Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for October, 2011

KCATA – Public Forums On Route Recommendations November 2011

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 31, 2011


The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) has service change recommendations on more than 50 Metro bus routes. They want to improve service, meet ridership demands and operate more efficiently using existing resources.

Customer participation is important in developing the final route recommendations. KCATA is hosting a series of public forums on the potential service changes to gain additional input. The forums will be an opportunity for customers to learn more about the service changes, provide comments about the proposed changes, and further discuss the recommendations one-on-one with KCATA staff. Service changes are scheduled to begin in April 2012 and will be phased in throughout 2012.

Public forum schedule: 
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Plaza KCMO Library, 4800 Main St., Cohen Center

Thursday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Central KCMO Library, 14 W. 10th St., Multi-Purpose Room

Thursday, Nov. 10, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Salvation Army, 5306 N. Oak Trafficway

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Northeast Branch KC Library, 6000 Wilson

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, 3700 Blue Parkway

Thursday, Nov. 17, 4 to 6:30 p.m., Canaan Worship Center, 5333 Bannister Rd., Fellowship Hall

Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. KCATA, 1200 E. 18th St., Breen Building, Lobby

Additional information, including the recommended changes, are available on the KCATA Website. Click here to submit online comments.

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Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Missouri State Rail Plan – Open House Nov. 2

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 29, 2011


Missouri Department of Transportation will host an open house and discussion about the movement of goods and people by freight and passenger rail.

Where: Sermon Center North Room, 201 N. Dodgion Ave, Independence

When: 5:30 – 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 2, 2011

VISION

Missouri’s rail vision is to provide safe, environmentally friendly transportation options supporting efficient movement of freight and passengers, while strengthening communities and advancing global competitiveness through Inter-modal connectivity.

STATE RAIL PLAN

The Missouri Department of Transportation is developing a Statewide Rail Plan that will provide the strategic framework for the development of both freight and passenger rail service in Missouri for the next twenty years.

Discussion items include:

  • An overview of the Plan and Federal Rail funding
  • The current state of freight and passenger rail in Missouri
  • The business case for rail including it’s importance to Missouri’s economy
  • Increased demand and interest in intercity passenger rail
  • The role of publicly funded improvements to move people and goods on privately owned railroad systems.
  • The importance of different types of rail projects compared to other infrastructure needs, given likely funding limitations.

MoDOT wants your input. If you cannot attend the public open house, the presentation and public comment forms are available at the MoDOT State Rail Plan website.  The virtual meeting and comment period will be accessible through November 18.  Public Meeting Presentation  Please spread the word.

Posted in Events, Rail, Regional Transit Issue | 1 Comment »

Central Europe and London-Part 3 – London

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 24, 2011


Diesel Electric Hybrid Red Double Decker Buses

London, UK- (city population 7.8 million, density 12,892 inhabitants/ sq. mi., metro population (mid-2010); 2.3 million -KCMO-density 1,446 inhabitants /sq. mi (2010))

Parliament, London

Big Ben, London

We only had a short stop over in London to go to the theatre and see friends. Since we knew we were going to the theatre in the West End we stayed at a hotel on the Strand by Covent Garden so we could walk to all the theatres. This is a great location. Many of the best sites are in easy walking distance, such as  the British Museum, the Tate Gallery, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye Ferris Wheel, Trafalgar Square, St. Martin in the Fields Church, National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, all the West End theatres and of course Covent Garden itself. Take a few minutes to visit inside St. Paul’s-Covent Garden’s parish church (fondly known as the Actor’s Church) – most people spend a lot of time in the square behind the church watching performers but go to the other side for a restful garden and the memorials in the church dedicated to many famous actors of the 20th century, including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Gracie Fields, Stanley Holloway, Boris Karloff and Vivien Leigh.

We arrived at Heathrow Airport. There are multiple ways to get into the city center. Heathrow has a direct connection to central London on the Piccadilly Tube (subway) line, which goes right into the Covent Garden station.  Journey time is approximately 55 minutes to central London. Heathrow is located approximately 20 miles to the west of central London. Leaving Heathrow to return home was a nightmare because the check-in and security lines took nearly three hours.

London black cab

Of course you can come into London from Heathrow by taxi (cab) which is much more expensive but faster and direct to your hotel.  The London cabs are easily identifiable with a specific design and most of them are black cars. Make sure you learn what they look like. On occasion, as in all big cities, people have been known to fake being cabbies for criminal purposes.  London cabbies have to pass a grueling test to get a license. It takes between 2 and 4 years to pass this test. Anyone who can pass The Knowledge has a great memory and knows London forwards and backwards. It is the world’s most demanding training course for taxicab-drivers, and applicants will usually need at least twelve “appearances” (attempts at the final test), after preparation averaging 34 months, to pass the examination. London has the best cabbies in the world. I wish New York City would implement the taxi standards that London has. New York should consider implementing The Knowledge for NYC. Of course, new technology may make this level of  expertise obsolete.

See Transport for London for all the transportation options in London. See Wikipedia articles about TfL and information on transport in London.  Transport for London  (TfL maps) maps cover the Tube, tram, buses, walking, river, rail , DLR  (Docklands Light Railway) and red double-decker buses (many are diesel-electric hybrids) for London.

Be careful crossing the street

St. Paul's Church, Parish Church of Covent Garden-The Actors Church

Although the Tube and double-decker buses are always great, the biggest transportation news in London is bicycles. Bikes are the fastest growing form of transportation in the city. Bike riders are a very diverse group. We saw a lot of people in spandex outfits with expensive bikes with all the bells and whistles but we also saw a man wearing a suit riding an upright one-speed bike with a wicker basket.  Most people wear helmets.

Bike parking in Covent Garden

With bikes come lots of bike parking spots. Approaching the main shopping area of Covent Garden is a bike park that is supervised by the police. Remember that most of London is covered by CCTV now. This parking area had signs warning of the police surveillance as well as a notice that the police will stamp your bike with a tracking number if you chose to park there. I spoke with a man locking up his bike and he said that the police come around regularly to make sure the bikes are stamped with a number. The police put the number into their tacking system and it is up to you to enter your information on the internet to register your bike. I asked if this had reduced theft. He wasn’t aware of any thefts at this location for the two years he had been parking there. However, the best part of the system is that the second-hand bike dealers that were notorious for selling stolen bikes are no longer in business. Good News!

London started one of the earliest bike rental systems in a major city. The bikes are mainly used for short trips. They are free the first ½ hour and only £1 for the next 30 minutes. Watch the video about how the system works.

Bike rental rack by Charing Cross Station-filled up during the work day

Barclays Bank is advertised on the London rental bikes

The bikes were well used after work

About 10 am we passed the bike stand outside the Charing Cross Tube station close to our hotel and all the slots were full. People had either ridden the bikes to work, since this area is a major work location, or to the Tube Station. About 7 pm we passed the same location and only two bikes were left. On that day the bikes were really well used. The biggest lesson learned by the early adopters of bike rental systems was to have visually outstanding bikes. If they looked like normal bikes they often got stolen. A unique look equates to free advertising, too. Several cities in America have similar bike rental systems now and I look forward to Kansas City implementing Bike Share KC in 2012.

Trafalgar Square

London’s Tube is a great asset. If you are going to be in London for a while, consider getting an Oyster Card. Oyster is a plastic Smartcard you can use instead of paper tickets. You put pay as you go credit on it, which you use up as you travel. It is valid across all travel zones and automatically calculates the best value fare for all the journeys you make in a single day. There is a Visitor Oyster card too. London Oyster cards can be used on all buses, trams, Tube, DLR and London Overground services, and nearly all National Rail services. You can buy an Oyster card online before you go. You can also use your Oyster card to receive discounted fares on TfL River Services.

If you  are in the suburbs the London Overground consists of 5 suburban lines. Services have been upgraded and infrastructure improved since the government took it over.

Avoid driving in London since there are so many good transit options. Congestion charging in the central zone in another reason not to drive in the city. The congestion charge is the price you pay to drive into the central zone.  The charge is £10 daily if you pay in advance or on the same day, or £12 if paid the following charging day. There are discounts available. Parking and gas (petrol) are really expensive too. There has been a six per cent increase in bus passengers due to congestion charging and by law, all net revenue raised by the charge (£148m in financial year 2009/10) has to be invested in improving transport in London. Of course you could consider renting an electric car if you need to go somewhere not easily accessible by transit.

Electric Car and Charging Station in Covent Garden

Vintage Transit-London Transport Museum -1

Vintage Transit-London Transport Museum - 2

Be sure to visit the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. It is in a wonderful steel and glass Victorian building, which used to be the wholesale flower market. Flower girls, like Eliza in the musical My Fair Lady, got their flowers here. Although the flower market has moved south, the London Transport Museum makes good use of this building. It is well worth a visit. There are great displays, information about how the London transportation system developed and historic vehicles. They have special exhibits too. When we were there “Under Attack” showed how the subways were used as air raid shelters during the blitz in World War II.

This article concludes reporting on this trip. I enjoyed sharing what I learned and experienced about transit in these three cities.  The related articles are on Budapest and Prague. Hope you enjoyed reading them.

Happy Traveling!

Janet at the London Transport Museum

Bill strolling through Covent Garden

Janet

Photos by Janet and Bill Rogers except for the red hybrid buses, London cab and Trafalgar Square.

Posted in Transit and Travel | 1 Comment »

JCT Results of Bus Rapid Transit Study – Open House in Overland Park – Oct. 18

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 17, 2011


New JCT bus- Will become pre-BRT CONNEX bus

Johnson County recently completed an  alternatives analysis study that recommends deploying “Bus Rapid Transit service in mixed traffic” for the Metcalf Avenue and Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor. (Metcalf/SMP October 2011 Newsletter) The bus rapid transit route will extend from 119th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park to 47th Street and Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Mo. Johnson County Transit, and the cities of Mission and Overland Park, will share the study results. The pre-BRT service will initially be “branded” as “CONNEX,” and four buses have already been purchased for this purpose.  TAN is concerned that there is no plan or firm commitment to provide the funding necessary to add service even to the Phase I level described in the October 2011 Newsletter. 

Open House

When: Oct. 18, from 5–7 p.m.

Where: Matt Ross Community Center,  8101 Marty, Overland Park, Kan.

The study evaluated the level of transit service best suited to meet transportation needs in the corridor. This transit corridor connects two states and multiple communities.   Study website  Mixed-flow lanes represent the no-cost, simplest,  most basic type of operation for bus service but they are the least effective BRT service.  According to the FTA Characteristics of BRT 2009 Update “most systems with less than 25 percent improvement (in travel time) operate on-street in mixed traffic lanes”.

New JCT bus- will be pre-BRT CONNEX line

Alternative Analysis Process for JCT - click to enlarge

The Kansas City Regional TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) Grant is providing $10.7 million in transit improvements along the Metcalf Avenue/Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor. These infrastructure improvements are scheduled to be complete in November 2012. JCT would not have qualified for Federal money for these types of infrastructure improvements or BRT upgrade using the FTA Very Small Starts program. To receive FTA Very Small Starts funding, like the Troost MAX received,  routes must meet several requirements including at least 3,000 riders per day.  We don’t believe that the whole JCT system averages that ridership per day. By using TIGER grant money for these infrastructure improvements, these requirements did not have to be met.

Aside from spending this federal TIGER money, what steps are Johnson County, The JO, Overland Park, and Mission taking to build ridership in this corridor? TAN understands this line currently serves fewer than 400 riders per day.

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Final Open House-See Designs for State Avenue “Connex” Transit Corridor – Oct 20

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 13, 2011


The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Unified Government Transit of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., are hosting the final open house for the public to review the detailed improvement plans for the “Connex” transit corridor. Displays will provide information about the overall design of the corridor, plus specific plans for two new MetroCenters: Midtown KCK (47th and State Ave.) and Downtown KCK (7th and Minnesota Ave.). This major east-west route connects the city’s revitalized urban core to new development occurring in the Village West area.

Detailed plans for enhanced transit amenities and pedestrian infrastructure in the State Avenue corridor of Kansas City, Kan., will be on display.

When: 3:30–6 p.m. on Oct. 20

Where: St. Patrick Catholic Church Parish Hall, 1086 N. 94th St., Kansas City, KS 66112

Link to more information about the improvements on the KCATA website

The Kansas City Regional TIGER Grant is funding $10.3 million in transit improvements along State Avenue in Kansas City, Kan. The Transit Center and Corridor Transit Station Improvements are scheduled for completion 3rd quarter 2012.

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues, Transit Studies | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

So Many Alternatives to Evaluate in Jackson County!

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 13, 2011


The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis is studying six different alternatives to find the best option to improve transit from Eastern Jackson County into downtown Kansas City.  The commuter corridors under consideration are east along the I-70 corridor to Oak Grove and southeast along the old Rock Island Corridor possibly all the way to Pleasant Hill.

JCCCAA Open House-Independence

The Federal Transit Administration requires the study look at different alternatives to find the best and most cost-effective solution in a corridor. At the first open house the project team presented each alternative with descriptions and maps. They published the JCCCAA_Open_House_Booklet_092711 with these details.

The study is guided by FTA standards and will evaluate and compare the alternatives for mobility improvements, user benefits, operating efficiencies, cost effectiveness, ridership numbers, capital and operating costs, existing transit supportive land-use, and economic development effects. Economic development effects are evaluated based on transit supportive plans and policies and the actual performance of the land use policies as well as the potential impact of the project on regional land use.  Transit supportive plans and policies include factors such as growth management, transit supportive corridor policies, supportive zoning regulations near stations and tools to implement land use policies.

Here are the basic alternatives under consideration. The streetcar/light rail description in the booklet of the Alternative 5 eastern corridor is incorrect. It is a spur into Independence. The map is correct.

Alternative 1 is the baseline alternative for comparison. This is a  “No Build” scenario with minimum investment.

Display board for one of the alternatives

Alternative 2 is Transportation System Management to improve operating efficiency of current systems without adding capacity on the highways or making major capital improvements to the transit system. This could include improvements to the Scout System, improvements to the transit system already identified in the KCATA Comprehensive Service  Analysis, and expansion of Transportation Demand Management/ridesharing programs. TAN feels that many of these ideas should be implemented regardless of the other outcomes in the study since they can be done in the near term with relatively small financial outlays and noticeable improvements to the management of the corridors for all transportation modes, including cars.

Independence Mayor Reimal

Alternative 3 is an Enhanced Express Bus to Oak Grove and Pleasant Hill via the current highway system. There is the possibility of using Bus on Shoulder on I-70 between I-470 and the Kansas City Central Business District sometime in the future.

Alternatives 4 and 5 basically build on Alternative 3 by adding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on US 40 and the Rock Island corridor, then adding a streetcar/light rail line from Crown Center that has two spurs, one to Independence and one to Raytown.  In these versions, the southeastern corridor uses the Rock Island corridor as a fixed guideway for the Enhanced Express Bus as well as the BRT.

One of the alternatives 3, 4 or 5 may be the preferred alternative if Regional Rapid Rail isn’t competitive in the analysis.

Alternative 6 is the Regional Rapid Rail system. There are three variations to the route provided, but the Truman Road route has been discussed the most. This system uses underutilized rail in the suburbs but requires new rail in multiple sections including the last seven miles into downtown. The eastern corridor uses the KC Southern line to Noland Road then requires new rail to cut over to the Truman Sports Complex. The southeastern corridor uses the old Rock Island line to just west of the Truman Sports Complex at US40. The Rock Island Corridor has not been used for almost 40 years, so it will be interesting to find out how much renovation is needed to return the line to safe operating condition.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders

Study participants from Parsons Brinckerhoff, Shockey Consulting and MARC

Both lines converge just east of the sports complex. There is discussion of a station south of the Chiefs south parking lot, what is currently the wooded area past entrance 3 to the Chiefs parking lot. A train viaduct can be seen as it crosses Blue Ridge Cuttoff just north of Raytown Road.

The two routes use a Common Line into downtown.  The last seven miles of the Common Line, after Leeds Junction by US 40, is on new tracks and often runs on city streets. According to the MARC corridor study in 2010, anytime the DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) vehicle travels on the streets it will have a maximum speed of 25 mph.  It goes north in the vicinity of 18th and Topping to Truman Road west of Jackson Avenue, and travels on Truman Road at a maximum speed of 25 mph. It turns south on Cherry to 20th where it turns west to arrive north of Union Station in the Freight House district close to Jack Stack Bar-B-Que.  This area is on the old KC Star storage track.  TAN still has many outstanding concerns about this alternative as expressed in an earlier article related to last year’s corridor study.

There are two other versions of this alternative. One has the eastern route stay on the KCS line until 23rd street and skips the Sports Complex. The 23rd street route runs down the center of the street at a maximum speed of 25 mph and connects with the Common Line at I-435. The other variation has both routes connecting at the Sports Complex, and traveling along the Common Line but cross Truman Road and follows the Kansas City Terminal and then the “trench embankment” into the Freight House district north of Union Station.

TAN is waiting on the project team to provide more details about the routes as they proceed in the study. Some sections of the routes are still vague, but that is normal since the study just started and the team needs time to find the best options.

The project team held three open house sessions the last week of September, Independence, Raytown and Union Station, to explain and discuss the “Purpose and Needs” statement for the project and show the public the proposed alternatives. There was an excellent turnout. Three additional public meetings are planned in November 2011, January 2012 and March 2012.  Visit the study’s website for more information.

Project Leader Shawn Dikes

In Independence, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders spoke about the need to plan ahead for future transit needs. He also made the point that even if you personally don’t use transit many of the people you interact with do, so you still need transit. Parsons Brinckerhoff Project Manager Shawn Dikes had a PowerPoint presentation to explain the study. See his presentation JCCCAA-Open-House-Presentation-Sept2011

This study is costing $1.2 million. MARC plans to add the study for the US71/Grandview corridor to this study. Jackson County has already received $652,200 to do that study plus MARC has applied for another $1.2 million for the US71 corridor and hopes all these studies can be combined.

TAN feels very strongly that the region needs to implement the best alternative from this study, whether it is Enhanced Express Bus, BRT, Streetcar/Light Rail, Regional Rapid Rail  or a combination.  If we are going to spend this amount of money on studies then it is our responsibility, to the best of our ability, to implement the recommendations that come out of them.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Meeting Reports, Rail, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Why a downtown streetcar?

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 4, 2011


Probably the best reason for a streetcar is that the people in this corridor want it. If you look at past voting records from the light rail votes, people in the downtown corridor consistently vote for it. People in this area will also be the biggest beneficiaries of it; and they’re the most enthusiastic about it.

Rail is a service upgrade from buses. Streetcars offer a smoother ride. Their route is clearer, especially for infrequent riders such as visitors. There is a lower risk you will wind up where you don’t want to be and have to find a way back. Many people simply prefer rail over buses.

Rail, together with appropriate land use policies, transit oriented zoning codes and improved passenger amenities, offers potential for channeling economic development to the route.

10,000 people live downtown now. An estimated 57,000 people work and live within three blocks of the proposed line. River Market is the fastest growing residential area in the city. The Sprint Center, Power & Light District, Kaufman Performing Arts Center, the continued explosion of retail and entertainment in the Crossroads, new buildings and renovated buildings all mean more and more people are living and working along the proposed streetcar route. In the downtown corridor there is now the density of residents, jobs, and entertainment destinations to generate the number of trips that should make the streetcar a success.

Since this 2.2 mile starter line focuses on such a small segment of the city no one is going to ask the whole city to pay for it. Although the project team is just starting an in-depth analysis for financing options, a Transportation Development District is high on the list of options for at least some of the funding. Additional funding sources, like federal Small Starts money, can be pursued. The project team may identify other funding mechanisms too. Many other cities started off paying for small starter lines themselves.

What about MAX? MAX has proved that additional people will take transit if it meets a certain standard. Much of the Main Street MAX won’t be affected by the streetcar but a small section of the MAX route may change to another street, where MAX overlaps the streetcar. This change would provide even more transit options in downtown.

Let’s do this Kansas City. It is time to get started with rail in an area that cries out for it!

Additional information

Click to enlarge

The Project Team for the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis recommended a streetcar on Main Street for a service upgrade between the River Market and Crown Center. The City Council unanimously adopted this alternative last Thursday.

Summary of evaluation findings: this table shows the preference for each evaluation criteria for both the alignment (Main vs Grand) and the mode (Streetcar vs Enhanced Bus).

See the project team’s full presentation to the Parking and Transportation Committee on 9/20 including the map with major activity centers.  Preliminary engineering may cause some changes to the final route. KC-DCAA-Tier2-Evaluation-Presentation

View all the project team documents at http://www.kcsmartmoves.org/projects/downtowncorridor-documents.aspx

According to the project documents “The financing plan may potentially be used to apply for federal funds through New Starts, Small Starts, or other federal programs. Creative leveraging of private funding options, public/private partnership options, and federal grant opportunities will be explored. Ultimately, the preferred financing strategy will be one with great local support—voted on not through a city-wide initiative, but by targeted partners willing to invest in strengthening the downtown Kansas City economy through this project.”

Read the KC Star: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/09/29/3174905/kc-council-committee-backs-proposed.html#ixzz1ZNn7D3tb

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »