Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City’

Watch the “KC Streetcar Stroll” Video, Attend the Public Meetings & Request Your Streetcar Ballot

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 12, 2012

Kansas City conducted a “Streetcar Stroll” from the River Market to Union Station on May 9th.  About 35 participants were divided into small groups to walk the proposed 2.2 mile route with a guide to describe the proposed station areas and explain the proposed operating method for the streetcar. Video: Part 1 – Interviews with participants. Part 2 – Descriptions of the stations and the operations.

The city is holding three public meetings to explain the streetcar operation and answer questions. Kansas City wants voters in the proposed Transportation Development District (TDD) to understand the project.

TDD Map – Click to Enlarge

The public meetings are from 4-7 p.m with brief presentations at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 pm.

Tuesday, May 15, Helzburg Auditorium, Central Library, 14 W. 10th Street

Wednesday, May 16, Atrium, Steamboat Arabia Museum, 400 Grand Boulevard

Thursday, May 17, Arthur Stilwell Room, Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road

The initial ballot to create the TDD is a mail-in ballot, but you MUST request a ballot by May 22. No Request=No Ballot. So if you live in the proposed TDD, request your ballot today! Ballot requests will be available at the public meetings. Remind your transit friends in the proposed TDD to submit their ballot request.

1. Print the ballot application at

2. Print your registration status (Use the check your voter status box at the top of the page. This document is used to validate you request.)

3. Send (hand-deliver, fax, mail) both documents to the court address (or fax number) on the application.

Posted in Action, Events, Local Transit Issues, Rail, Videos-Transit | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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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Get Your Streetcar Ballots!!!!

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 30, 2012

Click to Enlarge

If you are a registered voter in the area designated for the downtown Transportation Development District  (TDD) you can order your ballot to vote to create the district starting today, Monday April 30. This is a mail-in ballot election.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles Atwell ruled on Friday that the district would be legal and the proposed financing plan is does not produce an undue burden on property owners. The plan is not unjust or unreasonable.

Request your ballot now!

Applications for a ballot are available as follows:

  • Download from
  • Pick up at the Jackson County Courthouse, 415 East 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64106, Third Floor, Room 303, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except legal holidays

You will not receive a ballot unless

  • you submit a valid application in accordance with the instructions on the application, and
  • your application is received by the Circuit Court Administrator’s office before 5:00 p.m. CDT on May 22, 2012

Ballots will be mailed on June 19, 2012, to those with a timely and valid application. Ballots will be due for return no later than 5 p.m. on July 31, 2012 in accordance with instructions on the ballot.

See the Full Court Notice Case Number: 1216-CV02419

The result of the Federal Tiger Grant application for $25 million is expected this summer. We sincerely hope to get that money.

Tell all your transit friends in the TDD to request a ballot.

After the voters create the district, a second election is scheduled for the fall to vote for the financing plan.

After that, Streetcar here we come!!!

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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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Time for Downtown Residents to Get Serious about a Streetcar

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 10, 2012

Downtown is about to enter the next phase of building a streetcar line from River Market to Crown Center.

The line will be 2.2 miles long and is estimated to cost $101 million. The City has applied for a $25 million grant from the Federal Government to help fund the project.  The money will be hard to get because the competition for federal dollars is fierce. Over 700 applications amounting to $10.5 billion dollars in requests were made for the $500 million dollars available. Local support and a local funding mechanism make a big difference to the federal process. Downtown property owners and retail customers will be asked to pay the difference between the project cost and the federal contribution through the formation of a Transportation Development District. Financing the streetcar is a huge hurdle for Kansas City citizens and particularly downtown property owners to overcome.

Now is the time for local action.

1. Take part in the public hearing April 17. The judge will hear testimony for and against the creation of the Transportation Development District (TDD). You don’t have to speak at the hearing, but show up for support and to make a big impression. TAN intends to speak in favor of the streetcar project and the formation of the TDD. Businesses and property owners can object to the formation of the TDD if they feel the structure is unfair.  After this hearing it is up to the judge and the voters.

Streetcar TDD Public Hearing

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 @ 1:30pm

Jackson County Courthouse, 12thand Oak, Kansas City MO

TDD Map - Click To Enlarge

2.  Make sure you are registered to vote, if you live in the Transportation Development District (TDD).  If you aren’t registered – GET REGISTERED!


3.    Follow Streetcar Neighbors on Facebook. Streetcar Neighbors is a group of downtowners dedicated to making the streetcar happen.

If downtown voters create the TDD then there will be an additional election later in the summer to create the necessary funding. The city is actively trying to find alternative funding sources to cover the costs of building and operating the streetcar.

Downtown Streetcar timeline – Downtowners need to register to vote

April 17 – TDD public hearing – BE THERE!

April 18 – TDD judicial hearing

June 5 TDD election (Transportation Development District only)

Summer 2012 – Federal grant winners announced

Fall 2012 – TDD revenue election (Transportation Development District only)

2013-2014- Construction

April 2015 – Operations begins

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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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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Prasies KC Use Of TIGER Grant

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 25, 2012

In his blog , FastLane, Ray LaHood , the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, praises Kansas City on its use of the $50 million DOT TIGER grant received to improve the Green Impact Zone. 

TIGER transforming Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone

He also raves about the Mid-America Regional Council’s TIGER website, which tracks the money being spent and provides videos showing the progress of individual sub-projects.

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Urgent Action Alert! Downtown Streetcar Needs Letters of Support

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 1, 2012

Kansas City, MO is applying for Federal dollars to help pay the construction costs for the proposed Downtown Streetcar from the River Market to Crown Center.

The Federal Tiger Grant process is competitive and applications with significant local support have a greater chance of success.  Transit Action Network, along with numerous other organizations, already supplied a letter of support to the project team. Now they are asking individuals to do the same.

Vireo (formerly Patti Banks Associates) provided  a form letter for individuals. Letter of Support with Customizeable Language_TAN Feel free to personalize the letter.  Additional information: TIGER Grant Handout for KC Downtown Streetcar. The February 27 deadline on the handout was for organizations. Individuals need to send their letters ASAP. Applications close mid-March.

Hardcopies are requested since original signatures are preferred.

Send to:

Julie Lorenz
Burns & McDonnell
9400 Ward Parkway
Kansas City, Missouri, 64114

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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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Public Budget Hearings – Thank KC City Council for Restoring Funding to Public Transit

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 30, 2012

Kansas City has scheduled their annual public meetings on the budget. If you attend and testify at one of these meetings, consider thanking the Council for passing Ordinance 100951 to restore funding to public transit. This Ordinance, which was passed in December 2010, gives KCATA at least 95% of the revenue from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax (after TIF and City administration fees) . The ordinance has a phase in period. The city has to reach the 95% mark by May 1, 2014. When Transit Action Network started working on the ordinance, the KCATA was only going to receive $19.9 million from this fund. In the upcoming budget being discussed for 2012-2013, the city has budgeted $23.5 million for KCATA or 82% of the available money. Reaching the 95% mark will result in millions of additional dollars for public transit. TAN wants to thank everyone who joined forces with us to help get the ordinance passed. Please, remember to thank the Council.

The City of Kansas City, Missouri City Council Public Budget Hearings 2012 will be held on the following dates:

Saturday, February 4th – 4th District
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon
Location: KCMO Health Department, 2400 Troost Ave, KCMO 64108
(park and enter on north side of building)

Saturday, February 11th – 5th District
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon
Location: Southeast Community Center, 4201 East 63rd Street, KCMO 64130

Saturday, February 18th – 3rd District
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon
Location: Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose FOCUS Center, 3200 Wayne Ave, KCMO 64109

Wednesday, February 22nd – 2nd District
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Park Hill Education Center, 7703 N.W. Barry Road, KCMO 64153

Saturday, February 25th – 1st District
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon
Location: Shoal Creek Police Academy, 6801 NE Pleasant Valley Road, KCMO, 64119

Wednesday, February 29th – 6th District
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Rd, KCMO 64134

For more information, please contact:
Susan Borge
Legislative Aide to Councilwoman Jan Marcason
4th District
(please note new phone#/email)
816 513-6517

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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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Bicycling: Your New Bus Transfer

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 18, 2011

Let me start by getting one thing out of the way: I am a bike commuter.

Bike Share KC Demo

My morning bike commute is one of the best parts of my day. I also run errands by bike, I explore my city by bike and sometimes haul heavy objects on a bike trailer. And I do these things for, I am sure, many of the same reasons you use public transit: I save money, help the environment and both options offer less stressful alternatives to driving.

But here is another bit of information: I also use transit on a weekly basis and I am a monthly KCATA pass holder.

I buy a pass because there are mornings when I wake up and just don’t feel like riding into the office. Or alternatively, the hill at the end of the day to get back home can sometimes be just too daunting to tackle. Sometimes it’s just nice to let someone else do the driving for a change. But more often than not, I am just using the bike for the first and last mile of my transit trip.

Likewise, I am sure you might be in the same boat on occasion. Transfers take too long or headways just don’t match your schedule. And working your grocery store trips around the bus schedule can be a bit of an ordeal. Perhaps you drive for most of your trips because the nearest bus route is out of walking distance.

Having an alternative sure comes in handy sometimes.

So, I invite you to consider making a minor change in your lifestyle by turning your bike into your new transfer. And BikeWalkKC would like to make this easier for you by offering to be your community partner and help you along your journey (literally). Bicycling in a big city may be a little intimidating for some, but I promise it is an activity that anyone can truly enjoy. It just takes a little confidence.

BikeWalkKC is launching a brand new lineup of educational experiences called KC FeetFirst for area residents who want to feel a little more comfortable when taking to the streets. Every month, there’s a recurring schedule of highly informative, interactive and lively workshops.

The first Friday of the month you can attend Art of the Bike or gain legitimate city bicycling skills on the second Saturday in Confident City Cycling. Talk shop and get hands-on bike maintenance advice on the third Thursday of the month at Maintain Your Ride; each month brings a new learning topic. The second Tuesday of the month will be a clinic on a particular pedestrian or bicycle topic. December’s installment is called Dress Your Bike for Winter.

All of the workshops and clinics are free (BikeWalkKC suggests you make a small donation) and open to the public. For more information or to register, click here.

And while Kansas City may not be as bike friendly as Portland, Oregon, we do have bike racks on 100% of our bus fleet. This is something few major cities can say. It really enables you to cover the first and last mile of your trip without waiting. It also greatly increases number of bus route options for your journey.

Now, we aren’t asking you to stop taking the bus. We just want to help you add another transportation alternative to what you already have or help make transit a more viable option.

Not to mention, you’ll get to feel the wind in your face while getting some exercise and most importantly… having fun!

Sign up today:    While you are thinking about bicycling, check out the website of our proposed Public Bike Share. Think of it like another layer of public transportation where the stop is a docking station and the bus is a bike.

Tell us where YOU would like to see stations with our Suggest a Station feature:

Bike Share KC is expected to launch by July 2012.

Guest blogger: Eric Bunch is Director of Education, BikeWalkKC. He gave a presentation about the proposed Public Bike Share program at the November TAN meeting.

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Why a downtown streetcar?

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 4, 2011

Probably the best reason for a streetcar is that the people in this corridor want it. If you look at past voting records from the light rail votes, people in the downtown corridor consistently vote for it. People in this area will also be the biggest beneficiaries of it; and they’re the most enthusiastic about it.

Rail is a service upgrade from buses. Streetcars offer a smoother ride. Their route is clearer, especially for infrequent riders such as visitors. There is a lower risk you will wind up where you don’t want to be and have to find a way back. Many people simply prefer rail over buses.

Rail, together with appropriate land use policies, transit oriented zoning codes and improved passenger amenities, offers potential for channeling economic development to the route.

10,000 people live downtown now. An estimated 57,000 people work and live within three blocks of the proposed line. River Market is the fastest growing residential area in the city. The Sprint Center, Power & Light District, Kaufman Performing Arts Center, the continued explosion of retail and entertainment in the Crossroads, new buildings and renovated buildings all mean more and more people are living and working along the proposed streetcar route. In the downtown corridor there is now the density of residents, jobs, and entertainment destinations to generate the number of trips that should make the streetcar a success.

Since this 2.2 mile starter line focuses on such a small segment of the city no one is going to ask the whole city to pay for it. Although the project team is just starting an in-depth analysis for financing options, a Transportation Development District is high on the list of options for at least some of the funding. Additional funding sources, like federal Small Starts money, can be pursued. The project team may identify other funding mechanisms too. Many other cities started off paying for small starter lines themselves.

What about MAX? MAX has proved that additional people will take transit if it meets a certain standard. Much of the Main Street MAX won’t be affected by the streetcar but a small section of the MAX route may change to another street, where MAX overlaps the streetcar. This change would provide even more transit options in downtown.

Let’s do this Kansas City. It is time to get started with rail in an area that cries out for it!

Additional information

Click to enlarge

The Project Team for the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis recommended a streetcar on Main Street for a service upgrade between the River Market and Crown Center. The City Council unanimously adopted this alternative last Thursday.

Summary of evaluation findings: this table shows the preference for each evaluation criteria for both the alignment (Main vs Grand) and the mode (Streetcar vs Enhanced Bus).

See the project team’s full presentation to the Parking and Transportation Committee on 9/20 including the map with major activity centers.  Preliminary engineering may cause some changes to the final route. KC-DCAA-Tier2-Evaluation-Presentation

View all the project team documents at

According to the project documents “The financing plan may potentially be used to apply for federal funds through New Starts, Small Starts, or other federal programs. Creative leveraging of private funding options, public/private partnership options, and federal grant opportunities will be explored. Ultimately, the preferred financing strategy will be one with great local support—voted on not through a city-wide initiative, but by targeted partners willing to invest in strengthening the downtown Kansas City economy through this project.”

Read the KC Star:

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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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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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