Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘MARC’

Transit Talk July 22- Not All Taxes are Created Equal – Vote No On Amendment 7

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 22, 2014


KKFI 90.1 FMTransit Action Network discusses the Missouri 10-year 3/4 percent Amendment 7 Transportation Sales Tax on KKFI 90.1 FM Community Radio with public policy specialist and transit advocate Sheila Styron of the Whole Person, Linda Smith, President of the League of Women Voters and David Kingsley, retired statistics professor from the department of health policy & management at Kansas University Medical Center.

When Tuesday, July 22 at 6 pm

Where: KKFI 90.1 FM Community Radio, Radio Active Magazine (They also stream live) KKFI.org

Listen to the podcast: http://content.blubrry.com/kkfi901fm/RadioActive_Magazine_2014-07-22.mp3 (Correction: The widening of Interstate 70 across Missouri remains the most expensive item in the project list. It would receive $500 million (not $500,000) from this tax, with the rest of the $1.5 billion cost coming from existing revenue sources.

HJR 68 Full text of bill, which is both a sales and use tax increase and on the Aug 5th ballot. HJR68

Not all taxes are created equal. The idea that we should pay for roads based on how much we shop rather than how much we drive is a radical change on how we pay for roads and bridges. Find out why you should Vote No on this state sales tax for transportation.

Anyone wondering why this sales tax is a constitutional amendment needs to understand that the state is really trying to change the way we pay for road work, by pushing the tax  burden onto  middle and low-income individuals, working families and seniors, instead of the main users of roads, the trucking industry.  Currently Section 30 of the Missouri Constitution states clearly that transportation projects are to be paid for with gas taxes, sales taxes on vehicle purchases, and vehicle license fees.

Why don’t we raise the fuel taxes since Missouri has had this level since 1996?

fuel taxes

Changing to a sales tax gives the trucking industry a free ride even though they use the roads the most and do the most damage. Trucking corporations don’t even pay a sales tax when they purchase a truck in Missouri since they have an exemption. In addition, the heavy construction industry has lobbied heavily for this bill since it would continue the unprecedented amount of roadwork MoDOT has been doing using federal stimulus money.

This is the largest tax increase in Missouri history, $6.1 billion dollars, and the Missouri sales tax will rise 18% from 4.225% to 4.975%. Total state and local taxes will be over 11% in many places. This combined rate is already 14th highest in the nation and this increase will put us 9th in the nation (ahead of Illinois and just behind New York and California).NO ON 7

We agree with Governor Nixon in our opposition to this bill and  “on the need for a robust discussion about Missouri’s long-term transportation infrastructure needs.”  Governor’s position https://governor.mo.gov/news/archive/gov-nixon-issues-statement-transportation-tax

Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, www.votenoamendment7.com, which we joined for this effort, along with over 40 groups and individuals, put together a list of reasons to vote against the bill.

Reasons to Vote No On Amendment 7

Summary from this document

  • The tax unfair – Trucking Industry gets a free ride
  • The tax is excessive – largest increase in our history
  • This is the wrong investment for Missouri – The recent binge in highway construction hasn’t created significant economic development
  • Amendment 7 is bad for Missouri Investment – total combined sales tax will be above 10% many places creating further incentive for internet purchases and a lost of revenue for local businesses.

One reason to be against Amendment 7 we rarely see mentioned is how bad it is for cities and counties. Although the state has multiple taxing methods it can use to pay for needs, cities don’t, and adding a ¾ percent sales tax from Missouri cripples the ability of local governments to raise sales taxes for local needs, like police and fire departments. In fact, politicians and planning agencies all over the state rejected this idea of a sales tax for roads earlier this year, when lobbied to support an initiative petition to do this same thing.  After being rejected statewide, the lobbyists convinced our elected officials in Jeff City to put this sales tax on the ballot anyway.

Good articles explaining why you should VOTE NO ON 7

Terry Garney ‘s article in the Columbia Daily Tribune addresses the “radical departure from the way Missouri pays for roads.”

“ The amendment would make Missouri’s average combined state and local sales tax rates among the highest in the nation, exceeding 11 percent in some areas. The statewide average would be ninth-highest in the nation.”   http://bit.ly/1qt5oeY

***

Jim Fitzpatrick in Kansas City has published two insightful blogs about the campaign http://bit.ly/1qwrqxt and http://bit.ly/1mhAduT

“This time, I’m sorry to say, Freedom Inc. sold out to the Heavy Constructors, commonly called “the heavies.” They’re called that for more than the obvious contraction of their name. They bring a lot of political pressure to bear in any number of places, including the Missouri General Assembly, which voted to put Amendment 7 on the ballot.”

“That (gas) tax has stood at 17 cents a gallon – sixth lowest in the nation as of last year — since 1996, or almost 20 years. If the Missouri General Assembly and the “concrete cartel” (essentially, the heavy constructors, the engineering companies and the materials suppliers) want to raise more money for transportation needs, they should come back to us with a proposal to raise the gas tax.”

***

The Show-Me Institute has written an op-ed about why they are against Amendment 7. The Southeast Missourian ran a version of it http://bit.ly/UkMyHO. Someone remarked that it is rare when Governor Nixon and the Show-Me Institute agree on something.

Anticipating the funding bonanza, local governments around the state have put forward wish lists that would tap into sales tax money. Rather than confining themselves to critical transportation needs, cities and counties put forward lists filled with expensive wants.”

“Paying for highways based on how much people shop, and not how much they drive, creates a free-rider problem. It promotes congestion, road degradation, and sprawl. It also is fundamentally unfair to force occasional drivers to pay as much or more for new roads as interstate trucking companies.”

***

Good Roads MO (http://www.goodroadsformo.org/) continues to have good information on their website.

“This new tax would again divert sales taxes to rural areas while most of the taxes are paid by urban Missourians. The distribution of the tax to local governments is heavily weighted based on rural land value.

“Missouri’s combined state and local sales tax rates are already the 14th highest in the country. Should Amendment 7 be approved, Missouri will have the 9th highest sales tax rate in the nation (ahead of states like Illinois, just behind states like New York and California). “

***

Transit Action Network supports well-maintained and safe roads and bridges, good transit and bike and pedestrian facilities, but we reject paying for them with a huge sales tax increase.  Not only is a sales tax the WRONG Tax for paying for roads and bridges but are all of the projects really needed?

Just because MoDOT and regional planners had a feeding frenzy piling on projects, doesn’t mean all the projects are needed or should be paid for at the state level. For instance, vehicle traffic on I-70 is down 9% from its peak in 2005-2006.  Do we really need to subsidize the trucking industry so they can have 6 lanes across rural Missouri? Afterall, the trucking industry will pay next to nothing for all this roadwork if we pass this sales tax. Instead the tax burden will fall on middle and lowe-income individuals.

Although we can’t speak for the project lists from the rest of the regions, we feel the transit portion of the Kansas City region was hijacked.

Here is how MoDOT explained the process to choose projects.

“After incredible feedback from Missourians across the state, MoDOT and planning partners (Mid-America Regional Council – MARC in the KC region) have finalized a list of regional and community priorities that would be completed if Amendment 7 were to pass. Each region’s list of priority projects reflects the local needs as communicated by citizens and local leaders. “

However for the KC transit portion of the list, that is not what happened.

Here is the list the citizens and local leaders came up with through public meetings for  Transportation Outlook 2040 (Region’s Long-range Transportation Plan) , the Regional Transit  Coordinating Council (RTCC) and the Total Transportation Policy Committee (TTPC).Original KC_Regional_Trans_Priorities

During all three of these open and transparent meetings Kansas City had the opportunity to make the case that the Streetcar expansion was more valuable to the community than most of the projects and the streetcar should replace the vast array of projects spread around the region. They never made that case.

At RTCC, when the streetcar wasn’t even listed, KCMO asked for a token $5 million, which the group granted. Over the weekend, the city started its behind closed door campaign and got MARC to move the amount to $32 million, which is what you see on the list TTPC approved. This list was sent to MoDOT to reflect the local needs.

As MoDOT reviewed the list, they had closed-door meetings with Kansas City, and together, maybe with others, eliminated most of the original transit projects, and replaced them with $124 million for the KC Streetcar Expansion plan and reduced transit dollars from 30% to 26% with the difference going to more roads.  Many of the projects are good and need to be done with alternative funding to a sales tax,  but the region’s priorities should have been honored instead of cutting deals for support.

MoDOT’s final project list for KC region. Compare it to the original list.

http://www.modot.org/MovingForward/Regions/documents/FINALDistrictProjectList-KC.pdf

With this change, Mayor James decided to support of this unfair, unjust bill. We understand people with political power will use it, but rarely is it done in such a blatant, aggressive manner. MARC, all the other regional partners and the original transit project list were totally pushed aside and MoDOT and Kansas City  “made sure” the new list was approved at MARC.

Some specific projects that were eliminated so Kansas City could take most of the money for the streetcar expansion  

$11 million for mobility management including “Coordination of Paratransit Services (for the disabled)

$13.5 Million for “Regional/KCATA Downtown Transit Center/Super Stops (KCATA just had public meetings for this planned improvement)

Urban Corridor program (new MAX lines)

  • $16.5 million North Oak-CBD to Barry Rd or MO 152 (Northland misses out again)
  • $8.5 million Independence Ave – CBD into Eastern Jackson County

Trails

Decrease of $36 million – Purchase and construction of Rock Island ROW for the Katy trail-not enough money to pay for it now.

***

Most people who are for this bill are either connected to the construction or trucking industry, believe the projects are so important that the taxing method doesn’t matter to them, they are afraid this is the only way to get money, or they are getting a project they want so badly that they hold their nose and vote for a sales tax anyway. None of these reasons are valid reasons to saddle the whole state with a huge inappropriate, unfair tax for 10 years.

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Transit Stakeholder Forum June 26

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 24, 2014


marclogoJoin MARC, KCATA and the region’s transit operators for the next Transit Stakeholder Forum on June 26.KCATA

Willoughby Design is having a followup meeting with Stakeholders to discuss branding for our regional transit system. They have crafted a branding direction based on regional feedback. Will their guidance truly be regional or will it be city-centric?

When: Thursday, June 26
5–6:30 p.m.
Where: UMKC campus, The new Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Room 414
5110 Cherry St, Kansas City, MO 64110
Metro Routes: Main St. MAX, 155, Troost MAX, 25
www.kcata.org
The JO Routes: The JO Connex/556
http://www.jocogov.org/dept/transit/home

   Parking:  Metered parking is available in the Cherry Street parking garage (Level 5), a three minute walk from the Bloch Executive Hall. Parking costs $1/hour and is cash only.For a copy of the UMKC campus map, visit http://www.umkc.edu/maps/documents/volker_maps/UMKC_Volker_campus.pdfTransit_Coordinating_Council-2

The Transit Stakeholder Forum is a public meeting where you can provide input for the Regional Transit Coordinating Council

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EVENT: Insist MoDOT Publish Whole Project List with Dollars for AUG 5 Election

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 16, 2014


MOTMMoDOT is holding public comment meetings in the Kansas City region this week about projects to be paid for by Amendment 7, a 3/4 cent sales tax and 3/4 cent use tax increase for transportation, which is on the August 5 ballot.  The public is invited to attend the open house-style meetings at any time during the advertised hours to speak to regional planning partners and MoDOT representatives. No formal presentations will be made. RSVPs are not required.

At the meeting please request MoDOT to provide much better information about the project list.MOstateflag

On Friday MoDOT released a preliminary list of projects to be part of Missouri Amendment 7, in order to get public comment. The list contains projects submitted by each region as well as MoDOT’s priorities. MoDOT bundled many projects together, such as the Kansas City region’s list of transit projects, while listing out all the road projects, no matter how small. We want to see everything if we are expected to make comments.  Statewide Project List

In addition, no dollar estimates were provided so it is next to impossible to understand the priorities or the real impact. All the projects look equal and they definitely aren’t. For instance the widening of I-70 to six lanes from Independence to Wentzville is where a huge amount of the money will be spent but it is split out by region and looks just like the project next to it instead of the giant on the list. In the KC region list, it is next to increasing funding for OATS, hardly an equal sized project.

It is insulting that MoDOT expects the general public to show up and give meaningful comments based on MoDOT’s  published list.

Here is MoDOT’s version for the Kansas City region Transit/Bike /Pedestrian projects – The projects were DUMPED into a category called  VARIOUS  and it is vague, misleading and impossible to comment on.

Improvements for: public transportation, non-motorized transportation, intermodal connections and/or congestion mitigation in the Kansas City urban region

By contrast, here is the actual version of the Kansas City region’s project list with cost estimates as well as the percentage distribution between categories our region used. Roads are first but look at all the projects MoDOT dumped into this one little description for nearly everything else.

KC_Regional_Trans_Priorities

How is the public supposed to comment on the KC projects given MoDOT’s dismissive representation?  Makes you think MoDOT doesn’t really want public comment.

MODOT’s own list of projects was split up by region and buried in the different regional priority lists (with no dollar amounts), so you couldn’t see them separately. That needs to change. No one can see what the MoDOT projects are or how much money MoDOT is planning to spend per project. Therefore, MoDOT made certain the general public would have problems making informed comments on MoDOT’s priorities.

One of our biggest concerns is widening I-70 to six lanes. We are not aware of any current study saying that is necessary. In fact, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has gone down significantly, both in Missouri and all over the country. In addition, adding lanes in the hope of curing congestion, especially when we have relatively little congestion, has been debunked decades ago. It attracts more traffic. Everyone agrees that I-70 needs to be fixed and safety measures added, such as improving the shoulders to modern standards, but that is a far smaller project than adding a lane in each direction.  

MoDOT’s presentation of the projects certainly make it easy to stifle public discourse about the quality or priorities of what is going on the ballot in August. Intentional? MoDOT is damaging its own credibility by doing this.

Go to the meetings and insist that MODOT

1 Publish all of the projects in an informative manner with cost estimates, and then ask for public comment.

2. Separate MoDOT projects from each of the regional project lists 

3. Summarize MoDOT and Regional projects by Category  (Roads and Bridges, Transit, etc) and show total proposed expenditures and percentages by category.

We realize the dollar amounts are estimates, but they won’t change significantly as they are refined.

MoDOT has all this information readily available, but they chose to publish an almost meaningless listThe public wants the complete information organized in a meaningful manner in order to evaluate the projects. That is not too much to ask when Missouri is asking for the largest tax increase EVER in the state. 

Transit Action Network is against Missouri Amendment 7, for a long list of reasons, but we have worked hard with everyone in our region to develop a list of regional projects worth funding, just in case this bill passes. However, Missouri Amendment 7 needs to be sent back to the legislature with a big NO. Subsequent posts will deal with our objections to the funding mechanism.

An initial list of reasons to VOTE NO from Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions

 Vote NO on The MO Transportation Tax

KANSAS CITY DISTRICT MoDOT Meeting schedule
Gamber Center
4 SE Independence Avenue
Lee’s Summit, MO
Monday, June 16, 4-7 pm
Union Station – Grand Hall East
30 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Tuesday, June 17, 4-6 pm
Vesper Hall
400 NW Vesper St.
Blue Springs, MO
Wednesday, June 18, 4-7 pm
 
Truman Memorial Building
416 W. Maple Ave.
Independence, MO
Thursday, June 19, 4-7 pm
 
Heritage Hall
117 W. Kansas St.
Liberty, MO
Tuesday, June 17, 2-5 p.m.
 

 

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Transit Talk on KKFI 90.1FM May 20 at 6PM

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 19, 2014


KKFI 90.1 FMJoin Transit Action Network as we interview KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer and KCATA Director of System Development Dick Jarrold Tuesday at 6pm.
Topics: Prospect MAX (the often overlooked part of the streetcar expansion plan), the Compressed Natural Gas conversion of the KCATA bus fleet, and an introduction to the work of the new Regional Transit Coordinating Council.

Where: Radio Active Magazine (previously Mic Check)  on KKFI 90.1FM Community Radio

When: Tuesday May 20 at 6pm

LINK TO MAY 20 SHOW 

 

 

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Help Pick Missouri Transit And Bike/Ped Projects for the November Election – MAY 22

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 19, 2014


Where: MARC Transportation Outlook 2040 Workshopmarclogo
Sylvester Powell Community Center
6200 Martway Street
Mission, Kansas
 
When: May 22, 8:30 am to 11:30 amTransportation_Outlook_2040

Register via the MARC website at www.MARC.org

MoDOT Headquarters and Missouri State Capitol. No other major department of state government has closer proximity to the General Assembly.

MoDOT Headquarters and Missouri State Capitol. No other major department of state government has closer proximity to the General Assembly.

The Missouri General Assembly passed HJR68 to put a 3/4 percent sales tax for transportation on the ballot in November 2014. MoDOT and its local planning partners– Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City and East-West Gateway Council of Governments in St. Louis, plus Regional Planning Councils throughout the state – will develop a list of projects to be funded by the tax before the measure goes to voters.

Thus, a lot of local discussion (and deal-making) will be going on in the next couple of months.

In the Kansas City region, this process coincides with (and somewhat complicates) MARC’s already-underway update of its long-range transportation plan, Transportation Outlook 2040.

MARC will use its TO2040 workshop on May 22 to help decide project priorities for the whole region, as well as to narrow the list of projects that would be promised to Missouri voters.

Setting aside for the moment the task of adding projects in the TO2040 update, it’s crucially important to give immediate attention to the Missouri sales tax project list. The 3/4 percent statewide sales tax is projected to yield $5.34 billion over the 10 years it would be in effect, and MoDOT has told MARC its share of the total will be $816 million.

That $816 million will be spent on transportation projects within MARC’s planning area: Jackson, Clay, Platte, and Cass Counties.

Even more important is that the money isn’t restricted to highway projects. Transit, bike, and pedestrian projects are eligible, as are passenger and freight rail, airport, and river port projects. In fact, it is possible in theory that the entire $816 million could be spent without rebuilding or expanding a single highway.

Possible, but not likely. For example, MoDOT wants to rebuild I-70 across the state, and they might like to see the cost of the Kansas City region’s segment of I-70 come out of our $816 million.

MOTMIn addition, MoDOT (to say nothing of the Missouri Public Transit Association) would like to see stable funding for rural and urban transit.

Same goes for passenger rail service, the Missouri River Runner trains operated under contract by Amtrak. At present, MoDOT has to go hat-in-hand to the legislature each year for the $10 million or so it costs to keep the trains running. MoDOT might want our region’s share of that total to also come out of the $816 million.

The important thing for May 22 is that advocates for a balanced transportation investment program need to be there to express the strongest possible support for transit, pedestrian and bike projects — projects to make streets and roads safer for people not driving cars — as well as for stable funding for continuing (and increasing) passenger rail.

Register via the MARC website at www.MARC.org

Earlier TAN article:

That Penny Sales Tax — Here’s What We Are Telling the Legislature

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Regional Transit Coordinating Council Meeting May 14

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 13, 2014


marclogoTransit_Coordinating_Council-2Attend the Regional Transit Coordinating Council’s next meeting

When: May 14, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
Where: Mid-America Regional Council
600 Broadway Ste. 200, Kansas City, Missouri 64105KCATA

This council is having a real impact on regional transit issues.

Tomorrow’s meeting will cover

  1. Quick Wins: Regional Call Center Integration, Google Transit Feed, and Fare Study Update
  2. Presentation on Regional Branding Strategy – Willoughby Design will present the regional transit brand process, discuss public feedback gathered to date, and next steps.
  3. Transit Project List for Transportation Outlook 2040 and Missouri Statewide Tax and Priorities
  4. Programming and Planning
    1. Paratransit Coordination Work Plan
    2. Special Transportation- Job Access Partnership and RTCC Update
    3. Project Applications (CMAQ, STP, TA) Follow-Up
    4. TIGER VI Application
  5. Transit Stakeholder Forum Update and Next Meeting – Staff will present outcomes of March 27th meeting and discuss next meeting

There is a public comment section at the beginning of the meeting. You must sign up.

 

 

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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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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

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

 
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