Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for March, 2014

Streetcar Steering Committee Releases Recommendations and Draft Report

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 25, 2014


Next_RailTransit Action Network hasn’t had an opportunity to fully evaluate the streetcar recommendations from this morning’s meeting of the Steering Committee, or to read through the whole draft report, but we wanted to share some early insights. Full draft report:KansasCityStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4

The recommended endpoints for the routes have been well publicized today:Recommendations_KCStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4

  • Independence Avenue route: terminus Benton Avenue;
  • Linwood Route: terminus Prospect Avenue;
  • Main Street route: terminus Volker (vicinity of UMKC).

This system would add an additional 7.6 miles to the Downtown Streetcar for a total of 9.8 miles. The Prospect MAX recommendation is 9.1 miles long.

Even with these shortened routes, the projected ridership numbers are significantly higher than estimated earlier in the preliminary report last November. With this phase of the study, we became one of the first cities in the nation to use the FTA’s new ridership model, STOPS (Simplified Trips‐on‐Project Software), and no one really knew what to expect. Increased ridership numbers improve the chances of qualifying for federal New Starts funds. Information on the different ridership scenarios is on pages 82/83 of the report. Depending on operating frequency, ridership in this system is expected to rise between 19% and 36% over the current bus ridership.

Average ridership KCStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4The biggest change is the recommendation to change the boundaries of the TDD and the number of property owners subject to the special property tax assessment. The new map still has to be adopted by the City Council on Thursday, so this is still under discussion. It is interesting to note that the Brookside and Waldo area, and everything south of Gregory have been removed like a big bite out of the original taxing district, yet most of the area east of the proposed streetcar line is still intact.KansasCityStreetcarPhaseIIPlanDRAFTv4 This was already pointed out by Yael Abouhalkah of The Star when he tweeted this morning:   

KCStreetcar fact: Brooksiders few blocks away from line won’t be in TDD. East Siders MILES away will be in TDD. Fair?

The special property tax assessment would only be applied to properties within 1/3 of a mile of the streetcar line instead of ½ mile.

The recommendation has shortened the routes (a decrease in cost) while shrinking the size of the TDD (a decrease in revenue). As a result, even if the Federal government provides 50% of the capital costs, the project funding is over $53 million short, as discussed on pages 114/115 of the report.  As the report states: “The consultant team recognizes that a $53,000,000 funding gap in this financial model is not insignificant.”

The project team suggests several scenarios to make up the funding difference. Notice that one of the methods to make up “some” of this gap is continuing to use $2 million out of the ½ cent transportation sales tax fund, which also pays for the bus system. The current ordinance makes this amount the maximum amount allowed to divert to the streetcar, but the City Council has reminded us repeatedly and emphatically that they could change the ordinances anytime they wanted.

We are still concerned about how the streetcar will integrate with the bus system and we understand that council members, KCATA and the study team are all still investigating these operating concerns. Transit Action Network originally highlighted this issue at MARC before it was on most people’s radar, but it is extremely important to riders. There is some basic information on page 81 in the report about bus integration, but this is still in a preliminary stage. At this point, there are forced transfers in the plan: Route 24 would be eliminated west of Benton and only run east of Benton to feed the streetcar, and Main Street MAX would be eliminated north of 51st Street with a possible exception during rush hour —“Limited through bus service from the Waldo/ Brookside area may be provided to continue to provide a “one seat ride” for commuters to the downtown area.” They aren’t clear about reducing the 31st street bus but want to do more study.

Integration between the streetcar and  the bus in the same corridor affects ridership projections because forced transfers reduce ridership, but more importantly it affects how riders will use the streetcar/bus system to travel in the corridor. Will riders continue to have a one-seat trip to major destinations, or will they be forced to transfer between the streetcar and the bus? The report acknowledges this:

SW  TDD corner

SW TDD corner

“In some cases, streetcar service may replace all or part of existing bus routes. Where this occurs, options to minimize transfers and maintain some level of through-service should be explored. “

Overall, there is a lot to digest, and the Council has important decisions to consider when it holds a public hearing Thursday morning (9 am, City Hall) before a joint meeting of the Planning and Economic Development and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Although the report is 832 pages long, the most relevant content of the report is in the first 135 pages.

 

 

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Attend Transit Stakeholders Forum Mar 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 24, 2014


all transit agenciesJoin the discussion about regional branding!

Don’t miss the second Transit Stakeholders Forum. This forum gives everyone an opportunity to provide input into decision-making for Kansas City’s regional transit system. This meeting will focus on the regional branding effort. All of the transit providers (KCATA, Johnson County Transit, Unified Government Transit, Inde Bus and eventually the streetcar) will operate under one umbrella logo, or “regional co-brand” while maintaining their individual identities. Please attend and provide your perspective.

The results of this discussion will provide input to the Regional Transit Coordinating Council and help define the core values and other branding elements that will represent our regional transit system.

A regional co-brand is an important step toward future cohesion of the region’s transit system. The new brand will apply to future initiatives like a one-stop regional transit website, a fare collection system, and a regional transit map. It will help existing users more easily navigate a region-wide system and help attract new transit users.

When: Thursday, March 27 @ 5-6:30 p.m.
Where: Kauffman Foundation Conference Center,
4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110
Metro Routes: Metro 25, Troost MAX, 47
The JO Routes: The JO Connex/556

You can submit a comment or question if you can’t attend.  Please email smartmoves@marc.org.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/228917683967865/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

 

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RTCC Tackles Big Transit Issues – Funding and Paratransit

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 21, 2014


marclogoThe Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC) was formed last September (see  New Transit Coordinating Council Off To A Good Start),  but it is already tackling some of the region’s toughest transit issues: Getting more funding for transit projects, and coordinating paratransit in the region.Transit_Coordinating_Council-2

ONE: Funding: Transit is always plagued with insufficient money to do everything that needs to be done. So when some of the region’s most influential public officials — mayors, council members, public administrators — put their heads together with MARC and the transit agencies to get additional transit funding, it can be a formidable group.

What money are they going after?

Other than the diminishing federal money that goes from the Federal Transit Administration directly to transit operators, there are three major sources of federal transit money currently available to be “programmed” (allocated to projects) at MARC.Federal_Funds_to_program_in_2014

  • The smallest amount is $17.1 million from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). This is most often used for bike and pedestrian projects.
  • $18.2 million is available from the Congestion Mitigation / Air Quality (CMAQ) program. The RTCC will allocate the transit portion of these funds.
  • The largest amount is $77 million from the Surface Transportation Program (STP).  This money is programmed by the Missouri and Kansas STP committees, and is typically used for road and bridge projects, even though transit is an eligible use.  Last year was an exception when $16 million of STP money was allocated to purchase four streetcars for the Kansas City Downtown Streetcar project.

What’s new this time?

With staff of MARC and the four transit operators working together, RTCC has created a list of eleven projects to submit for funding.  Such a large group of transit projects has never been submitted for STP and CMAQ funding before, but with the transit operators working closely together and influential regional public officials involved, the projects will carry more weight than when transit operators submitted projects independently.

See the complete list of projects identified by RTCC.  RTCC_Priorities_List_March_2014  These projects will be submitted to MARC, evaluated and “scored” by MARC staff, and then forwarded to the appropriate programming committees. TAN appreciates the extended list of well-thought-out transit projects and supports them being funded.

TWO: Paratransit: If there is one transit issue in the region that especially needs coordination, it is Paratransit.  [Note: Strictly speaking, “paratransit” isn’t just for the disabled.  Think of it as specialized or flexible transit service for people who can’t get to a bus stop, or who have other special transportation needs.]  People with disabilities have to deal with an extremely difficult and complicated set of eligibility rules along with restricted transit options to get around the region. Many parts of the region don’t have any public transit options for the disabled. Each transit system operates independently and differently.

Special-needs riders need a coordinated, easy to use system to get the transportation they need. Barriers to paratransit need to be eliminated to make this type of transit more functional.

RTCC Co-Chair Robbie Makinen, who is also Chairman of the KCATA Board of Commissioners, lost his eyesight last year and has become largely dependent on paratransit.  As a long-term transit advocate, Makinen has always been concerned with this issue, but now as a user, he really understands and suffers from the dysfunctional nature of the state of regional paratransit. Makinen is championing the effort to coordinate the regions fragmented paratransit services.

Jameson Auten, the head of KCATA’s “Share-A-Fare” paratransit program, and Tyler Means, transit planner at MARC, put this presentation together to describe the paratransit service offered by the four transit agencies: KCATA, The JO, Inde Bus and UGT.  In his presentation, Auten pointed out the different hours of operations, eligibility requirements, reservation hours, and fares. RTCC Paratransit Coordination

One of the biggest issues for paratransit in the region is the lack of paratransit services in Johnson County.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Although Johnson County Transit has provided bus service for over 30 years, it does not have any Complementary ADA Service:  i.e., no paratransit service that “complements” their regular transit routes. Their bus service is configured as commuter routes, which means they don’t have to comply with this part of the Americans With Disabilities Act The special transportation service they do provide, called Special Edition, is not available to anyone living outside of Johnson County. People with disabilities living outside of Johnson County but wishing to travel to Johnson County — even for medical appointments or other serious purposes — are denied access. In Johnson County there is already such a big backlog of residents needing this type service that they cut off eligibility each year and there is a waiting list.

RTCC understands that tackling this issue is a long-term project. Although the most recent meeting focused on paratransit services supplied by the four major transit agencies, everyone acknowledged that there are a large number of additional organizations supplying transit to the disabled. In order to supply enough transit to the growing number of people in need, they hope that every provider will be involved in this coordination effort.  As RTCC Co-Chair Mayor McConwell put it, “ there are 10,000 people a day in the US turning 65. We can’t wait another 20 years before addressing this issue.”

In addition to these two very important issues, RTCC is still working on their initial list of “Quick Wins.” Currently a Regional Fare Study is underway, and we expect to get results on that in early summer.

The next Transit Stakeholders Forum is scheduled for March 27, 5:00 to 6:30 pm, at the Kauffman Foundation.  Please help spread the word about this meeting, especially to riders. This Forum is designed to work in conjunction with the RTCC. The previous meeting was December 17. The March forum will focus on creation of a regional “co-branding” strategy for the Kansas City region’s transit system.

The next RTCC meeting is May 14 at 1:30 pm at MARC.

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