Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for August, 2011

Excitement at Union Station – Modern Streetcar – Hybrid MAX bus -Information on DCAA

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 23, 2011


Inside Union Station or outside in the bright sun, Kansas City came out in droves to view a new Modern Streetcar, compare it to the new Hybrid MAX bus and find out more about the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (DCAA) at the second public open house. Transit Action Network advocates had a time great taking pictures and talking about transit with such an interesting and enthusiastic group of people.

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Downtown Streetcar Would Be on Main or Grand

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 21, 2011


If a Downtown Streetcar line is built, it will be on Main Street or Grand Boulevard.

That was the big announcement from the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (DCAA) study team on Thursday, August 17, at the monthly meeting of the City’s Parking and Transportation Commission (PTC).  That body is acting as the study advisory committee for the DCAA.

Complete information has been posted on the project website maintained by Mid-America Regional Council:

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/projects/downtowncorridor.aspx 

That site has links to all study documents, including:

+ The August 17 Technical Memorandum, which analyzes each potential route:

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/pdf/downtownAA/KC-DCAA-Tier1-Screening-Tech-Memo.pdf

+ The August 17 consultant team presentation to PTC:

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/pdf/downtownAA/KC-DCAA-Presentation-Parking-Transportation-Commission-8-17-11.pdf

+ A map of the two alignments for further study:

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/pdf/downtownAA/KC-DCAA-Tier2-Alignment-Alternatives-Map.pdf

DCAA study manager Charlie Hales of HDR presented the recommendations to the Commission.  Seven possible routes were considered:  four were bi-directional routes (i.e., using the same street for both northbound and southbound tracks), and three were couplets (i.e., north on one street and south on another).  In all cases the end-points are 3rd and Grand on the north, and Pershing Road on the south.  The Grand route would terminate at Pershing and Main, while the Main route would terminate at Pershing and Grand.

Each of the two finalist routes has pluses and minuses. Grand offers the widest right-of-way (100 feet for nearly all of the distance), it is the straighter of the two, and it is closer to the government district and its concentration of jobs.  Main is closer to the geographic center of Downtown, closer to hotels, the Convention Center and Performing Arts Center, and closer to the center of the River Market district.  It also serves Union Station more directly.

Main gives less right-of-way to work with (about 60 feet), while Grand suffers from the prospect of having to be closed for major events at the Sprint Arena.  (That is a sticking point that the City never should have allowed to exist, in our opinion.  Letting a few transit vehicles through an on-street event should not be a big deal.)

With approval of these two potential routes by the PTC, the team will subject them to more intense study and present a recommendation for adoption at the September 21 meeting of PTC.

Selection of a route might be the most visible decision to be made, but it is far from the most important.  Other factors to get careful consideration include:

– What operating speed and level of service will be provided on the route?  Count us as among the many who have assumed from the beginning that this two-mile line would be the first segment of a longer rail line that would extend at least to the Plaza, and perhaps beyond.  We favor frequent service and as high a speed as can be accommodated in the corridor to make the service attractive.

– What fare collection mechanism will be used?  An off-board system is preferable since that would speed boarding and permit faster trips.  Some advocate making this a no-fare line — an attractive alternative but perhaps not practical.  Clearly a climb-on-board-and-put-cash-in-the-farebox system is undesirable.

– Would the streetcars travel in a reserved lane on the chosen street (preferable for a line that will ultimately serve as the last two miles of a longer line), or in “mixed traffic” (which may be acceptable for a local circulator line that might never run very fast).

– How will the streetcar work with existing transit routes?  KCATA has said it would reconfigure bus routes to work with the streetcar, but it’s not clear if that would be a tweaking of routes, or major shifts that might encourage more riders to use the streetcar to get to one end of the line or the other and then transfer to a bus for the rest of their trip.

– How will the streetcar be financed?  It’s been assumed all along that property owners and/or businesses and/or residents of the corridor would pick up a significant part of the cost of the line.  Just how that will happen is yet to be determined.

Those are among the questions that citizens should be asking at upcoming public meetings and events.

Formation of a Transportation Development District (TDD) is likely to be part of the funding mechanism, and under that arrangement only those most directly affected would go to the polls.  Out of concern for that question and the importance of building support from within the project area, Transit Action Network met early with leaders of the River Market Neighborhood Association, Downtown Neighborhood Association, and Crossroads Neighborhood Association.  Out of those meetings came Streetcar Neighbors:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Streetcar-Neighbors/265998336746337

We expect that group to play an ongoing leadership role in shaping this project as it evolves.

Finally, while this study is often referred to as a Downtown Streetcar study, it is officially an alternatives analysis, and all modes are being actively considered and evaluated against one another, including an upgraded MAX bus line.

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

Modern Streetcar Comes to Downtown at Second Public Open House Aug 23

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 21, 2011


An ameriTram modern streetcar of the type that might one day travel along Main or Grand will be on display at Union Station all day on Tuesday, August 23.

http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/news/2011-08-18_dcaa_second_open_house.aspx

The display is part of the second open house at which the project team will have informational displays inside Union Station and people available to answer questions.  Our understanding is that the consultant team used its connections with the manufacturer to bring the car to Kansas City for display.  We salute the project team for bringing the streetcar here.

Where: Union Station

When: Aug 23

7 am to 7 pm – Modern Streetcar Exhibit

8 am to 6:30 pm – Second Public Open House by the Project Team in the Grand Hall

Other activities planned for the day:

11 am to 1 pm – Live Radio Remote

1 pm – KC Chiefs Raffle

5:30 pm – Speakers including Mayor Sly James and County Executive Mike Sanders followed by a performance by Quixotic Fusion in the KC Chamber Boardroom

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TAN Support for Downtown Streetcar and Streetcar Neighbors

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 18, 2011


Transit Action Network recently sent this letter to the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis Project Team.

Residents of the Greater Downtown Kansas City area are passionate about improving the state of transit downtown. Evidence for the importance of transit to Downtown residents, and their desire to improve it, is seen in their consistent support for transit ballot initiatives. Transit is also a critical part of realizing the goals of the Greater Downtown Area Plan and extending the benefit of investments already made.

As transit plans have come and gone, disunity between interest groups has weakened previous proposals to the extent that Kansas City continues to sit on the sidelines of the modern transit revolution. However, the latest proposal for a Downtown Streetcar represents a tremendous opportunity to make a significant improvement for Downtown and a lasting contribution to the city’s transit culture.

A group of downtown residents have recently come together to found Streetcar Neighbors to support the deployment of a downtown streetcar.

The downtown streetcar is the most realistic opportunity yet to bring rail transit to Kansas City. TAN would therefore like to express our support for the streetcar project and for the work of Streetcar Neighbors in bringing it about. It is our belief that this plan is feasible, economically sensible and, most importantly, achievable. We would encourage the project team to be innovative and consider any local funding options that can help make the project a reality and to do so as quickly as is prudent, setting aggressive timelines to begin realizing the benefits of this system as soon as possible.

We also endorse the following recommendations of Streetcar Neighbors and downtown neighborhood associations and other downtown organizations:

·         The system should utilize modern streetcar technology, capable of delivering a rider experience comparable to light rail in its speed and comfort.

·         To reduce rider confusion, the route should utilize a single street for both directions of travel, with considerations made for the best solution for the ends of the route.

·         The route should serve the River Market neighborhood on the north and adequately serve Crown Center and Union Station on the south.

Summary:_______________________________

             1. Modern streetcar
            2. Single street
            3. River Market terminus
            4. Include Crown Center / Union Station
            5. Open to local funding options
            6. Support aggressive timeline

Mark McDowell

Chair, TAN Downtown Streetcar Working Group

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Consultants Face Big Challenge Studying Regional Rapid Rail

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 16, 2011


Parsons Brinckerhoff  (PB), a highly-respected transit consulting firm, has begun work on the $1.2 million Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis. This analysis will evaluate two corridors from the Regional Rapid Rail (RRR) concept — one through Blue Springs using the Kansas City Southern line, and one through Lee’s Summit using the old Rock Island line — and compare commuter rail to alternatives such as express buses.

 The RRR concept, widely presented around the region last year, proposed six commuter rail corridors using underutilized and abandoned rail lines to provide a rail system from the suburbs into Union Station. After preliminary review of the concept in MARC’s Smart Moves Transit Implementation Plan Phase II: Commuter Corridors Study, it was determined that only two of the corridors warranted further study in the near term. Studying the other corridors was postponed due either to insufficient ridership or being too costly given the projected ridership.

 The two corridors now being studied provide plenty of issues to resolve. Perhaps the biggest unresolved issue is the so-called “Common Line,” which the two routes would share. There is no underutilized track for the 7 miles between Leeds Junction (just west of the Truman Sports Complex)  and Union Station. Nor is there readily usable right of way for the 2 miles immediately east of Union Station.  Therefore, several alternatives are being considered. These include running on city streets (e.g., Truman Road) at a maximum speed of 25 mph, or perhaps along the I-70 right-of-way. The former requires moving or hardening utilities, while the later requires modifications to bridges and exit and entrance ramps. TAN doubts that projected ridership can justify the cost entailed in any of these alternatives.

 The Common Line is critical to the feasibility of the RRR system. If a cost effective solution to the Common Line remains elusive, or if a potential solution undermines operating speed, then the whole RRR concept falls apart.

 There have been two previous studies of commuter rail in the I-70 corridor through Blue Springs using existing rail. In both cases ridership was insufficient to justify the cost of using existing rail into downtown Kansas City.  The RRR concept and the most recent study take that conclusion — plus the freight railroads’ assertion that they will not allow commuter rail on existing tracks into Union Station — and propose a Common Line on new rail as the solution. 

 There are several other outstanding concerns from the Phase II study, and there have been lively and skeptical discussions within the MARC Transit Committee. TAN has been vocal in expressing our skepticism. Cost estimates, travel times, and the absence of credible ridership projections have generated great concern too. All of these issues remain today for PB to resolve.

 An Alternatives Analysis involves consideration of multiple modes. There are new technologies and innovative ways to make Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or express buses compare favorably with rail.  Buses are efficient, cost-effective and can be used to effectively combat congestion. The fact that they can offer greater flexibility and a higher level of service for riders means that rail is not the only possible solution to our transit needs. Nor is rail necessarily more environmentally sustainable than modern buses, particularly where ridership is relatively low. 

 TAN has maintained a consistent position regarding transit service in commuter corridors. If rail is shown to be cost effective, to function well enough to attract additional commuters, and to qualify for FTA funding, then it should be implemented, along with the necessary local bus routes to support it. However, if rail is found not to be viable, and if express buses are again found to be the more feasible alternative, then the region should expand its commuter transit system using express buses. We should not continue to put off improving the region’s transit system just because rail isn’t practical at the present time. We need to build a system that serves commuters today, and that makes sense for our region for the future. The Alternatives Analysis should guide the region to an appropriate decision.

 TAN has sought and been granted a formal role on the AA Advisory Committee, and we have already met with the study team.  In addition, we’ll closely follow the study through our representation on MARC’s Transit Committee.

 What will be the best way to provide mobility from the suburbs into the central business district?  Stay tuned.  The Kansas City region definitely needs to improve its public transit system, and this study will help us decide how best to meet that need.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail, Regional Transit Issue, Transit Studies | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Council Should Delay Chastain Vote

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 15, 2011


Councilman Russ Johnson is asking the full Council to defer action on an ordinance that would put Clay Chastain’s initiative petition on the ballot.  We understand the Council has sixty days to act, and that delay would move any such vote from November to early next year.  Transit Action Network fully supports delay because the initiative proposal is almost certainly unworkable, and because further discussion of it at this time would interfere with and confuse the current study and discussion related to a proposed Downtown Streetcar.  The streetcar appears to be eminently doable, and has a growing level of support within the River Market to Crown Center corridor.
Let the voters decide on the Chastain initiative — just not quite yet.

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Grand Boulevard Streetscape Plan – 1st Community Meeting-Aug 17

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 12, 2011


The architectural firm BNIM and Kansas City, MO are in the first phase of visioning and planning for what the Grand Boulevard corridor might look like, and would like to have your participation in the process. The study area boundaries are generally defined as Grand Boulevard from Missouri River Levee Road at ASB Bridge to E. 28th Street and Main Street.

When: Wednesday, August 17th, 6-8pm

Where: UMB Bank Auditorium

1010 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO

Print the invitation and post it around town and at work. Invitation: 1st Community Meeting-Grand Blvd

Visit the project website  to learn more and view two slide shows about the project.

This project has potential to encourage multi-modal transit options, serve as a catalyst for economic development, improve connections to major activity centers, and serve as an icon and precedent for creating complete streets in Kansas City.  The project team is working closely with the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis team to determine the best route for a potential streetcar. Your input is invaluable to the future of this project.

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EPA in the Lenexa Corporate Wilderness-update

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 9, 2011


As we reported in our recent article GSA and EPA Make a Bad Move, the current owner of the EPA building in Kansas City, Kansas, Urban America, protested the GSA bid process to the Government Accountability Office Bid Protest Forum. The GAO has published the results of that case. Urban America filed the case under the address name of 901 North 5th Street, LLC. To no ones surprise Urban America lost and the EPA will be moving to Lenexa.

We feel so sorry for the EPA employees. This location site is awful, even if you drive. It is in the middle of nowhere in the far western suburbs of the region. The building is so far back from the street that you can barely see it at the end of the huge parking lot. They certainly aren’t going to walk to lunch or take transit to work. Walking down these busy streets would be dangerous since so many of them don’t have sidewalks.  These pictures were taken about half way into the parking lot.

Here is the short version of the result. The decision was made in two parts, both in favor of the GSA.

DIGEST

 1.  Protest that agency’s evaluation and selection decision were flawed is denied where the record shows that both the evaluation and the resulting selection decision were reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation factors.

 2.  Protest that agency failed to comply with terms of Executive Order 12072 is dismissed; our Office does not normally review allegations of an agency’s failure to comply with executive branch policies.

See the complete GAO decisions. GAO Decision 901_NORTH_FIFTH_STREET__LLC vs GSA

In the report the GAO explains that Executive Order 12072 prescribes policies and directives regarding the planning, acquisition, utilization and management of federal facilities. Since it is not mentioned in the solicitation, GAO would not rule on it.

In law there are deadlines for bringing cases or objecting. All of the complaints about what was or was not in the solicitation should have been made before the submission deadline, but no one was paying attention. No one involved raised the red flag, challenged the selection area in the solicitation, questioned that multiple Presidential Executive Orders  were ignored, or complained that clearly defined governmental goals and principles were ignored before the bids were completed.

Hopefully two good things come out of this debacle.

1. Cities and companies take a proactive position to make sure government solicitations are in line with the current understanding of the requirements at the beginning of the process. GSA could have been challenged at that point and the solicitation requirements may have been changed.

2 These government offices are writing the siting recommendations that will incorporate the larger government sustainability goals that were ignored in this solicitation. They have already had two drafts.

U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

They need to hurry up and implement the Recommendations for Siting Federal Facilities so GSA stops undermining many of the sustainability goals of the government.

Contact the EPA and GSA and tell them both to implement the “Recommendations for Sustainable Siting of Federal Facilities”.

 GSA

Washington D.C.- Administrator of the General Services Administration,

Martha N. Johnson (202) 501-0800  martha.johnson@gsa.gov

Two special email addresses have been established to collect comments about this move

Washington D.C. office kc-epa@gsa.gov

Local office kansasepa@gsa.gov

EPA 

Washington D.C.- Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency

Lisa P. Jackson jackson.lisap@epa.gov

Local EPA Office Phone: (913) 551-7003

Region 7 EPA REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

Karl Brooks x7303  Brooks.Karl@epa.gov

Posted in Action, Local Transit Issues, National Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue | 3 Comments »

State Ave. Connex Open House-AUG 10

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 6, 2011


Attend the second open house for the State Avenue Connex Transit Improvement Project and learn about the exciting transit improvements being made.

Where: Unified Government Neighborhood Resource Center (4601 State Avenue, Suite 84) in Kansas City, KS. The center is located in the lower level of Indian Springs Mall. Access is available from the southeast entrance.  (Route information to the open house)

When: 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More than $10 million in transit improvements are being made on the Minnesota/State Avenue route in Kansas City, Kansas.  Over the next two years commuters will benefit from the enhancements on this major east-west route in Wyandotte County. State Avenue links jobs, neighborhoods and activity centers from Kansas City’s urban core to newer development in the Village West area. These improvements are being paid for through the federal government TIGER grant.

For more route information and schedules, log on to http://www.kcata.org or call 816-221-0660 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Questions?

Keith Sanders, Project Manager
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
816-346-0359
ksanders@kcata.org
http://www.kcata.org

Emerick Cross, Interim Transit Manager
Unified Government Transit
913-573-6784
ecross@wycokck.org
http://www.wycokck.org

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Meet the TIGER

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 4, 2011


Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) is producing a video series about how our bi-state area is using the federal TIGER grant we received.

TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants were born out of the recession. TIGER is a national discretionary and competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Transportation funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Kansas City bi-state region received $50 million in federal funds for transportation infrastructure projects along several regional transit corridors and in the Green Impact Zone in Kansas City, Mo. David Warm, MARC director, says these investments will improve sustainability, competitiveness and position us for success in the 21st century economy.

The series will be produced over the next few years to document the Kansas City regional TIGER improvements.

View the TIGER Introductory Six-Minute Video on the MARC website or YouTube. Future videos are expected to be shorter and focus on individual projects, event/activities and interviews.

To monitor our regional TIGER grants visit the MARC TIGER website or track the 120 projects funded by this grant.

Congress is making a third round of TIGER grants available. These grants are replacing a lot of earmarks. MARC will probably prepare a TIGER III application and potential submissions are being discussed.

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