Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for April, 2011

Streetcar Presentation at Downtown Neighborhood Association

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 29, 2011


Sherri McIntyre, KCMO Assistant City Manager. addresses DNA

Sherri McIntyre, KCMO Assistant City Manager, and Mark McDowell, Transit Action Network, both addressed the Downtown Neighborhood Association Wednesday evening regarding the Downtown Corridor (Streetcar) Study. Sherri talked about the nature of the study, how the study would progress, its time frame and how positive the city is about implementing a modern streetcar line downtown. Mark McDowell then focused on different financing issues and how a Transportation Development District (TDD) is a possible funding mechanism. The Missouri legislation for a TDD will be a strong contender for funding all or part of a streetcar line for both capital and operating expenses.

Mark McDowell addresses DNA

Since the study is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, it is not too early to start grassroots organizing. Transit Action Network asks Downtown residents, as well as residents in the River Market and Crossroads, to take part in a group to make the streetcar happen and to participate in an eventual campaign to pass whatever funding mechanism is ultimately proposed.   Downtown residents can contact TAN at TransActionKC@gmail.com to find out more.

The Kansas City Star (April 29) carried a front-page article by Mike Mansur about the meeting. http://bit.ly/mNA8Zs

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Future Downtown Streetcar could be in the Hands of Downtown Residents

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 25, 2011


Come hear about a Transportation Development District. Presented by Mark McDowell and TAN.

Downtown Neighborhood Association April Meeting | 04.27.11 | 7:00 pm | Central Library | Film Vault

http://www.dnakcmo.org/dna-events.html

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Streetcar Study Off to Fast Start

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 20, 2011


A Downtown Streetcar “Alternatives Analysis” (AA) study is on a fast track to completion, according to Charlie Hales, project manager for lead consultant HDR.  That’s our conclusion based on Hales’ presentation to the Kansas City Parking and Transportation Commission today.  The Commission, chaired by Councilwoman Jan Marcason will be the “primary sounding board” guiding the study.

Hales, who has had extensive rail transit experience in Portland and other cities, said though the federal funding situation is uncertain, the best way to get such funding is to have a plan ready when the next money becomes available.

The study timetable is ambitious:
– June – Statement of purpose and need, plus identification of initial alternatives.
– August – Alternatives evaluation and financing options.
– September – Draft of a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) report.
– November – Formal recommendation of a single Locally Preferred Alternative.

The FTA has awarded $400 million in grants for streetcar projects in the past 15 months through the TIGER and “Urban Circulator” programs, Hales said, and USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood really likes streetcar projects.  Getting the current study done will enable Kansas City to be “nimble” in applying for FTA “new starts” or “small starts” money, or other federal money that may become available.  Some transportation funding, for example, has recently been turned back by other grantees, and that money — even high-speed rail money — could conceivably be redirected to a streetcar project such as ours.

The Downtown Streetcar study will follow the FTA’s formal process, which requires consideration of reasonable options for both route and mode, but will seek a so-called “categorical exclusion” (a category of project considered not to have major environmental impacts) to simplify the “environmental screen” required in the FTA process.  Issues such as event-related street closures (e.g., at Sprint Arena and Crown Center), utility location requirements, the strength of bridges over the freeways, and where to locate a maintenance facility are among those to be addressed in the study.  Other factors include ridership forecasts (estimates based on travel demand models as well as “off-model” considerations) and financing options.

Hales noted that the study will build on a number of recent and ongoing local studies, including the Greater Downtown Area Plan, KCATA’s Comprehensive Service Analysis, the region’s Urban Corridors Study, and the Grand Boulevard Vision, plus all of the light rail planning work that’s been done in past years.  The streetcar study will be coordinated with the Commuter Corridors study (not yet underway), which will consider commuter rail in two major corridors.

Keeping the project manageable is important, too.  When projects fail, Hales said, it’s not for engineering reasons.  Rather, it’s for political reasons.  Thus, every effort will be made to keep all stakeholders involved, to limit expectations, and to avoid a key mistake of past Kansas City rail studies, letting the scope of the project expand.  Holding the project to just two miles gives it the highest likelihood of success, based on past voter response.  (It’s widely expected that funding for this project would come largely from within the streetcar corridor, and thus a citywide vote would not be required.)  This also keeps it small enough that the city might be able to finance it without federal assistance, should that become necessary.

KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer noted that a bill has been introduced in the Missouri Senate that would allow a Transportation Development District (TDD) to be set up specifically for transit, and that would simplify the makeup of the TDD’s governing body.  That bill (which might not be critical) might or might not get through the General Assembly this year.

Assistant City Manager Sherri McIntyre will oversee the project for the City.  She said she looks forward to guiding the study to completion and then getting the project built.

Said Chairman Marcason: “I’m the most optimistic that I’ve ever been (about getting a rail transit project done).”

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Downtown Trends and Transit- Is a Streetcar in Kansas City’s future?

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 18, 2011


Downtown areas are being revitalized all over America.

The 2011 March-April edition of the magazine The Futurist looks at current trends in an article titled “The “American Dream” Moves Downtown”.

Although the Renaissance in many downtown areas came with light rail, read streetcar for KC.  Portland is leading the way in using streetcars, which helps other cities see their potential.

Times are changing, as are attitudes in KC. The corridor from the River Market to Crown Center has lots of activities and major attractions with more and more people actually living in the area. Demand for more effective inner city transit from the people who will use it may finally have arrived. It certainly has arrived in other cities around the country.

The trend includes more than just rail. Other aspects of enhanced downtown areas include restoring and enhancing natural settings with small to mid-size parks, urban ornamental or vegetable gardens (like the one at 18th and Broadway), integrating commercial and residential functions in multi-use buildings and changing public infrastructure to favor people over cars.

Since transit is considered a major component of this trend it is often called “Transit-Oriented Development” or TOD, which has mixed use, relatively dense development that emphasizes walk-ability.

KC already has some of the improvements mentioned in the article and the new zoning code that went into effect January 2011 will help with others.

The new study for a two-mile long streetcar is starting. If a good plan emerges from the study, let’s hope we find a way to finance building it as well as operate it.

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Report on National Transportation Conference. Transit-An Endangered Species?

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 12, 2011


A rainy day on Capitol Hill-April 5, 2011

Last week, April 3-5, I participated in a transit conference sponsored by Transportation Equity Network (TEN) in Washington DC. I went with MORE2, a local member of TEN.

The Conference, called ONE NATION INDIVISIBLE, had 135 representatives from TEN organizations representing 18 states.

Visiting  the Hill to speak with the Washington staffers from our local delegation offered a wonderful opportunity. There is so much potential for new infrastructure, new jobs and making our country a better, more exciting place to live. However, at the end of the day, it looks like we will struggle to maintain what we currently have.

The federal gas tax of 18.4¢ per gallon, which pays for roads and transit through the Highway Trust Fund, hasn’t covered the federal transportation costs for quite a while. The last Transportation Bill expired in 2009. Congress has continued to fund the old bill by subsidizing the gas tax from federal general revenue until a new bill is passed. That is about to change.

Congress is refusing to increase the gas tax to pay for transportation, yet no alternative funding mechanism is getting any traction. We aren’t paying enough to take care of the roads we already have, let alone build new ones. Transit only gets 20% of the money allocated to the transportation budget so the outlook isn’t bright.

There were workshops and transportation speeches from the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, John Porcari, and the Federal Transit Administrator, Peter Rogoff. Then I visited with staffers from the Appropriations Committee and Representatives Yoder R-KS, Graves R- MO, and Cleaver D-MO. I really enjoyed the conference but I left feeling depressed.

Peter Rogoff, Federal Transit Administrator, addresses the TEN conference

John Porcari, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, address the TEN conference

Severe cuts to all transportation are being proposed in the House budget for the remainder of FY2011. While I was there the shutdown of the government was looming.  People at home aren’t expressing outrage about these cuts so the cutters are empowered and we were told we haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until we see the trillion dollar budget cuts being planned for 2012.

Although Congress reached an agreement Friday night, details are still being worked out by staffers. We were told high-speed rail is gone in this budget.

If we can’t keep these programs alive, what is going to happen when Congress gets around to reauthorizing the Transportation Bill?

My overriding concern at the end of the day was how much transportation would be cut. The federal budget is only an authorization to spend. It doesn’t provide any money. There is no intention of increasing the gas tax (Rep. Graves staff repeatedly expressed the position that the Congressman was adamant about not raising the gas tax) yet there is no meaningful discussion or progress toward finding an alternative funding mechanism. Don’t count on the continued transfer from general revenue to make up the difference.

Karl, Keith, Kirk and Mary visiting Representative Yoder's office - not pictured Councilman-elect Michael Brooks

Karl, Kirk and Janet visiting Representative Yoder's office

One possibility is funding transportation at the level generated by the current gas tax. That would be a shock for roads and transit. Transit agencies would lose a huge amount of their funding if this is the final decision. Since a lot of the federal money classified as preventive maintenance is used for operating costs, there would be severe service cuts under this scenario.

If you care about transit, call your Congressional representatives and ask them to find a way to fund transit at or above the current level. Tell them why it is important to you! Speak up about finding a method to pay for the infrastructure improvements needed and remind them how important transit is for people to get to work and perform necessary tasks like getting groceries and going to the doctor. If you can, go to their town hall meetings with the same message.

Janet Rogers 4/12/2011


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KCATA Board of Commissioners Meeting 3/23/11

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 10, 2011


1. Michael Graham, Director of Finance, presented financial data for 2010 and key performance statistics. The service reduction and fare increase in 2009 affected 2010 results.

KEY PERFORMANCE STATISTICS

Annual
2008

2009

2010

Metro Expense/Mile 

National Average (BUS) 2008

$6.45

$9.08

$6.48

$7.10

Passenger Boardings per Customer Complaint

6,921

8,142

8,931

Vehicle Accidents/Million Miles

39.23

42.50

36.70

On-time Performance

92.64%

92.08%

Miles/Mechanical Failure 

National Average 2008

8,578

7,644

9,298

8,729

Scheduled miles operated in 2010 were 9.7 million compared to 10.3 million in 2009.

Passenger revenue for the Metro decreased to $10,933,000 for 2010 which is $276,409, or 2.5% under 2009.  Average weekday ridership for the year decreased 2.3% to 50,007 compared to the previous year’s average of 51,156.

The average ridership for Saturday and Sunday decreased 3.0% and 9.8% respectively.

Total operating expenses for 2010 are $68,941,469, coming in $2,466,032 or 3.5% under budget.

KCATA is starting to see an increase in ridership as gasoline prices are rising.

2 Michael Graham updated the Board on the current fuel market and potential budget impacts. He was assisted by David Zarfoss, the representative from Mansfield Oil.

Diesel fuel prices have increased dramatically over the past month.

KCATA has approximately 50% of the 2011 diesel fuel requirement locked in at an average price of $2.38 per gallon.

The fixed price contracts cover fuel through June and most of July.  The remaining 50% of diesel fuel that is not locked in at fixed prices is budgeted at $2.50 per gallon.  The daily market price on March 10 was $3.21 and rising.

Michael and David discussed the factors affecting diesel prices. Purchasing factors have changed recently.

David commented that although diesel prices are rising, the refineries are in the process of making massive increases to capacity, which should calm the market and help bring the prices down.

Since KCATA has fixed price contracts though part of July it is not purchasing new contracts at these prices but is waiting to see what happens. KCATA has plans for a fuel surcharge of 25¢ when their diesel prices exceed $3.

The next meeting is April 27.

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Transit Consultant Chosen for Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 7, 2011


April 6. It was announced at the MARC Transit Committee that Parsons Brinckerhoff will be recommended to conduct the Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis in Jackson County. Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) is considered one of the world’s leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management organizations.

PB founder William Barclay Parsons was chief engineer for the original New York City subway.

PB has designed 30,000 miles of heavy and light rail systems, automated guideways, commuter rail and busways.

The PB team consists of Nelson\Nygaard, Olsson Associates and Shockey Consulting. PB has a local office in Lenexa, Kansas.

From MARC’s  Request for Proposal (RFP):

For the purposes of this Alternatives Analysis, the two commuter corridors to be studied run through multiple jurisdictions. The I-70 Commuter Corridor runs from the heart of Kansas City, Mo and extends east paralleling the Kansas City Southern railroad through Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Oak Grove in Jackson County and east to Odessa in neighboring Lafayette County. The Rock Island Corridor begins in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, sharing a common corridor segment with the I-70 corridor approximately to the eastern edge of Kansas City, Mo, and then follows the old Rock Island rail corridor through Raytown, Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, and Greenwood in Jackson County and further south to Pleasant Hill in Cass County.  Both corridors run proximal to two heavily-traveled roadways, Interstate I-70 and Highway 350 (Blue Parkway), and through cities experiencing a growing residential population.

Several activity centers, including Downtown Kansas City, MO, Truman Sports Complex, and multiple town centers fall within in these corridors. Downtown Kansas City, Mo is the expected terminus of the various alternatives that will be considered in this Alternative Analysis, therefore this AA is to be closely coordinated and integrated with the Downtown Kansas City, Missouri Corridor Alternatives Analysis. In addition, this AA is to be closely coordinated with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) Second Tier Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the I-70 corridor (I-470 to the Kansas/Missouri state line, including the downtown loop).

Existing transit service in downtown primarily focuses on bringing persons from outlying parts of Kansas City and the region to and from downtown. These commuter services continue to be needed, especially in Jackson County. Previous studies have indicated that the I-70 commuter corridor would greatly benefit from additional service, potentially through additional travel options such as expanded express bus or rail.  The Rock Island corridor is currently served by a commuter express bus on Blue Parkway and cities along this corridor have interest in increasing service to meet growing demand and looking at potential options in the Rock Island Rail alignment.  This rail alignment also connects to Missouri’s statewide Katy Trail in Pleasant Hill, formerly the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, therefore any use of the Rock Island rail alignment would likely include a trail extension into Kansas City, making it a multiuse corridor.

MARC, KCATA, the City of Kansas City, Mo and Jackson County intend to build on previous efforts and complete an Alternatives Analysis for both the I-70 and Rock Island Corridors. The intent will be to use the AA results to secure funding for implementation and potentially apply for federal funds–New Starts, Small Starts, or other federal sources. 

Specific consultant activity will be limited to the I-70 and Rock Island/M-350 corridors within Jackson County and portions of Lafayette and Cass Counties in Missouri. A more specific study corridor will be further defined by the Project Partnership Team with input from the study advisory committee.

The purpose of the study will be to determine the preferred alternative including specific alignments for the option best meeting current and future transportation needs while also helping to shape, support and focus future economic development and revitalization of activity centers for each corridor.

The recommendation will be submitted at the next MARC Board meeting for approval.

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