Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

June 13 – WHY KC Region Ranked 90th of 100 and What To Do About It

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 8, 2011

The MARC TRANSIT COMMITTEE is sponsoring a Special Forum to present the study and the findings on the Brookings Institution Report

Presenter: Brookings’ co-author Elizabeth Kneebone

When: June 13 at 1:30 pm

Where:  Kauffman Foundation Conference Center, Paseo Room-changed to Town Square Room, 4801 Rockhill Road. Kansas City, Mo 64110

This forum will focus on the report Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America which ranks the top 100 cities for transit access to jobs. Following the presentation, there will be an open discussion on current transit initiatives and the crafting of a regional response to this report. This meeting is open to the public.

Brookings divided the metro area into the CITY and the SUBURBS. The CITY is defined as both the city of Kansas City and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. Everything else in the metro is the SUBURBS. Unfortunately the suburbs in their study go so far out that a lot of rural area is included.

The report evaluates the ability of people within ¾ mile of a transit stop or station to get to work in 90 minutes using public transit. Brookings is measuring if transit is even possible to take to work. We don’t fully agree with Brookings approach, for instance many people in the suburbs who live farther than ¾ mile from a transit stop have transit access to work using park and ride lots.

Even with our concerns about the report, it does point out the seriousness of our transit situation. 80% of the CITY has transit coverage but only 25% of the jobs in the metro area are accessible by that transit. The report says only 33% of the suburbs have transit coverage but only 10% of all jobs are reachable by transit in 90 minutes from the suburbs. The overall KC job access rate for the metro area is calculated at 18%.

Of course the biggest question is how will the region use this information to better serve the needs of the community with transit.

TAN doesn’t agree with the Brookings ranking, and we can certainly quibble with their methodology, but we can all agree that our transit-to-jobs situation needs work.  While we don’t have all the answers, we do have some thoughts about tentative actions:

  • Additional funding for transit is needed
  • A set of relevant and objective local measures are needed to track our future progress in making transit available to more people
  • Since it will take more than “throwing money at transit” to achieve these ends, such as providing a transit option to more of the region’s residents for access to jobs and other opportunities, it will take deliberate attention to where future development is located, especially when public incentives are involved.
  • Although there are notable improvements recently, continued efforts are needed between the transit providers to provide a seamless transit experience for riders.

This forum is open to the public and if you are interested in transit please come take part. TAN will be present to make sure we understand WHY we rated so low and to help develop a response.

Multiple comments and criticisms relating to the new transit report are showing up in the media and on the blogs including TAN’s article last week. You may find them interesting reading. One item that seems to drive several bloggers crazy is that New York didn’t come out on top and it was beaten by some small cities. Honolulu came out number one.

Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight column in the New York Times

On the Economics of Mass Transit and the Value of Common Sense

Brookings has responded to Nate’s comments with further explanations about the report. New York has a great transit system but not everyone in the suburbs has access which lowered its ranking.

Maintenance on Silver’s Transit Line by Alan Berube and Robert Puentes

Other commentaries

Kaid Benfield on the NRDC staff blog

Warning: transit data may not mean what you think they mean

Richard Layman from Urban Places and Spaces

The weird findings on transit from the recent Brookings Institution

Noah Kazis on Streets Blog

Do 12 American Regions Have Better Transit Access Than NYC? Doubtful.

Alon Levy on Pedestrian Observations

Brookings Folly


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