Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for the ‘Transit Studies’ Category

US 71 Transit Study Open House – May 23

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 6, 2013



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Getting Commuter Rail Downtown Faces Major Hurdles

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 30, 2013


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”



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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Jackson County AA Study Team Will Reveal Recommendations Tomorrow

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 26, 2012

Tomorrow, November 27, consultant recommendations from the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis will be presented to stakeholders in the morning, and to the public that afternoon.

 Transit consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), guided by Mid-America Regional Council, Jackson County, Kansas City, and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, has been studying commuter needs in three corridors for nearly three years.  Work on the I-70 and Rock Island corridors is about complete, while work on the third corridor, US-71, got started late and is farther behind.

Here’s what we expect tomorrow:

[1] – Commuter rail is in.  Commuter rail will be recommended in the I-70 corridor since the underlying motivation for the AA was to find a way to make commuter rail workable.

[2] – Union Station is out.  Union Station is out and Third and Grand is back in as the western terminus for commuter rail from eastern Jackson County. This is the site of the current KCATA park-and-ride lot and the end of the MAX and future Downtown Streetcar lines.  Jackson County tried to work with Kansas City Terminal Railway to get access to Union Station, but latest indications are that KCT has not been interested in a capacity analysis on their tracks to see if it could be made to work — not even if Jackson County pays for the study.  Union Station has been the preferred terminus from the beginning, so we expect to hear that some day commuter rail might go there.  Realistically, that isn’t likely if hundreds of millions of dollars are spent going to Third and Grand.

 [3] – No CEI.  We had anticipated that the study would include a Cost-Effectiveness Index (CEI) for each rail corridor.  However, indications are that it won’t.  The CEI is a standard measure of costs and benefits (and thus of relative merit) used by the Federal Transit Administration in evaluating projects that compete for federal funding.  Omission of this measure is disappointing in light of the emphasis PB’s Shawn Dikes put on it at the first stakeholder meeting.  A rule of thumb in transit studies is that following FTA procedures is a good indication of whether a project makes sense – whether FTA funding is to be sought or not.

We suspect the Study Team knows without doing the calculations that commuter rail in this corridor isn’t cost-effective by FTA standards, and just doesn’t want to release unfavorable information – even though more than $1.2 million has been spent on the study.  Our preference is to have the CEI as an objective comparison to recent commuter rail projects in other cities, and to thus have a better-informed electorate.  Thus, we’re disappointed that PB hasn’t stayed true to its original focus on the importance of the CEI number.

 [4] – There is political and popular support for transit.  Unlike in 2007, there is political will to take a transit and trails package to the voters, even if we have to pay locally for most of any rail proposal.  The AA might not support federal funding for rail, but people do a lot of things subjectively, and there’s a widely held perception that the Kansas City Region should have rail.  Commuter rail might still be five years or more away – detailed environmental studies related to impacts on Kessler Park plus construction will take time.

 [5] – The Package.  We don’t expect to find out much tomorrow about the comprehensive package Jackson County will ultimately take to the voters late next year, but it’s safe to say it will include something for everyone:

  • One line for commuter rail.
  • A hefty trails plan that includes the old Rock Island right-of-way as a connection to the cross-state Katy Trail.
  • Upgraded express bus service with more frequent peak hour trips, plus at least a few midday trips.
  • New transit routes to connect the various cities, especially in Eastern Jackson County.
  • Something significant for Kansas City.  The city already pays for the region’s highest level of transit service, including two popular BRT routes, a Downtown Streetcar line expected to begin construction in 2013, and more than a dozen routes that operate 7 days a week.  Jackson County has been talking about BRT on Prospect, and we’re interested to see what else the County has planned to entice KCMO residents.

Tuesday is the day to watch.  The Stakeholder Advisory Panel will meet at MARC at 8:00 am to hear and respond to the recommendations for the corridors, followed by the Open House for the public at 140 Walnut in River Market between 4:00 and 6:00 pm.

So there you have it – what we think we know.  We’re willing to be proven wrong, of course.  But we can promise you one thing:  It’s going to be One Interesting Tuesday.

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Jackson County Transit Studies Open House Nov. 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 21, 2012

Click to Enlarge

Join us at the last open house for the  Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis, which covers the  I-70 and Rock Island Corridors. The last Stakeholder Advisory Panel meeting is being held the morning of Nov. 27 and this public gathering is on the same evening.  Learn about the final recommendations being made toward determining an LPA, “Locally Preferred Alternative”  and provide your input for the Partnership Team.

Where: River Market Event Place
            140 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO
When: Anytime between 4 pm and 6 pm on Nov 27, 2012

This open house provides information on all three corridors being studied; I-70, Rock Island and US 71. The US 71 Transit Study is ongoing.

There will be prizes and giveaways, too!

TAN advocates Janet Rogers and Mark McDowell have enjoyed serving on the JCCC AA Stakeholder Advisory Panel and they continue to serve on the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for the  US 71 Transit Study.

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Jackson County Transit Studies Update – Our Current Assessment

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 15, 2012

There was no surprise when Jackson County announced that it would not put a transit tax measure on the ballot this November. There are still too many unknowns, and a comprehensive package will take more time to develop. Better to do this right than fast.

One of the big unknowns is location of a downtown terminus for commuter rail. The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis for the I-70 and Rock Island corridors, which has been underway  for over a year, is currently on hold. The County would like to move the downtown terminus from Third and Grand, the option presented to the public in April, to Union Station. That’s good, because nearly everyone really wants commuter trains to go there, and that’s the location identified for commuter rail in Kansas City’s comprehensive plan, FOCUS.

The sticking point has been getting the Kansas City Terminal Railway to agree to allow commuter trains on their tracks.  These are the tracks that Amtrak trains already use.  Once the Terminal (and its owners, primarily the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific) agree they are open to that possibility, a capacity analysis will have to be done to determine if commuter trains can be sandwiched in among all the freight and Amtrak trains.

Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that: whereas there’s some flexibility in freight train schedules, frequent delays for a commuter train could lead to loss of riders and failure of the whole commuter rail endeavor, so the railroads would have to commit to a pretty exacting schedule for the commuter trains.  As of this writing, a capacity analysis has not yet been done.

For commuter rail into Union Station to work, the railroads have to:

  • agree in principle that commuter trains on their tracks would be OK
  • complete a capacity analysis to determine that it’s feasible, and
  • develop detailed cost estimates.

Meanwhile, Jackson County continues to work on more-detailed cost estimates for getting trains to a terminal at Third and Grand.

While that’s going on, the US 71 Corridor Transit Study is proceeding in the first phase of its evaluation process.

In addition to studying the I-70, Rock Island, and US 71 corridors to identify a locally preferred alternative in each, Jackson County is fleshing out the rest of a county-wide transit and trails plan to take to the voters. 

That plan would:

  1. Fill in many of the bus transit needs in the county. All rail systems need a robust bus system to support them and Jackson County doesn’t have that outside of Kansas City, Missouri. MARC’s Smart Moves transit concept is the basis for filling in the missing transit links in the county, and Transit Action Network advocates Janet Rogers and Ron McLinden are working with a team that includes Jackson County, Kansas City, KCATA, and consultants to help define the transit part of the package.
  2. Develop a plan to connect and complete a Jackson County trails system. No longer would there be “trails to nowhere,” but “trails to everywhere.” The County has been working with trail and bike advocates, using MARC’s MetroGreen plan as the basis for the trails component.

Assuming voters approved a one-cent sales tax  — nobody at the County will verify that this is the target amount — that would raise only about $80 million per year. Given that limitation, the County will have to make some tough choices because they can’t afford to do everything that’s currently being considered.

Right now we consider the following as likely components of a trails and transit package to be submitted to the voters:

  • Probably one commuter rail line using the Kansas City Southern tracks in the I-70 corridor
  • Implementation of many of the service components of the region’s Smart Moves transit plan
  • Bus Rapid Transit (MAX style service) on Prospect
  • Transit connections linking municipalities throughout the County
  • Upgraded Express Bus Services in all three major corridors (including I-70, even if commuter rail is developed in that corridor)
  • Build out of a complete network of trails as envisioned in MetroGreen.

We anticipate seeing such a package submitted to the voters sometime in 2013, though perhaps not until the second half of the year.

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US 71 Transit Study – Video of Open House

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 10, 2012

The Jackson County US 71 Transit Study, an Alternatives Analysis, started in June and is the third transit corridor to be studied as the County works to complete a transit package to put before voters. Completion is scheduled for the end of the year.

There have been two Stakeholder meetings (Janet Rogers and Mark McDowell both represent TAN) and a public meeting. Until a final decision has been made for locally preferred alternatives in the three corridors, nothing can go forward.

The US 71 corridor originates in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and extends south of the downtown area, terminating in Belton, Missouri. The corridor generally parallels U.S. 71 crossing Kansas City (MO), Grandview and Belton and is being evaluated as a potential addition to the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis, a transit study that has been in progress since 2011, which consists of the I-70 corridor and the Rock Island corridor.

This corridor is very congested and portions of US 71 between 51st and 75th are particularly slow. Current transit service on U.S. 71 and parallel service on Prospect provide transit access for the area, but scheduled travel times are almost double the travel time of the automobile.

The US 71 corridor study is benefiting from the work already done in the other corridors. This study is considering Express Buses, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), streetcars and commuter rail. Just a reminder that the commuter rail is not electrified light rail. It is a diesel vehicle, Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU), which operates on existing freight lines or new tracks.

The project team, Jackson County, MARC, KCATA and Kansas City, Missouri  and the consulting team, Parsons Brinckerhoff, are all the same as the previous study.

The study is in Phase I, which provides the purpose and needs statement and does an initial evaluation of the alternatives to decide which ones will go through to Phase II.

The first two alternatives advance automatically to Phase II

1. NO Build  – do nothing plus

  • all capital improvements identified in the fiscally constrained MARC 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that will be implemented by 2035.
  • the existing bus network augmented with the recommendations listed in the KCATA Comprehensive Service Analysis Key Corridor Network.

2. TSM (Transportation Systems Management)

Everything in No Build plus

  • capital improvements and bus network enhancements.
  • an expansion of KC Scout Intelligent Transportation Systems.
  • New park and ride lots
  • Capital bus enhancements on U.S. 71 (such as bus on shoulder), which will be identified and evaluated as part of Tier 2.
  • New intermodal transfer point in vicinity of Hillcrest and Bannister Road.
  • Seven U.S. 71 / Prospect BRT station pairs.
  • Extension of local bus service along Prospect to Bannister Road and Blue Ridge.
  • Extension of Express Bus service (Route #471) from current terminus Point at U.S. 71 & Red ·  Bridge Road to U.S. 71 & M-150. The extended service would serve park and ride lots at U.S.
  • 71/M-150 and at Truman Corners Shopping Center. Number of trips would be increased from 5 AM and 5 PM to 8 AM and 8 PM.

Three additional alternatives to be evaluated for advancement to Phase II

Alternative 1: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

  1. Two alignments are anticipated for the BRT alternative–a Commuter BRT on U.S. 71 and an Urban BRT on Prospect.
    1. US 71 Commuter BRT connects M-150 in Grandview with the 10th and Main Transit Center.
    2. Prospect Urban BRT connects Bannister Road in south KC with the 10th and Main Transit Center.

Alternative 2: Enhanced Streetcar Alternative

The enhanced streetcar would serve a third phase of the KC streetcar system (phase II would be to the Plaza). The streetcar would travel on the west side of US 71 and ends at M-150. A feeder bus network would also be a part of this alignment.

We expect the streetcar alternative to be eliminated because it is so expensive and probably wouldn’t qualify for federal funds to help us pay for it. We expect the projected ridership to be too low to make the line cost-effective by FTA standards. If it is advanced to Phase II it will be because the partners want to do the cost and ridership analysis for future reference.

Alternative 3: Diesel Multiple Unit Alternative

The alignment for the DMU Commuter Service South Line runs from the Jackson County Line to Leeds Junction. South of Leeds Junction the rail travels with limited stops on KCS track to its destination near M-150 in Grandview. North of Leeds Junction, it shares a common line with the Rock Island Corridor alternative, and farther north those lines combine with the I-70 corridor into downtown.  The two possible alignments for the DMU Commuter Service Common Line into downtown run from:

a. Leeds Junction to the River Market

b. Leeds Junction to Union Station via the Trench

The DMU alignment crosses nearly 80 bridge structures. About 20 of those would require improvement of some kind, up to and including replacement.

The stations along this alignment are limited due to various complications, including physical challenges and the lack of population and employment density.

The U.S 71 corridor has a large low-income population. The ability to provide improved access to work opportunities is an important goal of the enhanced transit system.

There will be additional public involvement as the study progresses.

US71 – combined alternatives – Click to Enlarge

US71 – BRT -Click to Enlarge

US71 – Streetcar- Click to Enlarge

US71 – DMU – Click to Enlarge

For more detail, review the information from the public open house materials and fill out the comment form.

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Open Houses – U.S. 71 Transit Study – July 12 and 17

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 10, 2012

The U.S. 71 Transit Study is underway.  The project team and lead consultant are the same as for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis. The project team consists of MARC, Jackson County, Kansas City, and KCATA. The lead project consulting firm is Parsons Brinckerhoff.  Transit Action Network has two advocates on the Stakeholder Advisory Panel.

The U.S. 71 corridor begins in the downtown loop of Kansas City, Mo., and runs south along U.S. 71/Bruce R. Watkins Dr. through Kansas City and Grandview to M-150 near the Cass County border. This heavily traveled corridor includes not only the U.S.71 highway facility, but also Prospect Avenue and adjacent railroad assets.

The study will build on and coordinate with the Jackson County Commuter Corridor Alternatives Analysis, which is studying the I-70 and Rock Island corridors. This study is funded largely by a $652,200 competitive grant from the Federal Highway Administration, which Jackson County acquired.

During the open houses, participants can tell the project partners whether enhanced transit is needed in the corridor and, if so, what their preferred transit option might be. A short update on the alternative analysis study will be given at 4:30 p.m. each day.

Visit the project Website.

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Jackson County Transit Study Takes a New Direction

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 25, 2012

Calvin Williford, Jackson County Chief of Staff, recently wrote to the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Partner Team describing new developments related to the study currently underway.  He said completion of the current commuter corridors study would be postponed and the County would move forward with a comprehensive transit plan. Letter_Partnership _Team

For almost two years everyone said the study would be completed and a “Locally Preferred Alternative” (LPA) would be decided in the June 2012 time frame.  In a bold step, and with a growing understanding of transit needs, Jackson County decided to wait for more information. The county’s ambitious target date for having a conceptual countywide transit plan in place is the end of July.

Part of the reason for the postponement is that another study, this one in the Highway 71 / Grandview corridor, is just beginning and the County wants to gain an understanding of transit alternatives in that corridor before making any decisions since all three corridors are interrelated.

The biggest reason for the postponement, though, is that a new rail alternative has become available for consideration — the possibility of getting commuter rail to Union Station.  This new alternative uses the Kansas City Terminal (KCT) Railway tracks to get into the area just north of Union Station. These are the tracks that Amtrak uses. It will be a big deal if the County can get the railroad to consider this. In the past KCT has always rejected the idea of accommodating commuter rail, and the cost of putting new tracks in that corridor would require expanding a number of bridges at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

This new KCT alternative is not without concerns. There are capacity issues since so many freight trains use these tracks daily. Therefore a capacity analysis has to be done first to see if this alternative is workable before formally evaluating this corridor for commuter service as part of the AA.  Because of existing challenges, it was assumed from the beginning that KCT would not allow commuter rail on its tracks. No previous study has been completed to estimate costs, ridership numbers or travel-time savings to Union Station using this route.

Will this rail alternative have significantly better quantitative results than the Third and Grand alternative?  We don’t know. The 2007 study of commuter rail in the I-70 corridor concluded: “Possible conflicts at Union Station with a high volume of freight traffic and Amtrak passenger service have a significant likelihood of negatively impacting commuter rail reliability, which is not acceptable when building ridership.”  If capacity issues can be resolved, then this route should definitely be studied. This route would likely be shorter and provide a more desirable terminus — factors that could improve ridership forecasts.

Like the Third and Grand location, this route would require other transit service (such as the Downtown Streetcar) to provide access to the Central Business District (CBD). However, in contrast to the Third and Grand alternative, there are thousands of jobs in the vicinity of a terminal at Union Station. Since there isn’t a fast direct route from the highways to Union Station, commuter rail on the KCT tracks might compete favorably in travel time with driving, provided they can increase the speed of rail. Of course an express bus will likely still be faster to the Government District and the rest of the CBD.

So that leaves the question of cost. Can Jackson County persuade the railroads to bring the cost of access to their tracks down far enough that even if ridership projections are low and the travel time to the CBD is slow, the overall cost of getting to Union Station will be acceptable? Wait and see. The County is working very hard to put this together.

Williford’s letter also mentions Jackson County’s commitment to developing a comprehensive county-wide transit strategy that includes “rail, buses and a well-connected trails system”. The commuter corridors study process has raised the County’s awareness of the huge transit and trail gaps in the county, and considering a comprehensive package to take to voters is a great idea. In order to develop such a strategy, a number of groups have been convened to look at particular parts of an overall multi-modal plan. MARC is working with trails advocates to develop a detailed trails plan that satisfies multiple users, and the KCATA will be taking the lead in configuring and costing a more extensive bus system following the “Smart Moves” concept. Transit Action Network is part of a committee to identify the transit gaps. The original project team is working with the railroads on the capacity study to get into Union Station, but Third and Grand remains a fallback location for rail.

In a recent public meeting Williford talked about Jackson County’s serious “transit deficits” and made the following specific points:

  1. Every community that has developed rail transit has started first with a robust bus system. “Buses are the backbone of every transit system in the country,” he said, citing the “cost effectiveness” of buses over rail.
  2. Service for the mobility-impaired is inadequate.
  3. You can’t get from Kansas City to Independence after 6:00 at night.

Williford also said that while economic development is important, the county is placing greater emphasis on mobility than it did earlier. We think it’s great that the County’s understanding of the transit issues in the region has developed and expanded.

In order to create a comprehensive plan the County needs to fit all the pieces together with a financial package to pay for it. The County has taxing authority up to a one-cent sales tax. The full tax would raise approximately $80 million, derived almost equally from Kansas City and the rest of the county.

As part of this process, the County realized that parks and trails are really important to people. In the recently concluded session of the Missouri legislature the County successfully sought taxing authority for another ¼ cent sales tax for trails and parks. Such a tax could raise about $20 million.

Jackson County has taken on a huge challenge: Create a plan for commuter transit in three corridors, supplemental transit to fill numerous transit gaps throughout the county, and a set of parks and trails amenities. We hope they can come up with a great package at a cost that’ll be a “no-brainer” for voters to support.

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TAN’s Position On Transit Alternatives For The I-70 Corridor In Jackson County

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 1, 2012

 Transit Action Network sent its position paper on the I-70 corridor of the Jackson County Commuters Corridors Alternatives Analysis to the Project Team and the Stakeholders. The following position is based on the April 2012 presentations by the Project Team. We understand the numbers are not final, but while we expect them to change to some extent, we do not anticipate they will change in orders of magnitude. Read the whole document TAN Position on I-70 Corridor

1. TAN favors developing Enhanced Express Bus service along the I-70 corridor.

2. Transit facilities should be located and designed to maximize development potential around them.

3. Jackson County should create a County Transit Authority to fund this and other expanded inter-city transit service, thereby relieving localities of this burden.

4. Jackson County should negotiate an agreement with the City of Kansas City to acquire the use of land adjacent to the northern edge of Kessler Park sufficient for a right-of-way for future commuter rail to Second and Grand.

5. Jackson County and Kansas City should develop a working relationship with the Kansas City Terminal Railway to preserve sufficient right-of-way to accommodate additional tracks east of Union Station, so that the possibility of additional rail access (freight and passenger) to the Union Station area is not further compromised.


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Consultant Discusses the Preliminary Costs, Ridership and Time-Savings Estimates For The JCCCAA

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 29, 2012

Lisa Koch, senior planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff, returns to discuss the Jackson County Corridor Alternatives Analysis (JCCCAA). Parsons Brinckerhoff released the first wave of quantitative information about the study at an open house the end of April. Lisa brings us up-to-date with the study and why several of the alternatives have been eliminated including the original Regional Rapid Rail commuter rail proposal. That alternative used existing rail right-of-ways in the east and southeast of the county and new track on city streets, including Truman Road, to terminate at the Freight House District, north of Union Station.

Click to Enlarge

Lisa describes the replacement commuter rail proposal, which terminates in the Third and Grand area. She provides information about the remaining alternatives in both the East (I-70) Corridor and the Southeast Corridor (the unused Rock Island right-of-way). For these preliminary estimates, Lisa comments on the high costs, low ridership numbers and the fact that the fixed guideway alternatives don’t provide any time savings over the highways by 2035.

Lisa describes the “right-sizing “ efforts the team is making to fine-tune the alternatives based on what they have learned.  When the alternatives have been revised, the partnership team, consisting of Jackson County, Kansas City, KCATA and MARC, will decide on a Locally Preferred Alternative, (LPA).

At the end of the interview Lisa discusses the economic development numbers for the rail alternative that were presented at the open house. MARC estimated these numbers as a 10% increase on the assessment value of existing properties within a ½ mile radius of the proposed rail stations.

Using property appreciation as a proxy for development around rail stations is a common methodology. This is not an estimate of the impact on jobs or sales tax revenue, but rather the appreciation benefits that existing property owners might see if their property is near a station. It does not represent a net benefit. It does not take into account decreases in property values commonly experienced by property owners between stations and by upper bracket residences near a rail line.

There are also concerns that rail does not create development, it merely moves development from one area to another, next to a rail line. There are some conditions in which appreciation does not occur, in particular, in areas with unlimited ability to sprawl. Property appreciation can be very large – or zero, depending on the circumstances.

TAN believes it is desirable to concentrate activity around stations of any type, bus or rail. Areas with transit-oriented (not created) development are highly desirable, exciting, well-integrated places to work, live, shop and play that make transit investments more cost-effective.  However, after the initial construction investment, successful economic development relies on many factors besides having a station.

For a better understanding of economic development related to property appreciation for transit, read this report by the National Association of Realtors.

Public Transit Boosts Property Values, If Conditions are Right

To view the display boards for the third open house, go to the project website, KCSmartMoves.

Transit Action Network previously reported on the JCCCAA Open House #3.  Read our evaluation of the current information: High Cost Combined with Low Ridership and Insignificant Time-Savings Hurts Rail in the Commuter Corridors Study

To follow the whole study, see the rest of our video series at TAN Videos on our website. The third interview discusses the DMU rail lines east of I-435.

Link to the first interview: MARC And Parsons Brinckerhoff Discuss The Current Status Of The Commuter Corridors Altenatives Analysis

Link to the second interview: Parsons Brinckerhoff Consultant Discusses Three Alternatives In The JCCCAA

Link to the third interview: Discussion About The Regional Rail Alternative for the JCCCAA

Link to the fourth interview: Enhanced Streetcar/DMU/BRT Combinations Are Discussed

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High Cost Combined with Low Ridership and Insignificant Time-Savings Hurts Rail in the Commuter Corridors Study

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 8, 2012

A lot of factors go into making a good transit project.  Most people will gladly tell you they prefer trains to buses. However, when ridership numbers, time savings and costs factors come into the picture, reality hits.  Are the ridership numbers sufficient to justify the cost? Does the project actually save commuters time? Will the project qualify for federal funds to help pay for such an expensive project?  How much would it require in local taxes?

Open House #3 April 24 @ St Paul’s School of Theology

The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCCAA) is beginning to address some of these questions. The project team had its third series of open house meetings April 24-26. (See the Open House Display boards).  One more series is planned.

This open house provided the first look at quantitative results for the current commuter corridor study. The study is not complete and some of the numbers will change.

Some additional information is needed to understand the following information from the open house.

  1. The ridership numbers and travel time are forecasts for 2035. These are the numbers you can expect to see in 23 years.
  2. The dollar figures are for 2012.
  3. The model for forecasting congestion on I-70 only indicates an additional 3-5 minutes for travel time in 2035 over travel times today. The travel time for a car was not provided for comparison.

After evaluating the information from the open house, Transit Action Network’s preliminary conclusion is that, in all probability, none of the fixed guideway alternatives would qualify for federal funding due to the relatively high cost for the low ridership and the insignificant amount of time saved. The FTA uses these factors to measure cost-effectiveness. Of course, the numbers are being revised, but considerable improvements would be needed to change this assessment. Both of the commuter rail lines plus the Rock Island streetcar line and the Rock Island Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternatives are probably not cost-effective enough to receive capital funds for construction from the FTA.

A. I-70 Corridor from Oak Grove – Highlights

There are only two alternatives left in this corridor and they are basically the same as were studied in a 2007 Alternatives Analysis. Summary of 2007 I-70 Commuter Corridor AA

 EAST I-70 Corridor

Daily ridership by 2035

Total Capital Cost in millions

Total capital cost per rider based on annual ridership (260 days)

Travel time to 10th and Main from

Travel time in Minutes in 2035

Annual operating cost in millions

Express Bus




Oak Grove







Oak Grove



  1. One choice is an enhanced version of today’s highway express bus with more comfortable over-the-road coaches and significantly more service. In 2007 the recommendation was to improve the Express Buses. Compared to the 1,500 riders projected in the 2007 study, the 600 daily riders in the current study looks very low.

    Click to Enlarge I-70 corridor

  2. The second choice is a commuter train (Diesel Multiple Unit or DMU) that stays on the Kansas City Southern rail line toward the Northern Industrial District and then turns west and finishes at Third and Grand. There is a new alignment which is an improvement over the alignment in the 2007 study. There is a narrow strip of land owned by Kansas City, north of Cliff Drive by Kessler Park, that could be used instead of going through a rail yard. However, maximum daily ridership last time was 1,425 and right now this project is showing 1,150-2,800 daily riders. These ridership numbers are not significantly improved considering the project capital cost in 2007 was $102.8-168.9 million. More money is being projected for track improvements, which would increase the train speed and decrease the travel time.
  3. There is not a significant time savings for commuters using the train. The estimated time to 10th and Main from Oak Grove using the Express Bus is 59 minutes and getting to 10th and Main using the DMU plus a transfer to the streetcar is 61 minutes.

B. The Rock Island Corridor – Highlights

Four alternatives are still being considered, but they are not comparable situations.

SE corridor

Rock Island line

Daily ridership by 2035

Total Capital Cost in millions

Total capital cost per rider based on annual ridership (260 days)

Travel time to 10th and Main from

Travel time in Minutes in 2035

Annual operating cost in millions

Express Bus starts in Pleasant Hill




Pleasant Hill

63rd and Raytown Road




DMU starts in Pleasant Hill




Pleasant Hill



BRT Starts in Lee’s Summit




63rd and Raytown Road



SE Urban Corridor

Enhanced streetcar starts at 63rd street and Raytown road




63rd and Raytown Road



  1. Only the Enhanced Express Bus and the Diesel Multiple Unit go to Pleasant Hill.

    Click to Enlarge SE Rock island Corridor

  2. The Express Bus is an enhanced version of today’s highway express bus with better coaches and significantly more service.
  3. The DMU travels on the Rock Island Line, then continues north toward the Northern Industrial District. North of St. John Avenue it merges with the I-70 corridor KCS line and the two lines share a common segment into Third and Grand. The cost for this line does not include the common rail section since the Rock Island DMU line would only be built if the I-70 DMU line were built.
  4. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) only goes to Lee’s Summit. It uses a new paved busway on the Rock Island line to the Sports Complex and then a fixed guideway (the two middle lanes of traffic get barriers to segregate the bus from other traffic) is built on Stadium Drive and Linwood Blvd. At Bruce R. Watkins Drive (Highway 71) it uses the freeway to get into Downtown.
  5. The Enhanced Streetcar is not really part of the commuter corridors since it has been shortened to start at 63rd Street and Raytown Road, which makes it more of an urban corridor route. The streetcar goes down Linwood Blvd in a fixed guideway (the two middle lanes of traffic get barriers to segregate the streetcar from other traffic). At Main Street it would operate in mixed traffic and turn north to meet the proposed Downtown Streetcar line at Pershing.  MARC’s Smart Moves plan consists of two types of corridors – urban corridors that serve the urban core and commuter corridors, which bring people into the city from the suburbs. In fact, the significantly larger ridership numbers projected for this “enhanced streetcar” alternative are from people in the urban core. The streetcar has significantly more riders than the BRT even though they both go down Linwood since the bulk of the streetcar ridership happens west of Highway 71 after the BRT turns north.  Because the streetcar makes several stops along Linwood and functions like an urban streetcar corridor, this alternative does not appear to serve suburban commuters very well.
  6. This is the first AA that has been done in the Rock Island commuter corridor so it is interesting to see such low ridership numbers.

    Open House #3 April 25 @ John Knox Village

  • Express bus – 350; DMU – 500; Bus Rapid Transit – 500. These ridership numbers are breathtakingly low and don’t warrant any rail investment. Even if the study increases the numbers they aren’t going to go up nearly enough to justify the cost of rail. The low ridership projections for the DMU in the Rock island corridor compared to the I-70 corridor is partly because this line doesn’t go through the main population centers of these cities and a lot of the route goes through industrial areas.

For commuters in the Southeast Corridor there are two bus possibilities:  Enhanced Express Bus from Pleasant Hill or Bus Rapid Transit from Lee’s Summit.

  1. To compare travel time between the two buses, look at the time from Raytown Road. The BRT time to 10th and Main is 54 minutes and the express bus from that location is 48 minutes. So the express bus is faster over the same distance.
  2. The Express Bus costs $35-39 million, while the BRT would entail paving the Rock Island line and establishing a fixed guideway on Linwood for a total of $230-283 million. Is the additional cost worth it for a slower travel time and only a few more people?

What about the Rock Island Streetcar? Even though the ridership is better than the other alternatives in this corridor, it is far too low for the cost.

To put this streetcar in perspective, compare it to the Downtown Streetcar project currently being planned.


Daily Ridership by 2035

Total Capital Cost in millions

Capital Cost per Rider-Total Capital Cost Divided by Annual Ridership based on 260 days. (JCCCAA method)

2 mile Downtown Streetcar




12 mile Rock Island Streetcar





Financing Transit in Jackson County

Once transit alternatives are selected for these corridors — i.e., once a “Locally Preferred Alternative” or LPA is determined, local funding has to be obtained.  This is true whether there is a federal contribution to the project or not.

Revenue Source



Estimated Amount

Jackson County Sales Tax

Operating and Capital

1-cent sales tax (maximum)

$80 million annually

Jackson County Property tax

Operating and Capital

One mill

$82,500 annually

Farebox revenue



Typically 20% of operating costs

Federal Funding


5309 program for either New Starts (projects > $250 Million) or Bus and Bus Facilities

New Starts 30-50% of construction costs or Bus and Bus Facilities 80 %

Jackson County has special taxing authority allowing voters to approve up to a 1-cent sales tax for transit, which would collect about $80 million annually. Jackson County has significant transit needs, especially in eastern Jackson County.  Not only does commuter transit need to be improved and expanded, but transit is needed to get to other activity centers such as jobs, education, medical facilities, shopping and entertainment in areas other than downtown. (Only 14% of the region’s jobs are currently in the CBD).

Although a property tax is a possible funding source, it doesn’t raise much money.

TAN realizes the study isn’t finished and there will be changes, but the total annual cost is important to understand Jackson County’s ability to provide transit. The following numbers are based on the information presented at the April open house. We will re-do our analysis when adjusted numbers become available.

Estimated Rail and Fixed Guideway Annual Costs

Fixed guideways being studied in two corridors

TAN’s estimate of annualized capital debt service for rail (@4% interest for 25 years) in millions

Annual operating cost in millions

Total annual cost in millions

I-70 corridor DMU




Rock Island DMU




Rock island BRT




SE Corridor streetcar




Very preliminary conclusions:

Open House #3 April 24 @ John Knox Village

  1. Without federal assistance, Jackson County cannot pay for DMU rail lines in three Corridors. Study of a third corridor, the Highway 71 corridor to Grandview, is just getting under way.  It is possible that the annual costs for the DMUs in the first two corridors (as high as $49MM plus $36MM) could use up more than the 1-cent sales tax ($80 million annually) with nothing left to provide supporting bus services, much less transit to other parts of the county.
  2. Without significant federal funding, any fixed guideway options still being considered would be difficult to justify considering all the other transit needs and issues. The costs would be further complicated with a fixed guideway option in the Grandview corridor.
  3. Voters in Kansas City might object to paying a full 1-cent sales tax on commuter rail from eastern Jackson County without much benefit to taxpayers living within the City. In other words, for a transit tax to pass county-wide, there would have to be something in the package for Kansas City.
  4. Since rail projects are so expensive, most cities seek federal funding to help build projects. The FTA has only been funding large projects with a cost-effectiveness rating of at least Medium. Once a  project qualifies to be considered for federal funding, it still has to compete against other cities and recently the FTA has only been covering 30-50% of the cost of rail projects selected for funding. For perspective look at the FTA current Capital Investment Program Project Profiles.

Sample of FTA Current Commuter Rail Projects

Total project capital cost in millions

Projected Weekday ridership

Denver-Eagle Commuter Rail



Orlando-Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit-Initial operating segment



Weber County to Salt Lake Commuter Rail



Providence, RI South County Commuter Rail (extension)



Compare to the commuter rail being studied in Jackson County

I-70 DMU



Rock Island DMU

$326-413(doesn’t include cost of common segment)


Additional very preliminary conclusions:

  1. The two DMU rail lines could cost a billion dollars to build (using high-end estimates of  $600MM plus $413MM).
  2. The capital and operating costs for the Enhanced Express Buses could be covered without federal funding, although federal dollars are much easier to get for this use. Bus projects can usually be funded without issuing bonds. Bonds were not needed for the Troost and Main Street MAX lines. The FTA often pays up to 80% of the capital cost for major improvements to bus systems. Using such an approach, there would be money for other transit services in Jackson County, even without using the full 1-cent sales tax.
  3. Jackson County could fund express buses plus a robust transit system to serve other needs in the county at the same time.
  4. TAN expects that a reasonable allocation of any county transit tax would have to clearly provide a transit benefit in the City of Kansas City. Population and sales tax revenue in Jackson County are about evenly split between Kansas City and the remainder of the county.


Open House #3 April 25 @ John Knox Village

The purpose of performing an Alternatives Analysis is to find the best transit solution to seek federal funds. Federal funds are particularly important when proposing a rail project since they are so expensive. Sometimes good plans don’t get federal funding because of intense competition, but if a plan doesn’t qualify for federal funds because it isn’t cost effective, then it probably should not be built.  Sometimes cities fund a very short 1-2 mile starter rail line but rarely are long rail lines successfully funded with only local money.

Are Jackson County taxpayers prepared to pay for major transit plans that are not sufficiently cost-effective to qualify for federal funding? We doubt it.

An out-of-town transit consultant spoke at the MARC Transit committee when the two current rail studies started. He advised people to remember that serious rail transit is about the need to move a lot of people. Non-serious rail transit is about wanting to have a train.

Transit consultants in Kansas City will tell you when they do major commuter rail studies in other cities they usually come upon a robust bus transit system that will not be able to efficiently meet demand in the next few years and needs the additional capacity that rail provides. When they come to Kansas City to study rail, no such demand exists. We don’t even have a transit system in eastern Jackson County let alone one that is bursting at the seams and needs to be upgraded to rail.

Bottom line: What is the best use of our current or potentially available public money? Where do we get the biggest transit bang for our buck? Transit Action Network is very pro-rail, but we are also realistic and cost conscious. We want to see a significant transit improvement emerge from this study, and we’re waiting for the next wave of information and for the Locally Preferred Alternative to be determined. We hope the decision will reflect the information gained from spending nearly three years and $2 million dollars studying commuter options to find the best solution for the transit needs in Jackson County. Every major metropolitan region needs a good transit system that is appropriate for the community.

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Don’t Miss Open House #3 – Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 13, 2012

Please evaluate the remaining alternatives and let the project team know your preferences based on the information currently available. Additional detailed information should be available, including a range of costs, ridership numbers, travel times and potential financing options. The study is not complete and your input is valuable. The project consultants expect to complete the study in early summer.

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Commuter Corridors Study Narrows Field of Alternatives

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Click To Enlarge

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

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

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


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

Additional alternatives eliminated

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

Alternative at risk

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

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

Another Version of Rail Under Consideration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternatives Eliminated

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

Alternative with significant challenges

  • Enhanced Streetcar via Truman Road

Alternatives advancing for further evaluation

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

Alternative receiving renewed consideration

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed schedule

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

Mid-April Stakeholder Advisory Panel

Late April – Public Workshop

4/27 Project Partnership Team meeting

5/25 Project Partnership Team Meeting

May/June – Public Workshop

Summer – Announcement of LPA

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Enhanced Streetcar/DMU/BRT Combinations Are Discussed

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 24, 2012

The Partnership Team and consultants added eight additional alternatives to the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCCAA).  In the final interview of this series, Lisa Koch, senior planner with the lead consulting team Parsons Brinckerhoff, discusses these alternatives which include various combinations of three transit modes; Enhanced Streetcar, Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Maps of all the combinations are available below.

Lisa also describes the traffic control elements being planned for an Enhanced Streetcar to travel on the streets and how these elements differ from the ones used by the Regional Rail DMU alternative discussed in the previous interview.

For a closer look at the display board Lisa uses during the interview, see JCCCAA display-board-nov 2011 or print page 11 of the second open house display boards. JCCCAA-open-house-display-boards-nov 2011

Summary of JCCCAA Streetcar/DMU/BRT combinations being studied

Click to enlarge

Maps of all the Streetcar/DMU/BRT Combinations

A. Enhanced Streetcar/DMU – Linwood Alternative

B. Enhanced Streetcar (ALL) – Linwood Alternative

C. Enhanced Streetcar/DMU – Truman Road Alternative

D. Enhanced Streetcar (ALL) – Truman Road Alternative

E. BRT/DMU – Linwood Alternative

F. BRT (ALL) – LinwoodAlternative

G. BRT/DMU – Truman Road Alternative

H. BRT (ALL) – Truman Road Alternative

An alternatives analysis requires a substantial amount of work to evaluate the possible transit solutions for a corridor. The analysis includes a complex comparison process to decide which alternative is the best fit for our region at this time. Lisa has agreed to visit with TAN again to update us on status of the study and provide insight into the FTA process used to rate the alternatives.

TAN appreciates Tom Gerend of MARC and Lisa Koch of Parsons Brinckerhoff, along with Shockey Consulting and TranSystems, for making all of this information available to our viewers.

The next open house is March 13 -15 going to be re-scheduled.

Traffic Control Elements for RAIL on Streets in the JCCCAA

Link to the first interview: MARC And Parsons Brinckerhoff Discuss The Current Status Of The Commuter Corridors Altenatives Analysis

Link to the second interview: Parsons Brinckerhoff Consultant Discusses Three Alternatives In The JCCCAA

Link to the third interview: Discussion About The Regional Rail Alternative for the JCCCAA

Project website:  KCSmartMoves

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Discussion About The Regional Rail Alternative for the JCCCAA

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 20, 2012

In the third of our four interviews, Lisa Koch, senior planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff, discusses the Regional Rail alternatives for the Southeast Corridor (the unused Rock Island line through Raytown and Lee’s Summit) and the Eastern I-70 Corridor (the underutilized Kansas City Southern line through Blue Springs).

Diesel Multiple Unit -DMU

Lisa describes the routes being considered, along with traffic control elements that would be required by the Federal Railroad Administration for a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) train to use new rail on the streets of Kansas City and Independence to reach a commuter rail terminal in the Freight House District, north of Union Station.

For a closer look at the display board Lisa uses during the interview, see JCCCAA display-board-nov2011 or print page 11 of the second open house display boards. JCCCAA-Open-House-Display-Boards-Nov2011

Following is the proposed map for the Regional Rail system being studied in the Southeastern and Eastern Corridors of Jackson County. MP (Mile Point) is the distance in miles from Union Station.

Click To Enlarge

Details of all the alternatives are changing as the study continues.

The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis is scheduled for completion in late Spring 2012.

Our fourth interview, covering combinations of streetcars, DMU and BRT, will be posted later this week.

Link to the first interview: MARC And Parsons Brinckerhoff Discuss The Current Status Of The Commuter Corridors Altenatives Analysis

Link to the second interview: Parsons Brinckerhoff Consultant Discusses Three Alternatives In The JCCCAA

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Parsons Brinckerhoff Consultant Discusses Three Alternatives In The JCCCAA

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 17, 2012

Lisa Koch, a senior planner with the lead consulting firm for the study, Parsons Brinckerhoff,  discusses three of the alternatives being studied in the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis (JCCCAA) with Transit Action Network.

No Build

Transportation Systems Management

Enhanced Express Bus (part of TSM)

Lisa also describes the travel demand model used to estimate ridership for each mode in the study’s forecast year of 2035.

The study is in the second phase, called Tier Two, where a detailed analysis of the remaining alternatives is conducted and the alternatives are narrowed down to come up with a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). The study is scheduled to be completed in late Spring 2012.

This map is the current proposed map of the Enhanced Express Bus System. It has different colors to represent the different express bus services being considered. Some services are new. PR stands for Park and Ride lots. The map is subject to change.

In 2007 there was an I-70 Commuter Corridor Alternatives Analysis (AA).  In the Summary Report the consultant’s near-term recommendation was to improve the Express Bus system. The AA also studied the underutilized Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railroad line. In that study, the KCS line traveled to the Knoche Rail Yard and then new rail  was needed from there (near the Missouri River) up to Third St. and Grand.  In another variation the KCS line connected to the Trench, the Kansas City Terminal Railroad tracks that run past Union Station. Neither of those rail alternatives were recommended in 2007 and both of those options were eliminated from the current study in the Tier One evaluation.

Link to the first interview: MARC And Parsons Brinckerhoff Discuss The Current Status Of The Commuter Corridors Altenatives Analysis

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MARC And Parsons Brinckerhoff Discuss The Current Status Of The Commuter Corridors Altenatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 15, 2012

Last week Transit Action Network sat down with Tom Gerend, Assistant Director of Transportation and Project Manager at Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), and Lisa Koch, Senior Planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff,  in a series of four video interviews to discuss the Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis currently underway in Jackson County.

MARC is on the Partnership Team overseeing the study and Parsons Brinckerhoff is the lead consulting firm conducting the study.

Transit Action Network believes this is a good time to bring everyone up to date since the last public open house was the end of November 2011. The next open house won’t be held until after the Stakeholders Advisory Panel on March 6. (update-the third open house will be March 13-15 rescheduled)

These interviews provide background on the study as well as the current information about the three corridors and the multitude of alternatives being studied.

Keep in mind that none of the alternatives have been chosen to implement at this point and the situation changes as new information becomes available and decisions are made. Since the last open house, more analysis has been done and another alternative has been eliminated. Consultants and engineers continue to look for the best solutions to challenges presented by the options.

Join us on this first interview with Tom for an introduction to the series and background on the study.

The study website is

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Comment on Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis and Watch Video of the Open House

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 2, 2011

The second open house for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis was held this week. The meetings in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs and Kansas City, consisted of displays explaining the project, process and alternatives. Project consultants answered questions and explained the project. On Wednesday Nov 29th at the Gamber Center,  a welcome from Lee’s Summit Mayor Rhoads was followed by presentations from Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and Project Leader Shawn Dikes of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The project team is moving from the first stage, Tier One, to the more quantitative stage, Tier Two. Some of the original alternatives have been eliminated and two new alternatives have been added that include additional rail options.

The purpose of the open house is to gather public input. Read the open house handout explaining the alternatives that are advancing to Tier Two JCCCAA-Open-House-Handout-Nov2011, then view the display boards from the meeting for more information. JCCCAA-Open-House-Display-Boards-Nov2011

After viewing the project materials please go to the project website and make your comments.

There was an excellent turnout for the main meeting. Watch portions of the presentations on TAN’s first video.

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Open House #2 Nov 29, 30 & Dec 1- Jackson County Commuter Corridor Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 23, 2011

Don’t miss the second open house for the Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis. There are opportunities in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, and Kansas City to view and comment on the alternatives considered for advancement to the Tier Two Screening. There are significant changes from the first open house and some new alternatives. Study website

Tier 2 Screening: This screening ultimately will result in the selection of a single Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) defined in terms of mode and general alignment. Tier 2 Screening will evaluate the short list of full corridor alternatives at a level of detail sufficient for local decision-makers to select a LPA. The Tier 2 screening will rely on the travel demand forecasting model and limited conceptual engineering focusing on capital, operating and maintenance costs.

Invitation to JCCCAA 2nd open house


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Final Open House-See Designs for State Avenue “Connex” Transit Corridor – Oct 20

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 13, 2011

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Unified Government Transit of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., are hosting the final open house for the public to review the detailed improvement plans for the “Connex” transit corridor. Displays will provide information about the overall design of the corridor, plus specific plans for two new MetroCenters: Midtown KCK (47th and State Ave.) and Downtown KCK (7th and Minnesota Ave.). This major east-west route connects the city’s revitalized urban core to new development occurring in the Village West area.

Detailed plans for enhanced transit amenities and pedestrian infrastructure in the State Avenue corridor of Kansas City, Kan., will be on display.

When: 3:30–6 p.m. on Oct. 20

Where: St. Patrick Catholic Church Parish Hall, 1086 N. 94th St., Kansas City, KS 66112

Link to more information about the improvements on the KCATA website

The Kansas City Regional TIGER Grant is funding $10.3 million in transit improvements along State Avenue in Kansas City, Kan. The Transit Center and Corridor Transit Station Improvements are scheduled for completion 3rd quarter 2012.

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