KC Light Rail

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Archive for January, 2010

Kansas City gets passenger rail boost

No, it ain't light rail, but it's definitely worth a mention here.

While not the location chosen for the announcement, Kansas City is getting an intercity passenger rail boost on two fronts today.

First, Amtrak's existing Kansas City-to-St. Louis Missouri River Runner route will get $31 million in upgrades to improve capacity and on-time performance. Even though on-time performance has been running in the 90% range for months, most of the improvement has come from reduced freight traffic and the threat of host railroad penalties made possible by Congressional action.

Two trains run daily — morning and late afternoon — between KC and St. Louis in each direction; annual ridership runs in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. Missouri pays an annual subsidy for operations, as is the case with most of Amtrak's corridor operations outside of the northeast. There's no indication the improvements will affect the scheduled 5:40 running time, but the timetable is likely to be revisited in coming years since it contains a lot of padding.

Increasing speeds is definitely a priority, but a third (mid-day) departure would increase the usefulness of the service dramatically. Also, now is a great time for Missouri and Illinois to jointly operate direct service between KC and Chicago (a change of trains is now required, though the once-daily Southwest Chief will probably always be a faster trip). A direct train would make the service more palatable to riders going between Hermann, MO and Alton, IL, for example.

Second, a grassroots effort to extend Amtrak's Heartland Flyer through Wichita to Kansas City was awarded funding for developing a service plan for the route. This route is not a federally-designated high-speed rail corridor, but is one of most glaring gaps in Amtrak's route map. Enabling legislation for the service was introduced in the current Kansas legislative session.

KC-bound passengers on both routes would end up at Union Station, terminus for both the proposed regional rail and downtown streetcar systems.

Other big regional winners were the St. Louis-to-Chicago corridor (which will eventually run at 110 mph), Madison-to-Milwaukee (new service), Detroit-to-Chicago, and a service plan for new services in Iowa.


Live-tweeting the Sanders presentation

We'll be live-tweeting Mike Sanders' Regional Rail presentation at the Central Exchange today. Follow along at http://twitter.com/kclightrail, starting at 11:45 a.m. CST.

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Sanders to discuss commuter rail at Central Exchange

This is the item to break our months-long silence: Jackson County CEO Mike Sanders will present his Regional Rail Plan to the Central Exchange on Jan. 26. Members attend for free, non-members pay $30. And yes, men are very much welcome to attend.

We haven't heard a peep out of Sanders since he unveiled his plan to a surprised media way back in October. It was well over a month before any information even appeared on the Jackson County website (don't let that date stamp fool you). The description for next week's event still maintains that stimulus money is being sought to pay for construction, even though all stimulus deadlines related to transit have already passed and it's not a given that a new jobs bill will include transit funding (assuming such a bill even passes, considering the results of this week's special election in Massachusetts).