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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 Nov 18 – Interview with Robbie Makinen on KKFI 90.1FM

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 17, 2014


KKFI 90.1 FMWhy is the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) re-organizing? Why has Johnson County chosen KCATA to manage their buses again after 30 years? What is the new Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC) and how is it getting more money for transit and streamlining the regional paratransit services for people with disabilities? How will all these changes affect the community and transit riders?  KCATA

Janet Rogers of Transit Action Network interviews Robbie Makinen, the main architect of these transit changes, on RadioActive Magazine.

When: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 @ 6 PM
Where: Transit Talk on RadioActive Magazine, 90.1FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio

 Listen to the podcast

makinenRobbie Makinen is Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for KCATA and co-chair of the Regional Transit Coordinating Council, (RTCC) a new transit council lead by KCATA and Mid America Regional Council. (His paying job is Director of Governmental Affairs at Jackson County).

Robbie shares his passion for a better transit system and his personal experiences using paratransit. He discusses the importance of re-organizing KCATA to transform it into the transportation authority it was originally meant to be, and the accomplishments of the year old RTCC.Transit_Coordinating_Council-2

Major RTCC accomplishments in first year

  • Coordinated Funding Requests and Allocations (STP, CMAQ) – A Big Win! This allocation of federal money includes the largest share of federal Surface Transportation Program dollars that transit has ever received in this region – The $10 million allocated to Jackson County toward the purchase of the Rock Island corridor came out of this process. (The county still needs another $50 million for that purchase.)
  • Regular dialogue between the transit agencies at both the staff and policy level about transit issues –seamless transit issues are a major focus of these discussions. Read TAN’s seamless transit document from 2011. Seamless Transit In the Kansas City Region We are pleased the coordinating council is working on these items and we expect to see many of these issues resolved in the short to mid-term.
  • Regional Trip Planner – A Big Win! Riders can now use Google’s trip planner for trips on any of the transit systems.
  • Interim regional pass program – A landmark agreement between the four transit agencies; the JCT 31 day pass is functioning as an interim regional pass. We don’t believe this interim solution will attract many additional users due to the high cost of the JCT monthly pass (Standard JO 31 day pass $75.60, Metro 31 day regular and express pass $50), but it is a significant cooperation agreement between the transit agencies.
  • Regional Branding and Website (In Progress) “RIDEKC” will be rolled out to the region soon. The Downtown Streetcar has already released its version of the logo.
  • Regional Map (In Progress) – the map will tie into the regional branding and website work Interactive Regional Transit Map
  • Regional Travel Training (Paratransit related)
  • Regional Paratransit Eligibility Process (In Progress as part of Mobility Management Strategies)
  • Project to coordinate paratransit services between the transit agencies (In Progress)
  • Fare Elasticity Model (complete) This model will help the transit agencies understand the impact on ridership caused by raising fares.
  • Regional Fare Study (In Progress) Identify an appropriate (we hope fair) fare structure for the region.

Recent article about Robbie Makinen by Mike Hendricks of the KC Star.

KCATA information: The KCATA Board of Commissioners meets monthly, on Wednesdays, in the Breen Administration Building, 1200 E. 18th Street, Kansas City, Mo., 64108. Meetings begin at 12:00 p.m. The next meeting is Nov 19.

KCATA board meetings are open to the public and public comments are welcome. Sign up before the meeting starts for a 3 minute comment slot.

Board of Commissioners, meeting dates, agendas and actions http://www.kcata.org/about_kcata/entries/board_of_commissioners

RTCC information: Their meeting locations alternate between KCATA and MARC. They are usually the first  Tuesday of the month, but check the website. Next meeting: January 6, 2014  at  9:00 a.m, KCATA, Breen Building.

RTCC meetings are open to the public and public comments are welcome. Sign up before the meeting starts for a 3 minute comment slot. http://www.marc.org/Transportation/Committees/Transportation-Committees/Transit-Coordinating-Council

Previous TAN article RTCC Tackles Big Transit Issues – Funding and Paratransit

Link to previous Transit Talk radio shows

The next Transit Talk on RadioActive magazine is January 6, 2015 at 6 pm.

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Attend the First Transit Stakeholder Forum – Dec 17

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 9, 2013


marclogoMid-America Regional Council (MARC) has announced the first meeting date for the new Transit Stakeholder Forum.Transit_Stakeholder_Fourm-2

When: December 17, 2013,  5 pm to 6:30 pm
Where: Mid-America Regional Council
600 Broadway, Suite 200, Kansas City, Mo

No membership is required for this forum and meetings are open to the public.

This meeting marks the beginning of a new chapter in transit outreach in the region. This forum provides an opportunity for public feedback from users, potential users and advocates to improve the transit experience in KC.

MARC wants to widen participation in transit discussions by including all interested parties and getting positive feedback for improvements to the regional transit system.

From the MARC website:

This forum provides public input for the Transit Coordinating Council, which advises MARC, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and local transit partners and jurisdictions on issues, such as regional transit planning, coordination and implementation of priorities.Transit_Coordinating_Council-2 The goals for this forum include:

  • Providing input to the area stakeholders about improvement of accessibility of area transit services.
  •  Providing input on the expansion of regional transit services, in ways that are consistent with the Smart Moves Regional Transit Vision.
  •  Allowing for some interaction with members of the Transit Coordinating Council or members of partner agencies and MARC representatives.

The Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF) and the Transit Coordinating Council (TCC) work together to replace the MARC Transit Committee. The TCC has already started working on system improvements toward achieving seamless transit and part of the first meeting will be spent presenting those changes and asking for input to make the improvements even better. Some improvements include an online interactive regional transit map for the whole system and getting Google Trip Planner and the Regional Call Center to work for the whole system. Read our previous post New Transit Coordinating Council Off To a Good Start to see what TCC has been working on.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with representatives from each of the transit agencies.

This meeting is not a one-time event, although the Forum doesn’t currently have a meeting schedule. A meeting schedule should be discussed at the first meeting. The TSF is one of MARC’s standing committees and it functions as an adjunct to the TCC. They need to work together to get the best results.

The TSF can help minimize or eliminate the barriers to seamless travel in the KC region and provide a better transit system, but only if the public gets involved. The biggest challenge will be to make improvements within the limited funds available for public transit. TCC is already working to increase those funds.

TAN has advocated for a public transit forum for a long time.  Now that we have it, let’s make it a success!

If you are unable to attend this meeting and wish to submit a comment or questions through TAN, please send us an email at TransActionKC@gmail.com See you on December 17th!!!

See MARC’s webpage for the Transit Stakeholder Forum

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New Transit Coordinating Council Off To a Good Start

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 15, 2013


marclogoTransit Action Network is very pleased with the initial efforts of the new regional Transit Coordinating Council (TCC), which is co-chaired by Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell.

Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell

Robbie Makinen of Jackson County and Chairman of the KCATA Board, and the mayor of Mission KS and MARC board member, Laura McConwell

The new council partially replaces the MARC Transit Committee. The Council consists of local policy officials, and transit and planning professionals.

METRO ogoThe Council has had two meetings, Sept 4th and Nov 6th.

The fractured nature of the region’s transit is well-known so this council is very welcome. It was heartening for transit advocates to hear major regional players actively engaged and enthusiastic about improving transit.

One of the major actions taken by the Council was the establishment of the Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF). This new forum is an adjunct to the TCC and together the two committees replace the previous MARC Transit Committee. TSF will be an open public meeting and transit riders, potential riders and advocates can comment and provide input on the projects the TCC is working on as well as make additional suggestions. MARC is expected to announce the date of the first meeting soon.

At its first meeting the Transit Coordinating Council developed a set of six priorities, “quick wins”,

At the second meeting they discussed progress on these items.

1. Regional Pass and Fare Reciprocity

First TCC meeting Sept 4, 2103

First TCC meeting Sept 4, 2103

  • Near term implementation of the The JO monthly pass as a defacto regional pass. The JO monthly pass would be accepted on all regional routes, except the premium express buses. This extends The JO monthly pass reciprocity to Unified Government Transit and IndeBus. The JO monthly pass is already accepted on the Metro. This pass costs $75.60. This change is an important step toward regional pass reciprocity but we doubt if it will affect many riders.
  • There was no discussion about The JO accepting the Metro monthly pass with a $1 up-charge as was mentioned in the draft report. We hope this change can be implemented soon but it is still awaiting approval. This change would have the largest impact on riders since people with Metro monthly passes could reduce the current cost of using The JO.
  • An effort to solve the long-term fare reciprocity issue is being addressed with a regional fare study.  The goal is to make fares consistence and improve fare recovery ratios. KCATA fares bring in about 15% of the cost, but the other agencies recovery ratios are lower. They plan to develop a “fare elasticity model” in order to make better decisions about the best time and amount to raise fares. This model helps to project the net impact on revenue since a fare increase usually causes a decrease in ridership.  Expect completion of the study early in 2014.

2. Regional Transit Call Center

  • Work is being done to get IndeBus schedules integrated into the Regional Call Center  (RCC) database so Independence can use the system. Independence still has to decide to fund the additional cost of using the RCC. IndeBus is the only agency not currently using the RCC.
  • The long-term plan is to integrate all the different regional paratrasnit services so they can use the RCC.
  • MoDOT’s 511 call function will be updated to provide a simple way to reach the RCC operator.

3. Regional Trip Planning and General Transit Feed Specification (Google Transit Feed)

TCC meeting Nov 6

TCC meeting Nov 6

  • Independence is in the process of reconfiguring its transit data to work with the industry standard, Google Transit. IndeBus is the only provider not on this system. This change will make the whole system available for regional trip planning using Google’s Trip Planner.

4. Regional Route Map and Regional Transit Service Website

  • MARC has developed a dynamic online service map.  It was made available online on Nov 6th   http://kcsmartmoves.org/ You can drill down to see the routes and link to the appropriate website. All of the regional routes are on the map. This capability is really exciting. It will be available on the transit agencies websites in the near future.
  • A printed regional map is planned in 2014.

5. Regional Transit Branding

  • A request for proposals was released on Nov. 6th to get bids for a designer to develop a coordinated regional transit brand to use as an umbrella image for all regional services. They plan to select a consultant Fall 2013
  • Branding and website development, material, marketing etc. should take place in 2014.

6. Passenger Amenity Standards

  • KCATA is developing standard passenger amenity thresholds for deploying various passenger amenities based on the number of passenger boardings at a stop.
  • Guidelines will be circulated and a technical team will review, finalize and forward for approvals as necessary. Target date 2014

TCC also accepted a workplan for 2014, which includes the items already mentioned as well as:

  • Develop regional transit performance measures and informational reports
  • Support the coordination of local study efforts
  • Initiate coordination of local paratransit services and related customer information
  • Assess and identify the best use of federal transportation funding.

The 2013 workplan requires $45 thousand for regional branding. The 2014 workplan estimates $110 thousand for the regional website/brand deployment and the Fare study. All of these budget items have been covered by local contributions.

TCC will be responsible for programming approximately $1.8 million annually of Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for FY 2015, 2016 and maybe 2017.  Additional projects may be considered from this funding source.

In addition, STP (Surface Transportation Projects) funds of $35 million, which are programmed by another committee, will be asking for projects soon. Traditionally transit projects have had a hard time getting a share of STP funds. The streetcar was successful but that isn’t the norm. TCC decided that a larger coordinated regional project would have a better chance of receiving STP funding than smaller individual transit projects submitted separately by the transit agencies or individual jurisdictions. The committee scheduled a special meeting to Tuesday, December 3 at 9 am at MARC in order to be proactive about creating a regional application.

TCC is still working to define itself and understand its role in the region. Another function we believe the TCC should embrace is being consulted on all transit issues of regional significance. TCC needs to make itself heard and exert its presence and importance as it goes forward. For instance, recently KCMO approved Cerner’s Bannister and I-435 project, including huge incentives, but with NO requirements relating to public transit in Ordinance 130768. Cerner plans to have 15,000 employees at this location. This project is of regional significance and deserves a regional transportation impact analysis, including consultation with TCC regarding the potential for improving transit service both to the project site and throughout the I-435/I-470 corridor.

The Council plans to alternate venues between MARC and KCATA. The Council is set up to meet on a bi-monthly basis. In the off months, transit staff and MARC staff will work on the Council’s priorities.

The TCC meetings are open to the public and there is a public comment period at the end of the meeting.

TAN is very pleased with the progress and direction of the new council. We expect it to exert a positive coordinating influence on transit in our region.

MARC’s TCC presentation presented earlier this year at the  MARC Transit Committee. Presentation_RegionalTransitCoordinatingCouncilConcept011513

MARC’s website link  Transit Coordinating Council

TCC members TCC Members_092013

TAN is very engaged in seamless transit and achieving it is one of our main missions.  When Co-chair Makinen asked for our input last August we submitted a list of twelve items to him and Tom Gerend, Assistant Director of Transportation at MARC, to consider for inclusion in the TCC workplan. We are pleased that we are all on the same page about seamless transit and so many of our initial issues are being addressed.

TAN Recommendations for TCC agenda

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KKFI EcoRadio Discusses KC Transit Issues with TAN on Feb 11

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 10, 2013


KKFI 90.1 FMEcoRadio on KKFI Community Radio, 90.1 FM,  discusses transit issues in the Kansas City region on Monday, Feb 11 at 6 pm with TAN co-founder, Ron McLinden.

From EcoRadio, “America’s car culture must end soon if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate disruption, and it will be forced to end over time as global oil production peaks and begins to decline, driving up fuel prices. We can’t expect Kansas Citians to drive a lot less until we give them safe and comfortable alternatives, though. Host John Kurmann will talk with Ron McLinden of the KC Transit Action Network about plans for streetcars running between the City Market and Crown Center, commuter rail in Jackson County, the City of Kansas City, MO’s failure to fully fund bus service, and how we can make our regional transit system easier to use.”


				

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Great Bargain for JCT Commuters and A Step Forward for Seamless Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 15, 2012


Two significant transit decisions are about to be implemented.

1.  Johnson County Transit (JCT) has decided to sell its monthly pass through its website.  The reported price is $67 (plus a small service fee), and sales begin in April for a May 1, 2012 start date. The JO Store

The JO will continue to sell its monthly pass to employers for re-sale to their employees.  Employers will continue to pay $63 per pass, and they generally discount the pass to their employees.

Availability of the monthly pass will be a significant cost saving for Johnson County commuters whose employers don’t sell passes.  Such commuters currently have to pay cash fares ($2.00 each way, or $88 for a 22-workday month), or use 10-ride passes ($18.00 for 10 rides, or $79.20 for a 22-workday month).

 2.  Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) will accept the JCT monthly pass on all regular Metro buses (excluding premium-priced commuter routes). KCATA and JCT will allocate revenue from the JCT pass between themselves based on usage.  JCT monthly passes will be accepted on Metro buses beginning May 1, 2012.

Anyone can purchase the JCT monthly pass online to use on either system.

TAN advocates have worked for Seamless Transit for many years, and this development is clearly a step in the right direction.

The advantage to Johnson County residents is obvious: they can use Metro buses during the day for lunch trips or errands, or to get closer to home (e.g. to the Plaza or Waldo) before calling a family member, a friend, or a cab when they work late.  What’s more, Johnson County riders can drive to a Missouri location (such as Waldo) and use Metro buses to reach Missouri attractions on weekends.  (A free ride on a Metro bus compares favorably with a $30 parking fee for a Sprint Arena event.)

Missouri and Wyandotte County residents who also need to use The JO will have the option of purchasing the JCT monthly pass.  These riders will need to evaluate whether their savings will justify the higher up-front cost of the JCT monthly pass.  Riders who use transit only for commuting now pay $3.50 per day in cash fares ($1.50 going to work, $2.00 to return), or $77 per 22-workday month.  A rider who needs to be able to use Metro buses all week as well as commute to Johnson County currently pays $94 for a 22-workday month ($50 Metro pass plus $44 in cash fares on The JO).

Although JCT and KCATA have accepted each other’s transfers for several years, neither system has accepted the monthly bus pass of the other system until now.  The JCT monthly pass will be accepted on Metro buses but the Metro $50 monthly pass will not be accepted on JCT buses, mainly due to the large price difference. (Metro pass users may not know that they can ask for “a transfer to The JO” when they board.  KCATA normally does not issue transfers to its monthly pass users.)

The JCT monthly pass sale through their website and KCATA acceptance of the JCT monthly pass are positive steps toward Seamless Transit. Well over 500 JCT monthly pass holders will get automatic access to the extensive (7 days a week, 20 hours per day, service to five counties) Metro system at no additional cost.

Due to the large fare differential between the two systems and limited service provided by JCT, it will be interesting to track the sales numbers for the JCT monthly pass to see:

  • how many passes are sold to riders outside of Johnson County
  • what percentage of morning commuters from Kansas City to Johnson County use the JCT monthly pass (this direction is considered a reverse commute).

Transit Action Network welcomes a victory for Seamless Transit and will work to make sure that:

  • Metro riders are aware of their new option for access to The JO
  • JO riders make good use of their new access to the Metro system beginning May 1.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue, Seamless Transit | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Independence Transit Committee Recommends First Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 22, 2011


In a move characterized as a “new integrated transit system,” the Independence City Council Transit Committee recommended First Transit to operate their intra-city (local) routes beginning Monday, July 2, 2012.  KCATA would continue to operate inter-city routes.  Final action by the full City Council is anticipated in January 2012.

The committee’s recommendation is to:

(1) contract with KCATA to continue certain current services including inter-city and commuter bus routes (Routes 24 and 24x), paratransit service (Share-A-Fare) for inter-city and eligible intra-city trips, grant filings and FTA reporting, and regional transit information center operations

(2) contract with First Transit to provide local fixed route and deviated fixed route service, paratransit service for intra-city trips, and senior transportation service (Dial-A-Ride). First Transit is the contract operator for Johnson County Transit.

Independence says its revised transit plan will provide a 40% increase in service area, 32 additional miles of routes, and a 30 percent increase in hours of operation. Local service will be provided using specially designed new buses, tentatively branded “IndeBus.” Waiting times between buses will increase on some routes due to extending the length of the route without adding additional buses.

Independence expects coordinated scheduling between the two systems to minimize waiting times. Fares will be the same for both systems and Independence expects to work out an agreement with KCATA so there will not be a fare impact on the riders using passes or transfers.

Still unresolved are some funding issues, including how much federal “formula” money Independence will receive as pass-through from the KCATA allocation. Independence will presumably qualify for federal funds related to routes operated by KCATA, but regulations related to employee protections under Section 13(c) of Federal Transit Law could make it difficult or even illegal to use federal formula funds for the Independence local routes (see previous article). This issue — how much federal money will be passed through to Independence — could significantly change the transit funding situation in Independence. Discussions and legal research are ongoing between and among Independence, KCATA, the FTA, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and MARC.

A publicity campaign is planned to start in April, including public meetings, route maps, publication in the Independence newsletter CityScene and information on City 7, the public access cable channel. Bus stop and schedule signs will be replaced and First Transit will work with the businesses in the new service areas for locating stops.

Although its total cost of transit service will rise slightly, Independence expects ridership to increase at least 15% with the increased route coverage. In addition, the City plans to seek grants to supplement money from its General Fund.

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Independence Ponders Transit Options

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 6, 2011


In August, 2011, Independence issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to operate their local transit routes and local para-transit service, Dial-A-Ride. The local or “intra-city” routes are currently operated by KCATA and are the routes identified by colors as well as numbers. The inter-city routes connecting Independence with Kansas City would continue to be operated by KCATA.

Independence redesigned its local routes to cover more miles and extend service hours. Of course, longer routes without adding more buses means the time between buses increases, which creates longer waiting times for riders.  So service miles and service hours may increase but service level will decrease. Independence also wants to “brand” its buses with a unique Independence design. (Prototype of branded buses from the RFP  Inde Bus)

Several proposals were received, and in October the city staff made a preliminary recommendation to the City Council Transit Committee. They recommended First Transit over KCATA as operator for the local routes.  The Transit Committee recommendation to the full City Council is planned in December because a final decision has to be made by February 1, 2012, in order to implement the desired changes by July 1, 2012.

Transit Action Network understands and appreciates the financial realities Independence faces to maintain transit service for its residents, as well as its right to contract for the most cost-effective transit service. The Independence budget for transit comes out of general revenue. Independence does not have dedicated transit funding like Kansas City, nor do they have taxing authority from the state to even ask for a dedicated transit tax. Their ½ cent transportation sales tax is all used for streets. Like most Eastern Jackson County municipalities, Independence has been waiting for the county to get involved in funding transit.  County transit funding was the original promise of the regional “Smart Moves” transit concept nearly a decade ago.  But county funding hasn’t materialized yet, and general revenue has declined as costs continued to rise, and something had to give. Independence has assured TAN that its goal is to provide the best transit service they can.

Several snags have arisen, however. The biggest one deals with the allocation of federal “formula” funds for transit in this region. As the Congressionally created transit authority for the Kansas City region, KCATA is the federally designated recipient of federal formula funds, and that means KCATA decides how this money is to be allocated around the region. Legally they do not have to allocate any funds to municipalities that don’t contract with them, but historically KCATA has allocated funds to other operators, such as Johnson County Transit, a well as the municipalities that contract with them. The current annual federal formula fund allocation is approximately $15 million, but may decrease based on Congressional action. Independence believes it has a right to a share of this money, even if it goes with a private contractor.

Even if the KCATA Board wants to continue to allocate a share of the federal formula funds to Independence, it may be illegal if they contract with a private operator.  This issue arises because federal transit law has a section that protects transit employees who are affected by federal transit funding. If Independence changes to a private operator there could be a negative impact on public transit workers. Based on the current allocation of money, this law (Section 13(c)) could lose Independence $600,000.  All parties have their lawyers looking into the implications of Section 13(c).

Another big issue is the effect on the para-transit riders in Independence if a different operator gets the contact for the intra-city routes. TAN is concerned that para-transit users wanting to go between Independence and Kansas City would have more transfers and higher costs if KCATA does not operate the intra-city routes. If Independence para-transit riders have to use both the Independence Dial-A-Ride and KCATA Share-A-Fare services for the same trip, the cost would double from $4 for the round trip to $8. Independence City Manager Robert Heacock said that Independence could consider picking up the additional cost for para-transit riders needing to go to KCMO. At an average of 12,000 rides to the city per year, this could amount to an additional cost of $48,000 for the city, but the inconvenience for riders would still be present.

Most important, TAN has significant concerns about the impact another operator could have on all transit riders. Unless Independence gives careful attention to “seamless transit” principles, adding another transit provider could cause complexity, confusion and additional cost for riders, and that would both inhibit ridership and limit access to opportunities throughout the region, while undermining the goal of a truly regional transit system. We have discussed our concerns regarding seamless transit with elected officials including Council member Gragg, Chair of the Transit Committee, and with City staff.

What is “Seamless Transit?”  It’s the term being used in a regional effort to make transit easier to use, thereby building ridership and enabling more people to have access to opportunities throughout the region.  Seamless transit is achieved by meeting basic rider expectations and eliminating the impact of multiple transit operators on the transit experience.

Some of the seamless expectations that TAN has discussed with Independence include:

1.  A uniform fare structure, and transfer and pass reciprocity. Independence has assured TAN that they will use the same fare structure and compatible fareboxes as KCATA so that transfers and monthly passes are accepted on both systems. They have told us they could do an allocation of revenue between the two systems at the end of the month for passes, although the details haven’t been discussed, since an operator hasn’t been chosen.

2.  Good connectivity between the two systems is another concern. TAN has been told schedules will be adjusted to co-ordinate transfer locations and schedule times so inter-system connections can be made effectively.

3.  Currently riders only have to make one phone call to get transit information. They can use Google transit to do online trip planning, and with GPS on all the current buses, real-time information is becoming available via cell phone or mobile device. TAN has asked that these seamless communication features be available to Independence riders if there is a change in operators, but has not been given any reassurances .

To get more details of the planned route changes or read the minutes of the meetings visit the Independence City Council Transit Committee website

Seamless transit issues between JCT and KCATA prompted TAN to get the MARC Transit Committee to form a Seamless Transit Work Group last year. (TAN’s Seamless Transit In the Kansas City Region document) Now many of the same issues will need to be addressed with Independence if it changes operators for its intra-city routes.

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Seamless Transit – Two Small Steps

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 7, 2010


MAX pylon at the Waldo stop

It’s been on our agenda for a long time, but we first wrote about “seamless transit” back in May http://bit.ly/abH9n1.  We consider it an issue because there are invisible barriers to transit riders who need to move about the region using buses operated by the three transit agencies.

Closeup of MAX pylon at Waldo stop

 

Two recent developments move the region a little closer to achieving seamless transit.

[1] – Johnson County Transit initiated a new bus route (575/875) in July http://bit.ly/fUembw connecting Waldo with Johnson County Community College via 75th Street and Quivira Road.  However, there was no evidence of the service at Waldo, except when a bus was actually there.  In response to our request to its Board of Commissioners in August http://bit.ly/goLu99, KCATA has posted a map and schedule for Route 575/875 at the Waldo MAX stop.  To our knowledge this is the first time a map and schedule for a Johnson County Transit route has been posted in Missouri.  Our hats are off to the KCATA and JCT staff who made this happen.  We hope a similar posting for Route 556/856 at the Plaza MAX stop will follow.  And then maybe something at 10th and Main where dozens of JCT buses stop every weekday.

Close-up of the map and schedule displayed on the MAX pylon.  JCT Route 575/875 is shown in the green panel at the lower left of the poster.

[2] – Mid-America Regional Council has convened a Seamless Transit Work Group within its Transit Committee.  Through this group, Transit Action Network will work with MARC and transit agency staff, plus representatives of other organizations, to define seamless transit — making the region’s transit network easier to use is a first working definition — and to outline steps the transit agencies should take to achieve it.

Two small steps for transit agencies and MARC.  Two giant leaps toward seamless transit.

http://bit.ly/abH9n1

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Let’s Tweet Up Transit!!!

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 19, 2010


The JO's Route 575 connects with KCATA's MAX at Waldo

Announcing Transit Action Network’s first occasional Tweet Up Transit Sweepstakes.

If you care about transit like we care about transit, let’s get on the bus and tweet about it.  Specifically, let’s ride and tweet about The JO’s new and expanded service routes, plus Route M (AKA, the Route of the Dinosaurs). https://transactionkc.com/2010/07/20/take-the-jo-to-the-jurassic/

There’s a prize at stake.

Here’s how it works:

Between now and Friday, September 3, ride any of the following Johnson County Transit routes and then tweet about it.

+ Route 556 / 856 – Metcalf Plaza (135th and Metcalf to the Plaza and Cleaver Blvd and Troost)

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/556.pdf

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/856.pdf

+ Route 575 / 875 – 75th Street (KU Edwards and JCCC to Waldo)

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/575.pdf

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/875.pdf

+ Route 664 – Metcalf Downtown (135th and Metcalf to Downtown Kansas City)

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/664.pdf

+ Route M / 672 – Midday (Great Mall and Olathe to Downtown Kansas City and Union Station)

http://www.thejo.com/pdf/maps/Route_M.pdf

Tell us which route you rode and a little about your experience.  Most important, include our Twitter name @transactionkc (so it’ll show up on our Twitter timeline), plus the hashtag #thejo.  For each day that you tweet we’ll enter you into a drawing for a big prize.  There are 15 days — including weekends, when you can’t ride but you can still tweet — so you can have up to 15 chances to win.

At the end we’ll post all of the tweets — or at least the best ones — on our blog.  And we’ll award the prize.

So come on, let’s get out there and ride.  And tweet!  (Employees of Johnson County Transit, KCATA, and MARC are encouraged to enter but are not eligible to win.)

Oh, yeah — the prize.  The prize will be a 10-ride pass on The JO.  We know, that’s not a very impressive prize.  But hey, you think we’re millionaires?  😉

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

July KCATA BOC meeting:Comprehensive Service Analysis, Public Input and Customer Satisfaction Survey

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 8, 2010


KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting July 28, 2010

July 28- KCATA Board of Commissioners Meeting

Comprehensive Service Analysis

The KCATA Comprehensive Service Analysis (CSA) is underway. Link to find out about the 2010-2011 Service Analysis.

Take the Preference Survey for the CSA. It is  important that transit riders speak up and take this survey. It is available in English and Spanish.  The choices are hard.

Link to the CSA July2010 presentation by Nelson Nygaard about the analysis.

KCATA expects to have public meetings in the Fall. We will keep you informed of these meetings.

Public Input:

Ron McLinden, advocate with Transit Action Network, presents appeals for seamless transit at the July 28,2010 KCATA BOC meeting

Ron McLinden, an advocate with the Transit Action Network, spoke about the new services started by Johnson County Transit. He expressed TAN’s strong support for this service and the importance of these routes toward the development of Bus Rapid Transit in Johnson County. TAN had met previously with Cindy Baker, KCATA Director of Marketing, about combining signage and schedules between KCATA and the JO for these new routes. Since Cindy had said KCATA was willing to do this, Ron expressed appreciation for this important step toward seamless transit.

Clay Chastain spoke. He offered an “olive branch” to the KCATA and wanted them to work with him on a transit package to take to voters this  November. The board listened politely and thanked him for coming.

Clay Chastain presentation to KCATA BOC July 28,2010

Customer Satisfaction Survey

ETC Institute recently conducted a Customer Satisfaction Survey about KCATA.  This survey showed overall improvement from the previous survey in 2007.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed used the service for either going to work or job seeking, supporting the idea of how important the service is to the community. More people are transit dependent than in 2007.

Riders felt there were big improvements in on-time performance and  transit service. Ninety–one percent of riders surveyed would recommend the MAX and the METRO.

Overall results were very positive and better than in 2007 but there is always room for improvement.

Suggested improvements: Improve the courtesy on the Metro information line, integrate technology to distribute information and improve the condition of the buses.

Greatest need: increase weekend service and service between 6am ad 6pm.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Meeting Reports, Rail, Seamless Transit | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Small Steps Toward Seamless Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 19, 2010


The Transit Action Network wants “seamless transit” for the Kansas City region.

What do we mean by seamless transit?  Basically it comes down to making it easier to connect among the three transit systems (ATA, The JO, and UGT).  Shared bus stops with posted schedules and other information, especially where routes intersect.  A common monthly transit pass, or at least having the three systems accept each other’s monthly passes. Simple things.

At lot is happening in transit right now, and it might seem reasonable to postpone some of these details while dealing with more immediate issues.  We think this is precisely the time to do it.

Looking just at Johnson County, for example, there are opportunities that shouldn’t be lost.  Beginning In July, Johnson County Transit will add trips on Metcalf and Shawnee Mission Parkway, and will launch a new route on 75th Street that will connect with MAX and other ATA routes in Waldo.  In addition, federal stimulus money has been awarded to JCT to prepare for BRT (bus rapid transit) in the Metcalf / Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor, with connections to MAX at the Plaza.

The ATA’s Route 175 currently operates along Metcalf between 95th and 119th, three trips in the morning and three in the afternoon.  That route, along with the new JCT service to begin in July, presents opportunities to improve connectivity for transit users.

Consider:

1 – Add information about the new JCT service at MAX and other stops in Missouri, and to let people know that the two systems honor each other’s transfers.

2 – At Waldo, make sure the new JCT route serves the MAX stop directly, rather than forcing people to cross 75th Street and walk 150 yards to connect to MAX.

3 – At Waldo and the Plaza, add a map of the several routes that radiate outward from those stops.

4 – At the Metcalf South park-and-ride lot, add a schedule poster and information about where to board the ATA Route 175 bus that passes by on 95th and Metcalf, but doesn’t serve the park-and-ride.  (Better yet, reroute the 175 to serve the park-and ride lot.)

5 – When new bus stops are posted along Metcalf, have them show what routes serve them, ATA as well as JCT routes.

6 – Wherever passenger shelters are installed, provide information about transit service.  Every shelter is a 24/7 presence for transit, and should be used as part of the transit marketing plan.

7 – Show all connecting routes when JCT and the ATA publish new or revised pocket schedules, or publish such information on their respective websites.

JCT and the ATA, working with MARC, have been partners in applying for and receiving the federal stimulus money for transit that was announced back in February.  They should use this closer level of cooperation and coordination to make their respective transit services work more like a seamless regional system.

Ron McLinden

May 18, 2010

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