Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for September, 2010

KC is Crippling Its Transit System …. and how to fix the 2011/2012 transit budget

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 15, 2010

Kansas City has not been fully funding the transit system for several years. Instead, the city is systematically diverting funds previously used for transit to non-transit projects, such as traffic signals.

The transit system is funded by two different sales taxes. The 1/2-cent sales tax feeds the Public Mass Transportation Fund (PMTF). This fund is where the problem exists. The 3/8-cent sales tax is a transit-dedicated fund so the transit system gets those monies.

Since the 1/2-cent sales tax is for TRANSPORTATION, not TRANSIT, it is legal to use the money on things like traffic engineering or road signs. However, this fund has been the foundation of transit funding in the city since it was originally passed. When voters approved the 3/8-cent sales tax it was supposed to supplement the 1/2-cent tax to provide greater transit in the City. Soon after the passage of the new tax the City started diverting more and more of this money to other projects. When the supplemental tax was passed the KCATA was receiving 87% of the money from the PMTF. By the time the recession hit KCATA was only getting 80% of the money and the city’s portion had risen from under 5% to over 9%.

Then the recession hit in late 2008. What happened in the next budget? The transit funding was severely cut to 69% of the receipts while the city’s portion rose to 15%. Of course people expected to see reductions in service, after all this was a huge economic downturn. Therefore, people just bit the bullet and accepted the transit situation without a whimper. The City continues to siphon off more money for non-transit uses. It may be legal but it sure isn’t right!

When the 2009/2010 Budget was announced the KCATA had to scramble to adjust to the severe last minute cut. It reduced service nearly 10% and raised fares 20%. The sales tax receipts are more today than they were in 2003 yet the KCATA is receiving $5 million less from this fund.

The KCATA cannot maintain the current level of reduced service with the money it is receiving from the City. So how is KCATA funding the transit system at this level? By exhausting its reserve account. When the 3/8-cent sales tax passed the KCATA started a reserve account. They could see the trend of the City’s budgeting for the PMTF even before the huge shock with the 2009/2010 Budget. This reserve had been allowed to grow. With the reduced service and higher fares, KCATA calculates it can survive at the current level of service by using up the reserve until the end of 2013 when the money will be depleted. At that point KCATA might have to cut service another 35% unless things change.

This is a really ineffective way to fund a transit system. Transit funding might have to fluctuate with sales tax receipts, TIF obligations and city administrative fees, but it should not be subjected to city bureaucrats or city officials utilizing the money for non-transit related projects.

No business can manage effectively with wild fluctuations in revenue, especially when those fluctuations are not caused by the economy. If we want the KCATA to expand and improve transit we have to make sure they receive the funds they were intended them to have.

Transit Action Network wants to regain some sanity in transit funding. By putting a legal cap on what the city can use for non-transit projects, the PMTF can once again be the foundation for transit funding and the KCATA can regain the necessary confidence about it’s future funding to once again begin to plan for transit expansion.  That security would allow KCATA to implement the recommendations that come out of the Comprehensive Service Analysis currently underway.  KCATA could also feel comfortable maintaining a reasonable reserve amount.

Transit Action Network is already meeting with city council members. We have partnered with the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2) to help bring about this change. We have started making appointments with neighborhood leaders in the Green Impact Zone. We hope to mobilize the residents of Kansas City to stand up for the transit system.

Let your council members and the mayor know you are concerned about this situation and encourage them to create a legal cap to restrict funding non-transit projects in the PMTF. Our solution is stated below in a document we are delivering to the council and the mayor. Or just ask them to implement the legal cap on non-transit projects proposed by the Transit Action Network (TAN).

We will be posting updates to this effort on this blog as well as on our twitter account

Document for City Council Members and the Mayor


Issue: 2011/2012 Budget for the 1/2 cent Public Mass Transportation Fund

Our Position: The City has diverted an increasing and excessive amount of the 1/2-cent Public Mass Transportation Fund away from transit to non-transit projects. We believe the non-transit portion of this fund should be legally capped at 4 percent of Total Revenues (Sales Tax Receipts less TIF). This cap will assure that the separate 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax supplements the 1/2-cent Sales Tax to improve and expand transit for Kansas City’s citizens.


Kansas City 1/2 cent Public Mass Transportation Fund
Budget 2003/2004 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011


$28,789,178 32,560,000 31,218,750 29,600,000

City-non transit

1,333,411 3,083,561 4,813,252 5,413,196

ATA contract

$24,976,506 26,349,787 21,551,903 19,870,641

% of receipts

City %

4.63 9.38 15.42 18.29


86.76 80.19 69.04 67.13
  • Drastic cuts to transit funding are crippling the transit system

In 2003/2004 the 1/2-cent tax generated $29 million, and $25 million (86.7%) was used for transit. The city used $1.3 million (4.6%) of revenue for non-transit purposes.

The City began diverting large amounts from this fund to non-transit projects after passage of the 3/8-cent transit sales tax in 2003.  This trend began well before the current “revenue crunch” and had already reached 9.4% of receipts by the 2008/2009 Budget.

Receipts estimates for 2010/2011 are $29.6 million but transit will receive only $19.9 million or 67% (significantly less than in 2003/2004), while the city will increase its take to $5.4 million or 18.3%.

People expect to see cuts to transit services during severe recessions. Unfortunately, this expectation provided the cover necessary to nearly double the percentage used for non-transit projects to 18.3% in the 2010/2011 Budget as compared to 9.4% in the 2008/2009 budget by cutting transit funding.

When voters approved an additional 3/8-cent transit sales tax in 2003, and renewed it in 2008, they expected it to supplement the 1/2-cent tax, not replace it.  Whereas the 3/8-cent transit sales tax was to increase transit, transit service has actually been shrinking and fares have been increased 20% because of the diversion of the 1/2 cent transportation funds.  The City is not keeping faith with the electorate.

This budgetary trend jeopardizes the City’s ability to increase sales taxes for additional transit, such as a streetcar, or to receive emergency funding for transit services from state and/or federal sources.

The trend of using less of the sales tax receipts for transit and more for non-transit appears to be systematic and intentional and we believe this needs to be reversed.

  • Jobs

In a recent survey by ETC Institute, 65% of local transit trips are for job related activities such as commuting to work or seeking employment.

A recent report from Transit Equity Network (TEN), More Transit=More Jobs, shows that there is more job creation with increased levels of transit funding than there is with funding roads.

  • Sustainability

Kansas City has recently adopted strong policies in support of sustainability and has undertaken a number of green initiatives.  Transit is an integral part of making Kansas City sustainable and green.  Diverting 1/2-cent sales tax revenues away from transit is not consistent with the Council’s adopted policies.


Transit Action Network



Read David Martin’s Transit Article in the Pitch 9/15/10 

KC’s lousy bus service stems in part from City Hall’s lousy budgeting

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

KCATA Aug 2010 Board of Commissioners Meeting

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 14, 2010

KCATA Troost Bus

August 18, 2010

A. Michael Graham, Director of Finance, reported on the Second Quarter Financial Performance. Several Key Performance Statistics were presented.

2nd Quarter Key Performance Statistics for period ending June 30, 2010

Annual YTD
2008 2009 2009 2010
1. Metro Expense/Mile

National Avg. 2008



$6.48 $6.31 $6.80
2. Passenger Boardings per Customer Complaint 6,921 8,142 8,633 7,843
3. Vehicle Accidents/Million Miles 39.23 42.5 41.72 38.66
4. On-Time Performance 92.2% 93.4%
5. Miles/Mechanical Failure

National Avg. 2008



9,298 9,228 8,942

1.    The lower number the better. KCATA expenses are significantly lower than the national average. 2008 is the most current national data. Of course 2008 was the year of the high diesel prices so that average may come down. This item is typically lower than the national average. The 2006 national expense per mile was somewhere between $8.50 and $8.75.

2.    The higher the number the better.  2010 YTD is worse than last year at this point. The extreme weather and snowfall early in the year had an impact on this number.

3.    The lower number the better.

4.    The higher the number the better. This is the first year ATA is publishing this number. They have automated this function with their GPS (Global Positioning System) and AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locator) systems so these figures are the result of computerized readings from all the buses not just a random sample of supervisor readings.

5.    The higher the better.

B. ATA cannot maintain the current level of service based on the City’s funding. If Kansas City continues the current funding level, then ATA will exhaust its reserve account at the end of 2013 causing severe service cuts of up to 35%.

C. Public Input: KCATA has added public input as a regular agenda item for its Board of Commissioners meetings. If you have a concern or comment that can’t be dealt with in another manner and feel that this is the best forum then you may request permission to speak. There is a request form to fill out in advance of the meeting.

Here are the rules:

KCATA Board of Commissioners Meeting Public Comment Instructions

  • Individuals desiring to address the Board of Commissioners must complete a REQUEST TO SPEAK form*, which will be submitted to the General Manager prior to the meeting.
  • Individuals must be recognized by the Chairperson, prior to speaking.
  • Remarks will be addressed to the Board as a whole and not to individual Board members.
  • Public comment will be limited to three (3) minutes, unless additional time is granted by the Chair.
  • Total public input on any subject may be limited to a fixed period by the Board Chair.
  • Once the Board moves to other items on the agenda, visitors should NOT address the Board, unless requested to do so by the Chair.
  • Individuals will be expected to provide public input in a professional and constructive manner.  Attempts to present public input in a disruptive manner will not be allowed.

*In lieu of a REQUEST TO SPEAK form, interested parties are welcome to contact Cheryl Floyd by email at least 24 hours prior to the appropriate Board meeting with the following information:

  • Date of Board meeting
  • Name
  • Organization
  • Address
  • City, State, Zip
  • Phone
  • Email

Cheryl D. Floyd
Executive Assistant to the General Manager
Assistant Secretary to the Board of Commissioners
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
1200 E. 18th Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
P: 816-346-0211
F: 816-346-0253

Posted in Meeting Reports | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 10, 2010

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

Stop at any or all of these attractions:

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

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

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

Find out more about the TRUMAN TROLLEY here.

For additional information or reservations call 816-512-5555 or go to

To combine this transit adventure with public transit options check the KCATA trip planner at

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


Posted by Transit Action Network on September 3, 2010

Got a thought about transit?  Maybe it’s a new idea or a question or just a beef about some transit situation.  Post it here.  Please limit your comment to about 200 words — but if you write something really good — whether we agree or not — we might tolerate more.  And, of course, we reserve the right to refuse your post if it’s abusive or too far off the (transit) topic. Make it about substantive issues not personalities.

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