Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘MARC’

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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RTCC Tackles Big Transit Issues – Funding and Paratransit

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 21, 2014


marclogoThe Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC) was formed last September (see  New Transit Coordinating Council Off To A Good Start),  but it is already tackling some of the region’s toughest transit issues: Getting more funding for transit projects, and coordinating paratransit in the region.Transit_Coordinating_Council-2

ONE: Funding: Transit is always plagued with insufficient money to do everything that needs to be done. So when some of the region’s most influential public officials – mayors, council members, public administrators – put their heads together with MARC and the transit agencies to get additional transit funding, it can be a formidable group.

What money are they going after?

Other than the diminishing federal money that goes from the Federal Transit Administration directly to transit operators, there are three major sources of federal transit money currently available to be “programmed” (allocated to projects) at MARC.Federal_Funds_to_program_in_2014

  • The smallest amount is $17.1 million from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). This is most often used for bike and pedestrian projects.
  • $18.2 million is available from the Congestion Mitigation / Air Quality (CMAQ) program. The RTCC will allocate the transit portion of these funds.
  • The largest amount is $77 million from the Surface Transportation Program (STP).  This money is programmed by the Missouri and Kansas STP committees, and is typically used for road and bridge projects, even though transit is an eligible use.  Last year was an exception when $16 million of STP money was allocated to purchase four streetcars for the Kansas City Downtown Streetcar project.

What’s new this time?

With staff of MARC and the four transit operators working together, RTCC has created a list of eleven projects to submit for funding.  Such a large group of transit projects has never been submitted for STP and CMAQ funding before, but with the transit operators working closely together and influential regional public officials involved, the projects will carry more weight than when transit operators submitted projects independently.

See the complete list of projects identified by RTCC.  RTCC_Priorities_List_March_2014  These projects will be submitted to MARC, evaluated and “scored” by MARC staff, and then forwarded to the appropriate programming committees. TAN appreciates the extended list of well-thought-out transit projects and supports them being funded.

TWO: Paratransit: If there is one transit issue in the region that especially needs coordination, it is Paratransit.  [Note: Strictly speaking, "paratransit" isn't just for the disabled.  Think of it as specialized or flexible transit service for people who can't get to a bus stop, or who have other special transportation needs.]  People with disabilities have to deal with an extremely difficult and complicated set of eligibility rules along with restricted transit options to get around the region. Many parts of the region don’t have any public transit options for the disabled. Each transit system operates independently and differently.

Special-needs riders need a coordinated, easy to use system to get the transportation they need. Barriers to paratransit need to be eliminated to make this type of transit more functional.

RTCC Co-Chair Robbie Makinen, who is also Chairman of the KCATA Board of Commissioners, lost his eyesight last year and has become largely dependent on paratransit.  As a long-term transit advocate, Makinen has always been concerned with this issue, but now as a user, he really understands and suffers from the dysfunctional nature of the state of regional paratransit. Makinen is championing the effort to coordinate the regions fragmented paratransit services.

Jameson Auten, the head of KCATA’s “Share-A-Fare” paratransit program, and Tyler Means, transit planner at MARC, put this presentation together to describe the paratransit service offered by the four transit agencies: KCATA, The JO, Inde Bus and UGT.  In his presentation, Auten pointed out the different hours of operations, eligibility requirements, reservation hours, and fares. RTCC Paratransit Coordination

One of the biggest issues for paratransit in the region is the lack of paratransit services in Johnson County.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Although Johnson County Transit has provided bus service for over 30 years, it does not have any Complementary ADA Service:  i.e., no paratransit service that “complements” their regular transit routes. Their bus service is configured as commuter routes, which means they don’t have to comply with this part of the Americans With Disabilities Act The special transportation service they do provide, called Special Edition, is not available to anyone living outside of Johnson County. People with disabilities living outside of Johnson County but wishing to travel to Johnson County — even for medical appointments or other serious purposes – are denied access. In Johnson County there is already such a big backlog of residents needing this type service that they cut off eligibility each year and there is a waiting list.

RTCC understands that tackling this issue is a long-term project. Although the most recent meeting focused on paratransit services supplied by the four major transit agencies, everyone acknowledged that there are a large number of additional organizations supplying transit to the disabled. In order to supply enough transit to the growing number of people in need, they hope that every provider will be involved in this coordination effort.  As RTCC Co-Chair Mayor McConwell put it, “ there are 10,000 people a day in the US turning 65. We can’t wait another 20 years before addressing this issue.”

In addition to these two very important issues, RTCC is still working on their initial list of “Quick Wins.” Currently a Regional Fare Study is underway, and we expect to get results on that in early summer.

The next Transit Stakeholders Forum is scheduled for March 27, 5:00 to 6:30 pm, at the Kauffman Foundation.  Please help spread the word about this meeting, especially to riders. This Forum is designed to work in conjunction with the RTCC. The previous meeting was December 17. The March forum will focus on creation of a regional “co-branding” strategy for the Kansas City region’s transit system.

The next RTCC meeting is May 14 at 1:30 pm at MARC.

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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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Missouri’s Transportation Future – Our Latest Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 21, 2013


On November 18, MoDOT called its regional planning partners to Jeff City to lay out the process for developing a list of projects that would accompany a transportation funding question that could be on the November, 2014, ballot. That question — should it clear the necessary hurdles either through the initiative petition process or by act of the 2014 General Assembly — would ask Missouri voters to approve a one-cent increase in the state sales tax for a period of ten years, producing a total of about $8 billion. The project list would let voters see what they’d be getting. It’s all about accountability, and accountability is good.

Before saying any more we should remind our readers that the penny sales tax is still just a proposal — albeit the most-often discussed proposal — by which Missouri would get additional money for transportation purposes. As we’ve reported previously, there are rumblings of opposition to the proposal. Whether proponents — including highway contractors and chambers of commerce and others having a stake in improving highways — will be able to raise enough money to finance a petition process and then an election campaign to pass the measure, is still unknown. Read our earlier entry:
www.flickr.com/photos/58867268@N03/10808168813/

Based on a briefing by MoDOT and MARC staff at the November 19 meeting of MARC’s Total Transportation Policy Committee, it appears that a lot less is set in stone than we had expected. Moreover, indications are that MoDOT is willing to have the project list include just about anything — anything transportation-related, of course.

A tentative spending plan circulated by MoDOT earlier this year had well over $1 billion coming off the top for reconstruction of the 200 rural miles of I-70 as a six-lane freeway. That is no longer a given. Even the idea of building six lanes all the way is apparently no longer to be taken for granted. That shift in itself is real progress.

Vision for MOUnder MoDOT’s plan, its regional planning partners — Metropolitan Planning Organizations like Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City and East-West Gateway Coordinating Council in St. Louis, plus Regional Planning Councils throughout the rest of the state — will develop their priority lists between now and next June.

Meanwhile, MoDOT will develop a very general plan for how the projected $8 billion dollar pie would be carved up among categories of needs and jurisdictions. It’s anybody’s guess what that might look like. There might well be a few slices off the top:
- A slice for I-70, as has previously been discussed?
- A slice for public transit, to be divided among the state’s dozen or so transit providers?
- A slice to assure funding for the Missouri River Runner passenger trains between Kansas City and St. Louis.
- Maybe even a slice for some hypothetical “challenge grant” programs to help local communities do long-needed smaller projects?

Whatever off-the-top slices there might be for statewide needs and programs, there would also be an allocation to each of MoDOT’s seven districts for projects to be decided in consultation with MPO’s and RPC’s.

Sound complicated? Well, it probably is, and we have a hunch that even MoDOT’s top staff don’t know yet how it’s going to play out.

What we do know is that we’ve never before seen a proposed spending program that is so open to public involvement and input.

That’s where you come in.MOTM

[1] – MoDOT’s draft long-range plan, “A Vision for Missouri’s Transportation Future,” is now out for a 45-day comment period. Here’s the website:
www.missourionthemove.org/
Throughout the site you’ll find opportunities to click on an orange box and let MoDOT know what you think. Do it!

[2] – Get involved in MARC’s ongoing long-range transportation plan update process:
www.to2040.org/
Begin with MARC’s online survey about priorities:
to2040.questionpro.com/

Transportation_Outlook_2040A final note. We’ve noted before that there are reasons to be concerned about passing a sales tax for transportation and nothing else, while highway user fees are among the lowest in the nation. Perhaps legislators will take that concern seriously in January and devise a revenue package that gives MoDOT enough to keep it going while also meeting other important state investment needs. Meanwhile, it’s important that we play along while we press MoDOT and its planning partners to devise as progressive and inclusive a transportation investment program as possible.

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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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Provide Feedback To Update The Transportation 2040 Plan – NOV 7

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 5, 2013


Transportation_Outlook_2040MARC is updating Transportation Outlook 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) for the Kansas City region, as required every five years by federal regulations.Public_meeting_on_Nov_7

As part of this update process, they need your feedback to ensure that the plan’s vision and goals point the Kansas City region in the right direction.

Share your thoughts on these important goals. These decisions about transportation will guide the spending of billions of dollars in transportation funds over the next few decades.

marclogoLet’s make sure Transit gets a fair share of these dollars.

When: Thursday, Nov. 7, 3:30—6 p.m.
(Presentations at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.)
Where: Mid-America Regional Council (MARC)
600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64105

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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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Transit Action Network Has Questions About MARC’s Next LRTP

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 23, 2013


Transportation_Outlook_2040MARC’s current Long Range Transportation Plan was adopted in 2010 when the “Great Recession” was still relatively new.  That plan was based, at least in part, on the optimistic assumption that the economy would recover quickly and return to the “status quo ante” – that the “New Normal” would look a lot like the Old Normal.  In fact, the New Normal might well be closer to “Perpetual Uncertainty” than to the Old Normal.  marclogo
 
In spite of this uncertainty, MARC’s current expectation is that the upcoming LRTP will be a relatively minor update. 
 
The update will begin with a review of the Policy Framework for the 2010 plan:
 
We consider that policy framework to be generally excellent.  However, we wonder if it is being fully reflected in the spending decisions that MARC makes for the region.
 
Here are some questions we hope MARC will ponder:
 
[1] - Have there been fundamental changes in the national (and global) economy that warrant a careful reconsideration of the region’s transportation policy — something more than a “minor update?” 
 
[2] – Were the assumptions underlying the 2010 LRTP even consistent with what we knew, or should have known, at that time? 
 
[3] – Since 2010 there has been a significant change in expectations regarding the availability of federal funds for transportation projects.  Considering this new situation, does it make sense to adopt some specific policy guidance regarding construction of new transportation infrastructure, particularly new roads at the region’s edges?
 
[4] – The 2010 LRTP was based on MARC’s population and employment forecasts derived from a model that reflects pre-2008 development and commuting patterns. The updated forecasts are being characterized as imperfect, but the best that MARC can do. Should the methodology for deriving these forecasts, particularly forecasts for 2030 and 2040, be subjected to an independent evaluation? 
 
[5] – A major issue in 2010 was whether to adopt a significantly different forecast, a so-called “Adaptive Scenario” that could be expected to significantly reduce the cost of new infrastructure.  Does revisiting such a forecast make even more sense at this time?
 
[6] - Current national transportation policy emphasizes “performance measures.”  Might an inventory of “underperforming infrastructure” (e.g., streets and other infrastructure that are underused because development is going elsewhere) be a useful endeavor as input to this LRTP update?
 
[7] – Access to jobs is a growing concern, both for job-seekers and employers.  Can continued location of new jobs at the edges of the region be justified, either from an economic or equity perspective?  
 
[8] – As the region expands outward, it becomes increasingly costly to provide public transit service, while at the same time many people are choosing to drive less and rely more on transit.  Are we willing to see a declining percentage of the region’s population have access to jobs and other opportunities via transit?  If not, can we afford to expand the transit system to prevent that from happening?  
 
No doubt many other relevant questions can be posed.  During the coming months we look forward to spirited dialog between and among public officials and the region’s citizenry as a new Long Range Transportation Plan is prepared.

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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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Getting Commuter Rail Downtown Faces Major Hurdles

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 30, 2013


sixtracks

Kansas City Southern train in “trench” east of Union Station, probably taken in the 1950′s from Forrest Ave. Bridge. Note the six tracks in the trench. The next bridge east is Tracy Ave. Note the ramp which rises from the bottom of the trench on the right and comes up toward the viewer under Tracy Ave. and another one going back toward the east. These carried tracks from the trench level up to businesses on the right. In fact you may be able to make out a freight car next to the brick building on the far right.

jc_ccaa_logo_vertLast month Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders announced that there would be no transit election this year. The decision was due to a newly emerged disagreement with Kansas City Southern Railroad concerning the location of the downtown terminus of the I-70 corridor commuter rail line. Based on earlier discussions with the railroads, the County was planning for a Downtown terminus near Third and Grand in River Market. Now, it appears, Kansas City Southern is insisting the line terminate at Union Station.

Since Mr. Sander’s announcement, the Transit Action Network has noticed, in remarks by individuals as well as press accounts, a lack of understanding of the factors affecting the County’s decision. We decided to publish this note in order to provide those interested with more information about the choice of a downtown station site.

The costs and benefits of the two options can be viewed along three dimensions: estimated ridership, commercial development potential, and cost. The chart below summarizes the two options for downtown locations in these terms.

Comparison of Third and Grand and Union Station

 Sites for Commuter Rail Terminus

Third and Grand

Union Station

Estimated Daily Ridership[1] 

I – 70 Corridor

Current Study (Est. for 2035)

1,150 to 2,800

—–

2007 Study (Est. for 2030)

815 to 1,190

1,060 to 1,548

2002 Study (Est. for 2020)

—–

3,346 to 4,160

Estimated Cost of Construction[2] of a “Common Line”

$109,355,000

$1,000,000,000

Commercial Potential[3]

No value yet estimated No value yet estimated

The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has completed four commuter rail studies over the past couple decades. The first of these studies examined the possibility of commuter rail in the I-35 corridor to the Southwest, in Johnson County. Union Station was to be the downtown terminus of this route. There has never been a problem getting to the station from the West. Although this corridor has always shown the greatest ridership potential, the I-35 project died because it basically required laying an additional track from Union Station to Olathe. Johnson County voters were not expected to support the high cost of such a project.

View from Forest Ave. today. Note overgrown bridge abutments where the Tracy Ave. bridge used to be. We assume railroad right-of-way extends approximately from the wall of the building on the left to at least the bridge abutment on the right and possibly to the building out of the picture on the right. This picture provides a better view of the old ramp system bringing tracks up to street level.

View from Forest Ave. today. Note overgrown bridge abutments where the Tracy Ave. bridge used to be. We assume railroad right-of-way extends approximately from the wall of the building on the left to at least the bridge abutment on the right and possibly to the building out of the picture on the right. This picture provides a better view of the old ramp system bringing tracks up to street level.

The next MARC study in 2002 examined the possibility of commuter rail along various routes in both Kansas and Missouri. Of the routes studied the I-70 corridor was the most attractive in terms of potential ridership with a maximum of 4,160 passengers per day in 2020. This study assumed that the downtown terminus would be Union Station. There was no evaluation of the feasibility getting to Union Station compared with other locations.

Grand Avenue bridge. An example of one of the bridges that would have to be modified in order to  accommodate a fourth track.

Grand Avenue bridge. An example of one of the bridges that would have to be modified in order to accommodate a fourth track.

The next study, in 2007, focused just on the I-70 corridor, was far more detailed than the 2002 study, and examined both express bus and commuter rail. It used two different forecasting models with varying assumptions imposed on each. Using these models daily ridership estimates ranged from 815 at the low end for a station in River Market to 1,548 as a maximum for service into Union Station. It was in this study that the problem of getting to Union Station first surfaced. As the chart above indicates, it is extremely costly to get to the station from the east. (We will discuss the reasons for this subsequently.) So it was decided that a commuter rail route would preferably terminate in the River Market area. The problem with this was that the ridership forecasting models indicated, overall, about a 30% drop in ridership compared with Union Station. There were two reasons for this: First, commuters would have to transfer to buses to get to their ultimate destinations. (The downtown streetcar was not foreseen at the time.) Research suggests transfers between rail and bus cause a substantial drop in system use. Secondly, the combined travel time of commuter rail plus bus would be significantly longer than the drive time from a commuter’s home directly to their downtown office. Because of this and the large costs entailed in any rail system, commuter rail found no proponents and the idea withered.

That brings us to County Executive Mike Sanders’ vision for expanding transit throughout Jackson County. The County Executive’s plan incorporates commuter rail, express bus, a greatly enhanced county-wide local bus system, and a system of bike and pedestrian trails.

With the County Executive’s backing, MARC began the current study of the I-70 and Rock Island corridors in 2010. An additional study of the Highway 71 corridor was added later and is still underway. A series of ever more detailed study phases produced the most detailed information so far for both the I-70 corridor and the “Rock Island Corridor” to Lee’s Summit (and eventually, to Pleasant Hill). These two routes would come together in the southeast corner of the East Bottoms in the Blue River flood plain near an area called “Rock Creek Junction”. They would then proceed into the city on a “common line”, either to Third and Grand in the River Market or to Union Station (or vicinity).

Looking East from Vine toward  Woodland Ave. bridge

Woodland Avenue bridge (taken from the Vine Street bridge.) The “trench” narrows from here to its start at the 18th Street bridge. A fourth track at the same level as existing tracks would require excavation along one side of the trench.

Getting to River Market requires acquisition of right-of-way from the City of Kansas City along the North side of Kessler Park, construction of a bridge over the Blue River and adjacent north-south mainline tracks, and construction of track between Rock Creek Junction and a station at Third and Grand. The cost is estimated, according to the draft “Locally Preferred Alternative” report prepared by MARC, at $113.3 million, including a station at Third and Grand costing $4 million.

The Union Station route looks deceptively simple. The tracks to Union Station are already there at Rock Creek Junction. So, just run commuter trains on them. Problem solved, cost $0. But this idea is unlikely to work. The tracks through this corridor are part of several key nationally significant rail corridors. The problem is the corridor is already almost at capacity with well over 100 trains a day. Meanwhile, national rail freight traffic is expected to double over the next 20 years[4]. The railroads will not allow their infrastructure to be used in a manner that interferes with their primary business of moving freight. So adding commuter trains, which demand close adherence to fixed schedules, in an already crowded corridor, is not viewed favorably by the railroads.

Another option then is to build an additional track from Rock Creek Junction to Union Station. This turns out to be extremely expensive. According to a consultant working with the MARC team, who has looked closely at this alternative in the past, the cost would be around $1 billion – almost ten times the cost of going to Third and Grand! Here’s the problem. For approximately two miles east of Union Station the tracks lie in a “trench” (Grand Ave. to 18th Street, just east of the “Benton curve” on I-70). When Union Station was built, the trench contained four “thru” tracks. There were additionally two tracks on either side of the thru tracks which led to other tracks running up and down the sides of the trench serving rail shippers lining the right-of-way above track level.  [See black and white photograph of arriving Kansas City Southern train taken from (we think) the Forest Ave. bridge in, probably, the 1950's.] Today there are just three tracks in the trench. This is for two reasons: Revised safety standards have increased the distance between tracks thought to be safe, and changes in maintenance practices since 1914 require the use of rubber-tired, road-based equipment. So the trench now needs to accommodate a service road. Therefore, in order to add an additional track two things are required: 1. One of the sides of the trench would need to be excavated for at least part of the two-mile length, and 2. Most of the 15 bridges that cross the trench would have to be modified or rebuilt. [See photographs from Google Maps below to get an understanding of the topography and bridge constraints.] It is not difficult to intuitively understand the $1 billion figure.

So is the commuter rail project dead? Very large infrastructure projects require the alignment of numerous parties’ interests and this inevitably creates hurdles along the way to an agreement. Currently, the railroads have agreed to contract for a third party capacity study of existing rail infrastructure. This might reveal that, contrary to the railroad’s beliefs, there is capacity for commuter trains on some basis. Or, perhaps a way will be found to add a fourth track in the trench more cost-effectively. Perhaps clearing the next hurdle may require just another healthy dose of creativity and/or negotiating acumen. Sometimes an idea just won’t work out and the effort has to be abandoned, at least temporarily, until conditions are more favorable.

Given the time, money, and public commitment spent doing transit studies for Jackson County over the past few years, TAN hopes that some tangible transit improvements will result near term, even if commuter rail can not be immediately realized.

See the KC Smart Moves website for updates on the current Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

————————————————————————————

[1] These ridership estimates are far from comparable. They represent estimates from four different forecasting models performed over a ten year period, incorporating different relationships between variables, different parameters and different assumptions. Ridership forecasting models are notoriously inaccurate in any case. Today forecasting models tend to err on the side of conservatism so most, but not all, of the newer commuter rail systems have exceeded ridership forecasts; often times by considerable margins.

[2] The cost estimate for getting to Union Station was provided by one of the consultants involved in the current study. It was not prepared for the current MARC sponsored study. It’s date is unknown. Neither estimate includes cost of station, or station upgrades. Sources: MARC “Locally Preferred Alternative” draft and a consultant to the project team.

[3] Because the Union Station alternative was dismissed early in the latest series of studies, there has not been a formal, quantitative analysis of the development potential for each of the two alternative station locations. There is vacant and underutilized property around each, but an analysis of the potential total value of viable projects has not been developed

[4]  MARC, “Regional Transit Implementation Plan – Commuter Corridors “, p.  2-7, 2010

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Jackson County AA Study Team Will Reveal Recommendations Tomorrow

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 26, 2012


Tomorrow, November 27, consultant recommendations from the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis will be presented to stakeholders in the morning, and to the public that afternoon.

 Transit consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), guided by Mid-America Regional Council, Jackson County, Kansas City, and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, has been studying commuter needs in three corridors for nearly three years.  Work on the I-70 and Rock Island corridors is about complete, while work on the third corridor, US-71, got started late and is farther behind.

Here’s what we expect tomorrow:

[1] – Commuter rail is in.  Commuter rail will be recommended in the I-70 corridor since the underlying motivation for the AA was to find a way to make commuter rail workable.

[2] – Union Station is out.  Union Station is out and Third and Grand is back in as the western terminus for commuter rail from eastern Jackson County. This is the site of the current KCATA park-and-ride lot and the end of the MAX and future Downtown Streetcar lines.  Jackson County tried to work with Kansas City Terminal Railway to get access to Union Station, but latest indications are that KCT has not been interested in a capacity analysis on their tracks to see if it could be made to work — not even if Jackson County pays for the study.  Union Station has been the preferred terminus from the beginning, so we expect to hear that some day commuter rail might go there.  Realistically, that isn’t likely if hundreds of millions of dollars are spent going to Third and Grand.

 [3] – No CEI.  We had anticipated that the study would include a Cost-Effectiveness Index (CEI) for each rail corridor.  However, indications are that it won’t.  The CEI is a standard measure of costs and benefits (and thus of relative merit) used by the Federal Transit Administration in evaluating projects that compete for federal funding.  Omission of this measure is disappointing in light of the emphasis PB’s Shawn Dikes put on it at the first stakeholder meeting.  A rule of thumb in transit studies is that following FTA procedures is a good indication of whether a project makes sense – whether FTA funding is to be sought or not.

We suspect the Study Team knows without doing the calculations that commuter rail in this corridor isn’t cost-effective by FTA standards, and just doesn’t want to release unfavorable information – even though more than $1.2 million has been spent on the study.  Our preference is to have the CEI as an objective comparison to recent commuter rail projects in other cities, and to thus have a better-informed electorate.  Thus, we’re disappointed that PB hasn’t stayed true to its original focus on the importance of the CEI number.

 [4] – There is political and popular support for transit.  Unlike in 2007, there is political will to take a transit and trails package to the voters, even if we have to pay locally for most of any rail proposal.  The AA might not support federal funding for rail, but people do a lot of things subjectively, and there’s a widely held perception that the Kansas City Region should have rail.  Commuter rail might still be five years or more away – detailed environmental studies related to impacts on Kessler Park plus construction will take time.

 [5] – The Package.  We don’t expect to find out much tomorrow about the comprehensive package Jackson County will ultimately take to the voters late next year, but it’s safe to say it will include something for everyone:

  • One line for commuter rail.
  • A hefty trails plan that includes the old Rock Island right-of-way as a connection to the cross-state Katy Trail.
  • Upgraded express bus service with more frequent peak hour trips, plus at least a few midday trips.
  • New transit routes to connect the various cities, especially in Eastern Jackson County.
  • Something significant for Kansas City.  The city already pays for the region’s highest level of transit service, including two popular BRT routes, a Downtown Streetcar line expected to begin construction in 2013, and more than a dozen routes that operate 7 days a week.  Jackson County has been talking about BRT on Prospect, and we’re interested to see what else the County has planned to entice KCMO residents.

Tuesday is the day to watch.  The Stakeholder Advisory Panel will meet at MARC at 8:00 am to hear and respond to the recommendations for the corridors, followed by the Open House for the public at 140 Walnut in River Market between 4:00 and 6:00 pm.

So there you have it – what we think we know.  We’re willing to be proven wrong, of course.  But we can promise you one thing:  It’s going to be One Interesting Tuesday.

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Jackson County Transit Studies Open House Nov. 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 21, 2012


Click to Enlarge

Join us at the last open house for the  Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis, which covers the  I-70 and Rock Island Corridors. The last Stakeholder Advisory Panel meeting is being held the morning of Nov. 27 and this public gathering is on the same evening.  Learn about the final recommendations being made toward determining an LPA, “Locally Preferred Alternative”  and provide your input for the Partnership Team.

Where: River Market Event Place
            140 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO
When: Anytime between 4 pm and 6 pm on Nov 27, 2012

This open house provides information on all three corridors being studied; I-70, Rock Island and US 71. The US 71 Transit Study is ongoing.

There will be prizes and giveaways, too!

TAN advocates Janet Rogers and Mark McDowell have enjoyed serving on the JCCC AA Stakeholder Advisory Panel and they continue to serve on the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for the  US 71 Transit Study.

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Jackson County Transit Studies Update – Our Current Assessment

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 15, 2012


There was no surprise when Jackson County announced that it would not put a transit tax measure on the ballot this November. There are still too many unknowns, and a comprehensive package will take more time to develop. Better to do this right than fast.

One of the big unknowns is location of a downtown terminus for commuter rail. The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis for the I-70 and Rock Island corridors, which has been underway  for over a year, is currently on hold. The County would like to move the downtown terminus from Third and Grand, the option presented to the public in April, to Union Station. That’s good, because nearly everyone really wants commuter trains to go there, and that’s the location identified for commuter rail in Kansas City’s comprehensive plan, FOCUS.

The sticking point has been getting the Kansas City Terminal Railway to agree to allow commuter trains on their tracks.  These are the tracks that Amtrak trains already use.  Once the Terminal (and its owners, primarily the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific) agree they are open to that possibility, a capacity analysis will have to be done to determine if commuter trains can be sandwiched in among all the freight and Amtrak trains.

Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that: whereas there’s some flexibility in freight train schedules, frequent delays for a commuter train could lead to loss of riders and failure of the whole commuter rail endeavor, so the railroads would have to commit to a pretty exacting schedule for the commuter trains.  As of this writing, a capacity analysis has not yet been done.

For commuter rail into Union Station to work, the railroads have to:

  • agree in principle that commuter trains on their tracks would be OK
  • complete a capacity analysis to determine that it’s feasible, and
  • develop detailed cost estimates.

Meanwhile, Jackson County continues to work on more-detailed cost estimates for getting trains to a terminal at Third and Grand.

While that’s going on, the US 71 Corridor Transit Study is proceeding in the first phase of its evaluation process.

In addition to studying the I-70, Rock Island, and US 71 corridors to identify a locally preferred alternative in each, Jackson County is fleshing out the rest of a county-wide transit and trails plan to take to the voters. 

That plan would:

  1. Fill in many of the bus transit needs in the county. All rail systems need a robust bus system to support them and Jackson County doesn’t have that outside of Kansas City, Missouri. MARC’s Smart Moves transit concept is the basis for filling in the missing transit links in the county, and Transit Action Network advocates Janet Rogers and Ron McLinden are working with a team that includes Jackson County, Kansas City, KCATA, and consultants to help define the transit part of the package.
  2. Develop a plan to connect and complete a Jackson County trails system. No longer would there be “trails to nowhere,” but “trails to everywhere.” The County has been working with trail and bike advocates, using MARC’s MetroGreen plan as the basis for the trails component.

Assuming voters approved a one-cent sales tax  — nobody at the County will verify that this is the target amount — that would raise only about $80 million per year. Given that limitation, the County will have to make some tough choices because they can’t afford to do everything that’s currently being considered.

Right now we consider the following as likely components of a trails and transit package to be submitted to the voters:

  • Probably one commuter rail line using the Kansas City Southern tracks in the I-70 corridor
  • Implementation of many of the service components of the region’s Smart Moves transit plan
  • Bus Rapid Transit (MAX style service) on Prospect
  • Transit connections linking municipalities throughout the County
  • Upgraded Express Bus Services in all three major corridors (including I-70, even if commuter rail is developed in that corridor)
  • Build out of a complete network of trails as envisioned in MetroGreen.

We anticipate seeing such a package submitted to the voters sometime in 2013, though perhaps not until the second half of the year.

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US 71 Transit Study – Video of Open House

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 10, 2012


The Jackson County US 71 Transit Study, an Alternatives Analysis, started in June and is the third transit corridor to be studied as the County works to complete a transit package to put before voters. Completion is scheduled for the end of the year.

There have been two Stakeholder meetings (Janet Rogers and Mark McDowell both represent TAN) and a public meeting. Until a final decision has been made for locally preferred alternatives in the three corridors, nothing can go forward.

The US 71 corridor originates in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and extends south of the downtown area, terminating in Belton, Missouri. The corridor generally parallels U.S. 71 crossing Kansas City (MO), Grandview and Belton and is being evaluated as a potential addition to the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis, a transit study that has been in progress since 2011, which consists of the I-70 corridor and the Rock Island corridor.

This corridor is very congested and portions of US 71 between 51st and 75th are particularly slow. Current transit service on U.S. 71 and parallel service on Prospect provide transit access for the area, but scheduled travel times are almost double the travel time of the automobile.

The US 71 corridor study is benefiting from the work already done in the other corridors. This study is considering Express Buses, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), streetcars and commuter rail. Just a reminder that the commuter rail is not electrified light rail. It is a diesel vehicle, Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU), which operates on existing freight lines or new tracks.

The project team, Jackson County, MARC, KCATA and Kansas City, Missouri  and the consulting team, Parsons Brinckerhoff, are all the same as the previous study.

The study is in Phase I, which provides the purpose and needs statement and does an initial evaluation of the alternatives to decide which ones will go through to Phase II.

The first two alternatives advance automatically to Phase II

1. NO Build  – do nothing plus

  • all capital improvements identified in the fiscally constrained MARC 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that will be implemented by 2035.
  • the existing bus network augmented with the recommendations listed in the KCATA Comprehensive Service Analysis Key Corridor Network.

2. TSM (Transportation Systems Management)

Everything in No Build plus

  • capital improvements and bus network enhancements.
  • an expansion of KC Scout Intelligent Transportation Systems.
  • New park and ride lots
  • Capital bus enhancements on U.S. 71 (such as bus on shoulder), which will be identified and evaluated as part of Tier 2.
  • New intermodal transfer point in vicinity of Hillcrest and Bannister Road.
  • Seven U.S. 71 / Prospect BRT station pairs.
  • Extension of local bus service along Prospect to Bannister Road and Blue Ridge.
  • Extension of Express Bus service (Route #471) from current terminus Point at U.S. 71 & Red ·  Bridge Road to U.S. 71 & M-150. The extended service would serve park and ride lots at U.S.
  • 71/M-150 and at Truman Corners Shopping Center. Number of trips would be increased from 5 AM and 5 PM to 8 AM and 8 PM.

Three additional alternatives to be evaluated for advancement to Phase II

Alternative 1: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

  1. Two alignments are anticipated for the BRT alternative–a Commuter BRT on U.S. 71 and an Urban BRT on Prospect.
    1. US 71 Commuter BRT connects M-150 in Grandview with the 10th and Main Transit Center.
    2. Prospect Urban BRT connects Bannister Road in south KC with the 10th and Main Transit Center.

Alternative 2: Enhanced Streetcar Alternative

The enhanced streetcar would serve a third phase of the KC streetcar system (phase II would be to the Plaza). The streetcar would travel on the west side of US 71 and ends at M-150. A feeder bus network would also be a part of this alignment.

We expect the streetcar alternative to be eliminated because it is so expensive and probably wouldn’t qualify for federal funds to help us pay for it. We expect the projected ridership to be too low to make the line cost-effective by FTA standards. If it is advanced to Phase II it will be because the partners want to do the cost and ridership analysis for future reference.

Alternative 3: Diesel Multiple Unit Alternative

The alignment for the DMU Commuter Service South Line runs from the Jackson County Line to Leeds Junction. South of Leeds Junction the rail travels with limited stops on KCS track to its destination near M-150 in Grandview. North of Leeds Junction, it shares a common line with the Rock Island Corridor alternative, and farther north those lines combine with the I-70 corridor into downtown.  The two possible alignments for the DMU Commuter Service Common Line into downtown run from:

a. Leeds Junction to the River Market

b. Leeds Junction to Union Station via the Trench

The DMU alignment crosses nearly 80 bridge structures. About 20 of those would require improvement of some kind, up to and including replacement.

The stations along this alignment are limited due to various complications, including physical challenges and the lack of population and employment density.

The U.S 71 corridor has a large low-income population. The ability to provide improved access to work opportunities is an important goal of the enhanced transit system.

There will be additional public involvement as the study progresses.

US71 – combined alternatives – Click to Enlarge

US71 – BRT -Click to Enlarge

US71 – Streetcar- Click to Enlarge

US71 – DMU – Click to Enlarge

For more detail, review the information from the public open house materials and fill out the comment form.

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/projects/us71transitstudy-openhouse1.aspx

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Public Open House – US 40 Highway Corridor – AUG 28, 29 and 30

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 24, 2012


Provide input for the region-wide development process to create sustainable places. There will be public meetings on each of the six corridors being worked on. This meeting is for the US 40 Highway corridor, which extends from 31st and Prospect in Kansas City, MO, to US 40 and Adams Dairy Parkway in Blue Springs, MO. Sustainable places create transportation corridors that accommodate different modes of travel — walking, biking, transit and auto.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, August 28th – Independence, MO

Location: Noland Road Baptist Church, 4505 S. Noland Road Independence
Any Time Between: 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Presentations: 5:30 p.m., repeated again at 7:00 p.m. (choose one)
 

Wednesday, August 29th – Kansas City, MO

Location: Brush Creek Community Center, 3801 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd.
Any Time Between: 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Presentations: 5:30 p.m., repeated again at 7:00 p.m. (choose one)
 

Thursday, August 30th – Blue Springs, MO

Location: William Bryant Elementary School, 1101 Southeast Sunnyside School Road
Any Time Between: 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Presentations: 5:30 p.m., repeated again at 7:00 p.m. (choose one)
 

This community meeting is related to the $4.25 million grant Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) received from HUD to help create sustainable places in the Kansas City region.  Print and post the Flyer.CSP_Flyer_40 Highway Meetings

Visit MARC’s website to learn more about this process. The CSP initiative includes plans and demonstration projects in six key corridors in the Kansas City region: State Avenue, North Oak, U.S. 40, Rock Island, Central City and Shawnee Mission.

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All About Smog – One More Reason to Save the JO

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 14, 2012


This is a Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources photo from August 13, 2012 from Blue Ridge Mall looking at downtown Kansas City. The KCPT tower, right-middle of the photo, is 3 miles away and the downtown skyline is 8 miles away. On a bad day, you can’t see the tower and on a really bad day even the skyline disappears from view. So what is smog?

The term “smog” was coined at the turn of the century to describe the hazy horizon of industrialized European cities, but around the 1950s, vehicle emissions began to take the place of factories in creating this noxious mixture of “smoke” and “fog”. Smog is a haze we see today during our hot and humid summers. This combination of ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons and dust particles is monitored regularly and regulated by the US EPA due to increasing health concerns for sensitive populations like children, the elderly and people with allergies or asthma.

In Kansas City, emergency room visits and hospital admissions increase significantly when ground-level ozone concentrations are high. Ground-level ozone irritates the eyes and nose, causes inflammation, difficulty breathing and even chest pain. It is formed by emissions from vehicles, power plants and other sources mixing with heat and sunlight, which is why summer is the most troublesome for air quality. Poor air quality knows no political boundaries, though, and smog will often creep northward with the warm, south winds of summer.

There is something we can all do to help. With daily work commutes averaging around 20 miles, multiple highway corridors, and abundant parking, it’s easy to see why so many folks in the Kansas City area drive to work. It’s also easy to see how our routines are contributing nearly half of the ozone forming emissions that contribute to poor air quality. Leaving your car at home even twice a week can save over 270 pounds of harmful ozone-forming emissions.

The MidAmerica Regional Council’s RideShare Connection is hosting the Green Commute Challenge now through September 28th to help raise awareness of air quality issues, reduce use of single-occupant vehicles in the peak summer season, and encourage transit use across the metro area through an employer-based contest. Thirty teams have joined from across the Kansas City area and over 900 people are taking the challenge to use alternative transportation.

Between bicycling, riding the bus or carpooling to work, and walking or simply staying in for lunch, the challenge has already reduced emissions by over 250,000 pounds. That’s like taking 14,000 cars off the road for a day. During the 12-week challenge, participants track their trips online and earn points. It’s a great way to see how our individual choices can add up to big benefits and many participants are using public transportation to earn serious points for their teams.

We can all do our part for air quality and using transit is a great way to start. And you don’t have to wait for national fuel efficiency standards or alternative energy sector growth to help! Compared to other household actions, using transit can reduce emissions by more than 10 fold.  A robust public transportation system is one of the very best investments any community can make to minimize emissions and reduce greenhouse gases. Transit can’t beat bicycling or other no-emission commutes, but modern buses are often hybrids using natural gas, biodiesel and other low emission fuels. The KCATA Metro MAX has several hybrid and clean diesel vehicles and both KCATA and The JO will be adding natural gas vehicles to their fleet.

Does being a transit rider make you an air quality hero? It depends who you ask but there’s no doubt that reducing even a few solitary commuting trips in your car can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change and poor local air quality. Kansas City had 18 Ozone Alert days already in 2012, up from only 9 last year and 4 in 2010. We’ve exceeded ozone concentration standards 16 times this year and we’re setting a pace to top the last 2 years combined for quantifiable poor air quality. Poor air quality affects everyone’s health and it can make doing business more expensive as tighter regulations are enacted to meet basic national standards.

When local budgets get tight and cuts seem imminent, priorities have to be defined to guide the process, but with growing concerns about air quality and the human health impacts a very clear reality in the Kansas City metro area, you have to ask: why is public transportation not a priority in Johnson County? How can eliminating bus routes by 45% (and reducing service on another 45% of routes) serve our collective goals for air quality when it is the first, best way to reduce harmful ozone-causing emissions? We don’t believe cutting bus services voluntarily is in the best interest of Johnson County or the collective community when it comes to air quality issues or the kind of reliable public transportation system the public increasingly demands.

It’s not too late to improve air quality in Kansas City. From alternative fuel blends and hybrid vehicles to using low emissions paint in our homes and native landscaping in our yards, people across the metro are doing so much to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and ground-level ozone in our community. Using transit is one of the most effective things you can do to help ease air pollution and prevent smog from ever forming. The only question is: if you live or work in Johnson County, will you still have the transit option in 2013?

Contact Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

  1. Phone: 913-715-0430
  2. Email contact form: http://bocc.jocogov.org/webform/contact-us

http://finances.msn.com/saving-money-advice/6804691

http://www.marc.org/Environment/airQ/pdf/FAQfourpage.pdf

http://www.dnr.mo.gov/env/esp/aqm/kccam.htm

http://www.apta.com/gap/letters/2010/Pages/100728_obama.aspx

http://www.marc.org/Environment/airQ/pdf/ozonereports/O3WeeklySummary.pdf

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Attend Ground Breaking Events for the CONNEX Routes – July 13 and 18

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 11, 2012


TIGER Grants  were awarded in 2010  to build transportation infrastructure improvements along major transit corridors. In Kansas City, Kansas the Minnesota/State Ave Corridor received $10.5 million, and in Johnson County the Metcalf/ Shawnee Mission Parkway Corridor received $10.7 million.

Both communities are developing pre-Bus Rapid Transit (MAX) Routes , which are branded as CONNEX.

Design work is complete and construction is starting. Ground-breaking ceremonies are scheduled for July 13th and 18th.

Unified Government Transit Connex Metro Center
Friday July 13th @ 11 am
7th and Minnesota, Kansas City, Kansas

The improvements will be made along the transit corridor that begins at the 10th & Main MetroCenter in downtown Kansas City, MO,  travels west through Downtown Kansas City, KS,  continues on Minnesota Ave., then State Ave. and ends at Village West.

For more details, maps and drawings see the UGT website.

 Johnson County Transit Connex Mission Transit Center
Wednesday , July 18 @ 8:30 am
5251 Johnson Drive (old Cap Fed site) Mission, Kansas (location correction)

JCT Ground breaking information release MSMP_Groundbreaking

The improvements will be made along the transit corridor that begins at the Rosanna Square park-and-ride, travels north on Metcalf, east on Martway and then generally continues on Johnson Drive and Shawnee Mission Parkway into Kansas City, MO.

For more details, maps and drawings see the JCT project website and the Overland Park project website.

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Open Houses – U.S. 71 Transit Study – July 12 and 17

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 10, 2012


The U.S. 71 Transit Study is underway.  The project team and lead consultant are the same as for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis. The project team consists of MARC, Jackson County, Kansas City, and KCATA. The lead project consulting firm is Parsons Brinckerhoff.  Transit Action Network has two advocates on the Stakeholder Advisory Panel.

The U.S. 71 corridor begins in the downtown loop of Kansas City, Mo., and runs south along U.S. 71/Bruce R. Watkins Dr. through Kansas City and Grandview to M-150 near the Cass County border. This heavily traveled corridor includes not only the U.S.71 highway facility, but also Prospect Avenue and adjacent railroad assets.

The study will build on and coordinate with the Jackson County Commuter Corridor Alternatives Analysis, which is studying the I-70 and Rock Island corridors. This study is funded largely by a $652,200 competitive grant from the Federal Highway Administration, which Jackson County acquired.

During the open houses, participants can tell the project partners whether enhanced transit is needed in the corridor and, if so, what their preferred transit option might be. A short update on the alternative analysis study will be given at 4:30 p.m. each day.

Visit the project Website. http://www.kcsmartmoves.org

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Jackson County Transit Study Takes a New Direction

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 25, 2012


Calvin Williford, Jackson County Chief of Staff, recently wrote to the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Partner Team describing new developments related to the study currently underway.  He said completion of the current commuter corridors study would be postponed and the County would move forward with a comprehensive transit plan. Letter_Partnership _Team

For almost two years everyone said the study would be completed and a “Locally Preferred Alternative” (LPA) would be decided in the June 2012 time frame.  In a bold step, and with a growing understanding of transit needs, Jackson County decided to wait for more information. The county’s ambitious target date for having a conceptual countywide transit plan in place is the end of July.

Part of the reason for the postponement is that another study, this one in the Highway 71 / Grandview corridor, is just beginning and the County wants to gain an understanding of transit alternatives in that corridor before making any decisions since all three corridors are interrelated.

The biggest reason for the postponement, though, is that a new rail alternative has become available for consideration — the possibility of getting commuter rail to Union Station.  This new alternative uses the Kansas City Terminal (KCT) Railway tracks to get into the area just north of Union Station. These are the tracks that Amtrak uses. It will be a big deal if the County can get the railroad to consider this. In the past KCT has always rejected the idea of accommodating commuter rail, and the cost of putting new tracks in that corridor would require expanding a number of bridges at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

This new KCT alternative is not without concerns. There are capacity issues since so many freight trains use these tracks daily. Therefore a capacity analysis has to be done first to see if this alternative is workable before formally evaluating this corridor for commuter service as part of the AA.  Because of existing challenges, it was assumed from the beginning that KCT would not allow commuter rail on its tracks. No previous study has been completed to estimate costs, ridership numbers or travel-time savings to Union Station using this route.

Will this rail alternative have significantly better quantitative results than the Third and Grand alternative?  We don’t know. The 2007 study of commuter rail in the I-70 corridor concluded: “Possible conflicts at Union Station with a high volume of freight traffic and Amtrak passenger service have a significant likelihood of negatively impacting commuter rail reliability, which is not acceptable when building ridership.”  If capacity issues can be resolved, then this route should definitely be studied. This route would likely be shorter and provide a more desirable terminus — factors that could improve ridership forecasts.

Like the Third and Grand location, this route would require other transit service (such as the Downtown Streetcar) to provide access to the Central Business District (CBD). However, in contrast to the Third and Grand alternative, there are thousands of jobs in the vicinity of a terminal at Union Station. Since there isn’t a fast direct route from the highways to Union Station, commuter rail on the KCT tracks might compete favorably in travel time with driving, provided they can increase the speed of rail. Of course an express bus will likely still be faster to the Government District and the rest of the CBD.

So that leaves the question of cost. Can Jackson County persuade the railroads to bring the cost of access to their tracks down far enough that even if ridership projections are low and the travel time to the CBD is slow, the overall cost of getting to Union Station will be acceptable? Wait and see. The County is working very hard to put this together.

Williford’s letter also mentions Jackson County’s commitment to developing a comprehensive county-wide transit strategy that includes “rail, buses and a well-connected trails system”. The commuter corridors study process has raised the County’s awareness of the huge transit and trail gaps in the county, and considering a comprehensive package to take to voters is a great idea. In order to develop such a strategy, a number of groups have been convened to look at particular parts of an overall multi-modal plan. MARC is working with trails advocates to develop a detailed trails plan that satisfies multiple users, and the KCATA will be taking the lead in configuring and costing a more extensive bus system following the “Smart Moves” concept. Transit Action Network is part of a committee to identify the transit gaps. The original project team is working with the railroads on the capacity study to get into Union Station, but Third and Grand remains a fallback location for rail.

In a recent public meeting Williford talked about Jackson County’s serious “transit deficits” and made the following specific points:

  1. Every community that has developed rail transit has started first with a robust bus system. “Buses are the backbone of every transit system in the country,” he said, citing the “cost effectiveness” of buses over rail.
  2. Service for the mobility-impaired is inadequate.
  3. You can’t get from Kansas City to Independence after 6:00 at night.

Williford also said that while economic development is important, the county is placing greater emphasis on mobility than it did earlier. We think it’s great that the County’s understanding of the transit issues in the region has developed and expanded.

In order to create a comprehensive plan the County needs to fit all the pieces together with a financial package to pay for it. The County has taxing authority up to a one-cent sales tax. The full tax would raise approximately $80 million, derived almost equally from Kansas City and the rest of the county.

As part of this process, the County realized that parks and trails are really important to people. In the recently concluded session of the Missouri legislature the County successfully sought taxing authority for another ¼ cent sales tax for trails and parks. Such a tax could raise about $20 million.

Jackson County has taken on a huge challenge: Create a plan for commuter transit in three corridors, supplemental transit to fill numerous transit gaps throughout the county, and a set of parks and trails amenities. We hope they can come up with a great package at a cost that’ll be a “no-brainer” for voters to support.

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

TAN’s Position On Transit Alternatives For The I-70 Corridor In Jackson County

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 1, 2012


 Transit Action Network sent its position paper on the I-70 corridor of the Jackson County Commuters Corridors Alternatives Analysis to the Project Team and the Stakeholders. The following position is based on the April 2012 presentations by the Project Team. We understand the numbers are not final, but while we expect them to change to some extent, we do not anticipate they will change in orders of magnitude. Read the whole document TAN Position on I-70 Corridor

1. TAN favors developing Enhanced Express Bus service along the I-70 corridor.

2. Transit facilities should be located and designed to maximize development potential around them.

3. Jackson County should create a County Transit Authority to fund this and other expanded inter-city transit service, thereby relieving localities of this burden.

4. Jackson County should negotiate an agreement with the City of Kansas City to acquire the use of land adjacent to the northern edge of Kessler Park sufficient for a right-of-way for future commuter rail to Second and Grand.

5. Jackson County and Kansas City should develop a working relationship with the Kansas City Terminal Railway to preserve sufficient right-of-way to accommodate additional tracks east of Union Station, so that the possibility of additional rail access (freight and passenger) to the Union Station area is not further compromised.

 

Posted in County Transit Authority, Local Transit Issues, Rail, Regional Transit Issue, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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