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Biz Journal: Regional plan gets ‘mixed reviews’

A brief from the Kansas City Business Journal touts "mixed reviews" of Mayor Funkhouser's draft regional light rail legislation. Area mayors attended a meeting at Union Station this morning to review the plan, which would require legislative support in Kansas and Missouri. Unfortunately, Johnson County biggies Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park, and Shawnee didn't attend. Do you live in one of these cities? If so, please click on the city name to send a message to your respective mayor. Please include your own personal message and contact information. Following up with a phone call is even better, as well as a note to your council representative.


Funkhouser introduces regional legislation

Kansas City's first technocrat-turned-mayor may not get everything on his light rail wish list right away, but his regional funding proposal certainly elevates the dialog, especially with overly-sensitive Kansas legislators. A draft of Funk's proposed legislation is here — along with an overview — thanks to Prime Buzz.

So why is this action different than anything preceding it? It's just the kind of proposal that is expected from Kansas City's mayors, and is a magnificent gesture towards healing state line wounds. While Councilman Ed Ford has been handling all of the specifics with the Council, the Mayor pursues the regional purse strings and oversight that's needed to send a multi-line transit request to Washington (see Salt Lake City and Houston for recent examples of such an approach).

The timing is perfect as Johnson County leaders figure out that their top rung in the metro's economy is just as susceptible as Sprint's subscriber base or the price of endlessly sprawling McMansions. We need the metro to coalesce around a big issue like transit.


Funkhouser’s Regional “Concept”

Mayor Funkhouser laid out a few details for his vision of a regional transit "concept" during his appearance on Up To Date this morning. The podcast is here.

Why it's different this time:

  • KC has never had a mayor who has made light rail such a high priority (debatable, but we think it's true)
  • Climate change concerns makes the situation more urgent, especially on the Kansas side
  • Transit ranks high in importance in Johnson County and low in satisfaction… "exactly the kind of thing you want to fund," Funk says
  • The KC metro job growth rate is decreasing and is now below the national average; KC needs transit to be competitive with peers

The concept:

  • Shared governance across the state line and by elected — not appointed — officials (possibly just to manage light rail, existing bus systems retained?)
  • Equal amount of rail miles on each side of the state line
  • Shared funding:
    • 1/2-cent sales tax collected regionally
    • $138 million collected annually, bonded to $3.5 billion to finance construction and operations
    • Lower percentage of federal matching funds (about a third, or $1 billion) for the entire system, versus just "one project at a time" model; Salt Lake City just set a precedent for this approach by requesting a 20% match for five new lines (four light rail and one commuter rail)… Houston will likely follow suit
    • Dedicate 5-10% towards Metro Green (bike and walking trails) for intermodal connections

He thinks he has a "10-20% chance" of making it happen, so what does he have to lose? Valid points all around. We're quite relieved to hear him state, unequivocally, that if he can't make the regional love-fest work before the November '08 election, then he'll back a KC- or Missouri-only starter line.

All that said, is there anyone who actually listened today that isn't satisfied?

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One KC Transit Meetings

Lee's Summit, Roeland Park, downtown and midtown KCMO are all hosting One KC Transit meetings this week. These are the last sessions to be held. Here's the rundown:

7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 15
Lee's Summit City Hall
220 S.E. Green Street [map]

6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16
KCMO Central Library
14 W. 10th Street [map]

6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17
Roeland Park City Hall
4600 W. 51st Street [map]

11:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 18
3215 Main Street, Suite 200 [map]

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State Avenue recap

KCK residents made it quite clear last night: why have a meeting about public transit at a time when our system won't allow us to get here and back home? Granted, about 80 (edit: UG says 100!) people still showed up, but it's clear that improvements are wanted and needed by KCK residents.

First, some facts about the State Avenue corridor and the current transit situation in KCK:

- Three systems (KCATA's five routes, six routes operated by the Unified Government, and one lonely JO route).
- 1.2 million rides annually (850K on KCATA routes, 213K on UG routes).
- $6 million budget with less than 1% fare recovery (KCATA recovers 15%).
- No Sunday service; very limited Saturday service.
- Transfers required to rest of KCATA system and to routes west of Indian Springs.
- Five routes serving the study area generate about 3,100 rides daily (a tick less than the old #56 was carrying before it was replaced by MAX in 2004).
- Top three routes and ridership: #106 (1000/day), #101 (975/day), #114 (480/day).

Next, some major amenities and attractions along the corridor:

- Downtown KCMO (Power & Light District, Sprint Center, Bartle Hall, MAX)
- Downtown KCK (Unified Government, Federal, and State offices; Memorial Hall; Screenland Granada; Strawberry Hill Museum)
- Indian Springs Center (future development, Children's Museum)
- Kansas City Kansas Community College
- Providence Medical Center
- Village West (Speedway, T-Bone Stadium, Legends, Schlitterbahn, future casino)

Now, the timeline for what will inevitably be a BRT route between downtown KCMO and Village West (even though other "alternatives", such as light rail, will be "discussed"):

- Alternatives Analysis and Locally Preferred Alternative (includes public input) will be completed in 9 months.
- Additional public meetings will be held during the above timeframe.
- Detailed planning will begin in 2008.
- Implementation, based on the Troost BRT timeline, as early as 2010.

Finally, the public input:

- Lots of complaints about interoperability between KCATA, JO, and UG routes (transfers, passes, connections, operating hours).
- Over an hour to Village West, transfer at Indian Springs required (while Village West is considered a tourist attraction, almost everyone placed one dot on the map at that location, and there have been well-publicized issues attracting employees to all of the low-paying retail jobs in such a far-flung location).
- UG routes don't run after 7 p.m.
- Lack of pedestrian and ADA considerations along existing routes and throughout KCK (sidewalks, bus shelters, safe lighting or emergency call boxes, bike lanes).

State Avenue BRT Meeting

Next, the outstanding questions to be answered in future steps:

- Will KCMO residents use this line to get to Village West?
- Will the West Bottoms be served as it is today by #101 and #106? Currently, there is no safe way for pedestrians and bikers to access this part of the city, although the Riverfront Trail is getting there.
- What affect will the redevelopment plan of Indian Springs Mall have on the effort?
- What affect will the future Schlitterbahn and casino additions to Village West have on ridership estimates?
- Will existing KCK routes be reorganized to provide better overall coverage (such as new north/south routes), even if transfers are required?
- How will operation of the new service be funded? It is assumed that construction and bus acquisition will be covered by a Very Small Starts FTA funding.
- Is a single-seat ride possible with the Troost BRT line (SmartMoves' Yellow Line)?
- Will UG address land use planning around transit stops to boost future ridership?

We were intrigued by a question posed recently by the KC Star's Prime Buzz blog: Who will carry the torch for improved transit in the Metro? We answered UG's Joe Reardon, knowing that Johnson County's leaders are still way too mired in the status quo. Mayor Reardon, having been handed the keys to the other development juggernaut in the region, is spearheading this effort with MARC, KCATA, and KDOT and we hope the results are fast, efficient, and well marketed… results that this transit-dependent part of the community deserves.


Reminder: State Avenue meeting this Tuesday

Just a quick reminder that the State Avenue Corridor meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Reardon Center [map] in downtown KCK. Routes #101 and #106 provide evening service from the 10th and Main Transit Center (one block northwest of the 11th/12th and Main MAX stops) to the front door of the Reardon Center.

In addition, two additional MARC meetings to discuss SmartMoves will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, this week:

3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 10
Southtown Council
4875 Troost Ave. [map] [#25, #47]

5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11
Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council
3700 Woodland [map] [#35, #39, #53]

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