Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for December, 2010

GO TROOST GO MAX New Service opens 1/1/11

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 28, 2010


Transit Action Network wants to congratulate KCATA on the new Troost MAX scheduled to open on New Year’s Day. KCATA will be handing out t-shirts to the first 250 people who ride Troost MAX. For the opening they will be planting tulips at 10 a.m. on the corner of 18th & Troost.

The Troost MAX line will run every 10 minutes on weekdays. MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) only stops at MAX stations along the route, therefore making the trip faster. Click here for information about the new service. http://tinyurl.com/2elu35c

The new Troost MAX route will have lots of  Kansas City “FIRSTS”- – Kansas City’s first hybrid-electric buses, the first commissioned art in transit, the first “pervious” concrete parking lot in KCMO, KCATA’s first electric service truck and KCATA’s first rain gardens.

This is the GREEN line for a reason. There are lots of environmentally friendly features. Clean diesel engines to reduce nitrous oxide, rain gardens at 30 stations, energy-efficient LED lighting at MAX stations and solar lighting at local stops, benches made of a more sustainable “Ipe” wood from Brazil, recycling receptacles with solar powered trash compactors at stations, and pervious concrete to absorb water and reduce run-off at the new 31st St. Park-and Ride.

There are five hybrid electric buses, which use battery power from start to 25 mph, then kick into diesel, which also recharges the battery. Fuel economy is expected to increase 20%.

Original public art decorates the Troost MAX route. Make sure to enjoy these sculptures at night when the special lighting makes the art even more impressive.

The Artwork:

Matt Dehaemers’  “Catalyst” at 31st and Troost.  A large-scale kinetic sculpture that resembles a tree, playing off one origin of the word “Troost”, that is designed to open and close like a flower.

Jefre’s “Unite” at 39th and Troost. A sculpture that resembles the image of hands coming together, evoking a joining together or way to cross a divide. The sculpture is covered in drawings that area children created based on what they want to be when they grow up.

David Dahlquist’s “Every Day I have the Blues” at 75th and Troost. A giant piano tribute to Kansas City’s rich jazz history. The piano is red epoxy-painted steel with an aluminum structure and LED lighting. You can walk under the piano lid or sit on the keyboard.

Janet Rogers and Ron McLinden of TAN attended the December 15th KCATA Launch Reception to acknowledge all the people who have worked on the project from the congressional delegation to the FTA to the artists to the contractors and consultants.

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Commuter Rail? Maybe-Maybe Not – – – $1.8 million to Study Transit Corridors!

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 22, 2010


December 21,2010 MARC announced that the Kansas City Region was awarded $1.8 million by the FTA for ‘Alternatives Analysis’ studies for transit in three corridors.  Two have been identified as having potential for commuter rail — they are part of the ‘Regional Rapid Rail’ system promoted by Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders — and the third has potential for modern streetcar in the downtown to Crown Center corridor.

The media are jumping to commuter rail conclusions based on expectations from Sanders’ innumerable public presentations. In fact, while the studies will look at commuter rail they will also look at other options such as express bus, BRT and even light rail. This is different from the recent ‘Commuter Corridors Study’ in which MARC allowed commuter rail to be the preferred solution.  In an FTA Alternatives Analysis all the transit modes have to be treated in an equivalent manner. The MARC press release http://bit.ly/gial1a is objective and doesn’t promote a particular alternative.  Stories in the Star http://bit.ly/ghL0Mj and KC Business Journal http://bit.ly/dFDt3r jump right to commuter rail conclusions.

The bottom line for now is that press reports about this grant feed unrealistic public expectations. The FTA recently changed its evaluation process and that is partly why rail is being considered again in these corridors. Previous analysis along the I-70 corridor resulted in express buses as the preferred alternative. At first glance commuter rail looks remarkably (and seductively) cost effective.  With closer scrutiny however, the realities of this plan suggest that federal funding will be difficult to secure. Unless the changes to the FTA evaluation process make a huge difference, express buses will likely come out on top for the two suburban corridors.

Meanwhile, the ‘downtown streetcar’ corridor study will restart work in preparation for rail in the most promising corridor for federal funding in the region.

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A Great Victory for Transit!

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 18, 2010


On Thursday December 16, 2010, Kansas City passed an ordinance to restore funding from the ½ cent transportation sales tax to public transit.

The vote in the legislative session was 11-1 in favor of substitute Ordinance 100951. This ordinance directs the city manager and budget office to give public transit at least 95 % of the receipts from this sales tax (after TIF and city administrative fees). The compromise that enabled so many council members and the mayor to support the ordinance is a 3-year phase in period. The process will be incremental and start with the May 1, 2011 budget.  Full restoration will to be completed by May 1, 2014.

This change will amount to an additional $3.5 -$4 million a year for transit when fully implemented.  This is the biggest victory for transit in Kansas City since the vote for the 3/8-cent sales tax.

Transit Action Network (TAN) thanks everyone who worked to pass this ordinance.

TAN would particularly like to acknowledge these efforts:

  • David Martin exposed the problem in The Pitch in September to provide public awareness of the problem.
  • MORE2 (Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity) participated in the meetings we had with the acting city manager as well as the council members and the mayor’s chief of staff. They spread the word to their member churches and other organizations.
  • KCATA and the KCATA Board of Commissioners played a major role in promoting the ordinance. KCATA General Manager, Mark Huffer, presented an excellent slide show to the committee that really made the funding problems clear.
  • At the Nov 18th Transportation and Infrastructure (T & I) committee meeting 10 organizations representing over 160,000 people plus all of the transit riders spoke in favor of the transit ordinance. They were the KCATA, KCATA Board of Commissioners, MORE2, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO, The Whole Person, Alphapointe, RTA, AARP and of course Transit Action Network.
  • A committee of the Downtown Council sent a letter endorsing the ordinance.
  • The Ivanhoe, Blue Hills and Oak Park neighborhood associations provided support from these communities.

Our blog and tweets brought more people on board, as did the social networking efforts of other transit friendly groups.

All of the above groups generated phone calls, email messages and signatures that poured into City Hall. A lot of direct contact was made with council members too.

Brad Cooper and Lynn Horsley of the Kansas City Star wrote several articles about the ordinance and transit funding issues.

Chris Hernandez of NBC Action News CH41 covered the T & I committee meeting on Nov 18.

Council members Terry Riley, John Sharp, Beth Gottstein, Cathy Jolly and Ed Ford supported this issue immediately. When they saw the budget trends in our meetings they understood a change had to be made to limit the city diverting so much of this sales tax to other uses.

Councilman Ed Ford introduced the ordinance and was the “point man” in making this happen. When the ordinance went to the legislative session in the afternoon it had seven co-sponsors, all of the council members mentioned above as well as Melba Curls and Bill Skaggs from the T & I Committee. Councilmen Riley, chair of the T & I committee, and Ford worked closely on this issue and both of them spoke forcefully for the ordinance at the legislative session Thursday. The other council members didn’t see the final language for the ordinance until then so we were extremely pleased that there was such overwhelming support for the final version.

We appreciate Councilman Ford’s acknowledgment of TAN’s leadership role in this effort in his comments during the legislative session.

We thank Mayor Funkhouser, Council Members, acting City Manager Troy Schulte and staff for finding a compromise that was acceptable to everyone.

Transit gets the security of receiving the money from the 1/2 cent transportation sales tax and the budget office gets some time to make this change. WIN-WIN.

News story in the KC Star:  http://bit.ly/hjcUKH

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting Dec 16, 2011

(Note: video link not available at this time. This blog will be updated when it is available)

Link to City Council Legislative Session Dec 16, 2011(click on 100951 to go directly to this ordinance)

http://kansascity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=4905

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The Scoop on Kansas City Transit Funding

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 14, 2010


Why did such a large diverse group of Transit Supporters show up at the November 18 Kansas City Transportation & Infrastructure Committee meeting to support Ordinance 100951 to restore funding to transit?

City Government has been diverting an excessive and increasing amount of money from the ½ cent Transportation Fund to non-transit uses.

  • This is crippling transit. In 2009 KCATA reduced service by 9.5% and increased fares 20% in order to sustain an even lower level of service.
  • (Click on pie chart to enlarge.)
  • The city has gone from diverting less than 5% in FY2003/2004 to over 18% in FY2010/2011

Transit Supporters are aware of the budget pressures caused by the recession. The city has made a lot of very difficult decisions. But adequate transit is a basic city service that should be protected as a city priority. The proposed ordinance would reaffirm the city’s commitment to provide reasonable transit service to the community.

  • This is an issue of fairness, social equity, and keeping faith with the voters.
  • It honors the voter’s support for transit when they passed the supplemental 3/8 cent sales tax.
  • Transit affects people’s ability to get and maintain jobs. The national organization, Transportation Equity Network (TEN) has a new report explaining how MORE TRANSIT=MORE JOBS. 65% of the trips on our public transit system are related to work or looking for work.
  • In addition to jobs, transit provides vital connections to education, medical care, worship, shopping, entertainment and a vast array of personal activities.
  • The significant cuts to transit service have unfairly affected the people who require transit, such as the elderly and the disabled.
  • The ordinance confirms the City Council’s commitment to make Kansas City a “Green” and “Sustainable” place to live.
  • However much the City needs additional funds in times of recession, the ½ cent transportation tax shouldn’t be raided to subsidize non-transit activities.

Why do we need Ordinance 100951?

  • The pattern of shifting more and more money to non-transit uses is likely to continue without the ordinance.
  • It is much too easy to just keep diverting money from this fund for other purposes. The city currently diverts over 18%. What is to keep them from going to 25% or 30%?
  • Rather than using the 3/8 cent sales tax to improve transit as voters intended, the city is, in effect, using the 3/8 cent sales tax to replace the 1/2 cent sales tax.
  • In the current budget the 3/8-cent sales tax is providing more money for transit than the ½ cent sales tax.

Kansas City Funding for Public Transit during the recession

Funding for Public Transit

FY 2008/2009

FY 2010/2011

Decrease

1/2 cent sales tax

26,349,787

19,870,641

(6,479,146)

3/8 cent sales tax

23,263,353

20,734,48

(2,528,868)

Total

49,613,140

40,605,126

$(9,008,014)

  • One third of the  $9 million decrease in transit funding over the last two years is a result of the city siphoning off additional money to non-transit uses. The remainder is due to lower collection rates during the recession.
  • The City is unlikely to help transit from other city revenue sources, so we need to make sure transit gets most of this sales tax revenue.

What does the proposed ordinance actually do?

  • The ordinance directs the budget office on how to allocate proceeds of the ½ cent transportation tax. (See footnotes)
  • There will be no change in the amount of the money available for the budget, just clear direction from the City Council that certain funds be used for transit.
  • Non-transit activities will revert to receiving 5% of the funding like they did when voters overwhelmingly voted for expanded and improved transit in 2003. The remainder will again go to transit.

Will this proposed ordinance cure the financial woes of the KCATA?

  • This ordinance will not totally mend all the financial woes of the KCATA since sales tax receipts are still low.
  • Without this ordinance, Mark Huffer, General Manager of KCATA, pointed out that service cuts of 25%-35% are looming as early as 2014, when the KCATA Reserve Fund would be exhausted.

Is there opposition to the Ordinance?

  • Some concerns have been expressed about losing “flexibility” in the budgeting process. However, considering that the transit system suffered a tremendous financial reduction from the decline in sales tax, maintaining the City’s ability to continue diverting huge amounts of money away from the transit system shouldn’t be called “flexibility”.
  • There is some concern about how to replace the money for non-transit activities that would return to transit. The non-transit activities could return to previous funding methods before the 1/2 cent transportation fund was used so heavily to subsidize their activities.

What can we do?

  • At the next Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting on December 16, the committee will make a recommendation on the ordinance to the full council. Please contact your city council members and the mayor to support Ordinance 100951 and restore funding to the transit system.
  • Contact information can be found here.

o   http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/index.htm

Footnotes:

How will the ordinance be calculated?

  • The proposed ordinance will create a new calculation. Both TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) and city administration fees are deducted first. These currently total about 15% of this sales tax. The 95%Transit/5% Public Works split will happen after TIF and the city administration fees are deducted.

How did TAN get all of this budget information?

  • The Kansas City Budget is online. Choose the appropriate budget from the box in the upper right corner on this link.  Next click on any of the icons that appear. Then open or download the PDF file. It is over 500 pages long. From the FY 2010-1011 Adopted Budget TAN mainly used the Budget by Department and the Schedules.

o   http://www.kcmo.org/CKCMO/Depts/CityManagersOffice/Office%20of%20Management%20and%20Budget/index.htm

Related articles can be found on this blog by using Category “Action” or tag “KC Ordinance”

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Alert! Date Changed for hearing on Ordiance 100951 – DEC 16

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 11, 2010


Alert! At the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Dec. 9, Councilman Riley announced that Ordinance 100951 will be addressed next week on DECEMBER 16.  Additional testimony will be allowed. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting will be at 9 am on the 10th floor of City Hall.

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Change of Date for Committee Vote on Ordinance 100951

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 8, 2010


A decision on transit Ordinance 100951 will not happen tomorrow, December 9, 2010. Councilman Riley, Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, intends to hold the ordinance, which restores funding to transit from the ½ cent sales transportation tax, to allow staff additional time to provide a plan to the Council.

We have been told that staff will provide a plan addressing the budget implications if the ordinance passes on the non-transit activities that are currently using that money.

Of course passing the ordinance would start to address the huge shortfall in the public transit budget.

The next discussion of the ordinance is planned for Jan. 6, 2011. The Council will not meet for two weeks over the holidays. On Jan 6th staff will present information concerning the budget.

We are pursuing permission to provide additional public testimony on Jan 6.

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Seamless Transit – Two Small Steps

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 7, 2010


MAX pylon at the Waldo stop

It’s been on our agenda for a long time, but we first wrote about “seamless transit” back in May http://bit.ly/abH9n1.  We consider it an issue because there are invisible barriers to transit riders who need to move about the region using buses operated by the three transit agencies.

Closeup of MAX pylon at Waldo stop

 

Two recent developments move the region a little closer to achieving seamless transit.

[1] – Johnson County Transit initiated a new bus route (575/875) in July http://bit.ly/fUembw connecting Waldo with Johnson County Community College via 75th Street and Quivira Road.  However, there was no evidence of the service at Waldo, except when a bus was actually there.  In response to our request to its Board of Commissioners in August http://bit.ly/goLu99, KCATA has posted a map and schedule for Route 575/875 at the Waldo MAX stop.  To our knowledge this is the first time a map and schedule for a Johnson County Transit route has been posted in Missouri.  Our hats are off to the KCATA and JCT staff who made this happen.  We hope a similar posting for Route 556/856 at the Plaza MAX stop will follow.  And then maybe something at 10th and Main where dozens of JCT buses stop every weekday.

Close-up of the map and schedule displayed on the MAX pylon.  JCT Route 575/875 is shown in the green panel at the lower left of the poster.

[2] – Mid-America Regional Council has convened a Seamless Transit Work Group within its Transit Committee.  Through this group, Transit Action Network will work with MARC and transit agency staff, plus representatives of other organizations, to define seamless transit — making the region’s transit network easier to use is a first working definition — and to outline steps the transit agencies should take to achieve it.

Two small steps for transit agencies and MARC.  Two giant leaps toward seamless transit.

http://bit.ly/abH9n1

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