Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for January, 2014

Action Alert: KCMO – Please Allow A New Transit Service For The Elderly and Visually Impaired

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 30, 2014

kcmo_big_logoTransit Action Network sent the Kansas City Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee a letter of support for Ordinance 140028, which would allow a local non-profit charitable organization affiliated with a state or national non-profit charitable organization to operate a vehicle for hire to transport persons who are 65 years of age or older or visually impaired. TAN letter of support for Ordinance 140028

Currently there is an ordinance protecting taxis from competition. This ordinance narrowly opens the door for a limited type of organization to provide “for hire” transit services for a limited group of people, but the ordinance is significant since it changes the “status quo”.ITN_KC-2

The issue came up because a new service provider, Independent Transportation Network® (ITN) — the first and only national non-profit transportation system for America’s aging population, wants to enter the Kansas City market.  They are in 25 markets around the country and they already operate in Lee’s Summit.

ITN provides a unique service that taxis and most paratransit services don’t offer.

From ITN’s Greater Kansas City website:

Characteristics of the Service

  1. Membership based – people 65 years and older (age eligibility varies by affiliate), and visually impaired adults are eligible to join
  2. Community based affiliates are supported by private, rather than public resources
  3. Affordable fares that are typically lower than a comparable taxi ride
  4. Available 24/7 for any purpose
  5. Not “just a taxi” – drivers provide arm-through-arm, door-through-door service and help with packages
  6. No money is exchanged in the vehicle, and tips are not accepted
  7. Riders pre-fund a Personal Transportation Account™, and a monthly statement details all payments and charges
  8. Uses private automobiles, rather than vans or buses
  9. Fees cover rides booked at least 24 hours in advance; same day requests will be accommodated with an additional fee

Most taxi and special transportation services for the elderly are curb-to-curb (you have to get yourself to the curb) or door-to-door (you have to get yourself to the door). There are a growing number of frail elderly people or visually impaired people who require additional help.  ITN provides that additional help with their arm-through-arm, door-through-door service (if needed, drivers come into the home or the office or the shops to assist you getting to the vehicle). This service does not apply to people requiring a wheelchair, since ITN uses private automobiles.

This extra level of service comes at a price. ITN is a monthly subscription service. Since they aren’t asking for a public subsidy, users have to cover the cost, but the drivers are volunteers, which help keep the cost down. A monthly pilot subscription in Lee’s Summit costs $125. Contact ITN for more details. Phone: (816) 500-4377 Email:

We can’t vouch specifically for ITN, but we do know that it is time to provide more transportation options for the elderly and visually impaired since there is a transit crisis looming caused by the rapid increase in the elderly population. MARC is already having meetings to find a way to deal with the issues related to “Older People Transportation” and we need to allow additional legitimate services to operate.

We’d like to thank Councilmen Johnson and Sharp for sponsoring this ordinance and we request that the mayor and full council adopt Ordinance 140028.

If you haven’t already done so, please contact your council member or the mayor and request adoption of Ordinance 140028.

The T&I committee is expected to address this ordinance on February 6, 2014 at 8:45 am at City Hall, 10th Floor.

ITN America website


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The Penny Sales Tax is Back – And What to Do About It

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 27, 2014

MoDOT Headquarters and Missouri State Capitol. No other major department of state government has closer proximity to the General Assembly.

MoDOT Headquarters and Missouri State Capitol. No other major department of state government has closer proximity to the General Assembly.

Summary: [1] The penny sales tax is back.  [2] A sales tax for highways is a bad idea. [3] If something more reasonable is to even be considered by the General Assembly, it’s up to leaders in Missouri’s urban areas to make it happen.

That penny sales tax for transportation — the one that was defeated in the closing hours of the legislative session last spring — is back.

Rep. Dave Hinson filed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 68 in the House on January 22, and Sen. Mike Kehoe is expected to file a corresponding and presumably identical measure in the Senate during the coming week.

HJR 68
Proposes a constitutional amendment imposing a 1% temporary increase in the state sales and use tax to be used for transportation projects

Full text of the bill as introduced:

A summary of the bill has not yet been posted.

Support for it is already being garnered.  After all, if the mostly-highway-lobby sponsors of the tax proposal can it put on the ballot by the legislature, they can avoid the $1-2 million estimated cost of circulating an initiative petition.

On January 23 the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, along with the Farm Bureau, State Highway Patrol, and MoDOT, held their annual transportation conference.  MoDOT’s Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger spoke about the new long-range plan, Vision for Missouri’s Transportation Future.  He was followed by Representatives Hinson and Schatz and Senator Kehoe.  MoDOT’s Director, Dave Nichols, was the luncheon speaker.

By all of the accounts we’ve seen — tweets during the conference and subsequent news reports — the discussion was all roads and bridges.

That shouldn’t surprise anybody, given that it was the Missouri Chamber and Farm Bureau whose support was being sought. We suspect transit and other modes were at least mentioned — in response to a tweet from Tom Shrout of St. Louis, MoDOT Director Nichols gave assurance that he would speak about all modes — but in effect it was all about roads and bridges.

The message was dire: If MoDOT doesn’t get additional funding pretty soon, it will barely be able to maintain Missouri’s 33,000 miles of roads in good condition.  Whats more, within just a few years MoDOT won’t even be able to afford the matching money needed to get the federal funds expected to be available to Missouri.

Pretty stark.

Presentations at the conference were undoubtedly oriented to support what is widely anticipated to be the likely funding solution — a one penny increase in the state sales tax.

We know MoDOT people well enough to believe they’d probably rather get the new money from some other source. After all, they know the sales tax doesn’t do anything to recover from highway users the full cost of building and operating roads and bridges. They know that the sales tax hike gives the trucking industry a free ride, since there’d be virtually no increase in revenue from trucking, even though trucks put an undue burden on roads and bridges, and cause MoDOT to have to build them to carry heavier loads.

MoDOT is in the unenviable position of wanting to maintain our roads in good condition, and to expand capacity where it might be needed, yet having virtually no say in where the money comes from.

But on the other hand, wouldn’t it make sense for MoDOT to at least make a case for some other revenue enhancing scenarios — even if those scenarios don’t have much chance of success in the current political climate in the Legislature? After all, one can’t expect to get support for something unless somebody has at least made a good case for it. Past efforts by MoDOT to get other sources of funding considered have been largely a matter of “testing the political wind,” rather than laying out a “here’s what really makes sense” proposal.

The January 23 conference wasn’t about how best to raise the money.  Instead, it was about building support for the sales tax.  Period. It didn’t matter that the sales tax is regressive, and that it has met resistance from many quarters, including local public officials across the state. We know, for example, that elected officials in the Kansas City area are notably cool to the idea. After all, there are local needs that involve putting sales tax measures on the ballot. Think expansion of the Kansas City Streetcar System. Think Jackson County’s Trails and Transit Plan. And it certainly didn’t matter that trucks would get off scot free.

We recognize, by the way, that a small sales tax might be necessary to provide additional state funding for urban and rural public transit, inter-city passenger rail, and other non-highway modes.  A sales tax of two-tenths of a cent would be more than adequate for those needs.

In his State of the State message on January 21, Governor Jay Nixon called for “robust discussion” of our transportation needs and how to fund them.

A robust discussion can’t be expected to occur at a Missouri Chamber / Farm Bureau conference that was designed to build support for a penny sales tax. If anything, that conference probably served to heighten the division between Missouri’s rural and urban interests.

If we are to see anything resembling the robust discussion that Governor Nixon called for, it’s going to have to be sparked by urban leaders.

We suggest that Mayors James (Kansas City) and Slay (St. Louis), county chiefs Sanders (Jackson) and Dooley (St. Louis), MPO directors Warm (Mid-America Regional Council) and Hillhouse (East-West Gateway Council of Governments), civic leaders — plus the Governor himself — come together and have that robust discussion.  We’d expect the outcome to be a far more reasonable and equitable solution for funding Missouri’s transportation needs than a simplistic penny increase in the sales tax.


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