Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Posts Tagged ‘Independence’

Independence Revises Its Local Transit Routes – IndeBus

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 29, 2012


Independence changes its local routes effective July 2, 2012. Along with new buses and a new contract operator, First Transit, the routes are changing significantly. Fares will remain the same.

View schedules and maps, and watch a video explaining the system at the IndeBus page on the Independence website.

The shift from KCATA to First Transit for the local routes will cost Independence about $14,000 more than previously, but the city calculates a 30% increase in transit miles and 30% more hours of service by eliminating the current 2-hour break in the middle of the day. Service will run until about 6:00 pm.

First Transit will also operate the local para-transit (IndeAccess), and local senior service (IndeAcess+) transportation services within Independence. These services replace the local Dial-A-Ride service. There is a new photo ID and coupon program for qualified riders. KCATA will continue to provide the Share-A-Fare para-transit service from Independence into Kansas City and Share-A-Fare services will continue to be available in most of Independence.

KCATA will continue to provide inter-city service connecting Independence to Kansas City on routes 24 and 15X (previously the 24X). Check the new Metro schedules.

Beginning July 2nd, all questions for IndeBus, IndeAccess, and IndeAccess+ will be answered by First Transit at 461-IBUS (4287).  For questions related to the 24 and 15x Routes or ShareAFare, riders can continue to call the KCATA Regional Call Center. Independence is currently including transfer information in its local training for the 461-IBUS call center.  First Transit operators should work through alternatives for transfers and trips with riders. Independence is not contracting with the Regional Call Center to provide information about their local buses. The Regional Call Center can answer questions about all the Metro services.

Explaining the route changes and new operator, Independence Director of Community Development Jennifer Clark said, “Independence is responding to rider demand and interests. This is a rider focused model and reflects the best interests of the community.”

Improvements to the system include having a full time employee responsible for the Transit Center at Truman and Noland Roads to make sure it is clean and functioning. In addition, the new local buses will have two wheelchair slots instead of one. Buses all have GPS, and an app from TransLoc will be available for real-time information about buses using a smart phones. Check the city website to download the app in July.

At this point there is a compatibility problem between the Metro and IndeBus fareboxes, but the two system operators are working with the farebox vendor to resolve the problem. The solution may not be in place by July 2nd, in which case riders using both systems will be instructed on how to use a transfer or monthly pass.

For more information watch Clark’s presentation about the new transit system to the Independence City Council on June 25. Her presentation starts at 24:36 minutes into the video and lasts about 17 minutes.

The City Council Transit Committee plans to initiate a public input process. Although it hasn’t been defined yet, it will represent a mix of interests such as riders, residents and businesses, and will report back to the Transit Committee on matters such as efficiency of operations and customer satisfaction. We think this committee is a good idea, and that all transit agencies should have a similar stakeholder committee that meets regularly to provide feedback.

One cloud still hanging over the new service is whether Independence will receive a share of federal funds that come to the Kansas City region through KCATA for its local routes. Currently the cost of the transit service provided to Independence by KCATA is offset by approximately $600,000 annually,  $400,000 of which is allocated for local routes.

Two issues affect this money.

  1. KCATA is in the process of defining a formula to distribute or apply these federal funds throughout the region, and Independence may qualify for less money under the new formula, especially since they are using a private operator.
  2. Section 13c of the Federal Transit Law protects public transportation workers if operations are shifted to a private provider. This law could be used to prevent Independence from receiving this money for the local routes.  Jonothan Walker, president of local 1287 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, has told us the ATU is working on several fronts, including monitoring Independence’s use of these federal funds.  “None of the new service shall receive funding except private. If Independence tries to use it (federal funds) for expansion of lines and for private use, they may find our ATU International legal team involved.” See our previous article for more information Independence Ponders Transit Options (Dec 6, 2011).

Independence was aware of these funding issues before contracting with First Transit, and is monitoring the funding situation.  TAN is concerned that if the federal funding is withheld from Independence, it would have a negative impact on transit service in Independence. We hope that Independence has a plan to deal with that situation if it happens, and that Independence riders are well served by their new local routes.

Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Independence Transit Committee Recommends First Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 22, 2011


In a move characterized as a “new integrated transit system,” the Independence City Council Transit Committee recommended First Transit to operate their intra-city (local) routes beginning Monday, July 2, 2012.  KCATA would continue to operate inter-city routes.  Final action by the full City Council is anticipated in January 2012.

The committee’s recommendation is to:

(1) contract with KCATA to continue certain current services including inter-city and commuter bus routes (Routes 24 and 24x), paratransit service (Share-A-Fare) for inter-city and eligible intra-city trips, grant filings and FTA reporting, and regional transit information center operations

(2) contract with First Transit to provide local fixed route and deviated fixed route service, paratransit service for intra-city trips, and senior transportation service (Dial-A-Ride). First Transit is the contract operator for Johnson County Transit.

Independence says its revised transit plan will provide a 40% increase in service area, 32 additional miles of routes, and a 30 percent increase in hours of operation. Local service will be provided using specially designed new buses, tentatively branded “IndeBus.” Waiting times between buses will increase on some routes due to extending the length of the route without adding additional buses.

Independence expects coordinated scheduling between the two systems to minimize waiting times. Fares will be the same for both systems and Independence expects to work out an agreement with KCATA so there will not be a fare impact on the riders using passes or transfers.

Still unresolved are some funding issues, including how much federal “formula” money Independence will receive as pass-through from the KCATA allocation. Independence will presumably qualify for federal funds related to routes operated by KCATA, but regulations related to employee protections under Section 13(c) of Federal Transit Law could make it difficult or even illegal to use federal formula funds for the Independence local routes (see previous article). This issue — how much federal money will be passed through to Independence — could significantly change the transit funding situation in Independence. Discussions and legal research are ongoing between and among Independence, KCATA, the FTA, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and MARC.

A publicity campaign is planned to start in April, including public meetings, route maps, publication in the Independence newsletter CityScene and information on City 7, the public access cable channel. Bus stop and schedule signs will be replaced and First Transit will work with the businesses in the new service areas for locating stops.

Although its total cost of transit service will rise slightly, Independence expects ridership to increase at least 15% with the increased route coverage. In addition, the City plans to seek grants to supplement money from its General Fund.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue, Seamless Transit | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Independence Ponders Transit Options

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 6, 2011


In August, 2011, Independence issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to operate their local transit routes and local para-transit service, Dial-A-Ride. The local or “intra-city” routes are currently operated by KCATA and are the routes identified by colors as well as numbers. The inter-city routes connecting Independence with Kansas City would continue to be operated by KCATA.

Independence redesigned its local routes to cover more miles and extend service hours. Of course, longer routes without adding more buses means the time between buses increases, which creates longer waiting times for riders.  So service miles and service hours may increase but service level will decrease. Independence also wants to “brand” its buses with a unique Independence design. (Prototype of branded buses from the RFP  Inde Bus)

Several proposals were received, and in October the city staff made a preliminary recommendation to the City Council Transit Committee. They recommended First Transit over KCATA as operator for the local routes.  The Transit Committee recommendation to the full City Council is planned in December because a final decision has to be made by February 1, 2012, in order to implement the desired changes by July 1, 2012.

Transit Action Network understands and appreciates the financial realities Independence faces to maintain transit service for its residents, as well as its right to contract for the most cost-effective transit service. The Independence budget for transit comes out of general revenue. Independence does not have dedicated transit funding like Kansas City, nor do they have taxing authority from the state to even ask for a dedicated transit tax. Their ½ cent transportation sales tax is all used for streets. Like most Eastern Jackson County municipalities, Independence has been waiting for the county to get involved in funding transit.  County transit funding was the original promise of the regional “Smart Moves” transit concept nearly a decade ago.  But county funding hasn’t materialized yet, and general revenue has declined as costs continued to rise, and something had to give. Independence has assured TAN that its goal is to provide the best transit service they can.

Several snags have arisen, however. The biggest one deals with the allocation of federal “formula” funds for transit in this region. As the Congressionally created transit authority for the Kansas City region, KCATA is the federally designated recipient of federal formula funds, and that means KCATA decides how this money is to be allocated around the region. Legally they do not have to allocate any funds to municipalities that don’t contract with them, but historically KCATA has allocated funds to other operators, such as Johnson County Transit, a well as the municipalities that contract with them. The current annual federal formula fund allocation is approximately $15 million, but may decrease based on Congressional action. Independence believes it has a right to a share of this money, even if it goes with a private contractor.

Even if the KCATA Board wants to continue to allocate a share of the federal formula funds to Independence, it may be illegal if they contract with a private operator.  This issue arises because federal transit law has a section that protects transit employees who are affected by federal transit funding. If Independence changes to a private operator there could be a negative impact on public transit workers. Based on the current allocation of money, this law (Section 13(c)) could lose Independence $600,000.  All parties have their lawyers looking into the implications of Section 13(c).

Another big issue is the effect on the para-transit riders in Independence if a different operator gets the contact for the intra-city routes. TAN is concerned that para-transit users wanting to go between Independence and Kansas City would have more transfers and higher costs if KCATA does not operate the intra-city routes. If Independence para-transit riders have to use both the Independence Dial-A-Ride and KCATA Share-A-Fare services for the same trip, the cost would double from $4 for the round trip to $8. Independence City Manager Robert Heacock said that Independence could consider picking up the additional cost for para-transit riders needing to go to KCMO. At an average of 12,000 rides to the city per year, this could amount to an additional cost of $48,000 for the city, but the inconvenience for riders would still be present.

Most important, TAN has significant concerns about the impact another operator could have on all transit riders. Unless Independence gives careful attention to “seamless transit” principles, adding another transit provider could cause complexity, confusion and additional cost for riders, and that would both inhibit ridership and limit access to opportunities throughout the region, while undermining the goal of a truly regional transit system. We have discussed our concerns regarding seamless transit with elected officials including Council member Gragg, Chair of the Transit Committee, and with City staff.

What is “Seamless Transit?”  It’s the term being used in a regional effort to make transit easier to use, thereby building ridership and enabling more people to have access to opportunities throughout the region.  Seamless transit is achieved by meeting basic rider expectations and eliminating the impact of multiple transit operators on the transit experience.

Some of the seamless expectations that TAN has discussed with Independence include:

1.  A uniform fare structure, and transfer and pass reciprocity. Independence has assured TAN that they will use the same fare structure and compatible fareboxes as KCATA so that transfers and monthly passes are accepted on both systems. They have told us they could do an allocation of revenue between the two systems at the end of the month for passes, although the details haven’t been discussed, since an operator hasn’t been chosen.

2.  Good connectivity between the two systems is another concern. TAN has been told schedules will be adjusted to co-ordinate transfer locations and schedule times so inter-system connections can be made effectively.

3.  Currently riders only have to make one phone call to get transit information. They can use Google transit to do online trip planning, and with GPS on all the current buses, real-time information is becoming available via cell phone or mobile device. TAN has asked that these seamless communication features be available to Independence riders if there is a change in operators, but has not been given any reassurances .

To get more details of the planned route changes or read the minutes of the meetings visit the Independence City Council Transit Committee website

Seamless transit issues between JCT and KCATA prompted TAN to get the MARC Transit Committee to form a Seamless Transit Work Group last year. (TAN’s Seamless Transit In the Kansas City Region document) Now many of the same issues will need to be addressed with Independence if it changes operators for its intra-city routes.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue, Seamless Transit | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Open House in Independece July 19 and July 23 -Potential Transit Alternative

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 19, 2011


The Independence City Council Transit Committee is seeking public input on the potential changes to the transit system.

Open House meetings for the Potential Transit System will take place on:

  • Tuesday, July 19, 2011
    • 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm at Noland Road Baptist Church, 4505 S. Noland Road
    • 5:30 to 7:30 at Hawthorn Place Apts Gymnasium, 16995 Dover Lane
  • Saturday, July 23, 2011
    • 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm at Palmer Center, 218 A North Pleasant Street

There are no cuts planned to the current service.

The goal is to:

  • Improve Efficiency of Resources
  • Increase Ridership
  • Improve Access to Public Facilities
  • Increase Opportunities to Shop Local
  • Improve Access to Employment

Take the online survey or print the  Potential Transit System survey and mail it. You can listen to a detailed description of the changes on the website.  Independence Open House

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Jump on The Truman Trolley in Independence for Great Experiences at a Great Price

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 10, 2010


Independence is full of great attractions and historic sites. You can ride the Truman Trolley all day for $1 (unlimited boardings) Monday through Saturday until October 2 (children 5 and under ride free).

Stop at any or all of these attractions:

National Frontier Trails Museum and Chicago and Alton Depot, Bingham-Waggoner Estate, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and Truman Home, Vaile Victorian Mansion, 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home and Truman Visitors Center, Mormon Visitors Center and ‘Community of Christ Headquarters, Clinton’s Soda Fountain and Independence Square.

If you aren’t in Independence you can get the Trolley from Union Station for either a full day or half-day transit adventure.  Call the day before to make a reservation and the Trolley will pick you up at Union Station, take you to Independence, deliver you around Independence all day and then take you back to Union Station all for the same $1!!!

Pickups from Union Station are at 10:00 am and 1:30 pm. Returns from Clinton’s Soda Fountain to Union Station are at 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm.  Remember advance reservations are needed for the Union Station connection.

Find out more about the TRUMAN TROLLEY here.

For additional information or reservations call 816-512-5555 or go to www.visitindependence.com

To combine this transit adventure with public transit options check the KCATA trip planner at www.kcata.org

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Transit Adventures | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

New Silver Route in Independence

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 2, 2010


Before the opening event ceremony at Centerpoint

Mary Hunt, Senior Planner, and Mayor Reimal show the map of the new Silver Route

Mark Huffer, KCATA General Manager, speaking at the opening event

Independence Community Development Director Jennifer Clark and Senior Planner Mary Hunt celebrate the opening of the Silver Route with transit rider Pyllis Mays

July 1 – The opening event at Centerpoint Hospital for Independence’s new Silver Route transit service shows what can happen when people think ahead and creatively. Several years ago Independence structured the Centerpoint Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to fund a new bus route. The route will run Tuesday and Thursday and connect Centerpoint Medical facilities, the Social Security Administration, 39th & Noland (Walgreens and CVS are both there), Olde Oak Tree Apartments, the Midwest Genealogy Center (a Mid-Continent library and the largest public genealogy library in the country) and the Independence Transit Center.

Independence Mayor Don Reimal pointed out that this is a really good use of TIF money and it shows that when Independence has the money they provide transit.  He emphasized that no money was used from general revenues. KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer pointed out that this is probably the first use of TIF to fund transit in Missouri.

Phyllis Mays, an Independence transit rider and transit advocate who helped develop the route, was the first person to ride the new route.

The buses for this route have been fitted with two wheelchair positions since Independence has identified the need to accommodate additional wheelchair passengers on this route.

We salute Independence for its funding commitment to its regular transit service. Sales taxes are down and the Community Development Department, which administers the transit service, has had budget cuts of 30% over the last two years.  The decision was made to absorb those cuts in other ways and keep the budget for the regular transit services consistent at $1 million.  Anyone who has paid attention to the sales tax funding crisis for transit around the whole country should find this an exceptional commitment to transit in difficult financial times.

JR

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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