected cities' general funds (Independence, Raytown, Blue Springs, Lee's Summit, and Liberty).

Some cities would be served that have no transit service at all, such as Grandview, Riverside, Kearney, and Oak Grove.

The proposed system appears to follow the Commuter Corridors that are part of MARC's SmartMoves regional transit plan. A few complementary projects (here, here, here, and here) have also been submitted to MARC's long-range transportation plan.

The terminus at Union Station would be served by the downtown streetcar proposed by KCATA.

11 Comments so far

  1. nickb October 10th, 2009 12:29 pm

    it’s better than the bus

  2. benkrakh October 10th, 2009 4:37 pm

    I could be wrong, but isn’t this just going to aid in the sprawl of K.C.? It will still be impossible to get around the river market/crown center/plaza area. Commuter rail is good, but we still need Chastain’s light rail and streetcar!

  3. Dave October 10th, 2009 6:19 pm

    the only thing that will control sprawl is a change in land use policy throughout the metro. we simply have no natural barriers to stop it otherwise.

    whether commuter rail will contribute to people moving further away from the urban core, i think the jury’s still out on that. it serves people who already live in suburban/exurban cities and gives them an opportunity to rethink existing development patterns. TOD is not exclusive to light rail and streetcars.

    commuter rail will address the only areas of congestion that exists. there is no congestion in the city. downtown can empty itself of workers in a matter of minutes due to decades of decline after a continued build-up in parking and freeway capacity.

    the streetcar is on its own trajectory (we’ll know next year). as for chastain new plan, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen with that.

  4. benkrakh October 10th, 2009 7:58 pm

    Thank you for your response. You are really level headed and informative.

  5. benkrakh October 11th, 2009 8:49 am

    Commuter rail is fine, but once the commuter gets into union station what mode of transportation will they take to get to the office/place of work? I don’t think that people will have much incentive if they know that when they get into union station that have to take a bus to their job. If there is a miracle and this 2 mile streetcar line is built this will transport people to crossroads/downtown/river market, but it won’t get people anywhere south of that. The midtown/plaza/brookside are has a lot of offices as well. It seems as though they would be hard to get to from Union Station.

    It does say that the trains have bike racks, but, ya know, this isn’t Europe. I can’t see some business man from Independence riding a bike from Union Station to Downtown/Plaza/Midtown. Even if he wanted to, there are hardly any bike paths in K.C. in which to do so.

    I want to be excited about this idea, and, partly, I am. I am just confused as to how people will get around in the city once there car is back in Raytown.It is one of those kind of thats that if the planners of this commuter rail don’t see this as a serious issue with their plan, then this means that they lack some SERIOUS brain capacity.

    Overall, what I’m saying is if that this commuter rail happens in two years, then in about two years K.C. will need a streetcar. I think that it should extend to, at least, but I would be surprised if they even put the two mile one in.

    Kansas City, you have so much potential, but the people who run you are infants…..


  6. benkrakh October 11th, 2009 8:51 am

    I think that it should extend to, at least, the plaza

  7. smh October 12th, 2009 1:45 pm

    This seems like a chicken and egg problem. Do we wait for the street car/BRT and then build commuter rail or hope that commuter rail will help create the incentive for the street car/BRT. Either way it appears that we need to plan for one mode to operate at a fairly low ridership level until the other is up and running.

    It should be noted that Union Station is already served by the MAX BRT for people needing to get to Plaza, Downtown, River Market, Brookside, Waldo. I still believe people can learn to appreciate the bus. The MAX busses are really quite nice (so are most of the people.)!

    I really think KC has outstanding (unrealized) potential to be a great American city in the 21st century. We just need to keep working diligently.

  8. benkrakh October 12th, 2009 2:47 pm

    This is true. The MAX/BRT vehicles are rather pleasant as far as buses go. I do think that if this commuter rail comes to fruition the streetcar would have to happen simply because I think people like the certainty of rail transit. Buses conjure up ideas of inconsistency as far as schedules go.

  9. […] last post about the regional commuter rail proposal unleashed questions about how the plan relates to the […]

  10. Lisa October 15th, 2009 9:02 am

    I am very enthused about the possibility of this commuter rail, but shouldn’t we all stop and look at this from the big picture? The comments on here are all very insightful and specific and get me excited about the prospect, but then I get mad because I think it is reckless and irresponsible for Sanders to get everyone worked up about this plan WITHOUT ANY IDEA OF FUNDING.

    Anyone can propose any great plan if their solution to paying for it is “well we will get a billion dollars from the federal government.” Remember, Sanders does not have ONE federal official that has signed on or has even commented on supporting the idea. So all of us rail lovers need to turn the focus back to Sanders, our new transit czar and make him put his money where his mouth is before we waste our time debating reconstructing Union Station and other ideas.

    I want it to happen but really think it is a public relations camapign for Sanders who runs for re-election next year.

  11. David Epstein October 17th, 2009 7:45 am

    “Sanders does not have ONE federal official that has signed on or has even commented on supporting the idea.
    Not true, Congressman Cleaver has already put in a stimulus request for $500 million.

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