Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Archive for the ‘Transit Studies’ Category

So Many Alternatives to Evaluate in Jackson County!

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 13, 2011

The Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis is studying six different alternatives to find the best option to improve transit from Eastern Jackson County into downtown Kansas City.  The commuter corridors under consideration are east along the I-70 corridor to Oak Grove and southeast along the old Rock Island Corridor possibly all the way to Pleasant Hill.

JCCCAA Open House-Independence

The Federal Transit Administration requires the study look at different alternatives to find the best and most cost-effective solution in a corridor. At the first open house the project team presented each alternative with descriptions and maps. They published the JCCCAA_Open_House_Booklet_092711 with these details.

The study is guided by FTA standards and will evaluate and compare the alternatives for mobility improvements, user benefits, operating efficiencies, cost effectiveness, ridership numbers, capital and operating costs, existing transit supportive land-use, and economic development effects. Economic development effects are evaluated based on transit supportive plans and policies and the actual performance of the land use policies as well as the potential impact of the project on regional land use.  Transit supportive plans and policies include factors such as growth management, transit supportive corridor policies, supportive zoning regulations near stations and tools to implement land use policies.

Here are the basic alternatives under consideration. The streetcar/light rail description in the booklet of the Alternative 5 eastern corridor is incorrect. It is a spur into Independence. The map is correct.

Alternative 1 is the baseline alternative for comparison. This is a  “No Build” scenario with minimum investment.

Display board for one of the alternatives

Alternative 2 is Transportation System Management to improve operating efficiency of current systems without adding capacity on the highways or making major capital improvements to the transit system. This could include improvements to the Scout System, improvements to the transit system already identified in the KCATA Comprehensive Service  Analysis, and expansion of Transportation Demand Management/ridesharing programs. TAN feels that many of these ideas should be implemented regardless of the other outcomes in the study since they can be done in the near term with relatively small financial outlays and noticeable improvements to the management of the corridors for all transportation modes, including cars.

Independence Mayor Reimal

Alternative 3 is an Enhanced Express Bus to Oak Grove and Pleasant Hill via the current highway system. There is the possibility of using Bus on Shoulder on I-70 between I-470 and the Kansas City Central Business District sometime in the future.

Alternatives 4 and 5 basically build on Alternative 3 by adding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on US 40 and the Rock Island corridor, then adding a streetcar/light rail line from Crown Center that has two spurs, one to Independence and one to Raytown.  In these versions, the southeastern corridor uses the Rock Island corridor as a fixed guideway for the Enhanced Express Bus as well as the BRT.

One of the alternatives 3, 4 or 5 may be the preferred alternative if Regional Rapid Rail isn’t competitive in the analysis.

Alternative 6 is the Regional Rapid Rail system. There are three variations to the route provided, but the Truman Road route has been discussed the most. This system uses underutilized rail in the suburbs but requires new rail in multiple sections including the last seven miles into downtown. The eastern corridor uses the KC Southern line to Noland Road then requires new rail to cut over to the Truman Sports Complex. The southeastern corridor uses the old Rock Island line to just west of the Truman Sports Complex at US40. The Rock Island Corridor has not been used for almost 40 years, so it will be interesting to find out how much renovation is needed to return the line to safe operating condition.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders

Study participants from Parsons Brinckerhoff, Shockey Consulting and MARC

Both lines converge just east of the sports complex. There is discussion of a station south of the Chiefs south parking lot, what is currently the wooded area past entrance 3 to the Chiefs parking lot. A train viaduct can be seen as it crosses Blue Ridge Cuttoff just north of Raytown Road.

The two routes use a Common Line into downtown.  The last seven miles of the Common Line, after Leeds Junction by US 40, is on new tracks and often runs on city streets. According to the MARC corridor study in 2010, anytime the DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) vehicle travels on the streets it will have a maximum speed of 25 mph.  It goes north in the vicinity of 18th and Topping to Truman Road west of Jackson Avenue, and travels on Truman Road at a maximum speed of 25 mph. It turns south on Cherry to 20th where it turns west to arrive north of Union Station in the Freight House district close to Jack Stack Bar-B-Que.  This area is on the old KC Star storage track.  TAN still has many outstanding concerns about this alternative as expressed in an earlier article related to last year’s corridor study.

There are two other versions of this alternative. One has the eastern route stay on the KCS line until 23rd street and skips the Sports Complex. The 23rd street route runs down the center of the street at a maximum speed of 25 mph and connects with the Common Line at I-435. The other variation has both routes connecting at the Sports Complex, and traveling along the Common Line but cross Truman Road and follows the Kansas City Terminal and then the “trench embankment” into the Freight House district north of Union Station.

TAN is waiting on the project team to provide more details about the routes as they proceed in the study. Some sections of the routes are still vague, but that is normal since the study just started and the team needs time to find the best options.

The project team held three open house sessions the last week of September, Independence, Raytown and Union Station, to explain and discuss the “Purpose and Needs” statement for the project and show the public the proposed alternatives. There was an excellent turnout. Three additional public meetings are planned in November 2011, January 2012 and March 2012.  Visit the study’s website for more information.

Project Leader Shawn Dikes

In Independence, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders spoke about the need to plan ahead for future transit needs. He also made the point that even if you personally don’t use transit many of the people you interact with do, so you still need transit. Parsons Brinckerhoff Project Manager Shawn Dikes had a PowerPoint presentation to explain the study. See his presentation JCCCAA-Open-House-Presentation-Sept2011

This study is costing $1.2 million. MARC plans to add the study for the US71/Grandview corridor to this study. Jackson County has already received $652,200 to do that study plus MARC has applied for another $1.2 million for the US71 corridor and hopes all these studies can be combined.

TAN feels very strongly that the region needs to implement the best alternative from this study, whether it is Enhanced Express Bus, BRT, Streetcar/Light Rail, Regional Rapid Rail  or a combination.  If we are going to spend this amount of money on studies then it is our responsibility, to the best of our ability, to implement the recommendations that come out of them.

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First Open House – SEPT 27- Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 22, 2011

The first open house for the JCCCAA will be September 27 at the Ennovation Center, 201 N. Forest, Independence from 4 pm to 7 pm. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders and the Parsons Brinckerhoff Project Manager Shawn Dikes will give short presentations at 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm. Be there to see maps of the alternatives under consideration for upgrades to commuter transit service from eastern Jackson County (and beyond) into downtown Kansas City in the I-70 Corridor and the Rock Island corridor.

There are two additional opportunities for public comment. The project boards from the open house will be displayed at key locations in the corridors from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Project partnership and consultant team staff will be on hand to answer questions from 5 to 7 p.m.  These additional meetings will take place according to the following schedule.

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Main vs. Grand? Streetcar vs. Bus? Final Open House!

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 15, 2011

The Partnership Team for the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (AA) is getting ready to announce the recommended route (Grand Blvd. or Main St.) and type of service (streetcar or bus) for a downtown starter line from the River Market to Crown Center.  Find out about the purpose of the study  and the decision-making  process used to arrive at these recommendations at the third and final open house. A general strategy to fund construction, operation, and maintenance of the starter line will be presented too.

Third and final public open house

When: Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Where: In the atrium of the Steamboat Arabia Museum (in the River Market)

400 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, Mo.

No formal presentations will be given.

View the news release.

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So Many Studies, So Little Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 14, 2011

In September of 2009, Brad Cooper of the KC Star wrote an article titled “KC’s rail dreams prove costly; Area has little to show for its money, but advocates say every study moves city closer to a solution.” Brad writes about Kansas City’s “love-hate relationship with transit that has cost taxpayers nearly $17 million, mostly in federal cash”.

In 2011 the Brookings Institution ranked the Kansas City region as 90th of 100 cities in our ability to get people to work using transit.

After decades of transit studies and a MARC developed regional transit plan called Smart Moves, why do we still have such limited transit service in the region?

Will the two “Alternatives Analysis” studies currently being conducted turn this pattern around?

Janet Rogers, co-founder of Transit Action Network, is convening a Communiversity course to discuss these issues and more on Oct 8. Be there!

From the Communiversity catalog:

Social Concerns Section

Millions and Millions of Dollars for Transit Studies-Where’s the Transit?
Why does the KC region have transit studies but rarely add any additional transit? What are our chances of getting a downtown streetcar or commuter rail? What happened to Smart Moves? What is an alternatives analysis? What can we do to improve the situation? Get the transit scoop from a co-founder of Transit Action Network and transit advocate for over a decade. Bring $2 to class for handouts. Janet Rogers worked to save the Eastern Jackson County commuter buses and restore KC transit funding.
CONVENER: Janet Rogers
CLASS FEE: $9.00
Sec. A: 1 session(s); Beginning Saturday, October 08, 2011 1:00 PM;
Flarsheim Hall, Rm. 260, 5110 Rockhill Rd., UMKC Campus, KCMO, Rockhill Rd. south of 51st.;

Communiversity Online Class Registration Site.

Course page

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Commuter Corridors Advisory Group Has First Meeting

Posted by Transit Action Network on September 8, 2011

The first meeting of the Jackson County Commuter Corridor Alternatives Analysis Stakeholder Advisory Panel was held on August 31. Project manager Shawn Dikes of Parsons Brinckerhoff said the study team is “starting from scratch,” and that they are not here to validate some pre-determined solution.  TAN advocates Janet Rogers and Mark McDowell are on the panel.

The study team offered a wider range of options than a lot of people expected: several bus alternatives; streetcar or light rail on a couple of alignments; and several “commuter rail” alignments that had not previously been seen in public. Dikes admitted, however, that they chose to eliminate such options as subways, monorails, and gondolas.  (That got a laugh.)

By consensus the group eliminated a commuter rail route that would terminate at the north edge of the river market.

Dikes reminded the panel that FTA funding for rail projects that are doing well in an AA are currently receiving a maximum of 50 % of the capital costs to build the system. Asking for less money increases a project’s chances of being federally funded.

Whether a suitable so-called “common line” can be found westward from near the sports complex into downtown Kansas City may turn out to be the critical question for commuter rail. At the meeting, TAN expressed concern that one of the routes would go through a disadvantaged community in the vicinity of 18th and Topping. Project work has to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Disadvantaged communities affected by the project have to be included in the planning process and the project cannot adversely affect the community. Lawsuits have been field against rail projects in other cities related to this issue.  MARC is already discussing these issues with community leaders.

Dikes said that the FTA would not fund rail that hurts bus service.  The rail service in this study would likely differ enough from express bus routes, that the express buses could not be eliminated in order to help pay for rail.

Transit Action Network posted some concerns a couple of weeks ago about the commuter rail concept as developed in last year’s corridor study:

The consultant team has drafted a “Purpose and Need” statement and is currently developing an executive summary.

According to the FTA: “(A) study “purpose and need” establishes the problems that must be addressed in the analysis; serves as the basis for the development of project goals, objectives, and evaluation measures; and provides a framework for determining which alternatives should be considered as reasonable options in a given corridor. … This information provides the context for performing the analysis and for identifying the measures against which alternatives strategies will be evaluated. It also serves as an introduction for decision makers, stakeholders, and the general public to the study area and its transportation problems and needs.”

The FTA goes on to say that “the purpose and need statement serves as the cornerstone for the alternatives analysis.” The statement should not point to one solution, but be as concise as possible, focusing on the primary transportation issues addressed in the alternatives analysis.

The first public meeting on the alternatives analysis will be from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on September 27, 2011 at the Ennovation Center, 201 N. Forest Avenue, Independence, Mo. The focus of the meeting will be on the purpose and need for the project and the range of alternatives being considered. Four public meetings are planned. Details will follow as they become available.

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Excitement at Union Station – Modern Streetcar – Hybrid MAX bus -Information on DCAA

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 23, 2011

Inside Union Station or outside in the bright sun, Kansas City came out in droves to view a new Modern Streetcar, compare it to the new Hybrid MAX bus and find out more about the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (DCAA) at the second public open house. Transit Action Network advocates had a time great taking pictures and talking about transit with such an interesting and enthusiastic group of people.

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Downtown Streetcar Would Be on Main or Grand

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 21, 2011

If a Downtown Streetcar line is built, it will be on Main Street or Grand Boulevard.

That was the big announcement from the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (DCAA) study team on Thursday, August 17, at the monthly meeting of the City’s Parking and Transportation Commission (PTC).  That body is acting as the study advisory committee for the DCAA.

Complete information has been posted on the project website maintained by Mid-America Regional Council: 

That site has links to all study documents, including:

+ The August 17 Technical Memorandum, which analyzes each potential route:

+ The August 17 consultant team presentation to PTC:

+ A map of the two alignments for further study:

DCAA study manager Charlie Hales of HDR presented the recommendations to the Commission.  Seven possible routes were considered:  four were bi-directional routes (i.e., using the same street for both northbound and southbound tracks), and three were couplets (i.e., north on one street and south on another).  In all cases the end-points are 3rd and Grand on the north, and Pershing Road on the south.  The Grand route would terminate at Pershing and Main, while the Main route would terminate at Pershing and Grand.

Each of the two finalist routes has pluses and minuses. Grand offers the widest right-of-way (100 feet for nearly all of the distance), it is the straighter of the two, and it is closer to the government district and its concentration of jobs.  Main is closer to the geographic center of Downtown, closer to hotels, the Convention Center and Performing Arts Center, and closer to the center of the River Market district.  It also serves Union Station more directly.

Main gives less right-of-way to work with (about 60 feet), while Grand suffers from the prospect of having to be closed for major events at the Sprint Arena.  (That is a sticking point that the City never should have allowed to exist, in our opinion.  Letting a few transit vehicles through an on-street event should not be a big deal.)

With approval of these two potential routes by the PTC, the team will subject them to more intense study and present a recommendation for adoption at the September 21 meeting of PTC.

Selection of a route might be the most visible decision to be made, but it is far from the most important.  Other factors to get careful consideration include:

– What operating speed and level of service will be provided on the route?  Count us as among the many who have assumed from the beginning that this two-mile line would be the first segment of a longer rail line that would extend at least to the Plaza, and perhaps beyond.  We favor frequent service and as high a speed as can be accommodated in the corridor to make the service attractive.

– What fare collection mechanism will be used?  An off-board system is preferable since that would speed boarding and permit faster trips.  Some advocate making this a no-fare line — an attractive alternative but perhaps not practical.  Clearly a climb-on-board-and-put-cash-in-the-farebox system is undesirable.

– Would the streetcars travel in a reserved lane on the chosen street (preferable for a line that will ultimately serve as the last two miles of a longer line), or in “mixed traffic” (which may be acceptable for a local circulator line that might never run very fast).

– How will the streetcar work with existing transit routes?  KCATA has said it would reconfigure bus routes to work with the streetcar, but it’s not clear if that would be a tweaking of routes, or major shifts that might encourage more riders to use the streetcar to get to one end of the line or the other and then transfer to a bus for the rest of their trip.

– How will the streetcar be financed?  It’s been assumed all along that property owners and/or businesses and/or residents of the corridor would pick up a significant part of the cost of the line.  Just how that will happen is yet to be determined.

Those are among the questions that citizens should be asking at upcoming public meetings and events.

Formation of a Transportation Development District (TDD) is likely to be part of the funding mechanism, and under that arrangement only those most directly affected would go to the polls.  Out of concern for that question and the importance of building support from within the project area, Transit Action Network met early with leaders of the River Market Neighborhood Association, Downtown Neighborhood Association, and Crossroads Neighborhood Association.  Out of those meetings came Streetcar Neighbors:

We expect that group to play an ongoing leadership role in shaping this project as it evolves.

Finally, while this study is often referred to as a Downtown Streetcar study, it is officially an alternatives analysis, and all modes are being actively considered and evaluated against one another, including an upgraded MAX bus line.

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Modern Streetcar Comes to Downtown at Second Public Open House Aug 23

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 21, 2011

An ameriTram modern streetcar of the type that might one day travel along Main or Grand will be on display at Union Station all day on Tuesday, August 23.

The display is part of the second open house at which the project team will have informational displays inside Union Station and people available to answer questions.  Our understanding is that the consultant team used its connections with the manufacturer to bring the car to Kansas City for display.  We salute the project team for bringing the streetcar here.

Where: Union Station

When: Aug 23

7 am to 7 pm – Modern Streetcar Exhibit

8 am to 6:30 pm – Second Public Open House by the Project Team in the Grand Hall

Other activities planned for the day:

11 am to 1 pm – Live Radio Remote

1 pm – KC Chiefs Raffle

5:30 pm – Speakers including Mayor Sly James and County Executive Mike Sanders followed by a performance by Quixotic Fusion in the KC Chamber Boardroom

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Consultants Face Big Challenge Studying Regional Rapid Rail

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 16, 2011

Parsons Brinckerhoff  (PB), a highly-respected transit consulting firm, has begun work on the $1.2 million Jackson County Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis. This analysis will evaluate two corridors from the Regional Rapid Rail (RRR) concept — one through Blue Springs using the Kansas City Southern line, and one through Lee’s Summit using the old Rock Island line — and compare commuter rail to alternatives such as express buses.

 The RRR concept, widely presented around the region last year, proposed six commuter rail corridors using underutilized and abandoned rail lines to provide a rail system from the suburbs into Union Station. After preliminary review of the concept in MARC’s Smart Moves Transit Implementation Plan Phase II: Commuter Corridors Study, it was determined that only two of the corridors warranted further study in the near term. Studying the other corridors was postponed due either to insufficient ridership or being too costly given the projected ridership.

 The two corridors now being studied provide plenty of issues to resolve. Perhaps the biggest unresolved issue is the so-called “Common Line,” which the two routes would share. There is no underutilized track for the 7 miles between Leeds Junction (just west of the Truman Sports Complex)  and Union Station. Nor is there readily usable right of way for the 2 miles immediately east of Union Station.  Therefore, several alternatives are being considered. These include running on city streets (e.g., Truman Road) at a maximum speed of 25 mph, or perhaps along the I-70 right-of-way. The former requires moving or hardening utilities, while the later requires modifications to bridges and exit and entrance ramps. TAN doubts that projected ridership can justify the cost entailed in any of these alternatives.

 The Common Line is critical to the feasibility of the RRR system. If a cost effective solution to the Common Line remains elusive, or if a potential solution undermines operating speed, then the whole RRR concept falls apart.

 There have been two previous studies of commuter rail in the I-70 corridor through Blue Springs using existing rail. In both cases ridership was insufficient to justify the cost of using existing rail into downtown Kansas City.  The RRR concept and the most recent study take that conclusion — plus the freight railroads’ assertion that they will not allow commuter rail on existing tracks into Union Station — and propose a Common Line on new rail as the solution. 

 There are several other outstanding concerns from the Phase II study, and there have been lively and skeptical discussions within the MARC Transit Committee. TAN has been vocal in expressing our skepticism. Cost estimates, travel times, and the absence of credible ridership projections have generated great concern too. All of these issues remain today for PB to resolve.

 An Alternatives Analysis involves consideration of multiple modes. There are new technologies and innovative ways to make Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or express buses compare favorably with rail.  Buses are efficient, cost-effective and can be used to effectively combat congestion. The fact that they can offer greater flexibility and a higher level of service for riders means that rail is not the only possible solution to our transit needs. Nor is rail necessarily more environmentally sustainable than modern buses, particularly where ridership is relatively low. 

 TAN has maintained a consistent position regarding transit service in commuter corridors. If rail is shown to be cost effective, to function well enough to attract additional commuters, and to qualify for FTA funding, then it should be implemented, along with the necessary local bus routes to support it. However, if rail is found not to be viable, and if express buses are again found to be the more feasible alternative, then the region should expand its commuter transit system using express buses. We should not continue to put off improving the region’s transit system just because rail isn’t practical at the present time. We need to build a system that serves commuters today, and that makes sense for our region for the future. The Alternatives Analysis should guide the region to an appropriate decision.

 TAN has sought and been granted a formal role on the AA Advisory Committee, and we have already met with the study team.  In addition, we’ll closely follow the study through our representation on MARC’s Transit Committee.

 What will be the best way to provide mobility from the suburbs into the central business district?  Stay tuned.  The Kansas City region definitely needs to improve its public transit system, and this study will help us decide how best to meet that need.

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Please Comment on the Downtown Corridor (Streetcar) Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 28, 2011

More than 100 people attended the first open house for the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis. However if you missed the open house you can still see the presentation and the maps, and include your comments about the study.

See the first presentation  DCAA Overview-Presentation1

These are the various alignment alternatives being considered for the streetcar.

A.”Bi-directional” options – both tracks running north and south on a single street.

Grand Avenue

Walnut Street

Main Street

Baltimore Avenue

A reason to use single streets is expressed in the Nelson/Nygaard Comprehensive Service Analysis currently underway for the KCATA bus system.

“Routes should operate along the same alignment in both directions to make it easy for riders to know how to return to their location of trip origin. All routes should operate along the same alignment in both directions, except in cases where such operation is not possible due to one-way streets or turn restrictions.”

B. “Couplet” options – one direction runs on one street while the other direction runs on an adjacent street. All couplet options contain streets that are currently configured for two-way auto traffic (in whole or just sections).

Grand/Walnut Couplet

Main/Walnut Couplet

Main/Baltimore Couplet

A reason to use couplets, when not necessary due to street constraints, is for the potential of greater economic development. Many people see rail as an engine of economic development and if the route is split onto two streets then it may generate additional development.

South of 20th Street, all streetcars run on Main or Grand. Baltimore options divert to Main at 10th Street. The River Market is a large loop in all scenarios.

View the maps for the various alignments. DCAA-Alignment-Alternatives-Map

COMMENT FORM: Be sure to fill out a comment form about the plan.

Visit KCSmartMoves to keep up-to-date with the study.

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KCATA Board to Consider Draft Transit Service Guidelines

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 19, 2011

As part of its Comprehensive Service Analysis (CSA), KCATA and the Nelson Nygaard team have developed proposed service guidelines for KCATA “Metro” transit services.  This is a draft report and subject to change, yet it is developed to the point that the study team is presenting it to the Board of Commissioners on June 22.

From the Board Briefing:

The service guidelines are intended to aid KCATA in designing route service, setting appropriate service levels, establishing minimum levels of service performance, and continuously evaluating route performance.   

In the context of the CSA, the proposed service guidelines will also serve as a primary tool in developing recommended service plans and educating riders and stakeholders about the plan and route design principles.

At the June 22 KCATA Board Meeting staff will provide an overview of the draft transit service guidelines.

In the near future there will be an opportunity for public comment. In the meantime you can read the draft here.  KCATA CSA Draft Transit Service Guidelines June 2011

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MARC Transit Committee Meeting 5/4/11

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 16, 2011

MARC Transit Committee Meeting 5/4/11

1. Tom Gerend, MARC Assistant Director of Transportation, gave a short update on the Downtown Corridor (Streetcar) Alternatives Analysis.

Tom clarified the report in the KC Star about the line costing $25 million per mile.  It is important to distinguish between single and double tracked routes.

  • This $25 million cost is more relevant to single track routes, like a loop.
  • This study is looking at tracks running in both directions, double tracked.  The route may be 2 miles long but there are 4 miles of track.
  • The cost per track mile will vary greatly depending on whether the track bed is built to a streetcar or a light rail standard.
  • All of these options are going to be studied.
  • NOTE: A previous streetcar presentation at the Transit Committee by a different consultant estimated the cost of a streetcar with double tracks and built to light rail standards at $40 million per route mile, an estimate of $80 million for a two-mile route with these characteristics.

2. Mark Swope, Olsson Associates, gave an update of the Smart Moves Implementation Phase III Study.

  • This study brings together the Phase I Urban Corridors Bus Rapid Transit study, Phase II Commuter Corridors/Commuter Rail Study and Local Services, including paratransit. The regional plan will detail preferred service strategies and include a corresponding financial analysis including developing financial funding scenarios.
  • Mark presented information breaking down both operating and capital costs by county through 2020 using the transit scenarios from the previous studies.

3. After the main meeting the Seamless Transit Workgroup met to continue discussions related to making transit work more easily for riders.

  • KCATA and JCT have been working together to post additional JCT schedule information.
  • KCATA and JCT are discussing the possibility of a reciprocity agreement to allow riders to use monthly passes on either service.
  • JCT is working on improvements to “basic passenger infrastructure” at bus stops, including improved signs, route and schedule information, and concrete pads to connect sidewalks to the street. Bus stops with a higher level of service would get additional amenities.
  • In the discussion regarding real-time information through mobile devices, the transit providers explained that they use different technologies to communicate with riders. In the near term, any real-time information will be provided separately.

Next meeting June 1


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KCATA Board of Commissioners Meeting 4/27/11

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 5, 2011

1. During public comment, Ron McLinden, Transit Action Network, asked the board to initiate a unilateral 90-day trial period in which KCATA honors Johnson County Transit monthly passes on Main Street MAX buses.  A limited trial could be implemented at little or no cost, and would be an important symbolic step toward improving the region’s transit system by making transit a more viable option for more people.  The Board agreed to consider the request.

2.The board authorized a contract to purchase eight 2011 Dodge Caravan passenger vans for use in the KCATA”s AdVantage Vanpool Program. The eight vehicles in the current fleet of 33 vehicles have exceeded their 100,000-mile and four-year useful life. The AdVantage Vanpool Program is available to commuters who either reside or work in a community supporting the KCATA through service agreements, and who do not have access to existing public transit services for their commute trip.

View the program

(Unfortunately, the money is for replacement vans only. No additional vans are being added to the vanpool although there is a waiting list and we are in a period of high demand due to high gas prices. This program is great for groups of 6 or more people who want to ride together to work and other forms of public transit are not available: example-people who live in Lee’s Summit but work close to the airport)

3. The Board of Commissioners authorized a cooperative agreement for a KU Medical Center Area Transit Study toward the goal of improving transit service for those working in and around the medical center and improving connections between current transit routes.

The study arose from discussions between Mayor Reardon of Kansas City, Kansas, and Mayor Foster of Roeland Park about improving transit service for those working in and around the medical center and improving connections between current transit routes.

KCATA, MARC, Johnson County Transit, the City of Roeland Park, and the Unified Government have jointly developed a scope for a consultant to analyze options to improve transit services to KU Medical Center for nearby residents, employees, and visitors and to improve transit connections.

HNTB has been selected to conduct the study under their on-call services contract with KCATA, at an estimated cost of $72,500. The study is to be completed this fall. Federal planning funds will be used for 80% of the cost with remaining local funds to be provided by the Unified Government, Johnson County Transit, the City of Roeland Park, and KCATA.

4. The Board of Commissioners authorized a service contract with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, from May 1, 2011, to April 30, 2012, with a City contribution of $43.1 million.

From the 1/2 cent sales tax the contract includes $19.9 million for Metro, $1.9 million for Share-A- Fare and $40.2 thousand to fund specialized services for reverse-commute job transportation. There is $21.3 million from the 3/8-cent sales tax for public transportation.

This contract is an increase of 6.2% over last years contract. Part of that increase is due to the ordinance passed in December 2010 to restore funding to public transit and part is due to higher sales tax revenues.

Keep in mind that this contract is still less than the 2004/2005 Kansas City contract.

Share-A-Fare Price Increases 2011

5.Bryan Beck, KCATA’s Director of ADA Compliance and Customer Service, provided an update on the fare increase from $2.50 to $3 per ADA eligible ride for the Share-A-Fare program, including the results of two public meetings and additional public input.  He presented general information and a service review of the Share-A-Fare program. See the full presentation- SAF Update 

6. Cindy Baker, KCATA Director of Marketing,  made a presentation on the State Avenue corridor project, funded by TIGER grants. It is in the design phase and the design team will soon be meeting with Advisory Council, stakeholders, and the general public. One component of this phase is the branding that will go hand in hand with design and then implementation. This project includes transit infrastructure improvements that could serve as a precursor to a future MAX line.

Johnson County Transit is in a similar situation with their Shawnee Mission Parkway/Metcalf route, also a TIGER-funded improved-transit corridor, but not full BRT service.

The JO has been working with consultants and the public to brand their new line. They have opted to call it “The JO Connex”. KCATA, Unified Government, and Johnson County Transit are all amenable to developing a regional brand, called “Connex,” that would represent a family of routes that include enhanced transit amenities, but do not increase service levels to MAX standards.

Next meeting May 25, 2011.

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Streetcar Study Off to Fast Start

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 20, 2011

A Downtown Streetcar “Alternatives Analysis” (AA) study is on a fast track to completion, according to Charlie Hales, project manager for lead consultant HDR.  That’s our conclusion based on Hales’ presentation to the Kansas City Parking and Transportation Commission today.  The Commission, chaired by Councilwoman Jan Marcason will be the “primary sounding board” guiding the study.

Hales, who has had extensive rail transit experience in Portland and other cities, said though the federal funding situation is uncertain, the best way to get such funding is to have a plan ready when the next money becomes available.

The study timetable is ambitious:
– June – Statement of purpose and need, plus identification of initial alternatives.
– August – Alternatives evaluation and financing options.
– September – Draft of a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) report.
– November – Formal recommendation of a single Locally Preferred Alternative.

The FTA has awarded $400 million in grants for streetcar projects in the past 15 months through the TIGER and “Urban Circulator” programs, Hales said, and USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood really likes streetcar projects.  Getting the current study done will enable Kansas City to be “nimble” in applying for FTA “new starts” or “small starts” money, or other federal money that may become available.  Some transportation funding, for example, has recently been turned back by other grantees, and that money — even high-speed rail money — could conceivably be redirected to a streetcar project such as ours.

The Downtown Streetcar study will follow the FTA’s formal process, which requires consideration of reasonable options for both route and mode, but will seek a so-called “categorical exclusion” (a category of project considered not to have major environmental impacts) to simplify the “environmental screen” required in the FTA process.  Issues such as event-related street closures (e.g., at Sprint Arena and Crown Center), utility location requirements, the strength of bridges over the freeways, and where to locate a maintenance facility are among those to be addressed in the study.  Other factors include ridership forecasts (estimates based on travel demand models as well as “off-model” considerations) and financing options.

Hales noted that the study will build on a number of recent and ongoing local studies, including the Greater Downtown Area Plan, KCATA’s Comprehensive Service Analysis, the region’s Urban Corridors Study, and the Grand Boulevard Vision, plus all of the light rail planning work that’s been done in past years.  The streetcar study will be coordinated with the Commuter Corridors study (not yet underway), which will consider commuter rail in two major corridors.

Keeping the project manageable is important, too.  When projects fail, Hales said, it’s not for engineering reasons.  Rather, it’s for political reasons.  Thus, every effort will be made to keep all stakeholders involved, to limit expectations, and to avoid a key mistake of past Kansas City rail studies, letting the scope of the project expand.  Holding the project to just two miles gives it the highest likelihood of success, based on past voter response.  (It’s widely expected that funding for this project would come largely from within the streetcar corridor, and thus a citywide vote would not be required.)  This also keeps it small enough that the city might be able to finance it without federal assistance, should that become necessary.

KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer noted that a bill has been introduced in the Missouri Senate that would allow a Transportation Development District (TDD) to be set up specifically for transit, and that would simplify the makeup of the TDD’s governing body.  That bill (which might not be critical) might or might not get through the General Assembly this year.

Assistant City Manager Sherri McIntyre will oversee the project for the City.  She said she looks forward to guiding the study to completion and then getting the project built.

Said Chairman Marcason: “I’m the most optimistic that I’ve ever been (about getting a rail transit project done).”

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Transit Consultant Chosen for Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 7, 2011

April 6. It was announced at the MARC Transit Committee that Parsons Brinckerhoff will be recommended to conduct the Commuter Corridors Alternatives Analysis in Jackson County. Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) is considered one of the world’s leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management organizations.

PB founder William Barclay Parsons was chief engineer for the original New York City subway.

PB has designed 30,000 miles of heavy and light rail systems, automated guideways, commuter rail and busways.

The PB team consists of Nelson\Nygaard, Olsson Associates and Shockey Consulting. PB has a local office in Lenexa, Kansas.

From MARC’s  Request for Proposal (RFP):

For the purposes of this Alternatives Analysis, the two commuter corridors to be studied run through multiple jurisdictions. The I-70 Commuter Corridor runs from the heart of Kansas City, Mo and extends east paralleling the Kansas City Southern railroad through Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, and Oak Grove in Jackson County and east to Odessa in neighboring Lafayette County. The Rock Island Corridor begins in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, sharing a common corridor segment with the I-70 corridor approximately to the eastern edge of Kansas City, Mo, and then follows the old Rock Island rail corridor through Raytown, Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, and Greenwood in Jackson County and further south to Pleasant Hill in Cass County.  Both corridors run proximal to two heavily-traveled roadways, Interstate I-70 and Highway 350 (Blue Parkway), and through cities experiencing a growing residential population.

Several activity centers, including Downtown Kansas City, MO, Truman Sports Complex, and multiple town centers fall within in these corridors. Downtown Kansas City, Mo is the expected terminus of the various alternatives that will be considered in this Alternative Analysis, therefore this AA is to be closely coordinated and integrated with the Downtown Kansas City, Missouri Corridor Alternatives Analysis. In addition, this AA is to be closely coordinated with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) Second Tier Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the I-70 corridor (I-470 to the Kansas/Missouri state line, including the downtown loop).

Existing transit service in downtown primarily focuses on bringing persons from outlying parts of Kansas City and the region to and from downtown. These commuter services continue to be needed, especially in Jackson County. Previous studies have indicated that the I-70 commuter corridor would greatly benefit from additional service, potentially through additional travel options such as expanded express bus or rail.  The Rock Island corridor is currently served by a commuter express bus on Blue Parkway and cities along this corridor have interest in increasing service to meet growing demand and looking at potential options in the Rock Island Rail alignment.  This rail alignment also connects to Missouri’s statewide Katy Trail in Pleasant Hill, formerly the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, therefore any use of the Rock Island rail alignment would likely include a trail extension into Kansas City, making it a multiuse corridor.

MARC, KCATA, the City of Kansas City, Mo and Jackson County intend to build on previous efforts and complete an Alternatives Analysis for both the I-70 and Rock Island Corridors. The intent will be to use the AA results to secure funding for implementation and potentially apply for federal funds–New Starts, Small Starts, or other federal sources. 

Specific consultant activity will be limited to the I-70 and Rock Island/M-350 corridors within Jackson County and portions of Lafayette and Cass Counties in Missouri. A more specific study corridor will be further defined by the Project Partnership Team with input from the study advisory committee.

The purpose of the study will be to determine the preferred alternative including specific alignments for the option best meeting current and future transportation needs while also helping to shape, support and focus future economic development and revitalization of activity centers for each corridor.

The recommendation will be submitted at the next MARC Board meeting for approval.

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Transit Consultant Chosen for Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 24, 2011

Modern StreetCar

March 22. The MARC Board approved authorization to execute an agreement with HDR to do the Alternatives Analysis (AA) for the downtown corridor. HDR is an international employee-owned architecture, engineering and consulting firm. They have an excellent reputation working on transit projects and HDR has been heavily involved in streetcar implementation, especially in Portland. They have a KCMO office at 4435 Main.

The HDR team includes Nelson/Nygaard, Patti Banks, Burns & McDonnell, Polsinelli Shugahart, HG Consult, and Architectural & Historical Research.

From MARC’s  Request for Proposal (RFP):

For the purposes of this Alternatives Analysis, the downtown corridor is in Kansas City, Missouri and extends from the Rivermarket on the north, through the Central Business District and the Crossroads areas to Crown Center on the south.  This is the center of the bi-state region and includes the region’s largest concentrations of employment, regionally significant activity centers and a growing residential population.

Downtown is the current regional hub for transit services and the expected terminus for future regional rail being studied in a separate Alternatives Analysis that is to be coordinated with this effort. There is significant transit service downtown, including two BRT lines terminating downtown, but existing services primarily focus on bringing persons from outlying parts of the city and region in and out of downtown. There is a significant and growing need for transit service focused on conveniently moving people within downtown and connecting the downtown activity centers, employment centers, residential areas and transit hubs. This need will heighten with any future introduction of regional or commuter rail.”

Modern streetcar and a variety of alternatives will be considered to meet the current and future needs.

Read KCATA’s  Kansas City Streetcar Concept

The AA is expected to be completed by Jan 2012.

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KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting 1/26/11

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 11, 2011

1. Kansas City has released the Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12.

KCATA budget from the ½ cent transportation fund is $1.98 million more than the previous budget. (Note: This is 75% of the revenue after TIF and City administration costs.)  General Manager Mark Huffer reported that he has been told that the city may be able to reach the 95% mark required by the new ordinance as soon as next year, which would be a year earlier than required.

2. The Board of Commissioners authorized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MARC, the City of Kansas City, Missouri and Jackson County concerning implementation of the regional Alternatives Analysis (AA) Studies using $1.8 million in federal grant funding.

The MOU allocates the funding as follows:

Corridor Study Federal Funds Local Funds Source of Match
Downtown Streetcar AA $540,000 $135,000 Kansas City, Missouri
Commuter Corridors AA $1,260,000 $315,000 Jackson County

Other key points in the MOU are as follows:

• MARC will serve as FTA grant recipient,

• MARC, KCATA, the City of Kansas City and Jackson County will serve as a partnership team overseeing AA efforts,

• KCATA and the City will lead the downtown streetcar AA, and

• MARC and Jackson County will lead the commuter corridors AA

3. KCATA has $10.4 million in a federal grant for public transit improvements in the State Avenue corridor, which extends from the 10th and Main Street transit center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, through downtown Kansas City, Kansas, to the Village West area in western Wyandotte County.

Key components of the project include:

• 7th Street and Minnesota Avenue Transit Center

• 47th and State Avenue (Indian Springs) Transit Center/Park & Ride

• State Avenue Corridor Transit & Access Improvements

• State Avenue Corridor Branding

The Board authorized a contract with BHC Rhodes, Inc., for Architectural and Engineering (A&E) Design Services for State Avenue Corridor Transit Improvements.

4. Update on the Comprehensive Service Analysis – Nelson Nygaard

The CSA is an in-depth, technical study of the system’s effectiveness and will result in system-wide and route-level recommendations for improved efficiencies and service delivery.

Mr. Geoff Slater, Project Manager with Nelson Nygaard, provided a project update and discussed the next efforts of the CSA.

Public involvement is scheduled spring or early summer. See the presentation KCATA_CSABoard0111.

5.  Emerick Cross, Interim Transit Manager of Unified Government Transit in Wyandotte County thanked KCATA for its help in the recently completed Comprehensive Service Analysis. See the 2010-UG Transit Comprehensive Service Analysis.

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Preparations for Two Transit Studies Move Forward

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 8, 2011

Jan 7, 2011: The major agenda item at a Kansas City, Missouri, Parking and Transportation Commission meeting this afternoon was a report on the downtown streetcar concept by Mark Huffer (general manager, KCATA), Dick Jarrold (project engineer, KCATA), and John Dobies (HNTB).  It was largely the same presentation that Dobies gave to MARC’s Transit Committee last month.  The line is expected to run from River Market to Crown Center along Main Street, and would be the first phase of a streetcar / light rail system that would extend farther south to the Plaza.  One of the issues identified was whether this line would be “serious transportation” or a tourist-oriented line.  Presenters articulated a clear bias toward the “serious transportation” purpose (though there would obviously be tourist implications).  We strongly agree.

Huffer confirmed that the streetcar and commuter corridors Alternatives Analysis studies (AA’s) will be done separately, albeit in a coordinated manner. The $1.8 million that the region has received from the FTA for the studies is 90% of the $2 million requested, so each study is expected to receive 90% of the original request.  Thus, the downtown streetcar study would receive $540 thousand and the commuter corridor study $1.26 million.

KCMO and KCATA expect to coordinate and provide the local match for the streetcar study, and the ATA has already written a draft scope of services in preparation for issuing an RFP (request for proposals) next month.  They will meet with the FTA on January 20 to work out details, and they hope to get the KCATA Board of Commissioners to approve the draft scope this month.  If all goes well, KCATA could select a consultant as early as April, and the study will likely take about 10 months.  The streetcar AA can move forward quickly because so much of the 2007-08 light rail AA work is applicable.  There’s also a sense of urgency because Kansas City has a shot at getting “small starts” money from the FTA under the current administration — if they decide to pursue federal funding.  This two-mile segment is part of the 14-mile light rail line that was turned down by voters in 2008, and is widely considered the segment most likely to be eligible for federal funding.

The commuter corridors AA for two lines — one to Blue Springs and beyond, and the other to Lee’s Summit and beyond — is much more complicated and will involve a much larger group of stakeholders, including several local jurisdictions, MoDOT, transit agencies, inner-city neighborhoods, transit advocates, trail proponents, the railroads, etc.  It will be coordinated jointly by Jackson County and MARC with Jackson County providing the local match, and it could easily take a couple of years to complete. They will also meet with the FTA on January 20.

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