TAN to City Council–Postpone Support for Commuter Rail
Posted by Transit Action Network on May 20, 2010
Two weeks ago Mike Sanders and Jim Terry (TranSystems) presented the Regional Rapid Rail concept to the Kansas City Council and requested a letter of support for a $4.5 million earmark to do an Alternative Analysis of this concept and supporting transit. The Kansas City Council proposed a resolution to provide this letter. Testimony was held this morning on the resolution. Mike Sanders and Jim Terry spoke in favor of the resolution. Ron McLinden spoke in favor of putting the resolution on hold until the MARC Commuter Corridor Study is complete in 6-8 weeks. This study is supposed to evaluate the feasibility and viability of the concept. The legislative committee passed the resolution this morning.
Link to Kansas City’s resolution
Below is a copy of Ron’s statement this morning.
Presentation to the Kansas City Council Legislative Committee on May 20, 2010 by Ron McLinden
The idea of turning underused rail lines into a regional transit system is appealing – almost seductive. There’s a lot of interest in having rail transit. Every big city has it, and we don’t want to be left behind. There’s less agreement, of course, about where it should go, and how we should pay for it.
In January, 2008, when the ATA was doing its most recent light rail study, you heard a presentation from Jeff Boothe, a rail transit expert from Washington, DC. I recall distinctly one of the things he said: Before you do light rail you need to know what you want it to do for you.
The same applies today. What do we want rail transit to do for us, and will this proposed system actually do it?
You may be aware of a commuter corridors study that Mid-America Regional Council has had under way for about six months. Its principal focus is to determine whether this commuter rail concept makes sense: Can it deliver the travel time savings needed to attract enough riders to make it a viable project, one that can successfully compete for federal funding? That study should be completed in six to eight weeks. We suggest that you hear the results of the MARC study before you endorse the concept.
The concept envisions using city streets for some of the most critical rail segments, and it would cross several boulevards at grade. We suggest you get input from your Public Works Department, and also from the Parks Board.
If you adopt this resolution now, before you have all the facts, you will further heighten public expectations about a concept that might or might not be viable. The resolution says that you support asking for federal money to study the proposal further, but the headlines will say that commuter rail is a big step closer to becoming reality.
Candidly, we’re concerned that this proposal is a distraction from more fundamental transit issues: What kind of total transit system will best serve the citizens of Kansas City, and help our city to grow as the vibrant urban center of the region? How can we assure adequate and reliable funding for the transit service we already have, and for expansion to meet growing needs?
All of us applaud Jackson County’s interest in transit, and we should seize this opportunity to work with the County to put in place a mechanism for county-wide funding of major transit corridors, including commuter service using buses or rail. Creating a county transit authority under existing state law is one such funding mechanism. Jackson County outside Kansas City has unmet transit needs, and funding will be needed regardless of what kind of transit service is ultimately provided, so let’s get going on it now.
In summary, here’s our request to you:
+ Put this resolution on hold pending the results of the MARC study, and input from Public Works.
+ Join with other elected officials and work with Jackson County to establish a broader funding base for transit through creation of a county transit authority.