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Round-up: This week in light rail


  • Light rail ridership forecast won’t be finished before Nov. 4 vote (Kansas City Star)
  • Light rail opponents fail to file reports with ethics panel (Kansas City Star)
  • Funkhouser: Build light rail, and eco-devo will come (Kansas City Business Journal)
  • Mr. Stinky Feet debuts catchy new light rail song (Fox 4 News)
  • Subverting democracy on a technicality (Kansas City Post)
  • So who is this Patrick Tuohey? (Prime Buzz)
  • JoCo’s interest in public transit rises with fuel prices (Kansas City Business Journal)
  • Light rail would keep KC working (Kansas City Star)


  • Downtown convention hotel opens in Phoenix (Expo Magazine)
  • Bringing BART here: "Yes" on B adds connecting rail (Milpitas Post)
  • Park-and-ride lots lead to light rail (Arizona Republic)
  • Rail plan offers chance to get back on track (Boston Globe)
  • Telling D.C. why we need transit money (Hudson Reporter)
  • Metro walking a fine line on Prop M (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • To build or not to build? (Denver Daily News)
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Light Rail in KC: Issues Recap

Chastain v. City: City wins! The Alternatives Analysis for a revised route continues unabated. Note to Hearne Christopher: Time to remove Chastain from your speed dial to make room for David Cook! Moving on…

Regional v. Starter Line: As an editorial in this week's Business Journal reminds us, this really isn't an either/or proposition. A starter line without a regional vision is dumb and a regional system without a first spike in the ground is impossible. Unfortunately, all of the rhetoric completely ignores the SmartMoves umbrella, even though the lines being drawn on the map are essentially the same. Here's an idea: Create a Plan A and B, then go with Plan B if Plan A fails! May we have our consultant fee now?

Midtown v. Downtown (and everyone else, for that matter): Not much has been made of this topic in the Old School Media, but it just may bubble over soon if 4th District Councilpersons Marcason and Gottstein avoid the tough work of calming down some very animated Hyde Park residents. Fear of encroachment, higher property taxes, and anything else that sounds Super Scary To Neighborhoods may be the thing that unravels the whole project… again. Believe it or not, the East Side "spur" debate is quietly resolving itself through good ol' communication (expect Cleaver, not Linwood). Take heed, Hyde Parkers!

Union Station v. Crown Center: Low on the list to most, but a few vocal proponents insist on the most direct connection possible with the only true bi-state success story (the Station is covering it's own expenses now, thank you very much). Our own informal polling suggests that it's wise to leverage the supposed support of the Hall clan — a first in KC light rail history — versus the symbolic gesture of a shorter walk to another mode of transit. We timed it ourselves and it's a five minute walk through The LINK to the Amtrak ticket counter; future commuter rail operations would likely terminate east of the actual station due to space constraints anyway. Our money's on Crown Center (with good signage pointing the way, never KC's strong point).

Grand v. Walnut v. Main: Oh, those poor parades full of dung-laden horses. Where will they go if light rail steals Grand? Probably the same place they went when we last had light rail (yes, streetcars are light rail… get over it) — it all peacefully co-existed, open-air streetcar-as-parade-float and all. But wait! Downtowners hatched an idea at a recent workshop to use Walnut between Union Station and the River Market as a transit-only corridor. Intended as a way to sway the conversation away from using Main and Walnut as a pair (northbound trains running on one street; southbound on the other — a remarkably dumb idea, but an official "option" nonetheless), it may take on a life of its own. Regardless, our money's on Grand, but expect to see lots of talk on how Walnut might work.


A lawsuit, a bus tax, and a poll

That pretty much recaps the week in Kansas City's light rail saga.

But don't be dismayed, transit friends, when you hear reporters parrot the naysayers when poll numbers come back bad (New Hampshire? Arena tax? My, what short memories we have!). And don't let the council get you down as they continue sliding down the slippery slope of futzing with petition initiatives. Yes, why be glum when we have Clay Chastain to defend democracy?

At least we've figured out that the bus tax renewal will go on the April ballot. Oh wait! The lawsuit might affect that, too? Shiznit!

Time and the tide of public sentiment are on our side, so maintain your long view. Gas prices are either fluctuating wildly or going up and the supply of oil is going nowhere but down. Workers can't get to far-flung suburban jobs. The price of building highways has far exceeded what the US collects in use taxes. The ATA is woefully underfunded compared to our peer cities and The JO barely squeaks by on spare change found between Overland Park and Olathe’s sofa cushions. A Democrat will rule the roost in 2008 and Jim Nutter is not our mayor. Those moneyed conventioneers we’re shilling for expect transit when they arrive from bigger cities. We've been trumped by Charlotte and Norfolk… yes, Norfolk-freakin'-Virginia.

In short, there are lots of reasons to keep pressure on our elected officials to deliver.


City Attorney issues legal response

KC City Attorney Galen Beaufort issued a statement today in response to yesterday's announcement of a legal challenge to last week's council repeal of the voter-approved light rail plan. Basically, his reasoning is that it was a constitutional action and the legal challenge should not impede the repeal ordinance taking effect. Thanks to Prime Buzz, we offer this precise quote:

The filing of the lawsuit does not automatically stop Ordinance No. 071130 from going into effect. Ord. No. 071130 is the ordinance passed by the Council on November 8 which repealed Ordinance No. 060931, As Amended, commonly referred to as the 'light rail ordinance.'

In short, the case should get dismissed.

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The First Legal Challenge

A south Kansas City resident has filed the first legal challenge of the City Council repeal of the voter-approved light rail initiative. Opposition from south Kansas City was expected because all proposed routes don't directly pass through that part of the city.

The "life-long" resident, Rose Marie Gunter, claims she is "disenfranchised" by the council's actions, even though they also approved a resolution to provide a replacement plan to voters in 2008. Puppet or pawn? Too early to tell, but Prime Buzz noted there was opposition forming in the southland last week, and it was south KC residents that formed the harshest opposition to the 2001 city-backed light rail plan that failed at the ballot box. Some have claimed that an expected legal challenge (and subsequent veto of the repeal) is all part of the Mayor's grand scheme to put a damper on light rail completely until a regional plan is funded.


Council to vote on repealing light rail plan

The City Council's docket for today includes voting on repealing the voter-approved light rail plan from November 2006. The Council could also vote on a back-up of sorts, by voting whether to place the petition initiative on the ballot in February. This will allow voters to repeal the plan themselves if for some reason the Council's action of repealing it is hit with a lawsuit or other snafu.

Also on the docket is ordinance 071202, which reads like this (emphasis added):

Section 1. That the Mayor and City Council will honor the intent of the citizens of Kansas City who voted in November 2006 for light rail and commit to placing on the ballot no later than November 4, 2008, a transportation plan which includes a workable light rail and continued 3/8 cent funding for the bus system. The Mayor and Council will continue to work with the KCATA, MARC, and other stakeholders in the planning of a comprehensive transit system in order to provide transit mobility options for our citizens

We'll know more after the session starts at 3pm today.


  • Ordinance 071130 - Repeal of Light Rail plan
  • Ordinance 071131 - Send petition initiative to ballot
  • Ordinance 071202 - Commitment to create a transportation plan

UPDATE: The Council has repealed the plan approved in 2006, 10 - 3.

Those voting for the repeal:

  • Hermann
  • Skaggs
  • Ford
  • Johnson
  • Curls
  • Sanders Brooks
  • Gottstein Riley
  • Marcason
  • Circo
  • Funkhouser

Those voting against:

  • Riley Gottstein
  • Jolly
  • Sharp

Both of the other ordinances passed unanimously.


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