Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Commuter Corridors Study Narrows Field of Alternatives

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 2, 2012

The  Stakeholders Advisory Panel for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCCAA) met March 14. Parsons Brinckerhoff, the lead project consultants,updated information about the I-70 Corridor and the Rock Island Corridor. The Grandview corridor was not discussed. Potential alternatives for the Grandview corridor will be affected by the outcome of the Alternatives Analysis for the I-70 and Rock Island corridors.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) suggests the alternatives be evaluated using five primary perspectives (Stakeholder’s packet Nov 2011)

  • Effectiveness measures assess the extent to which the alternatives address the stated needs in the corridor.
  • Cost-effectiveness measures assess the extent to which the costs of the alternatives, both capital and operating, are commensurate with their anticipated benefits.
  • Feasibility measures the financial and technical feasibility of the alternatives. Financial measures assess the extent to which funding for the construction and operation of each alternative is considered to be readily available. Technical feasibility assesses potential engineering challenges or restrictions that could limit the viability of an alternative.
  • Impacts assess the extent to which the alternatives could present potential environmental and traffic issues that could be fatal flaws or otherwise influence the selection of a preferred alternative.
  • Equity assesses the extent to which an alternative’s costs and benefits are distributed fairly across different population groups

The consultants identified performance on the Common Segment, the section of the alignment where the two corridors come together and share the street or rail line, as a deciding factor in this level of evaluation.

Consultants evaluated the common segment for five items touching on three of the FTA perspectives.

Click To Enlarge

The “Poor” result in the common segment for Full Regional Rail is understandable if you consider the implications of running a large DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) for miles on city streets and through neighborhoods. (See video  Discussion About The Regional Rail Alternative for the JCCCAA)  The DMU has the ability to run on freight lines as well as streets.

Last year TAN identified the Common Segment as the most challenging issue for the Regional Rail alternative. Once the rail leaves segregated rights-of-way and moves onto city streets many problems arise. (See Consultants Face Big Challenge Studying Regional Rapid Rail ).

For these criteria, TSM (Transportation Systems Management), which includes Enhanced Express Buses, and the BRT options look the best. However, there are additional criteria to be evaluated.

Eliminated

Full Regional Rail using a DMU on Truman Road or the Trench Embankment is eliminated.

Additional alternatives eliminated

All Rock Island Corridor Streetcar or BRT combinations with a DMU on the I-70 Corridor – These alternatives all require a forced transfer at the Truman Sports Complex. (See video about all eight combinations  Enhanced Streetcar/DMU/BRT Combinations Are Discussed). This issue affects four of the eight combination alternatives. (See combinations marked in yellow on  JCCCAA Modal Combinations Update March 2012)

Alternative at risk

The Enhanced Streetcar via Truman Road – Although in the common segment analysis the Streetcar via Linwood and the Streetcar via Truman Road look the same, the consultants said additional analysis suggests Linwood is a better choice than Truman Road. In the presentation, only the Linwood alignment is advanced to the next level of analysis at this point. (See combination marked in blue on JCCCAA Modal Combinations Update March 2012)

See Consultants JCCC AA March 2012 SAP Presentation. TSM including Enhanced Express Buses is included in the alternatives advancing for further evaluation although it isn’t listed on Slide 14.

Another Version of Rail Under Consideration

Since all of the original commuter rail alternatives using a DMU have been eliminated, another version of commuter rail that doesn’t use city streets or transfer at the Sports Complex is being re-considered.

In Tier One of the study the consultants looked at an alternative that kept the DMU on rail lines and went through the rail yard in the Northern Industrial District by the Missouri River before heading up to the River Market to Third St. and Grand Avenue.

This alternative was initially screened out in the Tier One screening because:

  • “This alignment has limited opportunity for stations, operates in a highly industrial area and constrained railroad environment. It is not as conducive to satisfying the project’s Purpose and Need as other options. “ (Stakeholder’s packet Nov 2011)

In 2007 this alignment, which goes through the Knoche rail yard, was studied for the I-70 corridor and rejected in the near term for commuter rail. Since then, significant changes have been made to that yard making it unsuitable for commuter rail. However, the Neff rail yard, which is slightly south of the Knoche rail yard, is being investigated for feasibility. If the consultants decide this alternative has potential they will add it for a Tier Two level analysis.

In this scenario, the rail alignment would stay on the Rock Island and KCS lines and come together in the vicinity of Rock Creek Junction, east of the rail yard. There are considerable challenges for this alignment including getting through the rail junction and the rail yard.

After discussions with both the consultant and MARC, here is the current situation:

Alternatives Eliminated

  • DMU using Trench or Trench Embankment
  • DMU on Truman Road (Full Regional Rail)
  • Alternatives that force a transfer outside of CBD (Central Business District

Alternative with significant challenges

  • Enhanced Streetcar via Truman Road

Alternatives advancing for further evaluation

  • TSM, including Enhanced Express Bus
  • Enhanced Streetcar via Linwood
  • BRT
  • Modal Combinations

Alternative receiving renewed consideration

  • DMU to River Market via rail yard (KCS and Rock Island)

Alternatives that are advanced in the study will go through further analysis such as ridership numbers, financial feasibility, constructability and economic development potential. Although everyone is impatient to get concrete numbers to compare alternatives, a study of this size would normally take a couple of years to complete and this study is being squeezed into a very short time frame. The consultants were only chosen in April of last year.

Project leader Shawn Dikes said Parsons Brinckerhoff is working to create a complete transit package, which would consist of the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) from this study as well as improved transit service to support the LPA. TAN feels it is extremely important to construct a complete transit package to take to the voters.

Besides the study update at the Stakeholders Advisory Panel meeting, there was a short talk by former Congressman Martin Frost about the Transportation Bill being debated in Congress.  He believes the final version will be similar to previous transportation bills, although the House Speaker is having a hard time getting his party to agree to a version that can pass the House. Michael Zuhl, a consultant with R&R Partners, gave a short talk about the transit education campaign for Jackson County.

The consultant team is pulling out all the stops to find the best alternative for commuters in Jackson County. They are trying multiple combinations of vehicles and lots of alternative alignments. Jackson County should feel comfortable that the process is working well and it should be happy to go to the voters with the Locally Preferred Alternative resulting from this study.

Proposed schedule

The Project Team met March 23 and County Executive Mike Sanders and Mayor Sly James went to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials about the transit initiatives underway. This level of cooperation and coordinated transit effort is unprecedented in our region.

Mid-April Stakeholder Advisory Panel

Late April – Public Workshop

4/27 Project Partnership Team meeting

5/25 Project Partnership Team Meeting

May/June – Public Workshop

Summer – Announcement of LPA

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