KC Light Rail

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Archive for the 'Transit-Oriented Development' Category

Urban core apartments near transit = HOT!

And of course it makes sense with the weight of the economy dragging down housing prices and $4 gas in recent memory. Care of The Overhead Wire, here's a new report from the Urban Land Institute:

Distress in the housing market is benefiting the apartment market, which the report lists as the number-one "buy." Moderate-income apartments in core urban markets near mass transit offer the best buy, a trend that carried over from the previous year.

…and the full recap for 2009:

* Investors should sit tight. Opportunities will surface at significant discounts.
* Buy discounted loans.
* Recap distressed borrowers – invest in maturity defaults, construction loans/bridge loans, or take mezzanine positions and equity stakes in properties.
* Invest in publicly-held real estate investment trusts (REITs) – they will lead the market’s recovery.
* Focus on global pathway markets – 24-hour coastal cities.
* Staff up asset managers, leasing pros and workout specialists. Separate good assets from bad.
* Retrench on development and reorient to mixed-use and infill. Higher-density residential with retail will gain favor in next round of building.
* Go green – cutting energy expenses is likely to be a priority.
* Buy or hold multi-family; hold office; hold hotels; buy residential building lots, but be prepared to hold.
* Purchase distressed condos in urban areas near transit.
* Focus on neighborhood retail centers with strong grocery anchors and chain drugstores.

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Brookings: KC at “competitive disadvantage”

A recent Brookings Institution report on walkability specifically calls out Kansas City — as well as peer cities Cincinnati and Detroit — as being at a "competitive disadvantage" for lacking walkable urban development, primarily tied to a lack of prior investment in rail transit systems. While this should come as no surprise to most of us, it adds to the chorus of non-transit-geek voices pressuring KC to move forward with light rail, if only to remain economically competitive. Of the 30 metros studied, the top 15 most walkable "also have the preponderance of full or partial rail transit systems and thus 95 percent of the rail transit-served walkable urban places." Place like Denver, Portland, and San Diego.

On a side note, the report mentions the Crossroads specifically as not yet being at critical mass, meaning "new development projects do not need significant public or private subsidies to proceed with the next new project."

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Portland says KC should use Light Rail instead of Street Cars

“Light rail is where I’d start; I think light rail is the best way for you guys to start, I really do.” –Vicky Diede, Street Car Project Manager in Portland, Oregon, recommends Light Rail over Street Cars for Kansas City

In what's sure to cause some editorial room heckling, Hearne Christopher at The Star relates his conversation with Vicky Diede, Street Car Project Manager in Portland, OR.

Diede, who's spent more then 15 years working on Portland's transportation system, describes how streets cars function:

“Streetcars are inner city connectors, and they’re designed for stopping every two to three blocks,” she says. “The purpose is not to take you from the airport to downtown. Can they do it? Yes, but that’s not their purpose. … I don’t know what the ideal speed is, but (generally) they go very slow — 8 to 12 miles per hour.”

This opinion runs counter to what The Star suggested last week. It also contrasts the differing functions of faster and higher-passenger Light Rail with slower and lower-passenger street cars. Light Rail moves more people farther and faster, while street cars are "an inner city connector."


KCDC: ‘It’s not a plan’

KCDC's Daniel Serda presented the urban design competition results today to the City Council's Transportation and Infrastructure committee weekly session. Serda reiterated that his organization's interest in the light rail issue is not to propose a new plan, but to open the discussion on the impact light rail would have on Kansas City's urban fabric. We presume KC is an unwieldy bolt of gently worn burlap looking for a hot wash and lengthy tumble dry.

Serda reviewed the top two proposals — by BNIM and Gastinger Walker Harden — but ended his presentation by encouraging the committee to lead the way and to view light rail as more than just a transportation system, but a way to transform the urban core.

For the record, the RTA's Kite Singleton — a major proponent of connectivity to Union Station and present at today's session — endorses the BNIM concept of extending Union Station to Grand to connect with a proposed alignment there. Since the extension would run along the terminal tracks and below street level, it could easily serve as a future commuter rail platform for service to Johnson County.

As reminder, all committee meetings are carried live on KCCG Channel 2, available on city cable systems and online. The Transportation and Infrastructure meetings are held at noon on Wednesdays. The public is also welcome to attend in person.

Meanwhile, MARC and KCATA stay busy allocating funds for ridership forecasts and Mayor Funkhouser ruffles feathers as he restates his intent to cast the wide net of regional funding.


KCDC gets us closer to Plan B

The Kansas City Design Center announced the winner this week of its urban design competition focusing on Transit-Oriented Development options for a revised light rail route through the city. BNIM Architects' winning proposal is available here [14.6Mb PDF]. The Kansas City Star's take is here.

Before you dismiss this as another "me too!" announcement, rest assured the final revised route you will vote on in November 2008 will be very close to what you see here, based solely on the panel of judges: North Kansas City Mayor Gene Bruns, Kansas City's 2nd District-at-large Councilman Ed Ford, KCATA Senior Engineer Dick Jarrold, MoDOT Assistant District Engineer Linda Clark, and Brad Scott of the U.S. General Services Administration.

First and foremost, we offer kudos for addressing the design abortion that is officially named Midtown Marketplace, though locals refer to it lovingly as The Glover Plan.

Winning aspects of the BNIM plan, from the KCDC website:

  • "Midtown Marketplace at Linwood and Main could convert its large parking areas to other uses, including local retail, offices and apartments, arranged along a re-established grid of streets.
  • Air rights development above a former railroad just north of Washington Square Park could support a new mixed-use development above a transit concourse connecting Grand Blvd. to Union Station.
  • A downtown transportation hub could be constructed over the I-670 freeway adjacent to the Sprint Arena as an intermodal station for buses, light rail and a downtown 'circulator streetcar.'
  • The forgotten Harlem neighborhood could serve as the landing point for light rail on the north bank of the Missouri River, and be re-developed as a high-density, mid-rise and high-rise neighborhood, complete with a central 'Great Street' and a spectacular view across the river to the downtown skyline."

Got Light Rail Envy?

Still a bit of a slow news cycle until the mayoral and council elections are over next month, so today we bring you more updates on other light rail systems across the country.

First, we look east to New Jersey Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line, which was a public-private partnership that allowed one supplier to design, build, operate and maintain the system. Since opening in 2000 — and expanding several times since — the line has generated a lot of new development. That's why NJ Transit has commissioned a study to prove how much additional private investment has occurred since the $2 billion system opened.

Next, we move to south to the DART system in Dallas, which just announced an expansion of their green line out to the suburb of Carrollton. The expansion will run along an existing Union Pacific freight corridor. The city of Carrollton, which is just north of DFW airport, has been buying up land, rezoning, and offering tax breaks to developers to build transit-oriented development.

Lastly, we head west to Phoenix, where fully-assembled light rail cars were finally unveiled for their new 20-mile line, which opens in December 2008. In addition, the suburbs of Chandler and Scottsdale are both getting serious about connecting to the main spine through Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe.


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