Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

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Transit Talk OCT 27 – What You Need to Know About the Downtown Streetcar – 90.1FM KKFI

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 27, 2015


KKFI 90.1 FMJoin us for a Transit Talk about the new KC Downtown Streetcar.

Downtown Streetcar uses the RideKC brand and the streetcar icon

Downtown Streetcar uses the RideKC brand and the streetcar icon

Tom Gerend, Executive Director of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCStreetcar.org) speaks with host Janet Rogers of Transit Action Network.

When: Tuesday October 27, 2015 at 6 PM on RadioActive Magazine

Where: 90.1FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio

Listen to Podcast 

Our Streetcar being tested in New York

Our Streetcar being tested in New York

The first of four streetcar vehicles is about to arrive in Kansas City. How will the streetcar change our interactions with downtown? What changes are needed to keep everyone safe and enjoy the riding experience? Why is riding it free? What do I do with my bike? Why aren’t wheelchairs tied down? What do I need to know to park my car and ride my bike along the streetcar tracks? These issues and more will be covered on Transit Talk on RadioActive Magazine.

Our streetcar will work like this-1. bikes roll on and owners control them (see bike in middle of picture)- 2. wheelchairs roll on, find their designated location and LOCK WHEELS (no tie down). Picture from San Diego Trolley (light rail)

Our streetcar will work like this-1. bikes roll on and owners control them (see bike in middle of picture)- 2. wheelchairs roll on, find their designated location and LOCK WHEELS (no tie down). Picture from San Diego Trolley (light rail)

KCSc_VehicleExteriorGraphics_12-4

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2014: Transit in the Kansas City Region – What happened?

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 2, 2015


2014 was a busy transit year and it is fun to look back to see some of the main stories and think about the future. Links to some of our related posts are included. If you want to get actively involved in on-going transit issues, contact us at TransActionKC@gmail.com or attend our first meeting of 2015 at Noon on January 9th at the KC Central Library at 10th and Baltimore.

1. The Downtown Streetcar

The Downtown Streetcar construction got underway in May and is about one-third complete at year end. Check out KCStreetcar.com for updates. streetcar

Tom Gerend, previously the Assistant Director of Transportation at MARC, was named the Executive Director for the Streetcar Authority.

Please support the businesses along the route. Lunch Mobs are being organized to help these businesses. Check out @kcstreetcar @tacticalurbankc

2. The Streetcar expansion

Kansas City’s August election for three streetcar expansion routes (Independence Avenue, Linwood and Main Street) would have added an additional 7.6 miles to the Downtown Streetcar for a total of 9.8 miles. The Prospect MAX recommendation was 9.1 miles long. Streetcar Steering Committee Releases Recommendations and Draft Report   The proposal lost 60%-40%.  Video – KC Streetcar Expansion Election Watch and Mayor’s Speech

Next_RailRead the final Next Rail report if you aren’t familiar with the Main Street expansion to the Plaza. If the city comes up with a good funding plan, the expansion to the Plaza may be seen again in a couple of years. Next Rail final expansion recommendation

3. KCMO continues to withhold $2.5 million from KCATAKCATA_2014-2015_KCMO_budget

Although the Kansas City budgeted 95% of the revenue from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax to KCATA based on an ordinance TAN initiated in 2010 (it was updated in 2013), the city is withholding $2.5 million from KCATA and causing KCATA’s reserve account to deplete even faster, which is ironic since the city says it is concerned that the KCATA reserve account will deplete itself before 2022; currently estimated to run out in 2018. The city is over $5 million short in its payments to KCAT̄A this year caused by the combination of insufficient sales tax revenue and the additional amount being withheld. KCATA expects the city to short them $5.4 million in 2015.

TAN hopes KCMO pays its bills to the best of its ability by the end of this fiscal year, April 30, 2015. The city administrator is holding the money in case he decides to start out-sourcing part of the bus system to save money. More in 2015.

4. KCATAKCATA

KCATA is working on a comprehensive service analysis to re-design transit downtown.  Attend Public Meetings – Redesigning Downtown KC Transit – July 17 and Downtown Service Improvement Concept 

Map Of Downtown Concept

Map Of Downtown Concept

KCATA continued it re-organization A New Vision for KCATA  and KCATA General Manager Mark E. Huffer Resigns   KCATA is currently looking to fill a new CEO position.

The year ended with KCATA Board of Commissioners re-electing Robbie Makinen for another year as Chair since the reorganization for KCATA isn’t finished and Makinen is doing such a great job pushing the agenda forward. Congratulations! Robbie Makinen Elected KCATA Chair Again 

5. TAN RADIO

Transit Action Network started a semi-regular “Transit Talk” show on 90.1 FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio on the Radio Active Magazine show. This magazine show has numerous activist groups taking turns to inform the community on various issues. TAN Radio archive of previous shows  Interviews covered conversion to CNG buses, a MAX line for Prospect Ave, the KC Streetcar/MAX election ballot, the MO Amendment 7 election, Special Transportation issues, our inability to pay for most rail projects (like rail to the airport), and a talk with Robbie Makinen about changes at KCATA.

KKFI operates a 100,000-watt transmitter, the most powerful allowed by FCC regulations.

KKFI operates a 100,000-watt transmitter, the most powerful allowed by FCC regulations.

The next show is Jan 6 at 6pm on 90.1 FM KKFI – Your Civil Rights Related To Transit – What are they and how to protect them!

6. Sense or Nonsense –New TAN series

Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Increased Property Values Sense or Nonsense? Does rail increase property values? MAKES SENSE

 Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Development  Only light rail systems generate development. NOT SO.

 7. New TAXI style services in KCMO

The KCMO city council started the year by changing the taxi ordinance to allow Independent Transportation Network® (ITN), a non-profit charitable organization to operate a vehicle for hire to transport persons who are 65 years of age or older or visually impaired. Action Alert: KCMO – Please Allow A New Transit Service For The Elderly and Visually Impaired 

Uber and Lyft, App driven ride-sharing services, arrived in KC. Uber received a license to operate, but Lfyt is having legal problems.

REGIONAL TRANSIT ISSUES

It is important to remember that we need better transit throughout the whole region.

A. Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC)Transit_Coordinating_Council-2

  1. The RTCC decided to tackle tough issues: RTCC Tackles Big Transit Issues – Funding and Paratransit 

RTCC requested and received more money for transit projects from allocations of federal money (STP and CMAQ) than has ever been granted, including $10 million allocated for Jackson County purchasing the old Rock Island line and two additional railway spurs from Union Pacific.

  1. There are two groups to advise RTCC: Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF) and the Mobility Advisory Committee (MAC).Transit_Stakeholder_Fourm-2

The TSF is totally open to the public, vague, and doesn’t have members or regular meetings.

We understand that allowing everyone to participate is a new concept at MARC and KCATA, but we think this one needs more work. The forum is very top down and is doesn’t meet regularly like MAC, which meets every other month.

  • Why wasn’t TSF asked for input on the RTCC 2015 workplan? It got to comment on the 2014 plan.
  • When transit projects were developed and prioritized by RTCC for STP and CMAQ funding, the TSF didn’t even get to look at them. (MAC got to prioritize $6 million in funding requests and actually function like an advisory committee-see below)
  • Why isn’t there time for riders to address their issues with the transit agencies?
  • When will TSF function more like a substantive advisory committee?Mobility_AC

MAC, on the other hand, has had only had two meetings, but they are developing a very large membership with voting rights, and they have already recommended a multi-million dollar list of projects to RTCC for allocating 5310 federal funds for paratransit/senior capital and operating money. True, MAC is basically reconvened from the old Special Transportation/JARC Committee at MARC, so they are bringing in the same people as before and expanding.

Mobility Advisory Committee Meets Dec 10

  1. RTCC is leading a regional branding effort that will be rolled out in 2015: RideKC.

B. Seamless Transit Advocacy

Transit Action Network believes the transit system should function in a seamless fashion so that it appears to be run by one agency. We are pleased that the seamless transit concept continues to gain steam. Besides our list of specific seamless transit suggestions Seamless Transit In the Kansas City Region, we advocate for the election of transit friendly public officials and encourage municipalities to return to KCATA for management or management/ operations, which provides the best opportunity for eliminating barriers between the transit systems (The barriers aren’t due to the jurisdictional BORDERS; the problems are caused by operational and infrastructure differences between the transit agencies)

  1. Johnson County

JoCo was in the spotlight at the end of the year with a big county election and a decision to return transit management of The JO and Special Edition to KCATA after 30 years.Johnson County

Online Transit Forum – Candidates for Johnson County Commission 

Big Win for Seamless Transit – The JO Returns to KCATA 

  1. Wyandotte County and Independence

UG logoDuring the year TAN met with Mayor Weir of Independence, Mayor Holland of Unified Government of Wyandotte County and several UG commissioners. Although we advocated for a wide range of transit issues, including better seamless transit, our main thrust was to encourage both entities to bring the rest of their transit service under the management or management/operations of the re-organized KCATA, like Johnson County recently decided. We hear rumblings that this process might start.inde log

  1. Jackson County

Jackson County reached an agreement with Union Pacific for an “option to purchase” the Rock Island right of way plus two spurs for $59.9 million. Jackson County Option to Purchase press release. The agreement has been extended to Sept 2015. Although the County has received $10 million from a federal grant (see RTCC), the County still needs another $50 million for the purchase and that money isn’t easy to come by.

Jackson_County_seal-2This corridor will make a great addition to the Katy Trail, but it showed extremely low ridership for commuter rail in the Jackson County Alternatives Analysis. Ridership between 500 and 1000 trips per day were projected and the line would not qualify for FTA New Starts money at this point. (The Prospect bus has over 6,000 trips daily and it isn’t even a MAX line.)

During 2014 TAN made presentations on financing alternatives for commuter rail and the purchase of the Rock Island property to Jackson County officials. Discussions are continuing.

  1. Unified Government New Transit Route #105 and Bigger Buses to #101

Mayor Holland promised TAN to provide bigger buses to alleviate crowding once the #101 became the new CONNEX service. The improved service went into effect in January 2014. State Ave. CONNEX Gets Big Buses Jan 5

Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

The Rosedale Development Association and the KCK community, along with TAN, secured the new Rosedale Route #105. Event: Opening of 105-Rosedale Route June 30 

  1. C. Environmental Justice Analysis and Tiger Grant

TAN has been in discussions with MARC staff about changes to their Environmental Justice Analysis, which studies how federal transportation money is spent in the region relative to minorities and low-income populations.

The Brookings Institution found that only 18 percent of jobs in the KC region are reachable via transit in 90 minutes or less — ranking the Kansas City region 90th of the 100 largest metros. From a civil rights perspective, we may not be meeting the needs of minorities and low-income populations to get to work by transit. With such a low rate, we  probably aren’t meeting the transit needs of the whole community. Meeting the needs of minorities and low-income populations should be included upfront in any assessment for transportation planning.

MARC received a $1.2 million TIGER planning grant to STUDY the situation. The goal of KC Workforce Connex is doubling transit access to jobs over the next 10 years. A major study area will be along the I-435 corridor between the new Cerner campus and I-35 in Johnson County, which includes the busiest commuter corridor in the region, yet doesn’t have any transit.

D. MO Sales Tax For Transportation Failed

Transit Action Network believes Missouri shouldn’t pass a constitutional amendment to radically change the way we pay for roads and bridgesVotenoon 7 billboard

We spent several months working against this ballot initiative of a 3/4-cent sales tax for transportation, so we were pleased when it failed in August.

Video, Podcasts, Cartoon – VOTE NO On MO Amendment 7 

However, the funding issue for roads isn’t resolved. Raising the gas/diesel taxes is the easiest and cheapest method to administer and probably the smartest option, but Governor Nixon has asked for a study to investigate tolling on I-70. That starts 2015.

Happy New Year and join us in advocating for better transit in our region.

 

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Transit Talk Oct 14 – A Dose of Reality – KKFI 90.1FM‏

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 13, 2014


KKFI 90.1 FM

Why does the Kansas City region fail to qualify for significant federal dollars for most large rail projects, including going to the airport? Why can’t Kansas City pay for most big rail projects by itself? What should we do to change the situation?

A Dose of Reality: Challenges in paying for rail transit in the Kansas City region.

When: Tuesday October 14, 2014 @ 6 PM
Where: Transit Talk on RadioActive Magazine on 90.1 FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio
Listen to the podcast of the show

Janet Rogers, co-founder of Transit Action Network talks with Mark McDowell, a specialist in Finance, a long-term transit advocate who works closely with Transit Action Network, and founding member and past Chair of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, and Dick Jarrold, Vice-President of Regional Planning and Development at KCATA and former Regional Engineer for the Federal Transit Administration during the design and construction of the initial St. Louis MetroLink project.

Background:

Kansas City encounters two major areas of difficulty in paying for rail projects (NOT including voters reluctance to pass elections for funding these projects)

A. Qualifying for Federal matching dollars.

Most cities use federal dollars to help pay for very expensive rail projects.

New Starts –This grant program is the major source of federal funding for rail transit projects. The federal match for rail has shrunken from a norm of 80% down to 50% or less due to lack of federal funding and competition from numerous cities building and expanding rail systems.

  • To qualify for funding, the program requires projects to receive at least an overall medium rating in the FTA evaluation process.
  • According to Shawn Dykes, transit consultant with Parsons Brinckeroff, the most important number in the  project justification analysis for federal funding is cost-effectiveness or annual cost per rider. The FTA is not funding any projects that don’t rate at least medium in Cost Effectiveness. Currently that requires an annual cost/rider number of less than $10 per rider (or trip).

Cost_Effectiveness-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since costs for building streetcars (about $50 million per mile) or light rail (about $60-$70 million per mile) are relatively consistent around the country, the difference in cost-effectiveness for projects is mainly related to the ridership numbers.

Population Densityridership numbers are strongly related to the population density around a proposed rail project. Lack of density in the whole city is immaterial – the evaluation is only concerned about the population within 1 mile of the proposed track.

  • The Kansas City region has good population density in several transit corridors, such as: downtown corridor from River Market to the Plaza, along Independence Ave, 31st Street/Linwood, Prospect Ave, and State Avenue in KCK.
  • There are no well-established high-density transit corridors in Eastern Jackson County or to the airport (No transit corridor has really even been developed to the airport). Therefore, studies show very poor ridership projections for these areas.
  • Calculating projected ridership numbers starts with the current bus ridership in the transit corridor. Neither Eastern Jackson County nor any path to the airport has significant bus ridership to create a good base for rail ridership projections. Getting large ridership numbers between the airport and downtown depends on large numbers of daily riders, like commuters, not the occasional bump from 5 to 10 large conventions.
  • Commuter rail from Eastern Jackson County into Kansas City or light rail to the airport do not qualify for the FTA medium rating for cost-effectiveness (cost/rider under $10) and therefore fail the first hurdle in receiving federal New Starts funding.

TIGER Grant– Kansas City has done very well receiving TIGER grants, another source of federal funding. However, they are limited to about $20 million dollars. This amount is great for small projects like the two-mile downtown streetcar, but it doesn’t have a significant impact on a billion dollar project like light rail to the airport.

B. Generating local revenue for rail projects

Rail projects are very expensive. Most cities can’t pay for large projects themselves and need a federal match. Small starter lines, like the Downtown Streetcar, are often paid for locally.

Kansas City has a very hard time getting any rail projects approved by voters. Even if the voters approve a rail project, Kansas City struggles to generate enough money to pay for the project.

Building a rail line is just like building a new house.  You have to borrow the money and pay off a house mortgage or in the case of rail, pay off bonds.

You can only build a house that you can afford to pay off the monthly mortgage. If you only make $30,000 a year, you aren’t going to build a $400,000 house. You can’t afford the monthly/yearly payment.

Building rail has the same cash flow problem. The city borrows the money and issues bonds, then they have to be able to pay the yearly bond payments, usually though tax collections.

Revenue Capacity Kansas City’s revenue generation is  too low in many cases to meet the bond payments for large rail projects, even if the feds pay half the project cost.  The streetcar expansion project required half the money from federal grants, yet the proposed Transportation Development District would not generate all of the money for the other half. If the proposal had passed, the city had to close the funding gap through other methods or shorten the routes.  

What about paying for light rail to the airport? Kansas City definitely can’t pay for light rail to the airport at this point in time.

Light rail to the airport: 17 miles at the low-end of cost, $60 million per mile, is $1.020 billion – plus add the cost of upgrading or building a new bridge and yearly operating and maintenance costs. Depending on the terms of the bond issue the yearly bond payment may easily range from $70 million to $90 million.

A city-wide 3/8 percent sales tax, like the sum of the two ballot measures on the Nov 4 ballot, will only generate about $27 million annually. Kansas City can’t pay for light rail to the airport by itself and the route won’t qualify for New Starts federal funding at this point. The cost/rider number to the airport is way over $10 per person. (high cost/low ridership)

Using a TDD for local funding:

In a Transportation Development District, the people who benefit from the transit are the ones voting. The district is usually smaller than a city-wide vote so the tax rates will be significantly higher in order to generate enough money to pay for rail. This model was successful for the Downtown Streetcar.

A Step in the Right Direction:

In order to qualify for federal matching funds, we need to develop high-density, mixed use corridors with great bus service. In order to do so the City needs to highly incentivize projects in those corridors. Create great mixed use, higher density, transit corridors that attract people and business, then let them grow so that ridership will qualify for federal matching dollars and they will have the revenue density necessary to fund rail projects.

When there are large rail studies, petition initiatives or votes for rail projects, people need to ask about the FTA cost-effectiveness number and the overall rating for receiving federal New Starts funding.  This is the first hurdle to getting significant federal matching funds. If the project won’t come close to even qualifying for New Starts funding, ask if we can we pay for it ourselves with sales and property taxes and then ask if we want to.

Our next RadioActive Magazine Transit Talk is November 18th at 6 pm on 90.1FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio.

 

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Video – KC Streetcar Expansion Election Watch and Mayor’s Speech

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 6, 2014


Mayor Sly James addressed a crowd of streetcar supporters after the August 5th election to create a Transportation Development District failed. The district would have been used to fund the Streetcar Expansion Project. Although the plan did not get voter support, the mayor feels that the city will expand the streetcar system in the future. He feels once people see the Downtown Streetcar their ideas will change. Mayor James says “This issue is not over”.  Watch his complete remarks here.streetcar

Final Vote –  No 60%, Yes 40%

 

 

 

 

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Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Development

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 31, 2014


There is a lot of talk about the streetcar generating development. The following information attempts to shed light on this issue. Answers have been gleaned from the sources indicated below.

This article will be updated periodically as we become aware of additional information and the series will be available on the website under the tab “Special Topics” – Sense or Nonsense?

Construction along Cleveland's Health Line

Construction along Cleveland’s Health Line

Only light rail systems generate development.

Thumbs downNOT SO.

 As the photo of the Cleveland Bus Rapid Transit system makes clear, development can be encouraged by any form of mass transit, whether light rail, streetcar or bus-rapid-transit. More important than the transit mode, keys to development around transit are additional government incentives. These are most typically in the form of rezoning and traditional development subsidies, but can also include tangible improvements such as streetscaping, in the case of Cleveland, or Denver’s $1.4 billion redevelopment of their Union Station as a transit and commercial hub.

****

Sources:

 Streetcars

1. System(s) studied: Streetcars in Tampa, Seattle and Portland

Summary of findings: Vacant and underdeveloped land just beyond walking distance to the city center offers the most potential for appreciation. However, much depends on local conditions. The increase in average property values along the Tampa streetcar, although large, were less than increases in the county as a whole. A large component of property appreciation is the effect of rezoning to higher use. In the case of Seattle and Portland increases in value were due to a major development project in each city which included development of a streetcar along with other infrastructure, and up-zoning of a large swath of under utilized land.

Institution: Center for Transit Oriented Development, Reconnecting America

Contact: http://www.ctod.org/

Title: “Value Capture and Tax-Increment Financing Options for Streetcar Construction”

Authors: Not given, Date: circa 2009

Cleveland's BRT-1

Cleveland’s BRT

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – Yes, MAX style buses can be used effectively for development. 

(Listed in chronological order of publication.)

2. System(s) studied: 21 different systems including the Kansas City MAX (BRT), Cleveland HealthLine (BRT), Portland MAX (light rail), Portland Streetcar, Seattle South Lake Union Streetcar, and 16 more.

Summary of findings: Strongest predictor of success in achieving development around transit is government support – financial, regulatory and marketing. The second most important factor is the strength of the land market surrounding the transit corridor prior to the introduction of new transit service. Light rail, streetcars and Bus Rapid Transit can all stimulate major investment in a corridor. But, Bus Rapid Transit is far more cost-effective.

Institution: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

Contact: (212) 629-8001, www.itdp.org

Title: More Development For Your Transit Dollar, an Analysis of 21 North American Transit Corridors

Authors: Walter Hook, Stephanie Lotshaw, and Annie Weinstock, Date: 2013

3. System(s) studied:. Cleveland HealthLine, Bus Rapid Transit

Summary of findings: The HealthLine has been a catalyst for development along the route. A key factor was designing the system with amenities more typical of light rail systems and upgrading the streetscape all along the route.

Institution: Urban Land Institute

Contact: Trisha Riggs, Vice President of Communications: 202-624-7086; e-mail: priggs@uli.org

Title: “HealthLine Drives Growth in Cleveland”, in “UrbanLand”

Authors: Jason Hellendrung, Date: July 13, 2012

Cleveland's BRT - 2

Cleveland’s BRT – Amenities at Station

4. System(s) studied: BRT in Seoul, South Korea

Summary of findings: “Land price premiums of up to 10% were estimated for residences within 300 m of BRT stops and more than 25% for retail and other non-residential uses over a  smaller impact zone of 150 m. The research findings underscore the importance of introducing zoning and other land regulatory changes prior to the initiation of BRT improvements….”

Institution: Elsevier

Contact: Tel.: +1 510 642 1695; fax: +1 520 642 1641

Title: ” Bus rapid transit impacts on land uses and land values in Seoul, Korea”, in “Transport Policy”

Authors: Robert Cervero, Chang Deok Kang, Date: 2011

5. System(s) studied: Boston, Silver Line BRT

Summary of findings: BRT generated an average price premium on the sale price of condominiums along the route of 7.6% – comparable to what is seen for light rail.

Institution: Federal Transit Administration / University of South Florida, National Bus Rapid Transit Institute

Contact: National Bus Rapid Transit Institute, http://www.nbrti.org

Title: “Land Use Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit: Phase II….”

Authors: Victoria A. Perk, Martin Catala, Steven Reader, Ph.D, Date: July 2012

6. System(s) studied: Pittsburg, BRT

Summary of findings: Values of single-family homes increase as the property gets closer to a BRT station.

Institution: Federal Transit Administration / University of South Florida, National Bus Rapid Transit Institute

Contact: National Bus Rapid Transit Institute, http://www.nbrti.org

Title: “Land Use Impacts of Bus Rapid Transit: Effects of BRT Station Proximity….”

Authors: Victoria A. Perk, Martin Catala, Date: December 2009

Contributor: Mark McDowell

 

 

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Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Increased Property Values

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 29, 2014


There is a lot of talk about the streetcar increasing property values. The following information attempts to shed light on this issue. Answers have been gleaned from the sources indicated below.

This article will be updated periodically as we become aware of additional information and the series will be available on the website under the tab “Special Topics” – Sense or Nonsense?

Does rail increase property values?

 Thumbs-upMAKES SENSE

Generally, streetcars and light rail increase property values for 1/4 to 1/2 mile around stops. The greatest beneficiaries are residential properties and properties that are rezoned to higher use (for example from “light industrial” to “multi-story office”). The extent of increase is dependent on many extraneous factors as well. Likewise, because rail is just one of the factors that affect property values, other areas of a city may see greater appreciation than those served by rail.The extent of increase is dependent on many extraneous factors as well. Likewise, because rail is just one of the factors that affect property values, other areas of a city may see greater appreciation than those served by rail. There is some evidence that the extent of value appreciation is tied to savings from reduction in transit time of the rail mode compared with alternative modes. Rail typically decreases property values along the right-of-way between stops, but to a small extent. Streetcars may have stops sufficiently close together so that every property is located near a stop.

****

Sources:

Streetcar Study:

1. System(s) studied: Streetcars in Tampa, Seattle and Portland

Summary of findings: Vacant and underdeveloped land just beyond walking distance to the city center offers the most potential for appreciation. However, much depends on local conditions. The increase in average property values along the Tampa streetcar, although large, was less than increases in the county as a whole. A large component of property appreciation is the effect of rezoning to higher use. In the case of Seattle and Portland increases in value were affected by major development projects in each city. In Portland this included large infrastructure investments including streets, sewers and utilities, along with a streetcar, and rezoning of an abandoned rail yard. In Seattle it was affected by the rezoning of six blocks of light industrial properties to multi-story office and the commitment of Amazon to build eleven office buildings on the site.Portland illustration hope-2

Institution: Center for Transit Oriented Development, Reconnecting America

Contact: http://www.ctod.org/

Title: “Value Capture and Tax-Increment Financing Options for Streetcar Construction”

Authors: Not given, Date: circa 2009

Light Rail Studies:

Listed in chronological order of publication -newest studies first

2. System(s) studied: Hudson – Bergen light rail (New Jersey)

Summary of findings: This was a longitudinal study looking at resale values over a seventeen-year period. Properties near stations had high property value appreciation. Properties along the line away from stations experienced lower than average appreciation.

Institution: Transportation Research Board

Contact: Transportation Research Board, 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Title: “The Impact of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail on Residential Property Values”

Authors: Kyeongsu Kim and Michael L. Lahr, Date: 2011

3. System(s) studied: River Line (rail using DMU’s in New Jersey)

Summary of findings: Line is highly successful with ridership near capacity. Nevertheless the impact on property values is neutral to slightly negative with residences in low-income census tracks near stations appreciating while more distant properties showing no or negative changes.

Institution: University of California

Contact: dgc@berkeley.edu

Title: “Evaluating the Economic Impacts of Light Rail by Measuring Home Appreciation: A First Look at New Jersey’s River Line”

Authors: Daniel G. Chapman, Nicholas K. Tulach, Kyeongsu Kim, Date: May 25, 2011

4. System(s) studied: Charlotte light rail

Summary of findings: Study looked at neighborhoods around light rail stops rather than just areas close to stops. Light rail resulted in neighborhood value increases for up to a mile from stops. There was no impact on commercial properties.

Institution: University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Contact: stephen.billings@uncc.edu

Title: “Estimating Value of a New Transit Option”

Authors: Stephen B. Billings, Date: March 15, 2011

5. System(s) studied: Minneapolis Hiawatha Line (light rail)

Summary of findings: Residential, both single and multi-family, near stations on the west side of the line saw significant increase in property values after the 2004 opening. The east side of the line is comprised largely of industrial properties, which saw no increase in value.

Institution: University Of Minnesota, Center for Transportation Studies

Contact: NA

Title: “The Hiawatha Line: Impacts on Land Use and Residential Housing Value”

Authors: Edward G. Goetz, Kate Ko, Aaron Hagar, Hoang Ton, Jeff Matson, Date: Feb. 2010

6. System(s) studied: Sacramento Light Rail

Summary of findings: No relationship between property values and proximity to a light rail station or line.

Institution: Bay Area Economics

Contact: Taiwo Jaiyeoba, (916) 557-4536, Alexander Quinn (530) 750-2195

Title: “Sacramento RT Economic Impacts of Light Rail”

Authors: Bay Area Economics, Date: September 8, 2005

7. System(s) studied: Portland Light Rail

Summary of findings: “….there have been some positive effects of rail on single-family  property values.”

Institution: Center for Urban Studies, Portland State University

Contact: (503) 725-4020

Title: “Effects of Light Rail Transit in Portland, Implications for Transit Oriented Development Design Concepts”

Authors: Kenneth J Dueker (duekerk@pdx.edu), Martha J. Blanco (martha@upa.pdx.edu), Date: 1998

Multi-modal studies:

8. System(s) studied: Meta-study of earlier studies of 7 rail systems including BART (San Francisco, heavy rail), Metrorail (Miami-Dade County, heavy rail), PATCO (New Jersey, heavy rail), SEPTA (Philadelphia; commuter rail), MAX light rail (Portland), MARTA (Atlanta, heavy rail), Spadina Ave. line (Toronto, streetcar); plus one narrowly focused study of five systems in Northern California

Summary of findings: Rail systems increase property values. A residence will most likely increase in value if it is in a lower to middle income, stable neighborhood, and within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of a station but not adjacent to a station. The more extensive the rail system, the larger the increase in property values. The amount of increase in property values is closely tied to the time savings of rail versus other transportation alternatives.

Institution: Booze Allen Hamilton Inc.

Contact: Roderick B. Diaz

Title: Conference Proceedings Paper; American Public Transit Association Rapid Transit Conference

Authors: Roderick B. Diaz, Date: May 1999

Contributor: Mark McDowell

 

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Is MoDOT About to Sabotage Our Amtrak Service?

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 1, 2014


MOTMWe have been hearing — direct from MoDOT staff — that getting a reliable funding stream for Missouri’s twice-daily Missouri River Runner passenger rail service is one of the advantages of having the proposed 3/4 percent sales tax for transportation.

Now we hear that the trains will not be part of the sales tax project list, and that we’ll continue to have to go to the General Assembly for annual appropriations out of general revenue.

Boarding at KC Union Station

Boarding at KC Union Station

So we posed the question to MoDOT via Twitter:

“@MoDOT – Serious question: How do you propose that @MoRiverRunner be funded? What about funding additional service? Response please. Thx.”

We have received their response:

“@MoRiverRunner definitely a valuable service for Missourians. MoDOT will continue to pursue general revenue funds for it.”

 Translation: Passenger rail won’t be part of the sales tax package.

This makes no sense to us. If the voters pass this sales tax then Legislators will say:  “Hey, MoDOT, we let you ask voters for a sales tax with the flexibility to fund transportation choices. Now you are back here again asking for money for Amtrak? Give us a break!”

Amtrak at KC Union Station

Amtrak at KC Union Station

If this is true, it would run counter to MoDOT’s expressed desire to provide expanded transportation choices, in response to citizen input during the recent “On The Move” long range transportation plan process.

What gives, MoDOT?

The explanation we got just days ago from a mid-level MoDOT representative was that they were concerned that the sales tax funding might not extend beyond the ten-year span of this “temporary” sales tax. Well, if that’s the case, how do they justify doing anything? Nothing is certain about the future. Isn’t ten years of certainty for passenger rail a whole lot better than ten years of annual uncertainty?

MoDOT staff have worked for years with Amtrak and the Union Pacific (the host railroad) to speed up the trains and prepare for eventually expanding the service by adding a third and fourth daily round trip. Don’t undercut all that work by putting the Missouri River Runner trains back on a year-at-a-time, hand-to-mouth basis. If you do, MoDOT, your credibility will be seriously damaged.

Amtrak passengers loading at Jeff City to go to St. Louis.

Amtrak passengers loading at Jeff City to go to St. Louis.

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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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Streetcar Corridor Workshop Meetings Feb 26, 27 and Mar 6

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 26, 2014


The  Next Rail project team for the Phase 2 streetcar extension is having the second round of corridor workshops starting this week.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Corridor Workshops Round #2

Linwood Boulevard/31st Street Corridor Meeting

Wednesday, February 26 @ 6-8 PM
Mohart Multi-Purpose Center
3200 Wayne Ave, Kansas City, MO 64109

 Independence Avenue Corridor Meeting

Thursday, February 27 @ 6-7:30 PM
Don Bosco Senior Center
580 Campbell St, Kansas City, MO 64106

 Main Street Plus Corridor Meeting

Thursday, March 6 @ 6-8 PM
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
4041 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111

Get the latest information, ask questions and express your concerns or undying support for the project. Some misinformation is already circulating about the proposed streetcar system.  Don’t let bad information affect your judgment of the project.

Another way to get a deeper understanding of what is being planned is to read the System Wide Analysis that Next Rail published in November 2013.   Next Rail KC System Overview TDD-Expansion-Map-787x1024

Last November this report provided the basis for choosing  the three routes for further study. The information in this preliminary report is being used to advance the plan, including an amendment to the region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan at MARC, and developing the potential boundaries of the Transportation Development District (TDD). Read the Next Rail FAQ on the proposed TDD and information on the tax structure. Proposed-Expansion-TDD-FAQ

Proposed Streetcar routes - Plain. Click to enlarge.

Proposed Streetcar routes – Plain. Click to enlarge.

An important question for the workshops is “Has the subsequent detailed study of the three selected corridors changed any of the assumptions or outcomes from the preliminary report?”

The final report isn’t due until the end of March or beginning of April, so the plan is still in flux, and public input can make a difference.

Pages  10-11 of the Next Rail System Overview report have the evaluation matrix used to choose the routes. It includes summary information like projected cost and preliminary ridership numbers. It is clear why the city chose Main Street, Independence Avenue and 31st Street/Linwood for further study. However, since the numbers in this report are only preliminary, expect to see changes in the final report.

Although everyone wants to know which routes will go forward,  you won’t hear that yet. Here is a table of the possible streetcar lengths, not including the downtown streetcar of 2.2 miles. The maximum length of all the streetcar routes being considered for the extension is 16.4 miles. Obviously the city isn’t going to construct all of this now.  The city has talked about 8-10 miles of additional routes, but that depends on how much federal money it can get. Help the city determine the highest priorities for construction.GetInline

BUSES: We are concerned about how the streetcar will coordinate with bus service in the three corridors, particularly the extent to which riders might have to transfer between streetcar and bus to complete trips that do not currently require a transfer. 

Starting on page 120 of the Next Rail System Overview there is a section titled Impacts on existing transit service that generally describes how the streetcar service would integrate with the current bus transit system.  Keep in mind that this is a plan and can be changed.

Please attend the Corridor Workshops and bring your questions.

As discussions continue about streetcar extensions, don’t forget how exciting it is that construction has started on the Downtown Streetcar. Remember the journey to get to this point and watch TAN’s videos on the KC Streetcar Stroll  and the party celebrating the election win, KC Streetcar Party, on TAN videos

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Public Meeting for Streetcar Expansion – North of the River – Nov 21

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 20, 2013


Want to get involved in the expansion of the streetcar north of the river? NorthRail_Kick-Off_Flyer

Attend the first public meeting and share your ideas.

When: Thursday, November 21, 6:00PM to 8:00PM
Where: Community Room, North Kansas City Community Center
1999 Iron St, North Kansas City, MO 64116

Direct questions to Karen Clawson at kclawson@marc.org

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Attend The Site Dedication for the Streetcar Vehicle Maintenance Facility – NOV 7

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 4, 2013


Site Dedication for the Downtown Streetcar Vehicle Maintenance FacilityStreetcar-Blast-Invitation

When: November 7, 2013 at Noon

Where: 600 East Third Street, KCMO 64106

See the Invitation for a map and more details.

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Denver Commercial Development Booms Around Transit Stops

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 9, 2013


The new commuter rail "Canopy" at Denver's historic Union Station. The old station building is at the top of the photograph connected to the rail terminal by the portico shown; and to buses and light rail by facilities below the rail level.

The new commuter rail “Canopy” at Denver’s historic Union Station. The old station building is at the top of the photograph connected to the rail terminal by the portico shown; and to buses and light rail by facilities below the rail level.

The Regional Transit Alliance series on Transit and Economic Development recently had a luncheon talk by Phillip A. Washington, General Manager of Denver’s Regional Transit District (RTD).  Mr. Washington testified to the ability of transit to concentrate development around transit stations. The RTD is an active partner in development, with a Manager of Development and a staff of five people.

Rendering of Denver Union Station showing new streets, pedestrian mall and underground bus-way. Note development on either side of street/pedestrian mall. Subterranean walkway, surface streets and pedestrian mall connect to light rail stop.

Rendering of Denver Union Station showing new streets, pedestrian mall and underground bus-way. Note development on either side of street/pedestrian mall. Subterranean walkway, surface streets and pedestrian mall connect to light rail stop.

As readers of this blog are probably aware, Denver already had a large transit network, both rail and bus, and is now in the midst of a $4.7 billion transit improvement project called “Fastracks“. The program includes light rail, commuter rail, BRT, and a radical re-purposing of the old Denver Union Station as a multimodal hub.

The Union Station part of the project alone will cost about $500 million and utilizes some nine different funding sources including six different Federal sources. The light rail facility is located a few blocks from the commuter rail and bus facility. The distance between the two is spanned by a wide pedestrian mall which was part of approximately 50 acres of vacant land (former rail yards) surrounding the station. See an artist’s rendering of the completed mall.

Land not used for transit facilities is being developed by a partnership of Union Station Neighborhood Corporation, two private development companies in the Denver area, the RTD, and the City of Denver. The next photograph shows the new Union Station Light Rail facility and some recent development around Union Station.

With 50 acres of downtown real estate, two of the most experienced developers in Denver as partners, and RTD’s own staff focused on development, one is not surprised that Mr. Washington is bullish on development around transit stations. One might add, “And how!”.

New Union Station light rail facility on first day of operations of the "West Line" light rail. Note new mixed use development in background.

New Union Station light rail facility on first day of operations of the “West Line” light rail. Note new mixed use development in background.

The photograph also shows the opening day of the West Line or “W Line”, light rail line. Opened in April, 2013, it was the first part of the FasTracks project completed. Running 12.1 miles between Denver Union Station and Golden, Colorado, at a cost of $709 million; the line is estimated to carry 18,000 riders per day. In fact, ridership was about 14,000 in the initial months, without the benefit of college students commuting to colleges along the route.

Eighteen thousand riders per day sounds staggering to anyone familiar with ridership estimates for Kansas City area transit projects over the years. For example, the Ridership Comparison chart shows Denver’s West Line compared with two current Kansas City area projects. (Ridership for the I-70 commuter rail is the average ridership projected from the two models used for the 3rd and Grand terminus in the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCC AA))

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

These projects are not strictly comparable as they include different modes, serve different sorts of neighborhoods, and Denver’s ‘W Line’ is integrated into an existing rail transit network. Be that as it may, Kansas City projects generally continue to show low estimated ridership numbers compared with projects elsewhere – a consequence of our history of well designed boulevards and extensive interstate system.

Low estimated ridership for rail proposals also causes cost-per-rider to be high. This measure of cost effectiveness, used by the Federal Transit Administration, often inhibits the Kansas City area’s ability to attract Federal Funds.

Note however, as the  Annual Capital Cost per Rider chart indicates, that the downtown streetcar, which recently received a Federal TIGER grant, has a lower cost per rider than Denver’s West Line. This is due to both lower construction cost per mile and relatively strong ridership for the short 2 mile distance.

By contrast, the proposed Jackson County commuter rail project has a very high cost per rider due to very low estimated ridership, even though the capital cost, at $385 million (average of estimated range from the JCCC AA), is much lower than Denver’s West Line.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

While it is a good measure of system efficiency, ridership is not the only factor relevant to evaluating a transit project’s success. Commercial development and indirect job creation are other important parameters, as Mr. Washington pointed out.

One of the lessons to be drawn from his talk, albeit indirectly, is that development around transit stations doesn’t just happen, It requires the transit agency and units of local government to be proactive, and partner with experienced developers from the private sector to make projects happen. Surely it also helps if you have fifty acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the city center that happens to also be next to one of your stations.

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TIGER Grant Reduces Need To Take Money From The Buses

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 15, 2013


TIGERTransit Action Network is very excited about the city receiving the Federal $20 million TIGER grant. These grants are very competitive and there are a lot more applications than there is money to distribute.

We congratulate Kansas City on its successful application. As the US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, told  the Kansas City Star when he was in Kansas City on September 6 to announce the grant,  “The community has its act together in a big way,” he said. “Coming together to put an 80 percent match on the table — we know what the overall vision for Kansas City is.”

DTSC

You may wonder why the city only had 80% of the money. The 20% streetcar-funding shortfall that Foxx referred to happened when Kansas City decided to reduce the top rates for the TDD (Transportation Development District) property tax prior to the streetcar election. In the original plan, the top property tax rates, combined with the sales tax, would have fully funded the streetcar from revenue collected within the TDD. In order to close the funding gap the city created, the city plans to take $2 million a year from the revenue generated by the city-wide 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax. This sales tax is used to pay for bus service. Since the federal government is now filling that funding gap through the TIGER grant, the city shouldn’t need to tap the half-cent sales tax. Applying that yearly $2 million toward bus service would come close to paying for a new MAX line on Prospect, or on another urban corridor such as Independence Avenue or North Oak Trafficway. METRO logo

We hope the city will do the right thing and use this TIGER grant money to fill the streetcar funding gap, thereby reducing or eliminating entirely the amount taken from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax. The federal TIGER grant for the streetcar is a huge win for everyone, provided the city uses it to restore money that would otherwise be diverted from the bus system.

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NEXT RAIL – Streetcar Expansion Kickoff Event – August 8

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 31, 2013


Next_RailKC needs your ideas on how to move forward with Phase 2, an expansion of the streetcar system.

August 8

Union Station

30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64108

6pm – 8pm

According to the NEXT Rail Facebook page, “Through a community-based and data-driven process, the City of Kansas City, Missouri will develop a plan for the expansion of the Downtown Streetcar line into a citywide network that creates new connections between people and places and catalyzes the revitalization of our neighborhoods. “DTSC

Join them at the NEXT Rail kickoff event:

Agenda

6:00 PM Opening remarks by Mayor Sly James and other elected officials
6:30 PM Public presentation on the project
7:00 PM Interactive model exercise

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Action Alert! Tell Congress To Fund Rail, Transit and TIGER

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 19, 2013


Transportation_for_AmericaPlease use Transportation For America‘s link to urge the Senate to protect money for Amtrak, TIGER grants, and New Starts (which funds new rail projects). The proposed House budget slashes funding for these projects.  In addition, the Senate version contains a small new grant program to help repair 66,000-plus structurally deficient bridges across the country.

Comparing_budgets

T4America’s budget comparison

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Take the KC Streetcar Stops Survey

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 19, 2013


KC_streetcarHelp the design team for the KC Downtown Streetcar choose the design for the streetcar stops. Review the options then take the survey to communicate your thoughts on conceptual plans for streetcar stops.  View the drawings for the five different designs for stops as well as pictures of the existing streetscape in three locations.  Click here to take the survey  Streetcar Survey(inactive). streetcar_survey

The survey is only available until next Friday, May 24, 2013.

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Getting Commuter Rail Downtown Faces Major Hurdles

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 30, 2013


sixtracks

Kansas City Southern train in “trench” east of Union Station, probably taken in the 1950’s from Forrest Ave. Bridge. Note the six tracks in the trench. The next bridge east is Tracy Ave. Note the ramp which rises from the bottom of the trench on the right and comes up toward the viewer under Tracy Ave. and another one going back toward the east. These carried tracks from the trench level up to businesses on the right. In fact you may be able to make out a freight car next to the brick building on the far right.

jc_ccaa_logo_vertLast month Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders announced that there would be no transit election this year. The decision was due to a newly emerged disagreement with Kansas City Southern Railroad concerning the location of the downtown terminus of the I-70 corridor commuter rail line. Based on earlier discussions with the railroads, the County was planning for a Downtown terminus near Third and Grand in River Market. Now, it appears, Kansas City Southern is insisting the line terminate at Union Station.

Since Mr. Sander’s announcement, the Transit Action Network has noticed, in remarks by individuals as well as press accounts, a lack of understanding of the factors affecting the County’s decision. We decided to publish this note in order to provide those interested with more information about the choice of a downtown station site.

The costs and benefits of the two options can be viewed along three dimensions: estimated ridership, commercial development potential, and cost. The chart below summarizes the two options for downtown locations in these terms.

Comparison of Third and Grand and Union Station

 Sites for Commuter Rail Terminus

Third and Grand

Union Station

Estimated Daily Ridership[1] 

I – 70 Corridor

Current Study (Est. for 2035)

1,150 to 2,800

—–

2007 Study (Est. for 2030)

815 to 1,190

1,060 to 1,548

2002 Study (Est. for 2020)

—–

3,346 to 4,160

Estimated Cost of Construction[2] of a “Common Line”

$109,355,000

$1,000,000,000

Commercial Potential[3]

No value yet estimated No value yet estimated

The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has completed four commuter rail studies over the past couple decades. The first of these studies examined the possibility of commuter rail in the I-35 corridor to the Southwest, in Johnson County. Union Station was to be the downtown terminus of this route. There has never been a problem getting to the station from the West. Although this corridor has always shown the greatest ridership potential, the I-35 project died because it basically required laying an additional track from Union Station to Olathe. Johnson County voters were not expected to support the high cost of such a project.

View from Forest Ave. today. Note overgrown bridge abutments where the Tracy Ave. bridge used to be. We assume railroad right-of-way extends approximately from the wall of the building on the left to at least the bridge abutment on the right and possibly to the building out of the picture on the right. This picture provides a better view of the old ramp system bringing tracks up to street level.

View from Forest Ave. today. Note overgrown bridge abutments where the Tracy Ave. bridge used to be. We assume railroad right-of-way extends approximately from the wall of the building on the left to at least the bridge abutment on the right and possibly to the building out of the picture on the right. This picture provides a better view of the old ramp system bringing tracks up to street level.

The next MARC study in 2002 examined the possibility of commuter rail along various routes in both Kansas and Missouri. Of the routes studied the I-70 corridor was the most attractive in terms of potential ridership with a maximum of 4,160 passengers per day in 2020. This study assumed that the downtown terminus would be Union Station. There was no evaluation of the feasibility getting to Union Station compared with other locations.

Grand Avenue bridge. An example of one of the bridges that would have to be modified in order to  accommodate a fourth track.

Grand Avenue bridge. An example of one of the bridges that would have to be modified in order to accommodate a fourth track.

The next study, in 2007, focused just on the I-70 corridor, was far more detailed than the 2002 study, and examined both express bus and commuter rail. It used two different forecasting models with varying assumptions imposed on each. Using these models daily ridership estimates ranged from 815 at the low end for a station in River Market to 1,548 as a maximum for service into Union Station. It was in this study that the problem of getting to Union Station first surfaced. As the chart above indicates, it is extremely costly to get to the station from the east. (We will discuss the reasons for this subsequently.) So it was decided that a commuter rail route would preferably terminate in the River Market area. The problem with this was that the ridership forecasting models indicated, overall, about a 30% drop in ridership compared with Union Station. There were two reasons for this: First, commuters would have to transfer to buses to get to their ultimate destinations. (The downtown streetcar was not foreseen at the time.) Research suggests transfers between rail and bus cause a substantial drop in system use. Secondly, the combined travel time of commuter rail plus bus would be significantly longer than the drive time from a commuter’s home directly to their downtown office. Because of this and the large costs entailed in any rail system, commuter rail found no proponents and the idea withered.

That brings us to County Executive Mike Sanders’ vision for expanding transit throughout Jackson County. The County Executive’s plan incorporates commuter rail, express bus, a greatly enhanced county-wide local bus system, and a system of bike and pedestrian trails.

With the County Executive’s backing, MARC began the current study of the I-70 and Rock Island corridors in 2010. An additional study of the Highway 71 corridor was added later and is still underway. A series of ever more detailed study phases produced the most detailed information so far for both the I-70 corridor and the “Rock Island Corridor” to Lee’s Summit (and eventually, to Pleasant Hill). These two routes would come together in the southeast corner of the East Bottoms in the Blue River flood plain near an area called “Rock Creek Junction”. They would then proceed into the city on a “common line”, either to Third and Grand in the River Market or to Union Station (or vicinity).

Looking East from Vine toward  Woodland Ave. bridge

Woodland Avenue bridge (taken from the Vine Street bridge.) The “trench” narrows from here to its start at the 18th Street bridge. A fourth track at the same level as existing tracks would require excavation along one side of the trench.

Getting to River Market requires acquisition of right-of-way from the City of Kansas City along the North side of Kessler Park, construction of a bridge over the Blue River and adjacent north-south mainline tracks, and construction of track between Rock Creek Junction and a station at Third and Grand. The cost is estimated, according to the draft “Locally Preferred Alternative” report prepared by MARC, at $113.3 million, including a station at Third and Grand costing $4 million.

The Union Station route looks deceptively simple. The tracks to Union Station are already there at Rock Creek Junction. So, just run commuter trains on them. Problem solved, cost $0. But this idea is unlikely to work. The tracks through this corridor are part of several key nationally significant rail corridors. The problem is the corridor is already almost at capacity with well over 100 trains a day. Meanwhile, national rail freight traffic is expected to double over the next 20 years[4]. The railroads will not allow their infrastructure to be used in a manner that interferes with their primary business of moving freight. So adding commuter trains, which demand close adherence to fixed schedules, in an already crowded corridor, is not viewed favorably by the railroads.

Another option then is to build an additional track from Rock Creek Junction to Union Station. This turns out to be extremely expensive. According to a consultant working with the MARC team, who has looked closely at this alternative in the past, the cost would be around $1 billion – almost ten times the cost of going to Third and Grand! Here’s the problem. For approximately two miles east of Union Station the tracks lie in a “trench” (Grand Ave. to 18th Street, just east of the “Benton curve” on I-70). When Union Station was built, the trench contained four “thru” tracks. There were additionally two tracks on either side of the thru tracks which led to other tracks running up and down the sides of the trench serving rail shippers lining the right-of-way above track level.  [See black and white photograph of arriving Kansas City Southern train taken from (we think) the Forest Ave. bridge in, probably, the 1950’s.] Today there are just three tracks in the trench. This is for two reasons: Revised safety standards have increased the distance between tracks thought to be safe, and changes in maintenance practices since 1914 require the use of rubber-tired, road-based equipment. So the trench now needs to accommodate a service road. Therefore, in order to add an additional track two things are required: 1. One of the sides of the trench would need to be excavated for at least part of the two-mile length, and 2. Most of the 15 bridges that cross the trench would have to be modified or rebuilt. [See photographs from Google Maps below to get an understanding of the topography and bridge constraints.] It is not difficult to intuitively understand the $1 billion figure.

So is the commuter rail project dead? Very large infrastructure projects require the alignment of numerous parties’ interests and this inevitably creates hurdles along the way to an agreement. Currently, the railroads have agreed to contract for a third party capacity study of existing rail infrastructure. This might reveal that, contrary to the railroad’s beliefs, there is capacity for commuter trains on some basis. Or, perhaps a way will be found to add a fourth track in the trench more cost-effectively. Perhaps clearing the next hurdle may require just another healthy dose of creativity and/or negotiating acumen. Sometimes an idea just won’t work out and the effort has to be abandoned, at least temporarily, until conditions are more favorable.

Given the time, money, and public commitment spent doing transit studies for Jackson County over the past few years, TAN hopes that some tangible transit improvements will result near term, even if commuter rail can not be immediately realized.

See the KC Smart Moves website for updates on the current Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

————————————————————————————

[1] These ridership estimates are far from comparable. They represent estimates from four different forecasting models performed over a ten year period, incorporating different relationships between variables, different parameters and different assumptions. Ridership forecasting models are notoriously inaccurate in any case. Today forecasting models tend to err on the side of conservatism so most, but not all, of the newer commuter rail systems have exceeded ridership forecasts; often times by considerable margins.

[2] The cost estimate for getting to Union Station was provided by one of the consultants involved in the current study. It was not prepared for the current MARC sponsored study. It’s date is unknown. Neither estimate includes cost of station, or station upgrades. Sources: MARC “Locally Preferred Alternative” draft and a consultant to the project team.

[3] Because the Union Station alternative was dismissed early in the latest series of studies, there has not been a formal, quantitative analysis of the development potential for each of the two alternative station locations. There is vacant and underutilized property around each, but an analysis of the potential total value of viable projects has not been developed

[4]  MARC, “Regional Transit Implementation Plan – Commuter Corridors “, p.  2-7, 2010

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KCATA Workshop: Planning Downtown Service for Kansas City’s Future – April 4

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 4, 2013


Please attend the KCATA downtown workshop.

Thursday, April 4, 5:30 – 7:30 PMMAX brt

Kansas City Design Center
1018 Baltimore
Kansas City, MO 64105

METRO ogo Join KCATA today as it begins examining a wide range of potential improvements for downtown bus service and circulation.  Share your thoughts.

Planning efforts will examine the following:

  • Short-term route changes to simplify and integrate downtown bus and MAX service with the planned streetcar on Main.
  • Potential longer-term improvements such as new transit centers, superstops, a transit mall, transit emphasis corridors and a variety of transit priority measures to best support downtown activities and development.

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KC Downtown Streetcar Open House Re-scheduled for Mar 6

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 6, 2013


Attend the KC Downtown Streetcar Open House on March 6.KC_streetcar

Union Station from 4-7 pm.

This open house is re-scheduled from February 21.

Link to the  information boards, factsheet and maps. If you have any questions about these materials or the KC Downtown Streetcar project, please email the team at info@kcstreetcar.org or call them  at 816-822-3011.

http://www.kcstreetcar.org/publicmeetinginfo.htm

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Attend KCMO Finance Committee Meeting March 6 – – City Wants to Replace Ordinance That Restored Funding to KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 5, 2013


kcmo_big_logoPlease attend the Finance Committee meeting tomorrow to object to replacing Ordinance 100951, which restored funding to KCATA, with a different ordinance. Even if you don’t speak, your presence in support of transit is very valuable.  If you can’t make the meeting, continue to contact the Mayor and council members.

Finance, Governance & Ethics Committee
March 6, 2013 at 8:30 am
10th Floor Committee Room
City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106

Since the City Manager released his budget for FY 2013-2014 Transit Action Network has been fighting against the city’s blatant violation of Ordinance 100951, which was passed in 2010 to restore funding to KCATA.

Instead of restoring funding to KCATA the city is unilaterally increasing money to non-transit projects. In 2003 only 5% of the money went to non-transit projects, but this budget has increased non-transit expenses to 18%. In 2010, when we exposed what the city was doing, the council passed Ordinance 100951 to restore funding to KCATA up to the 95% level by May 2014. In 2010 non-transit projects received  $4.5 million and the ordinance required them to start decreasing this amount in order to increase the KCATA amount. Instead they have purposely ignored the ordinance and raised the non-transit budget to $6 million in the proposed budget.  There is no excuse for this since we started reminding the mayor, council and the city manager about this ordinance last September.

So we spoke up again this year asking the council to

  1. Honor its commitment to voters and taxpayers
  2. Obey Ordinance 100951 – – the KCATA share should be close to 88% of the available money in this budget, instead of only 71%
  3. Support the bus system and fully pay the bill for bus service to KCATA instead of forcing KCATA to use $5 million of emergency funds to keep the buses rolling at this level.

Instead responses have included

1 So what if KCATA has to use up the emergency money.

2. So what if we made a promise to the voters-we make promises all the time we don’t keep.

3. We aren’t doing anything wrong because we aren’t cutting service (Does it occur to them that service will have to be cut when the emergency money runs out so this is not a sustainable plan for funding transit? Does it occur to them that it is coercive to force a congressionally chartered bi-state authority to use its emergency funds to provide their transit service?)

4. So what if we are violating the ordinance-we’ll just change it like we do all the time.

And changing the ordinance is exactly what they are planning on doing. Instead of moving in the direction to restore money to KCATA, they are working on a new ordinance to do exactly what they want instead of what voters wanted. I think people believed Mayor James when he commented on this issue BEFORE he was elected, so why is he taking the opposite position now?

Candidate James, February 2011: First, we must restore trust in City Hall and confidence that we are spending tax dollars wisely. As I mentioned before, I will make sure that money goes to the purpose specified by voters.  For example, I will make sure that the tax revenue voters devoted to the KCATA gets to the KCATA.  Withholding such devoted funds breeds the type of widespread distrust of City Hall that must be fixed.

Although the meeting is about the budget and this ordinance is about providing transit vs diverting that money to other uses, it is significant that this committee also reviews the city Ethics and Governance issues.

We would like to know how it is ethical to take tax money and then unilaterally decide to spend it somewhere else.  The deal made with voters was more contractual than just a casual promise.

1. TWICE the city made a well documented offer to voters – – if voters agreed to pay another 3/8-cent sales tax for transit, then the city would add the new money to the ½ cent transportation sales tax and KCATA would receive 7/8 cents in sales tax to provide a bigger, better bus system.

2. The voters accepted this offer by passing the new transit tax.

3. Millions of tax dollars are collected to pay for the bus service.

Instead there has been an increasing amount of money diverted to non-transit uses even after Ordinance 100951 was passed to correct this failure to fulfill the explicit contract.  If you made this type of deal with a business, then the failure to comply would be an obvious breach of contract. It is not ok to use your money for something other than what was agreed to in the contract. If nothing else, why isn’t this a serious ethics violation?

Governance is not just about passing laws, regulations and ordinances – it is about enforcing them. Why is the head administrator allowed to ignore direction from the elected officials and an important ordinance by diverting millions of dollars to projects of his choice instead of where both the voters and the council have directed him to spend the money?  Why is the response to this flagrant disrespect for the rule of law (which an ordinance is) allowed? Why, instead of making him change the budget, is the city considering changing the ordinance?

If KCATA has to severely cut service in a couple of years, you’ll be told that KCATA was given 7/8 cents in sales tax and they couldn’t live within their means. That explanation will be a serious distortion of what happened.

How does the streetcar fit in? Although the $2 million is small in comparison to the money being diverted to non-transit uses, it is significant over time. If they take $2 million for the 25 year length of the bonds, that is $50 million dollars being taken away from the bus service. That is about 20 years of operating the Troost MAX service. That $2 million could pay to operate a Prospect or North Oak MAX. The money they want to take for the streetcar isn’t excess money lying around. Using the money for roads and streetcars will have a negative impact on bus service levels in the foreseeable future.

Although the streetcar is a great addition to transit in the city it is not a game changer for the vast majority of riders and it doesn’t reduce the city’s responsibility to provide bus service throughout the city. They shouldn’t be taking any money from the bus funding until they have exhausted the funding mechanisms in the Transportation Development District (TDD), which they have not done.

Don’t be naive and think the streetcar is only going to take the $2 million. Don’t fall for the “it is all transit“ line. Once they start identifying this money for streetcars, then expect any additional streetcars to take even more money away from the bus system.  Although it may seem good to limit the streetcar amount to the $2 million they have in this budget, it still sets the precedent that this is streetcar money and they will just change the ordinance in the future if they want more.

If the city wants to use this money for the streetcar, then let it be from the 5%.  What we don’t want is to start carving away at this money, which is all the bus system has. We don’t want 5%-20% to Public Works, 6% to the first streetcar, 5%-17% hoarded in the ending balance, more streetcars, etc., etc.

Keep it simple – – 95% to KCATA for bus service and they can use the rest as they please for transportation. The 5% can be used for public works, streetcars or any ending balance in the account.

Below is the proposed ordinance as it stands. Of course, they may have filled in the blanks by Wednesday.

Ask for

The first blank:  95%

Second blank: providing bus service through KCATA.

This would keep the ordinance basically as it is.

ORDINANCE NO. 130173

Amending Chapter 68, Article VII, Code of Ordinances of Kansas City, Missouri entitled “Sales Taxes,” by repealing Section 68-472.1 and enacting in lieu thereof one new section of like number and subject matter which pertains to the distribution of the transportation tax.

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

Section 1. That Chapter 68, Article VII, Code of Ordinances of Kansas City, Missouri, entitled “Sales Taxes,” is hereby amended by repealing Section 68-472.1, and enacting in lieu thereof one new section to read as follows:

Sec. 68-472.1. Distribution of tax.

After deducting the City’s two percent cost of handling authorized by RSMo 92.418 and fulfilling any Tax Increment Financing obligations, at least __________ percent of the remaining sales tax for transportation imposed by Sec. 68-471 of this article and deposited in the City’s Public Mass Transportation Fund shall be used for ___________________.

See previous post: Public Budget Hearing Saturday Feb 23  Speak Up About the Millions Diverted From KCATA

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