Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘KCATA’

Streetcar Steering Committee Releases Recommendations and Draft Report

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 25, 2014


Next_RailTransit Action Network hasn’t had an opportunity to fully evaluate the streetcar recommendations from this morning’s meeting of the Steering Committee, or to read through the whole draft report, but we wanted to share some early insights. Full draft report:KansasCityStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4

The recommended endpoints for the routes have been well publicized today:Recommendations_KCStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4

  • Independence Avenue route: terminus Benton Avenue;
  • Linwood Route: terminus Prospect Avenue;
  • Main Street route: terminus Volker (vicinity of UMKC).

This system would add an additional 7.6 miles to the Downtown Streetcar for a total of 9.8 miles. The Prospect MAX recommendation is 9.1 miles long.

Even with these shortened routes, the projected ridership numbers are significantly higher than estimated earlier in the preliminary report last November. With this phase of the study, we became one of the first cities in the nation to use the FTA’s new ridership model, STOPS (Simplified Trips‐on‐Project Software), and no one really knew what to expect. Increased ridership numbers improve the chances of qualifying for federal New Starts funds. Information on the different ridership scenarios is on pages 82/83 of the report. Depending on operating frequency, ridership in this system is expected to rise between 19% and 36% over the current bus ridership.

Average ridership KCStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4The biggest change is the recommendation to change the boundaries of the TDD and the number of property owners subject to the special property tax assessment. The new map still has to be adopted by the City Council on Thursday, so this is still under discussion. It is interesting to note that the Brookside and Waldo area, and everything south of Gregory have been removed like a big bite out of the original taxing district, yet most of the area east of the proposed streetcar line is still intact.KansasCityStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4 This was already pointed out by Yael Abouhalkah of The Star when he tweeted this morning:   

KCStreetcar fact: Brooksiders few blocks away from line won’t be in TDD. East Siders MILES away will be in TDD. Fair?

The special property tax assessment would only be applied to properties within 1/3 of a mile of the streetcar line instead of ½ mile.

The recommendation has shortened the routes (a decrease in cost) while shrinking the size of the TDD (a decrease in revenue). As a result, even if the Federal government provides 50% of the capital costs, the project funding is over $53 million short, as discussed on pages 114/115 of the report.  As the report states: “The consultant team recognizes that a $53,000,000 funding gap in this financial model is not insignificant.”

The project team suggests several scenarios to make up the funding difference. Notice that one of the methods to make up “some” of this gap is continuing to use $2 million out of the ½ cent transportation sales tax fund, which also pays for the bus system. The current ordinance makes this amount the maximum amount allowed to divert to the streetcar, but the City Council has reminded us repeatedly and emphatically that they could change the ordinances anytime they wanted.

We are still concerned about how the streetcar will integrate with the bus system and we understand that council members, KCATA and the study team are all still investigating these operating concerns. Transit Action Network originally highlighted this issue at MARC before it was on most people’s radar, but it is extremely important to riders. There is some basic information on page 81 in the report about bus integration, but this is still in a preliminary stage. At this point, there are forced transfers in the plan: Route 24 would be eliminated west of Benton and only run east of Benton to feed the streetcar, and Main Street MAX would be eliminated north of 51st Street with a possible exception during rush hour –“Limited through bus service from the Waldo/ Brookside area may be provided to continue to provide a “one seat ride” for commuters to the downtown area.” They aren’t clear about reducing the 31st street bus but want to do more study.

Integration between the streetcar and  the bus in the same corridor affects ridership projections because forced transfers reduce ridership, but more importantly it affects how riders will use the streetcar/bus system to travel in the corridor. Will riders continue to have a one-seat trip to major destinations, or will they be forced to transfer between the streetcar and the bus? The report acknowledges this:

SW  TDD corner

SW TDD corner

“In some cases, streetcar service may replace all or part of existing bus routes. Where this occurs, options to minimize transfers and maintain some level of through-service should be explored. “

Overall, there is a lot to digest, and the Council has important decisions to consider when it holds a public hearing Thursday morning (9 am, City Hall) before a joint meeting of the Planning and Economic Development and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Although the report is 832 pages long, the most relevant content of the report is in the first 135 pages.

 

 

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Attend Transit Stakeholders Forum Mar 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 24, 2014


all transit agenciesJoin the discussion about regional branding!

Don’t miss the second Transit Stakeholders Forum. This forum gives everyone an opportunity to provide input into decision-making for Kansas City’s regional transit system. This meeting will focus on the regional branding effort. All of the transit providers (KCATA, Johnson County Transit, Unified Government Transit, Inde Bus and eventually the streetcar) will operate under one umbrella logo, or “regional co-brand” while maintaining their individual identities. Please attend and provide your perspective.

The results of this discussion will provide input to the Regional Transit Coordinating Council and help define the core values and other branding elements that will represent our regional transit system.

A regional co-brand is an important step toward future cohesion of the region’s transit system. The new brand will apply to future initiatives like a one-stop regional transit website, a fare collection system, and a regional transit map. It will help existing users more easily navigate a region-wide system and help attract new transit users.

When: Thursday, March 27 @ 5-6:30 p.m.
Where: Kauffman Foundation Conference Center,
4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110
Metro Routes: Metro 25, Troost MAX, 47
The JO Routes: The JO Connex/556

You can submit a comment or question if you can’t attend.  Please email smartmoves@marc.org.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/228917683967865/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

 

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State Ave. CONNEX Gets Big Buses Jan 5

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 23, 2013


UG logoRiders Rejoice!  The 101 – State Avenue CONNEX route in Wyandotte County/KCK will start using large buses seven days a week on January 5, 2014.connex

TAN advocated for this upgrade and we are extremely happy that the change is being made.

We recently communicated with Mayor Holland and reminded him of the commitment he made last February during our candidate forum to alleviate the overcrowded conditions on this route when it changed to a Connex service . UGT was expecting about 1400-1600 riders daily when the Connex route started, but instead they have seen days with 2200-2300 riders.

Even though the mayor, commissioners and the city administrator knew how overcrowded this route was, they had to find a way to pay the additional $230,000 yearly for the larger buses. UGT and KCATA worked with everyone to find a financial solution. Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds will provide 80% the money next year with Unified Government providing the local matching funds.  Read KCATA’s news release

Now riders can enjoy more room on the buses as well as the improved facilities provided by the TIGER grant.

Transit Trends in UG

Recently Unified Government has been improving transit when there is a demonstrated need, such as the planned Rosedale/Argentine line. TAN hopes this favorable attitude toward transit continues.

In 2012 Mayor (then Commissioner) Holland  worked with TAN when we successfully advocated for large buses on Saturdays for this same route.

Last February we questioned the mayoral candidates about this very issue and received a campaign commitment from then candidate Holland.

Mayor Holland answered our forum question regarding the already overcrowded Route #101 with a resounding commitment to improve the service later in the year.

Question: Route 101 will change to the Connex service later this year. Will you make sure that the upgrade in service level is enough to alleviate the current overcrowded conditions, without negatively impacting other services?

 Mark Holland – Absolutely. It looks like this improvement will make a huge difference.

See all of his answers in our the February forum. http://wp.me/pV5fE-1rK

Unified Government does not have any revenue dedicated to transit like Kansas City, MO does, but prefers to allocate funds as needed.  Their local transit funds come out of the General Revenue account, so it is good to see the County providing additional funds for transit when a definite need arises.

TAN particularly appreciates the commitment to better transit from Mayor Holland, Commissioner Murguia and the Assistant County Administrator, Gordon Criswell (who is in charge of transit). Commissioner Murguia is now a member of MARC’s Total Transportation Policy Committee, which means we will see her on a regular basis to discuss transit issues in Wyandotte County.

Riders, enjoy the large buses!

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Attend the First Transit Stakeholder Forum – Dec 17

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 9, 2013


marclogoMid-America Regional Council (MARC) has announced the first meeting date for the new Transit Stakeholder Forum.Transit_Stakeholder_Fourm-2

When: December 17, 2013,  5 pm to 6:30 pm
Where: Mid-America Regional Council
600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, Mo

No membership is required for this forum and meetings are open to the public.

This meeting marks the beginning of a new chapter in transit outreach in the region. This forum provides an opportunity for public feedback from users, potential users and advocates to improve the transit experience in KC.

MARC wants to widen participation in transit discussions by including all interested parties and getting positive feedback for improvements to the regional transit system.

From the MARC website:

This forum provides public input for the Transit Coordinating Council, which advises MARC, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and local transit partners and jurisdictions on issues, such as regional transit planning, coordination and implementation of priorities.Transit_Coordinating_Council-2 The goals for this forum include:

  • Providing input to the area stakeholders about improvement of accessibility of area transit services.
  •  Providing input on the expansion of regional transit services, in ways that are consistent with the Smart Moves Regional Transit Vision.
  •  Allowing for some interaction with members of the Transit Coordinating Council or members of partner agencies and MARC representatives.

The Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF) and the Transit Coordinating Council (TCC) work together to replace the MARC Transit Committee. The TCC has already started working on system improvements toward achieving seamless transit and part of the first meeting will be spent presenting those changes and asking for input to make the improvements even better. Some improvements include an online interactive regional transit map for the whole system and getting Google Trip Planner and the Regional Call Center to work for the whole system. Read our previous post New Transit Coordinating Council Off To a Good Start to see what TCC has been working on.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with representatives from each of the transit agencies.

This meeting is not a one-time event, although the Forum doesn’t currently have a meeting schedule. A meeting schedule should be discussed at the first meeting. The TSF is one of MARC’s standing committees and it functions as an adjunct to the TCC. They need to work together to get the best results.

The TSF can help minimize or eliminate the barriers to seamless travel in the KC region and provide a better transit system, but only if the public gets involved. The biggest challenge will be to make improvements within the limited funds available for public transit. TCC is already working to increase those funds.

TAN has advocated for a public transit forum for a long time.  Now that we have it, let’s make it a success!

If you are unable to attend this meeting and wish to submit a comment or questions through TAN, please send us an email at TransActionKC@gmail.com See you on December 17th!!!

See MARC’s webpage for the Transit Stakeholder Forum

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New Transit Coordinating Council Off To a Good Start

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 15, 2013


marclogoTransit Action Network is very pleased with the initial efforts of the new regional Transit Coordinating Council (TCC), which is co-chaired by Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell.

Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell

Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell

The new council partially replaces the MARC Transit Committee. The Council consists of local policy officials, and transit and planning professionals.

METRO ogoThe Council has had two meetings, Sept 4th and Nov 6th.

The fractured nature of the region’s transit is well-known so this council is very welcome. It was heartening for transit advocates to hear major regional players actively engaged and enthusiastic about improving transit.

One of the major actions taken by the Council was the establishment of the Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF). This new forum is an adjunct to the TCC and together the two committees replace the previous MARC Transit Committee. TSF will be an open public meeting and transit riders, potential riders and advocates can comment and provide input on the projects the TCC is working on as well as make additional suggestions. MARC is expected to announce the date of the first meeting soon.

At its first meeting the Transit Coordinating Council developed a set of six priorities, “quick wins”,

At the second meeting they discussed progress on these items.

1. Regional Pass and Fare Reciprocity

First TCC meeting Sept 4, 2103

First TCC meeting Sept 4, 2103

  • Near term implementation of the The JO monthly pass as a defacto regional pass. The JO monthly pass would be accepted on all regional routes, except the premium express buses. This extends The JO monthly pass reciprocity to Unified Government Transit and IndeBus. The JO monthly pass is already accepted on the Metro. This pass costs $75.60. This change is an important step toward regional pass reciprocity but we doubt if it will affect many riders.
  • There was no discussion about The JO accepting the Metro monthly pass with a $1 up-charge as was mentioned in the draft report. We hope this change can be implemented soon but it is still awaiting approval. This change would have the largest impact on riders since people with Metro monthly passes could reduce the current cost of using The JO.
  • An effort to solve the long-term fare reciprocity issue is being addressed with a regional fare study.  The goal is to make fares consistence and improve fare recovery ratios. KCATA fares bring in about 15% of the cost, but the other agencies recovery ratios are lower. They plan to develop a “fare elasticity model” in order to make better decisions about the best time and amount to raise fares. This model helps to project the net impact on revenue since a fare increase usually causes a decrease in ridership.  Expect completion of the study early in 2014.

2. Regional Transit Call Center

  • Work is being done to get IndeBus schedules integrated into the Regional Call Center  (RCC) database so Independence can use the system. Independence still has to decide to fund the additional cost of using the RCC. IndeBus is the only agency not currently using the RCC.
  • The long-term plan is to integrate all the different regional paratrasnit services so they can use the RCC.
  • MoDOT’s 511 call function will be updated to provide a simple way to reach the RCC operator.

3. Regional Trip Planning and General Transit Feed Specification (Google Transit Feed)

TCC meeting Nov 6

TCC meeting Nov 6

  • Independence is in the process of reconfiguring its transit data to work with the industry standard, Google Transit. IndeBus is the only provider not on this system. This change will make the whole system available for regional trip planning using Google’s Trip Planner.

4. Regional Route Map and Regional Transit Service Website

  • MARC has developed a dynamic online service map.  It was made available online on Nov 6th   http://kcsmartmoves.org/ You can drill down to see the routes and link to the appropriate website. All of the regional routes are on the map. This capability is really exciting. It will be available on the transit agencies websites in the near future.
  • A printed regional map is planned in 2014.

5. Regional Transit Branding

  • A request for proposals was released on Nov. 6th to get bids for a designer to develop a coordinated regional transit brand to use as an umbrella image for all regional services. They plan to select a consultant Fall 2013
  • Branding and website development, material, marketing etc. should take place in 2014.

6. Passenger Amenity Standards

  • KCATA is developing standard passenger amenity thresholds for deploying various passenger amenities based on the number of passenger boardings at a stop.
  • Guidelines will be circulated and a technical team will review, finalize and forward for approvals as necessary. Target date 2014

TCC also accepted a workplan for 2014, which includes the items already mentioned as well as:

  • Develop regional transit performance measures and informational reports
  • Support the coordination of local study efforts
  • Initiate coordination of local paratransit services and related customer information
  • Assess and identify the best use of federal transportation funding.

The 2013 workplan requires $45 thousand for regional branding. The 2014 workplan estimates $110 thousand for the regional website/brand deployment and the Fare study. All of these budget items have been covered by local contributions.

TCC will be responsible for programming approximately $1.8 million annually of Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for FY 2015, 2016 and maybe 2017.  Additional projects may be considered from this funding source.

In addition, STP (Surface Transportation Projects) funds of $35 million, which are programmed by another committee, will be asking for projects soon. Traditionally transit projects have had a hard time getting a share of STP funds. The streetcar was successful but that isn’t the norm. TCC decided that a larger coordinated regional project would have a better chance of receiving STP funding than smaller individual transit projects submitted separately by the transit agencies or individual jurisdictions. The committee scheduled a special meeting to Tuesday, December 3 at 9 am at MARC in order to be proactive about creating a regional application.

TCC is still working to define itself and understand its role in the region. Another function we believe the TCC should embrace is being consulted on all transit issues of regional significance. TCC needs to make itself heard and exert its presence and importance as it goes forward. For instance, recently KCMO approved Cerner’s Bannister and I-435 project, including huge incentives, but with NO requirements relating to public transit in Ordinance 130768. Cerner plans to have 15,000 employees at this location. This project is of regional significance and deserves a regional transportation impact analysis, including consultation with TCC regarding the potential for improving transit service both to the project site and throughout the I-435/I-470 corridor.

The Council plans to alternate venues between MARC and KCATA. The Council is set up to meet on a bi-monthly basis. In the off months, transit staff and MARC staff will work on the Council’s priorities.

The TCC meetings are open to the public and there is a public comment period at the end of the meeting.

TAN is very pleased with the progress and direction of the new council. We expect it to exert a positive coordinating influence on transit in our region.

MARC’s TCC presentation presented earlier this year at the  MARC Transit Committee. Presentation_RegionalTransitCoordinatingCouncilConcept011513

MARC’s website link  Transit Coordinating Council

TCC members TCC Members_092013

TAN is very engaged in seamless transit and achieving it is one of our main missions.  When Co-chair Makinen asked for our input last August we submitted a list of twelve items to him and Tom Gerend, Assistant Director of Transportation at MARC, to consider for inclusion in the TCC workplan. We are pleased that we are all on the same page about seamless transit and so many of our initial issues are being addressed.

TAN Recommendations for TCC agenda

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Public Meeting About A Possible Prospect MAX – Oct 22

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 21, 2013


METRO logoKCATA, City of Kansas City, MO, and Mid-America Regional Council are having a public meeting to discuss the possibility of a MAX line on Prospect from Downtown to South Kansas City.

When: Oct 22, 5 pm to 7 pm
Where: Emmanuel’s Community Center, 3510 Prospect Ave., Kansas City, MO 64128MAX brt

The planning process in underway so it is important to get input from customers and area residents.

At the meeting:

  • See and tour a MAX bus
  • Ask questions about possible MAX service and submit comments
  • Enjoy complimentary appetizers

Bus connections: Take 71-Prospect or 35-35th Street to the community center. Plan a trip online or call 816-221-0660 for assistance with schedules.

KCATA link   Let’s Talk Prospect MAX

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Attend the Midtown MetroCenter Grand Opening, KCK, Sept 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 25, 2013


Celebrate the opening of the largest transit center in the region. TIGER

What: Midtown KCK MetroCenter Grand Opening
Where: 47th and State Avenue, Kansas City, Kan. (Indian Springs)
When: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 10 a.m.

UG logoThis is the second transit center to open related to the new State Avenue Connex service, a major east-west route in the region. The new transit center is part of the $10.5 TIGER (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that the State Avenue corridor received.

Other TIGER-funded enhancements along the State Avenue corridor include bus stop platforms; passenger shelters and benches; and landscaping and environment improvements.

After the opening ceremonies, stay for the party.

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TIGER Grant Reduces Need To Take Money From The Buses

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 15, 2013


TIGERTransit Action Network is very excited about the city receiving the Federal $20 million TIGER grant. These grants are very competitive and there are a lot more applications than there is money to distribute.

We congratulate Kansas City on its successful application. As the US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, told  the Kansas City Star when he was in Kansas City on September 6 to announce the grant,  “The community has its act together in a big way,” he said. “Coming together to put an 80 percent match on the table — we know what the overall vision for Kansas City is.”

DTSC

You may wonder why the city only had 80% of the money. The 20% streetcar-funding shortfall that Foxx referred to happened when Kansas City decided to reduce the top rates for the TDD (Transportation Development District) property tax prior to the streetcar election. In the original plan, the top property tax rates, combined with the sales tax, would have fully funded the streetcar from revenue collected within the TDD. In order to close the funding gap the city created, the city plans to take $2 million a year from the revenue generated by the city-wide 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax. This sales tax is used to pay for bus service. Since the federal government is now filling that funding gap through the TIGER grant, the city shouldn’t need to tap the half-cent sales tax. Applying that yearly $2 million toward bus service would come close to paying for a new MAX line on Prospect, or on another urban corridor such as Independence Avenue or North Oak Trafficway. METRO logo

We hope the city will do the right thing and use this TIGER grant money to fill the streetcar funding gap, thereby reducing or eliminating entirely the amount taken from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax. The federal TIGER grant for the streetcar is a huge win for everyone, provided the city uses it to restore money that would otherwise be diverted from the bus system.

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Ribbon Cuttings KCK Metro Centers – Aug 9 and Sept 27, New Connex Service – Aug 11

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 5, 2013


INVITATION_7th_Street_METROCENTER.jpg_and_Document1 Kansas City, Kansas has a lot to celebrate with the start of the new Route #101 State Avenue Connex service and the opening of two new Metro Centers.

Join them for the first ribbon cutting:TIGER

What: Downtown KCK MetroCenter Grand Opening

Where: 7th and Minnesota

When: Friday, August 9, 2013, 10–11 a.m.

For more information about the grand opening, visit the Unified Government Transit website.

In addition, the Route #101 State Avenue CONNEX service will start Sunday, August 11th.

There are changes to the route from the current alignment, especially in downtown KCK where the route will be straightened out along Minnesota Ave.

New Alignment effective Aug. 11, 2013

New CONNEX Alignment effective Aug. 11, 2013

The new service and transit center will affect these routes:

101-Minnesota-State Ave.
102-Central Ave.
103-3rd Street-Fairfax
104-Argentine
106-Quindaro
107-7th Street
115-Kansas Avenue

The changes to these seven routes serving downtown KCK should create more convenient connections between Metro and Unified Government Transit routes.

For details of route and schedule changes see the related KCATA  bulletin.

The next ribbon cutting is scheduled for September 27th at the 47th Street Midtown KCK MetroCenter (47th and State Avenue/Indian Springs).

These transit centers are part of Kansas City’s $50 million TIGER (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Other TIGER-funded enhancements along the State Avenue corridor include bus stop platforms; passenger shelters and benches; landscaping and environment improvements.

Watch the  TIGER Progress Report  episode 9 to learn more about local transportation and transit improvements, including construction of the 7th and Minnesota Transit Center.

To learn more about the impact of TIGER on the Kansas City region, visit www.marc.org/TIGER.

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A New Vision for KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 24, 2013


METRO logoKCATA has launched an ambitious new plan to re-invent itself. Will it succeed? Will it adopt a new name in the process? Will we finally see real progress toward a unified regional transit system? Those are some of the questions that could be answered in the next couple of years.

Robbie Makinen, Chair of the KCATA Board of Commissioners, met with TAN for an hour and a half at both our May and July meetings for in-depth discussions about the big changes being contemplated at the area’s transportation authority.

So what is really going on? When Makinen was appointed as Jackson County’s representative on the KCATA Board he discovered that KCATA had significantly more power than it was using. After all, KCATA was created by an act of the US Congress to be the transportation authority for this seven-county region.  It’s charter is modeled after that of the New York Port Authority (NYPA), which gives it broad powers, including operating and/or managing all types of public transportation: buses, local rail systems, and even airports.  What’s more, KCATA has broad development powers: they could even build a skyscraper.

When Independence bid out its intra-city bus routes and decided on a different transit operator in 2012, KCATA realized it was time to reconsider its regional role. “KCATA doesn’t have to operate everything,” Makinen says. He thinks KCATA keeps its extra powers in a “locked box”, and he decided it was time to open that box.

So what has been keeping KCATA from assuming a broader regional role and vision?  Part of the problem lies in the fact that even though Congress gave it all the powers like the NYPA, they failed to include taxing authority. KCATA cannot act on its own to raise money like the NYPA does with taxes, fees, etc. KCATA can only provide its services under contract, and most of the government entities in the region haven’t come up with much money to purchase transit.

Why change now? The important factor driving this change is that public transit service is becoming more fragmented in our region. That not only leads to operational inefficiencies, but it also presents riders a  bewildering array of inconsistent fare structures and policies, operating practices, and other barriers to riding transit.  In short, a transit experience that is anything but seamless. What’s more, in many parts of the region public transit doesn’t even exist.

In addition to KCATA, the Kansas City region is currently served by Unified Government Transit (UGT), Johnson County Transit (JCT) and now the Independence Transit Service (IndeBus). In 2015, the Downtown Streetcar will be a fifth operating system. KCATA chose not to bid on operating the streetcar.

To start the KCATA visioning process, the KCATA Board of Commissioners had a strategic planning meeting the end of April to explore how to re-invent and/or re-structure in order to utilize its additional powers.

(See the board briefing paper summarizing that meeting below.)

The briefing paper outlines four priorities:

1.    Stakeholder Coalition
2.    Organizational Restructuring
3.    Bi-State Compact Review
4.   
Regional Service Needs Assessment

Let’s look at each of these priorities.

1. Stakeholder Coalition. KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer made the first public presentation about the new vision at the May meeting of the KCATA Board of Commissioners. That meeting was also attended by the “KCATA Funding Review Committee” of the KCMO City Council.  See Mr. Huffer’s presentation below.

Since then Makinen and Vice-Chair Steve Klika, along with other Board members and Huffer, have been speaking to elected officials, and with civic and business leaders, in order to achieve the extensive stakeholder involvement needed to make KCATA’s anticipated restructuring a success.

KCATA_BOC_Visioning_Process

Possible new organizational structure for KCATA

2. Organizational restructuring. KCATA expects to have plans completed for significant restructuring by the end of this year. Bus operations would be separated from administrative and regional functions. Other units might be created to manage other transit operations, provide a wide array of transit support functions separate from direct bus operations, and initiate community and economic development projects.

As Makinen is fond of saying “There are things the ATA does in its sleep that other agencies do not want or need to do separately.” He continues that,  “ATA can manage and/or operate a regional multi-modal public transportation system and I am really pleased that the Board of Commissioners has embraced this direction.“

3. Bi-State Compact review. The bi-state compact that created the KCATA in 1965-6 establishes all the powers the Authority has as well as the composition of the Board of Commissioners.

Some people think the composition of the Board of Commissioners needs to be reviewed.

Is it important to change the structure of KCATA’s governing board? Changing the composition of the KCATA Board hardly matters in the short-term, if it matters at all. KCATA can make the structural, administrative and functional changes in its new vision without making any changes to the board. What matters is that the region sees members of the board as engaged, proactive, and responsive to the needs of the community and its clients. In addition, changing the composition of the board is complicated. It requires agreement locally on a new structure, getting governors from both Kansas and Missouri to agree and then getting an Act of the US Congress to make the changes. That probably won’t happen quickly even if everyone could agree on a new structure. It would likely take two years, minimum, once local agreement is reached.

While restructuring might be discussed as a part of a broader regional engagement process, our preference is that restructuring be the last phase in the process. There are too many ways that debate over governance structure could derail other more important improvements. Instead, let’s evaluate how big an impact a reorganized ATA can have without changing its governance structure.

If a change to the composition of the board is needed down the line, so be it, but if KCATA is moving away from only being a bus operator, there isn’t clarity today on what a new structure should look like for a re-invented KCATA. Old ideas for changing governance revolved around representation based on who contracts for bus service.

If KCATA can re-make itself to truly function as the “AREA Transportation Authority,” instead of  JUST a bus operator, then having a broad-based Board of Commissioners from across the region — such as provided in the current structure – may still be the best regional make-up.

4. Regional Service Needs Assessment:  Under a “new” KCATA, regional needs are seen as combination of transit related activities and development activities.

A. Transit related functions:

  • Current Bus Operations. KCATA would continue to manage and operate the current transit services such as The Metro, Share-A-Fare, and the Van Pool program.
  • Management of Other Transit Operations. This one little item would be the biggest change to KCATA’s functions, as you will see in Huffer’s presentation, under a revamped KCATA umbrella organization. This change would require KCATA to reorganize internally to ensure that its current transit operations are separate from a new function of managing rather than operating transit.
  • Downtown Streetcar. The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) is responsible for selecting an operator and setting operating policies for the Downtown Streetcar line. There are questions about their ongoing role once the streetcars are operating, and it’s quite possible they will fade away and turn over management to another entity such as KCATA.
  • Commuter Rail. If Jackson County establishes a commuter rail system, they might contract with a private company to operate that rail system. KCATA might fulfill the management role.
  • Smart Moves. KCATA might take the lead in implementing the Smart Moves regional transit concept created by MARC over a decade ago. Most of the concept has never been implemented since there isn’t an implementing body for the whole plan. KCATA could play a role in ensuring that these services are operated in an integrated, coordinated manner.
  • Transit Coordinating Council.  KCATA is slated to co-chair the new Transit Coordinating Council. MARC and KCATA are jointly creating this new council, which will work to bring the various transit agencies together to work for a more seamless regional transit system.
  • Economies of Scale. KCATA would coordinate regional activities to leverage economies of scale and improve efficiencies for all the transit agencies. Examples from Huffer’s presentation:  Fuel Purchasing, Vehicle Procurement, Grant Writing, Planning, Marketing, and Paratransit Services
  • Expanded transit support operations: KCATA already operates the Regional Call Center, and provides some limited support services, primarily for The JO. These services could be expanded to include maintenance of on-street transit facilities such as bus stops and shelters, scheduling and dispatching systems, purchasing, etc.
  • Administrative functions for others.  KCATA is already assisting KCMO and KCSA in administrative matters related to federal grants for the streetcar, and it helped the Streetcar Authority put together the RFP (request for proposals) to find an operator. KCATA could broaden its efforts in grant administration and contract management.

B. Development Activities

  • Community and Economic Development  Chairman Makinen has been very outspoken about KCATA expansion into these realms, “We need to re-think the role of the KCATA. It has a major role in helping the region be successful and create seamless transit. But we also need to change the mindset and perception of the ATA. Cities and the region should look to the ATA for both Community Development and Economic Development opportunities as well as transit coordination and services.” Makinen’s example of using the ATA to improve the community is the Early Development Learning Center combined with the Metro Center at 39th and Troost. For economic development he reminds us that KCATA applied for and received about $24 million from the FTA toward renovation of Union Station, and some $12 million or so of that was used to construct “The Link,” which connects Union Station with Crown Center.   “These examples barely tap ATA’s potential for community and economic development projects,” he says.
  • TOD  Transit Oriented Development is often cited as a goal with transit projects, but like Smart Moves, unless some group is designated to make it happen, it usually doesn’t. MARC is a planning agency and doesn’t engage in implementation. Los Angeles and Portland have significant TOD because their transit authorities have dedicated departments to make that happen.  If this region really wants new development that is designed to support and capitalize on transit, then KCATA could be the agency that makes that happen.

Finally, KCATA is considering renaming or re-branding itself.  MTA – Metropolitan Transit Authority?  RTD – Regional Transit District?  Something with a more distinctive regional flavor?  It’s very much open to discussion.

These are all big ideas and big potential changes for KCATA. Some of these changes will be easier to implement than others. The Amalgamated Transit Union, for example, has expressed concern about KCATA branching out to manage transit operators that don’t include ATU members.

So there are opportunities and challenges ahead.  KCATA plans to use more of its existing powers to build an integrated seamless transit service in the Kansas City region, along with great community and economic development projects.

Stay tuned for big changes at the KCATA.

BOARD BRIEFING PAPER strategic planning

Huffer’s presentation at BOC KCATA BOC Visioning Process

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Gladstone’s North Oak Transit Stops – Opportunity Lost?

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 19, 2013


City_of_Gladstone__MissouriThis morning we saw a Tweet from one of KCATA’s people about a new real-time arrival sign at 70th and North Oak.  We hadn’t been up that way in a while, and hadn’t even been aware that these signs were being installed, so we hopped on the next Route 142 – North Oak bus to have a look.

Southbound stop on the west side of North Oak

Southbound stop on the west side of North Oak. It has a shelter and bench, a trash receptacle, and a pedestal that holds the digital sign.

Real-time arrival sign at Southbound Gladstone Route 142 stop, 70th and North Oak. The display is working, it's just that our camera speed is too fast to capture it.

Real-time arrival sign at Southbound Gladstone Route 142 stop, 70th and North Oak. The display is working, it’s just that our camera speed is too fast to capture it.

We found two very nice stops, one of which had a digital real-time arrival sign that was indeed working.

Ironically, the “official” bus stop sign is still attached to a well-worn utility pole just beyond the pedestal, and we’re not sure it will ever become physically attached to the stop.  (It seems that KCATA bus stop signs are never attached to shelters.  We don’t understand why that is.)  We think the color leaves something to be desired (gray is not very noticeable) and we’re always concerned about bus shelter roofs that slope toward the street because that occasional snow and ice build-up is eventually going to slide onto the sidewalk, if not onto someBODY.

There's a crosswalk nearby to cross North Oak, but the call button is about shoulder high and oriented wrong, and thus not ADA compliant.

There’s a crosswalk nearby to cross North Oak, but the call button is about shoulder high and oriented wrong, and thus not ADA compliant.

Northbound Route 142 Gladstone stop at NE 70th Street. Nice, but there's not going to be any shade.

Northbound Route 142 Gladstone stop at NE 70th Street. Nice, but there’s not going to be any shade.

But all in all, it’s nicely done.

Nearby is a crosswalk for getting across North Oak.  It has a call button that you push to get a walk light, but it’s located on the wrong side of the pole.

Moreover, it’s mounted about shoulder height, and there’s a concrete curb at the base of the pole, so it’s probably not ADA compliant.  (This is something for Gladstone to fix, not KCATA.)

Across the street is the northbound Route 142 stop.

It’s nicely designed and landscaped, too, but it looks like there’s not going to be a roof.  Unfortunate.

These stops are part of the TIGER-funded transit improvements in the North  Oak Corridor.  Route 142 is the busiest route in the Northland, carrying nearly 1,000 riders each weekday, and it’s expected to become the Northland’s first bus rapid transit route.  There are 31 round trips each weekday, with fewer trips on Saturdays and Sundays.  That translates to over 180 trips in each direction every week.  Pretty respectable, considering that the Metcalf – Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor in Johnson County (Routes 556/856 and 664) has only 125 trips per week, all of them on weekdays.

But we wonder why these stops are on North Oak rather than closer to Gladstone’s “downtown.” Has Gladstone missed an opportunity by not insisting that Route 142 swing over to North Holmes, a mere quarter-mile to the east?  Yes, that might add a total of about two minutes to the schedule, but it would provide access to the Gladstone’s City Hall, Central Park, Community Center  and Gladstone Office Building.

Maybe there was extensive discussion at a public meeting that we missed.  (We can’t be everywhere.)  Maybe there were some overriding reasons to not serve the heart of Gladstone’s “civic center.”  We just don’t know.

Nevertheless, the new shelters and other bus stop improvements all up and down North Oak (and the rest of the route westward along Barry Road to Boardwalk Square) are a welcome and very positive addition to public transit in the Northland.

Gladstone City Hall, northwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone City Hall, northwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone Central Park, northeast corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone Central Park, northeast corner of 70th and North Holmes.

 Gladstone Community Center, southeast corner of 70th and North Holmes


Gladstone Community Center, southeast corner of 70th and North Holmes

 Gladstone Office Building, southwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.


Gladstone Office Building, southwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

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First Look at KCATA’S New “Clean Air” Buses – July 10 at 10am

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 9, 2013


KCATA unveils its new CNG (Compressed Natural Gas ) buses tomorrow.

Compressed_Natural_Gas_Unveiling-5

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Oak Park Mall Getaway

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 24, 2013


opmOK, so maybe you’re not really a Mall Rat. In fact, you might even have some strong biases against shopping malls. No matter. Visiting a mall once in a while is OK — especially if it’s 105 degrees in the shade outside.

Here’s a plan for a half-day excursion from Kansas City, Missouri (or KCK) to Oak Park Mall  http://www.thenewoakparkmall.com/shop/oakpark.nsf/index in nearby Johnson County.

Let’s assume you’re a Metro rider. Take the Metro bus of your choice to Crown Center (or nearby Union Station), arriving there by 1:15 pm on any weekday. These are some of the many Metro routes that can get you there: Main Street MAX, 27, 47, 51, 54,123, 142, 173, etc.jo-672-m

Be sure to get a Metro transfer. (If you are using a Metro monthly pass or a Metro day pass, just tell your Metro driver, “I need a transfer to The JO.”)

At 1:19 (or thereabouts), board The JO’s Route 672 (Midday) bus

http://www.thejo.com/routes/672.shtml at the southbound MAX stop at Crown Center Square, across from the fountain.  (You can also board at 10th and Main at 1:12 pm, or at the northbound MAX stop on Main across from Union Station at 1:23.)

When you board, swipe your Metro transfer through the farebox, just as you would on a Metro bus, and settle in for a 50-minute ride. You’ll find the JO bus to be clean and comfortable (with really cushy seats), and the driver courteous and helpful.

After a quick sprint along I-35 the bus goes south on Roe through Roeland Park, west along Johnson Drive (pausing at The JO’s new Mission Transit Center at 5251 Johnson Drive), then west on Martway and Shawnee Mission Parkway, south on I-35 and US-169, and west on 95th Street to Oak Park Mall.

You’ll arrive at the Oak Park Mall bus stop / park-and-ride lot about 2:02

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Once at OPM you can (1) Shop, (2) Window-shop, (3) Shop, (4) People-watch, (5) Shop,  or (6) Eat at one of the many eateries in the food court or near the mall.

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Eventually — even though you might not want to — you’ll need to head back home. Fortunately The JO has several buses that will get you back.

Route 670 (Gardner – Overland Park Xpress) will get you back to Downtown or Crown Center in practically no time at all.  It leaves the OPM park-and-ride lot at 4:49 and 5:49, and the trip takes about 30 minutes. http://www.thejo.com/routes/670.shtml

You can also return via Route 546 or Route 575.

Route 546 (KCK – Quivira) leaves OPM at 3:25, 4:25, and 5:25, and takes you to Downtown KCK via the Mission Transit Center (where you can transfer to Route 556 Connex to the Plaza or Troost). http://www.thejo.com/routes/546.shtml

Route 575 (75th Street – Quivira) leaves OPM at 3:20, 4:20, and 5:20, and takes you to Waldo or 75th and Troost. http://www.thejo.com/routes/575.shtml

Be sure to watch the time, though.  The last buses back are:

Route 575 at 5:20 (to Waldo)

Route 546 at 5:25 (to Downtown KCK via the Mission Transit Center)

Route 670 at 5:49 (direct to Downtown KCMO and Crown Center)

After that, your coach becomes a pumpkin, and you’ll have to call a friend or a taxi — or start walking.

Important note about your return fare:  You probably got to OPM using a Metro transfer. The JO accepts a Metro transfer, but not a Metro monthly pass or day pass, so you’ll need to pay the regular fare to The JO to return. (Shades of Charlie on the MTA?) The regular fare is $2.25 for adults, and $1.10 for seniors (with any ID that shows your date of birth). Kids 5 and under ride free, and kids 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. If you don’t have a Metro monthly pass or day pass to complete your trip once you return to Metro territory, just tell your JO driver, “I need a transfer to the Metro.” The Metro accepts The JO transfers.

Easy, right? We think so. You’ll have kept cool for an afternoon while experiencing one of the region’s biggest shopping malls.  You’ll also have become one of the relatively few transit riders in the region who can say, “I’ve ridden the Metro and The JO!”

So what’s keeping you? Give it a try and let us know what great fun you have!

Originally posted August 8, 2012.  Updated June 24, 2013

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KCMO Relationship With KCATA Under Review

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 12, 2013


kcmo_big_logoKansas City Missouri (KCMO) is KCATA’s biggest “client,” and therefore their relationship has a huge impact on transit service in the region. Two important events are shaping this relationship. In the short-term, budget decisions this year by the Kansas City Council have forced KCATA to take a 10% loss on the transit service it provides to the City and continue to use its emergency reserve fund to cover this loss. According to KCATA the $46 million budget is $5 million short of the approximate $51 million cost of the current level of service. In the mid/long-term, a new ordinance created a “KCATA Funding Review Committee” which will determine the ongoing relationship between the two entities.METRO ogo

The short-term: The KCATA Board of Commissioners has approved the new $46 million contract, even though they know it is affecting the agency’s ability to respond to emergencies in the future.  KCATA expects to use $5 million of its reserve fund to prop up the city’s transit service, despite the fact that the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax had an additional $9 million available to budget for the bus service. Instead, the city decided to spend the money on Public Works and the streetcar. Some of this money should have been used to eliminate the difference between the cost of the service level and the budget. KCATA used $3.5 million of its reserve fund last year to prop up this service level. KCMO has not fully paid for its transit service out of the budget since 2008.

To understand why KCATA would continue to use its emergency reserve fund after the economic emergency is over and the KCMO sales tax receipts are budgeted to be the highest ever, you need to know that the reserve fund came from the KCMO 3/8 cent Transit Sales Tax  (more about this later) and understand KCMO’s impact on KCATA’s business. 62% of KCATA’s total budget comes from KCMO but if you omit federal funding and fares and such, and just look at the local funding part – then KCMO provides 92% of those funds. Although KCATA is an independent public transportation agency created by an act of Congress, it doesn’t have any taxing authority, and therefore relies on contracts with government entities to provide transit service. So if you have one client that contracts for 92% of your business, you try to make them happy.  Keeping that in mind, KCMO still purchases transit services as a client of KCATA, not an employer and not an owner.

kcmo_kcata_contractSo the mid-term and long-term relationship between these two separate entities has to be resolved since the current situation is unsustainable. No organization can continue to provide the city with more service than the city can (or will) fund.

That leads us to the mid-term outlook. Although during the budget process the city’s Finance committee deleted Section 2 of Ordinance 100951, which required KCMO to incrementally increase KCATA’s share of the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, it retained Section 1, which says KCATA will receive 95% of this sales tax (after TIF and an Administration fee) starting May 1, 2014. During the budget hearings City Manager, Troy Schulte, said he had made preparations to comply with Section 1 of the ordinance. That means that the use of this money for Public Works, which is $6 million for FY 2013-2014, would shrink to about $1-1.5 million for Transportation Planning and the Administrative fee in the next budget. If Section 1 of Ordinance 100951 is implemented and KCATA starts to receive the money that has been diverted to Public Works since 2003, then the current discrepancy between the budget and the cost of the service level will hopefully be eliminated and KCATA can stop depleting the reserve account in the mid-term.  Use of the reserve account in the long-term is a different matter.budget_discussion

The long-term situation. The city’s new “KCATA Funding Review Committee” has had two meetings with the KCATA. The committee has to present a recommendation to Mayor James by Aug 1, 2013 — in time for the next budget deliberations.

A new Ordinance, 130173, set up this committee to look at using the money from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax to create  “a multi-year financial plan for distribution of the transportation sales tax after reviewing the needs of the bus service and establishing a maximum allocation for development and expansion of a streetcar system”. Councilman Ed Ford chairs the committee. The other four council members are Dick Davis, Jan Marcason, John Sharp and Scott Wagner.

The first committee meeting mainly consisted of KCATA’s general manager, Mark Huffer, making a presentation he called “KCATA 101” to explain KCATA’s operations and funding situation. There are links to both the presentation and the meeting, with Huffer’s explanation of all the slides, at the end of this article.

The second committee meeting happened at the last KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting. KCATA addressed several concerns that were brought up at the first meeting, including the sustainability of this level of transit service and the use of the KCATA Reserve account.  There are several issues that have emerged.

Issue 1: How to maintain the current level of transit service. The city council is basing these talks on the unique prerequisite that the current level of transit should be maintained. To transit riders and transit advocates that sounds pretty good, except improving and expanding the service level would sound even better. However that has never been the way KCATA has provided service to the city. They have always provided the most service possible for the funding provided. Councilman Dick Davis (previous general manager of KCATA) told us how he used to adjust service levels all the time based on the money the city actually gave KCATA.  Service levels have never been fixed because the cost of service and the funding for the service always fluctuates.

Prior to 2009 KCMO fully paid for the transit service it received. Historically, if the city cut the budget, then KCATA either cut service or raised fares, so the city budget and the amount of transit service were always in agreement. When the recent recession hit, KCMO cut KCATA’s funding $9.5 million or 19.3 % between FY 2008-2009 and FY 2009-2010. The reason transit riders didn’t suffer more during the recession is because KCATA raised fares (by 20 percent or 25 cents) and cut service by only 9.5%. That didn’t fully cover the budget reduction, so KCATA used its reserve account to make up the cost difference and maintain the higher level of service. The decision to use the reserve account left KCMO and KCATA out of sync, with KCATA propping up the city’s transit service at a level higher than budgeted. This situation had never happened before and we doubt if a lot of people even know about it. Most people assume the service cuts and fare increase happened just like before and they matched the amount of the funding reduction. That is not the case.

KCATA acted like a real partner to the city when sales taxes took a nose-dive. The reserve money kept transit riders from having deeper service cuts and bigger fare increases, as happened in many other cities. KCATA used its reserve fund like it is supposed to be used:  for an emergency.

Now, KCATA is being told to maintain this level of service, even though the city isn’t budgeting for it. They are seriously looking at scenarios where the reserve account will be totally exhausted. So the KCATA reserve account is an important part of this discussion.

 Background: How did KCATA get this reserve account? Prior to 2003 KCATA did not have a reserve fund. The reserve money originally came from the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax. Although KCMO has control over how to spend the city’s ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, it acts as a fiscal agent collecting and passing through to KCATA proceeds from the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax since language of that ballot measure specifically directed the money to KCATA. After the successful 2003 transit election, it took time to implement new services and get more buses. During that build up time KCATA used some of this money to create its first and only reserve fund for emergencies (it was 6 months of operating costs – which is not uncommon for a transit agency). The original concept for the reserve fund was to protect service levels in the event of unexpected fuel price spikes. This unique opportunity to build the reserve only existed once and KCATA has no way to replenish this money for future emergencies, since the contract with the city does not currently have a provision for funding a reserve account.  The reserve fund is already partially depleted. That is why forcing KCATA to use up this money when the city is flush with transportation funds was unnecessary and irresponsible on the part of the city, because it diminishes KCATA’s ability to respond to future contingencies.

KCATA having a reserve account is no different from anyone having a rainy-day fund. Coming out of the recent recession, people should understand how important it is to have some extra money tucked away. We hope that during the review process KCMO sees the wisdom of KCATA having a reserve account and incorporates this modern risk-management practice into the contract. Properly using a reserve account is good management. It should be used to maintain service levels when less revenue is collected than budgeted or when there are unexpected costs, and then re-filled when revenues go back up.

Without the KCATA reserve account, service cuts and fare increases worth the whole $9.5 million, or 19.3%, would have been necessary during the recession.

Issue 2: There is a serious long-term funding problem for KCMO, which will affect KCATA. The city may have to make drastic changes in many programs, not just transit, unless revenues start growing faster or costs are cut. Considering that sales tax revenue is projected to increase only 1%-1.5% annually, the city is on a collision course when costs will exceed revenue in multiple city endeavors, unless there are big changes. The city’s overall costs are projected to increase at 5%-6% annually.

KCATA is currently managing costs pretty well at a 2-3% yearly increase. If the cost of maintaining this level of transit service continues to grow faster that the sales tax revenue, then at some point, this level of transit service becomes unsustainable.rider_profile

One of the main goals of these meetings is to find a way to maintain this level of service and pay for it. The committee has to decide if that goal can be reached with the funding sources already available. As transit riders, constant fluctuations in service levels based on the city’s current year budget is a transit nightmare. KCATA surveys of riders show that 74% of the transit riders have household incomes less than $30,000 and 62% of the riders are transit dependent, yet 76% of the trips are for work, job seeking or school. The need for transit is well documented and no one wants to cut service or raise taxes, but reality can’t be ignored.

KCATA has been trying hard to cut costs. The goal of implementing the recommendations of the Comprehensive Service Analysis was to make the routes more efficient and eliminate duplications. KCATA negotiated an improved union contract and they plan to change the vehicle fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). They expect cost reductions from all of these efforts.

So the ball is in the City’s court. In Huffer’s presentation he suggested several ways for the city to deal with the potential collision course between costs and revenues as they affect the transit service.

INCREASE REVENUE

  • City 1/8-cent sales tax capacity
  • More use of ½-cent sales tax
  • State investment
  • Regional investment
  • County
  • Bi-State
  • Fare increases

Of course, KCMO only controls the revenue streams highlighted in red. Another possibility, not on the list, is the U.S. Congress giving state, county and local governments the ability to charge sales tax on Internet sales. If that happens, it will be a boon to government coffers all over the country and a boon to transit services funded by sales taxes. Any increase in the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax revenue would automatically go to KCATA, and depending on the decisions made regarding the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, KCATA could receive more money for transit.

DECREASE COSTS

  • Greater labor efficiencies
  • Focus only on core services
  • Services reductions/redesign
  • Limit Share-A-Fare to ADA requirements only
  • Alternate fuels/utility savings

Approximately 80% of the transit trips happen on 20% of the routes (core service), so KCTA could reduce the non-core routes. Twenty percent of the routes are about a dozen routes. For perspective, KCATA operates nearly two dozen routes on Sundays.

Currently a city ordinance allows able-bodied people over 65 with an annual income of no more than 150% of the current poverty level to use the Share-A-Fare service. There would be significant cost savings if the service were limited to the people with disabilities.

KCATA’s estimates did not include any cost savings from changing to CNG as a fuel, so that is an outstanding potential cost savings.

All of the above options to decrease costs are within the control of either KCATA or KCMO.

These first two issues, maintaining this level of transit service and the eventual situation where the service level becomes unsustainable due to slow revenue growth and potentially exhausting the reserve account, have been part of the discussions during these committee meetings.

At the second meeting, Mr. Huffer presented several scenarios looking at when the reserve account would be exhausted. The basic assumption is that KCMO doesn’t increase KCATA’s budget. Other scenarios include keeping the same budget but starting to make service reductions and the last scenario doesn’t make service reductions but increases the budget $5 million next year and then revenue only grows at 1% per year.

Of course, exhausting the emergency reserve fund to maintain basic operating levels is not a long-term funding strategy. Councilman Dick Davis, told us recently that he would be concerned if the reserve fund dipped below $10 million. We don’t believe the KCATA Board of Commissioners should let the reserve fund be totally depleted under these circumstances.  See Huffer’s Reserve Presentation at the end of the article.

Issue 3. Another wrinkle that hasn’t been resolved. In December 2010 when Ordinance 100951 was passed, the streetcar didn’t exist.  In the current budget the city allocated $2 million to the streetcar to cover the streetcar’s financial obligations. This amount of money will be needed for the duration of the streetcar bonds, which could be 25 years for a total of $50 million (this amount is equivalent to the cost of a whole year of KCATA transit service to KCMO). One of the questions for the committee is “Will the streetcar money continue to come from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, or some other revenue source? “peer_cities

The streetcar is transit and this is a transportation tax so it fits legally. However, originally the Transportation Development District (TDD) was supposed to pay for the streetcar costs and there was no discussion about using the limited funds available for the bus system to help pay for the streetcar. The streetcar has to be paid for, but TAN would prefer the TDD exhaust its revenue sources before taking the easy way out and use the revenue stream used to pay for the bus system. If the TDD truly can’t pay for the streetcar, then of course revenue sources outside of the TDD have to be tapped.

If there is no other option and the streetcar money has to come out of the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, then Section 1 of Ordinance 100951, which currently gives KCATA 95% of the money, will have to be changed.  The city manager’s current plan is to take the streetcar money out first, like the TIF money, and give KCATA 95% of what is left, if that is still the percentage the review committee decides on.   Don’t be misled into thinking KCATA is getting 95% of the money if the city continues to take money out for other priorities first. Getting 95% of the leftovers is a much smaller amount of money. In fact, if money for the streetcar comes out of this fund, the city manager said the maximum percentage of the total amount available for KCATA would be reduced to 87%.

During the budget hearings the council made it very clear that they can do whatever they want with this sales tax regardless of promises to voters or ordinances. The point that the “council can change its mind any time it wants to” is an important one. For instance, even if a $2 million cap is placed on using the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax money for this first streetcar, this council or a future one could just eliminate the cap and decide a precedent had been established for using these funds to pay for streetcars.

What lies ahead? What about new or improved services? Even though the city has not been fully budgeting for the transit service, KCATA continued with the implementation of several new projects including the Troost MAX in 2011 and the expansion of service to the airport this year. A Prospect MAX is a potential new service since it did well in the recent Jackson County US 71 Transit Study. How the city defines its on-going relationship with KCATA and how the city decides to fund basic transit service to the whole city will determine what improvements or expansions KCATA can make in the future.

The City’s “KCATA Funding Review Committee” has a lot of work to accomplish. So far the committee has been learning about the issues. We look forward to the meetings when they get down to dealing with the difficult questions. They only have June and July to come up with a plan.

Next “KCATA Funding Review Committee” meeting is Thursday June 13, 2013, at City Hall, 10th floor.

Links to the presentations and the video of the first meeting

Huffer to KCMO City Council – ATA 101 Final_20130425

Video of first KCMO City Council “KCATA Funding Review Committee”  (includes Mark Huffer’s explanation of the slide presentation)

KCATA BOC Reserve Fund Presentation  from the second meeting

For more background: TAN posted a series of articles related to the KCMO FY 2013-2014 budget process for funding KCATA. Start with Our Request to KCMO: Move Transit Funding Closer to Goal in Next Budget   and Action Alert! KCMO City Manager’s Budget Is Failing The Transit System  and read through to the last budget article Last Chance – Speak up for KCATA Budget at KCMO Finance Committee Meeting Mar 20  They all have the Tag: KCMO2013-2014budget

Soon: KCATA’s New Vision

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US 71 Transit Study Open House – May 23

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 6, 2013


US_71_open_house

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KCMO holds first KCATA Funding Review Committee Meeting – April 25

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 24, 2013


kcmo_big_logoKansas City’s new Ordinance 130173 set up the KCATA Funding Review Committee,  to “recommend  a multi-year financial plan for distribution of the  (1/2 cent ) transportation sales tax after reviewing the needs of the bus service and establishing a maximum allocation for development and expansion of a streetcar system”. The committee’s final recommendations are due to the Council by August 1, 2013.METRO ogo The meeting is open to the public.

The initial meeting of the committee is tomorrow and will include a presentation on “KCATA 101″.

KCATA FUNDING REVIEW COMMITTEE

Thursday, April 25, 2013, at 10:30 AM
10th Floor Committee Room, City Hall

Chair, Councilman Ed Ford

Additional Council members are Dick Davis, John A. Sharp, Jan Marcason, Scott Wagner

Proposed Agenda

1. Discussion on the purpose of the committee.

2. Future meeting schedule.

3. Presentation on the KCATA.

4. There may be a general discussion regarding current KCATA Funding Review Committee issues.

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KCATA Workshop: Planning Downtown Service for Kansas City’s Future – April 4

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 4, 2013


Please attend the KCATA downtown workshop.

Thursday, April 4, 5:30 – 7:30 PMMAX brt

Kansas City Design Center
1018 Baltimore
Kansas City, MO 64105

METRO ogo Join KCATA today as it begins examining a wide range of potential improvements for downtown bus service and circulation.  Share your thoughts.

Planning efforts will examine the following:

  • Short-term route changes to simplify and integrate downtown bus and MAX service with the planned streetcar on Main.
  • Potential longer-term improvements such as new transit centers, superstops, a transit mall, transit emphasis corridors and a variety of transit priority measures to best support downtown activities and development.

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

KCATA Route 129 Now Serves KCI Airport Seven Days a Week

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 3, 2013


Expanded Route 129 service to KCI Airport began on March 31, with hourly trips connecting Downtown Kansas City with KCI seven days a week, 19 round trips per day. Buses now also serve all three terminals.

Passenger boards southbound Route 129 bus to Downtown Kansas City.

Passenger boards southbound Route 129 bus to Downtown Kansas City.

There’s a bus stop sign and schedule poster on the median at each terminal:
+ Terminal A, about half-way around
+ Terminal B, about two-thirds of the way around
+ Terminal C, about two-thirds of the way around

www.flickr.com/photos/58867268@N03/8609519893/

We’d give you an approximate gate number for each stop, but KCI Airport does not have a consistent system of location reference points outside the terminal buildings. We consider that to be a serious oversight on their part.  Perhaps some of our local “frequent flyers” can help persuade the KCI folks to do better.

Note that there’s relatively little information on the KCATA schedule poster, even though it’s more than half blank. No hint of destination (Downtown at 10th and Main Transit Center), or travel time (less than one hour), or fare ($1.50), or transfer policy (free transfer good for two hours). Nor is there a route map, or even a simple “stick map.” Such information would be immensely helpful to out-of-town travelers who just naturally expect to find a low-cost public transit connection from a major airport to a city’s Central Business District.

Buses from Downtown (via Boardwalk Square) loop around each terminal before making a final stop at Terminal C. Then they pull forward and wait near the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office until their scheduled departure time several minutes later. Because this dwell point is not at the curb, drivers would probably not allow a late-arriving passenger to board.

We looked for information about this KCATA service inside the terminal buildings but couldn’t find any. KCATA used to have a colorful panel at each of the nine information kiosks (one opposite each baggage carousel), but those panels are no longer present.
www.flickr.com/photos/58867268@N03/6001852767/

Nor did we see any “Public Transit” directional signs inside the terminal. (Face it, KCI has no incentive to encourage public transit use since they derive much of their revenue from parking and car rental fees.)

All in all, even though there are details to be improved, we applaud KCATA for this new transit connection.

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Last Chance – Speak up for KCATA Budget at KCMO Finance Committee Meeting Mar 20

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 19, 2013


METRO ogoThe city council is almost finished working on the FY 2013/2014 budget. Tomorrow may be your last chance to comment in front of the council on the Public Mass Transportation Fund (1/2-cent Transposition Sales Tax) budget.kcmo_big_logo

Finance, Governance & Ethics Committee
March 20, 2013 at 8:30 am
10th Floor Committee Room
City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
 

In your testimony about the budget for the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax and Ordinance 130173:

  1. Encourage the committee to table the new ordinance, 130173, which is an attempt to deal with the transit issues we’ve have all been concerned about. The council hasn’t had sufficient time to thoroughly discuss the ordinance and determined how to get the best result. It is possible to complete this budget with the current ordinance.
  2. Even if the committee tables the new ordinance, which we hope it will, please ask them to comply with the existing ordinance relative to non-transit uses and restore funding to KCATA.
  3. Ask that $5 million, currently allocated to non-transit uses, be moved to KCATA:
    •  to comply with current ordinance 100951 to restore funding to KCATA.
    •  to eliminate KCATA’s need to use its emergency reserve account to maintain current transit service levels.
  4. Ask that the streetcar only uses this funding source for one year, while an alternative funding source is identified.

Currently the FY 2013/2014 budget for the  city’s use of the 1/2 sales tax money includes $6 million dollars allocated to non-transit projects, $2 million to the streetcar, and $600 thousand to administrative fees.

Based on Ordinance 100951, city non-transit uses were supposed to start shrinking in 2011 so the KCATA budget could rise to 95% of the available funds from the ½ cent Transportation Sales tax by 2014. KCATA would only be allocated 71% of the available funds in the new budget.

The 2003 and 2008 elections for a 3/8 cent sales tax were based on the assumption that the ½ sales tax would continue to go to the KCATA but here is what actually happened.

1_2_cent_comparison_2003_2014

Up until now the city has ignored its own ordinance and continued to spend money on other priorities.

Contrary to what most people think, KCATA has not been receiving 7/8 cents in sales taxes (sum of ½ cent and 3/8 cent sales taxes). In the proposed budget KCATA is budgeted LESS money from the ½ cent transportation sales tax than it received in 2003 although receipts have increased considerably.

In 2003/2004 the city was only using $1.3 million for non-transit uses from the ½ cent transportation sales tax.

Here’s what we propose:

  1. Table the new ordinance: it is not needed.
  2. Move $5 million from Public Works Capital Improvements to KCATA. That would move the budget closer to complying with the current ordinance and eliminate the need for KCATA to use up its emergency money. Based on the ordinance, KCATA should be receiving close to 88% of the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax for the proposed budget.
  3. Due to the short time-frame, use $2 million from the Public Mass Transportation Fund  for the streetcar for this one-year only.
  4. Once the budgeting process is completed, begin working on alternative funding sources for the $2 million, preferably out of the TDD.  The city sold the idea of the streetcar being funded out of the TDD. Do this and provide long-term financial stability for the streetcar using those new funds.
  5. Convene the Transit Working Group that Councilwoman Circo proposed at the March 6 meeting of this committee, and let that group take some time to explore all of the transit-related issues involved.  There are a lot of issues, and decisions related to transit should not be made in a vacuum.
  6. Include Transit Action Network in that Transit Working Group, as we asked two weeks ago.

The council can work this out, but the time is running out. The budget has to be voted on next week.

Contact Kansas City Mayor and City Council

Mayor’s office 816-513-3500 email Mayor@kcmo.org

Council office 816-513-1368

Go to http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/CityCouncilOffice/index.htm for phone numbers and emails for specific council members

TAN has been writing about this issue since January when the city manager released his proposed budget for FY 2013/2014.

See previous articles for more information.  KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

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KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 13, 2013


METRO ogoPeople are  speaking up about the failure of Kansas City’s proposed budget for FY2013-2014 to properly fund KCATA as required by Ordinance 100951 and expected by elections in both 2003 and 2008.

Watch the testimony: http://kansascity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=7223kcmo_big_logo

Testimony related to transit begins at 38:30 and ends about 1:41:30

  • Loretta Jackson-Cowans about 38:30
  • Councilman Ed Ford about 41:40
  • Councilwoman Marcason about 46:40
  • Mark Huffer of KCATA about 48:02
  • Councilwoman Cindy Circo about 1:05:08  – We need to create a working group…
  • Councilman Michael Brooks about 1:07:00
  • City Manager Troy Schulte about 1:07:12
  • Jonothan Walker of ATU about 1:19:22
  • Sheila Styron of The Whole Person about 1:23:25
  • Janet Rogers of Transit Action Network about 1:26:13
  • Ron McLinden of Transit Action Network about 1:33:02
  • Closing remarks by Council members about 1:39:10
  • End of transit testimony about 1:41:30

Lynn Horsley’s KC Star article about the meeting http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/06/4103920/concern-about-kc-bus-money-going.html

Get more information:  Attend KCMO Finance Committee Meeting March 6 – - City Wants to Replace Ordinance That Restored Funding to KCATA

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