Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for January, 2011

KC Mayoral Transit Forum Day 1-updated

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 31, 2011

Transit Action Network (TAN) is hosting this transit forum to assist voters in making informed decisions regarding candidates’ positions on transit matters for the City of Kansas City and its surrounding Metro area. We will not endorse any candidate through our website or other communication efforts.

All seven of the mayoral candidates were invited to respond to six transit-related questions confronting the city and the metro region. We greatly appreciate the effort and thoughtful answers of the  candidates.

We believe these questions will need to be addressed during the next mayoral term, although they deal with transit issues that have both short-term and long-term time horizons.

Each candidate’s response to one of the questions will be posted on our blog over a six-day period beginning January 31.

Public Comment: TAN is serious about getting improved and expanded transit in the Kansas City Region.  We welcome diverse views on transit that are presented in a civil manner. This is a moderated blog-site and only transit-related comments or questions will be posted.

Question 1. The city council recently passed an ordinance to restore funding to the transit system from the ½ cent transportation fund.

a.    Do you support continued city funding of public transit as an essential city service?  If not, please explain why.

b.    What non-financial actions can be taken to create a more transit friendly Kansas City?

Jim Rowland

Jim Rowland

a) Yes, I support continued municipal funding of public transit as an essential City service.  I supported the move to restore the funding that was being diverted from the KCATA; the diversion of those resources was a betrayal of the people’s trust.

b) We should do everything possible to make the planning and zoning process more friendly towards transit and walkability.  Over the course of the campaign, I have issued two policy papers, “The Open for Business Initiative” and “A Sustainable Future,” that contain fresh ideas on job creation and municipal environmental policy (see Website). I strongly believe that we should incentivize and encourage high density (which is essential to effective transit) and mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods (which rely on and contribute to transit use).

Mass transit is the way of the future, but its adoption by Kansas Citians will require a cultural change.  Economic factors will assist in accelerating its acceptance. However, real change will come from when our children use mass transit. A concept such as encouraging students to choose public transit to commute to school and work by including transit passes in tuition fees at a discounted rate should be implemented.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser

Mayor Funkhouser

a.    Yes, I met representatives from your group and supported the restoration of the ATA funding.

b.    Establish a regional transit NGO, whose major duties include:

1) Raising funds from regional stakeholders for regional transit.

2) Coordinating regional municipalities and non-governmental entities for regional transit.

3) Community outreach and education for an integrated, regional, multi-modal public mass transit system.

Sly_ James

Sly James

a. I support continued city funding of public transit because I believe it is essential for our city and our citizens.  The fact is, without a quality public transportation system, employees can’t get to work and that hinders our ability to create jobs and grow our city’s economy.

b. To create a more transit friendly city, City Hall needs leadership.  The good news is that leadership is free.  I am a veteran of the U.S. Marines, a small business owner, and a successful mediator and as mayor, I will use these skills to create a multi-year financial plan, which will include systematic improvements for our transit system.  I grew up at 44th and Montgall, riding the bus to and from Bishop Hogan High School at Meyer Blvd and Troost.  After returning from the Marine Corps, I attended Rockhurst College, taking the bus to my job near K.U. Medical Center and back daily.  As a candidate for mayor, I sometimes ride the bus and speak with other riders about the issues important to them. From my own experience and through listening to our citizens, I understand the need and value of our public transportation system and its strengths and weaknesses.


Henry Klein

a.    Yes, I support the continued funding.  If anything, I would say we are still underfunded on transit.  Please see my proposals on this subject in a later question.

b.    Primary, Kansas City’s ATA needs to be better represented in Jeff City and Washington.  I will comment more on this in question 6.





Updated for Additional Responses

Deb Hermann

Deb Hermann

a. Yes, Public Transit is an essential city service.

b. As the City performs other services, such as obtaining ROW, redesigning streets, approving subdivision plats, etc, it should take into consideration present and future transit needs and desires and make those approvals that are consistent with those needs.

Channel 2 could be used more effectively to promote transit, car-pooling and other transit friendly messages.




Mike Burke

Mike Burke

a. A comprehensive transit system is vital to the future of Kansas City.  As we face the imminent prospect of increased gasoline prices the needs become more urgent.  I support continued City funding for transit.

b. I would like to explore more convenient ways for businesses to encourage employee ridership, perhaps through a card swipe system on busses that would allow for employees to ride free. This would be cheaper than paid parking.


Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Mayoral Candidates Transit Forum at Union Station 1/25/2011

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 27, 2011

Transit Action Network will conduct a blog-site transit forum for Kansas City mayoral candidates starting January 31, 2011. We asked the candidates 6 questions and we will post the answers to one question each day for six days. There are three questions specific to Kansas City, two regional questions and one state/federal question.

Following is a report on the transit forum that took place Tuesday.

Mayoral Candidates Transit Forum at Union Station

On January 25th, seven candidates for the Mayor of Kansas City presented their views of public transit in the Metropolitan Area, with a focus on Kansas City. This forum was hosted by the Regional Transit Alliance (RTA) and intended to garner responses to a set of questions directed to each candidate separately. As the morning advanced, some of the earlier topics appeared to fold into more generalized questions and candidate responses became less specific.

Five of the more important topics of interest include (1) current and future status of transit in Kansas City; (2) funding problems and solutions; (3) public/private sector aspects of transit development; (4) the mayor’s role in transit development; and finally (5) the short-term planning for future spikes in gasoline prices and the probable impacts on existing transit service.

Summary of responses to noted questions

In all cases the seven candidates view the current status of transit as less than ideal, some calling it “anemic” and others “inadequate” and nearly all said that transit will be a high priority when elected mayor.  Mayor Funkhouser suggested that transit paled somewhat because his future mission is to drive down the crime rate in KC. Although all agreed that transit needs improvement and expansion into a regional system, the solutions varied between vague ideas to more specific proposals, such as Henry Klein’s suggestion of small modifications to the existing system with added diversity of  modality (such as zip cars which are rentable on an hourly basis) as the way to begin this process. Others turned to more studies to identify the means to improve transit.

Funding is the elephant in the room and all candidates identified the sadly undeveloped relationships at local, county, state and federal levels as being the major barrier to success. City, county, and state leadership have failed to build the networks and project the common goals that will be required if funding is to be realized. Thus far, transit agencies and entities have relied on lobbyists to do the basics in Jefferson City. Little has come from that effort and expense. Of major concern to all candidates is the potential for shrinkage of federal funding for transit needs and the possible loss from Kansas City’s E-tax revenues. All candidates promised a dedicated role to build coalitions, resolve governance issues and secure long-range transit development for the city, county and region.

Most responses to the public/private sector involvement in transit were both similar and bland in scope and substance. One of the more interesting and complete answers was proffered by Candidate Sly James who suggested reinstatement of the Citizens Commission on Municipal Revenue, a once active coalition of private sector/business community and public sector interests directed to secure optimal outcomes.

The question of the role of the mayor brought out the most animated responses of the morning and all replied that they would use the office as a bully-pulpit for improving public transit in the city and beyond. Again, the current mayor suggested that it is the responsibility of existing agencies (KCATA, MARC) to present a completed plan and it is not the obligation of the mayor, but support can be given after the plan is devised. This was the least assertive response as most of the candidates claimed that they would actively participate in building key relationships to structure the final plans and secure the means to fund and implement expanded transit in the region. All agreed that the role of the mayor would include a high degree of effort to educate the public about the area’s transit needs and future plans, particularly when public approval of funding revenues would be required.

David Mitchell, TAN, submitted the final question of concern regarding a short-term plan for anticipated spikes in the cost of gasoline, hence the increased use of public transit, at least during the period of costly fuel. Little or nothing has been done to prepare for this problem since the last spike in fuel costs approximately three years ago, and it was equally clear that the candidates had given little or no thought to the problem. Deb Hermann did cite a possible use of dollars from the City’s Contingency Fund (recently reinstated by the Council). No one else offered a suggestion.

Reported by Sharon Pendleton, TAN

Posted in Meeting Reports | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Preparations for Two Transit Studies Move Forward

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 8, 2011

Jan 7, 2011: The major agenda item at a Kansas City, Missouri, Parking and Transportation Commission meeting this afternoon was a report on the downtown streetcar concept by Mark Huffer (general manager, KCATA), Dick Jarrold (project engineer, KCATA), and John Dobies (HNTB).  It was largely the same presentation that Dobies gave to MARC’s Transit Committee last month.  The line is expected to run from River Market to Crown Center along Main Street, and would be the first phase of a streetcar / light rail system that would extend farther south to the Plaza.  One of the issues identified was whether this line would be “serious transportation” or a tourist-oriented line.  Presenters articulated a clear bias toward the “serious transportation” purpose (though there would obviously be tourist implications).  We strongly agree.

Huffer confirmed that the streetcar and commuter corridors Alternatives Analysis studies (AA’s) will be done separately, albeit in a coordinated manner. The $1.8 million that the region has received from the FTA for the studies is 90% of the $2 million requested, so each study is expected to receive 90% of the original request.  Thus, the downtown streetcar study would receive $540 thousand and the commuter corridor study $1.26 million.

KCMO and KCATA expect to coordinate and provide the local match for the streetcar study, and the ATA has already written a draft scope of services in preparation for issuing an RFP (request for proposals) next month.  They will meet with the FTA on January 20 to work out details, and they hope to get the KCATA Board of Commissioners to approve the draft scope this month.  If all goes well, KCATA could select a consultant as early as April, and the study will likely take about 10 months.  The streetcar AA can move forward quickly because so much of the 2007-08 light rail AA work is applicable.  There’s also a sense of urgency because Kansas City has a shot at getting “small starts” money from the FTA under the current administration — if they decide to pursue federal funding.  This two-mile segment is part of the 14-mile light rail line that was turned down by voters in 2008, and is widely considered the segment most likely to be eligible for federal funding.

The commuter corridors AA for two lines — one to Blue Springs and beyond, and the other to Lee’s Summit and beyond — is much more complicated and will involve a much larger group of stakeholders, including several local jurisdictions, MoDOT, transit agencies, inner-city neighborhoods, transit advocates, trail proponents, the railroads, etc.  It will be coordinated jointly by Jackson County and MARC with Jackson County providing the local match, and it could easily take a couple of years to complete. They will also meet with the FTA on January 20.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Celebration of Transit Victory

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 2, 2011

On Dec 29, 2010 Transit Action Network (TAN) celebrated the recent victory for transit and bus riders at McCoy’s in Westport. Members of the KC City Council, KCATA, Transit Union, Transit Equity Network (TEN), Sierra Club, and TAN family and friends joined us for pizza and good conversation.

Posted in Events | Leave a Comment »