Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘KCATA’

A New Vision for KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 24, 2013


METRO logoKCATA has launched an ambitious new plan to re-invent itself. Will it succeed? Will it adopt a new name in the process? Will we finally see real progress toward a unified regional transit system? Those are some of the questions that could be answered in the next couple of years.

Robbie Makinen, Chair of the KCATA Board of Commissioners, met with TAN for an hour and a half at both our May and July meetings for in-depth discussions about the big changes being contemplated at the area’s transportation authority.

So what is really going on? When Makinen was appointed as Jackson County’s representative on the KCATA Board he discovered that KCATA had significantly more power than it was using. After all, KCATA was created by an act of the US Congress to be the transportation authority for this seven-county region.  It’s charter is modeled after that of the New York Port Authority (NYPA), which gives it broad powers, including operating and/or managing all types of public transportation: buses, local rail systems, and even airports.  What’s more, KCATA has broad development powers: they could even build a skyscraper.

When Independence bid out its intra-city bus routes and decided on a different transit operator in 2012, KCATA realized it was time to reconsider its regional role. “KCATA doesn’t have to operate everything,” Makinen says. He thinks KCATA keeps its extra powers in a “locked box”, and he decided it was time to open that box.

So what has been keeping KCATA from assuming a broader regional role and vision?  Part of the problem lies in the fact that even though Congress gave it all the powers like the NYPA, they failed to include taxing authority. KCATA cannot act on its own to raise money like the NYPA does with taxes, fees, etc. KCATA can only provide its services under contract, and most of the government entities in the region haven’t come up with much money to purchase transit.

Why change now? The important factor driving this change is that public transit service is becoming more fragmented in our region. That not only leads to operational inefficiencies, but it also presents riders a  bewildering array of inconsistent fare structures and policies, operating practices, and other barriers to riding transit.  In short, a transit experience that is anything but seamless. What’s more, in many parts of the region public transit doesn’t even exist.

In addition to KCATA, the Kansas City region is currently served by Unified Government Transit (UGT), Johnson County Transit (JCT) and now the Independence Transit Service (IndeBus). In 2015, the Downtown Streetcar will be a fifth operating system. KCATA chose not to bid on operating the streetcar.

To start the KCATA visioning process, the KCATA Board of Commissioners had a strategic planning meeting the end of April to explore how to re-invent and/or re-structure in order to utilize its additional powers.

(See the board briefing paper summarizing that meeting below.)

The briefing paper outlines four priorities:

1.    Stakeholder Coalition
2.    Organizational Restructuring
3.    Bi-State Compact Review
4.   
Regional Service Needs Assessment

Let’s look at each of these priorities.

1. Stakeholder Coalition. KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer made the first public presentation about the new vision at the May meeting of the KCATA Board of Commissioners. That meeting was also attended by the “KCATA Funding Review Committee” of the KCMO City Council.  See Mr. Huffer’s presentation below.

Since then Makinen and Vice-Chair Steve Klika, along with other Board members and Huffer, have been speaking to elected officials, and with civic and business leaders, in order to achieve the extensive stakeholder involvement needed to make KCATA’s anticipated restructuring a success.

KCATA_BOC_Visioning_Process

Possible new organizational structure for KCATA

2. Organizational restructuring. KCATA expects to have plans completed for significant restructuring by the end of this year. Bus operations would be separated from administrative and regional functions. Other units might be created to manage other transit operations, provide a wide array of transit support functions separate from direct bus operations, and initiate community and economic development projects.

As Makinen is fond of saying “There are things the ATA does in its sleep that other agencies do not want or need to do separately.” He continues that,  “ATA can manage and/or operate a regional multi-modal public transportation system and I am really pleased that the Board of Commissioners has embraced this direction.“

3. Bi-State Compact review. The bi-state compact that created the KCATA in 1965-6 establishes all the powers the Authority has as well as the composition of the Board of Commissioners.

Some people think the composition of the Board of Commissioners needs to be reviewed.

Is it important to change the structure of KCATA’s governing board? Changing the composition of the KCATA Board hardly matters in the short-term, if it matters at all. KCATA can make the structural, administrative and functional changes in its new vision without making any changes to the board. What matters is that the region sees members of the board as engaged, proactive, and responsive to the needs of the community and its clients. In addition, changing the composition of the board is complicated. It requires agreement locally on a new structure, getting governors from both Kansas and Missouri to agree and then getting an Act of the US Congress to make the changes. That probably won’t happen quickly even if everyone could agree on a new structure. It would likely take two years, minimum, once local agreement is reached.

While restructuring might be discussed as a part of a broader regional engagement process, our preference is that restructuring be the last phase in the process. There are too many ways that debate over governance structure could derail other more important improvements. Instead, let’s evaluate how big an impact a reorganized ATA can have without changing its governance structure.

If a change to the composition of the board is needed down the line, so be it, but if KCATA is moving away from only being a bus operator, there isn’t clarity today on what a new structure should look like for a re-invented KCATA. Old ideas for changing governance revolved around representation based on who contracts for bus service.

If KCATA can re-make itself to truly function as the “AREA Transportation Authority,” instead of  JUST a bus operator, then having a broad-based Board of Commissioners from across the region — such as provided in the current structure — may still be the best regional make-up.

4. Regional Service Needs Assessment:  Under a “new” KCATA, regional needs are seen as combination of transit related activities and development activities.

A. Transit related functions:

  • Current Bus Operations. KCATA would continue to manage and operate the current transit services such as The Metro, Share-A-Fare, and the Van Pool program.
  • Management of Other Transit Operations. This one little item would be the biggest change to KCATA’s functions, as you will see in Huffer’s presentation, under a revamped KCATA umbrella organization. This change would require KCATA to reorganize internally to ensure that its current transit operations are separate from a new function of managing rather than operating transit.
  • Downtown Streetcar. The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) is responsible for selecting an operator and setting operating policies for the Downtown Streetcar line. There are questions about their ongoing role once the streetcars are operating, and it’s quite possible they will fade away and turn over management to another entity such as KCATA.
  • Commuter Rail. If Jackson County establishes a commuter rail system, they might contract with a private company to operate that rail system. KCATA might fulfill the management role.
  • Smart Moves. KCATA might take the lead in implementing the Smart Moves regional transit concept created by MARC over a decade ago. Most of the concept has never been implemented since there isn’t an implementing body for the whole plan. KCATA could play a role in ensuring that these services are operated in an integrated, coordinated manner.
  • Transit Coordinating Council.  KCATA is slated to co-chair the new Transit Coordinating Council. MARC and KCATA are jointly creating this new council, which will work to bring the various transit agencies together to work for a more seamless regional transit system.
  • Economies of Scale. KCATA would coordinate regional activities to leverage economies of scale and improve efficiencies for all the transit agencies. Examples from Huffer’s presentation:  Fuel Purchasing, Vehicle Procurement, Grant Writing, Planning, Marketing, and Paratransit Services
  • Expanded transit support operations: KCATA already operates the Regional Call Center, and provides some limited support services, primarily for The JO. These services could be expanded to include maintenance of on-street transit facilities such as bus stops and shelters, scheduling and dispatching systems, purchasing, etc.
  • Administrative functions for others.  KCATA is already assisting KCMO and KCSA in administrative matters related to federal grants for the streetcar, and it helped the Streetcar Authority put together the RFP (request for proposals) to find an operator. KCATA could broaden its efforts in grant administration and contract management.

B. Development Activities

  • Community and Economic Development  Chairman Makinen has been very outspoken about KCATA expansion into these realms, “We need to re-think the role of the KCATA. It has a major role in helping the region be successful and create seamless transit. But we also need to change the mindset and perception of the ATA. Cities and the region should look to the ATA for both Community Development and Economic Development opportunities as well as transit coordination and services.” Makinen’s example of using the ATA to improve the community is the Early Development Learning Center combined with the Metro Center at 39th and Troost. For economic development he reminds us that KCATA applied for and received about $24 million from the FTA toward renovation of Union Station, and some $12 million or so of that was used to construct “The Link,” which connects Union Station with Crown Center.   “These examples barely tap ATA’s potential for community and economic development projects,” he says.
  • TOD  Transit Oriented Development is often cited as a goal with transit projects, but like Smart Moves, unless some group is designated to make it happen, it usually doesn’t. MARC is a planning agency and doesn’t engage in implementation. Los Angeles and Portland have significant TOD because their transit authorities have dedicated departments to make that happen.  If this region really wants new development that is designed to support and capitalize on transit, then KCATA could be the agency that makes that happen.

Finally, KCATA is considering renaming or re-branding itself.  MTA – Metropolitan Transit Authority?  RTD – Regional Transit District?  Something with a more distinctive regional flavor?  It’s very much open to discussion.

These are all big ideas and big potential changes for KCATA. Some of these changes will be easier to implement than others. The Amalgamated Transit Union, for example, has expressed concern about KCATA branching out to manage transit operators that don’t include ATU members.

So there are opportunities and challenges ahead.  KCATA plans to use more of its existing powers to build an integrated seamless transit service in the Kansas City region, along with great community and economic development projects.

Stay tuned for big changes at the KCATA.

BOARD BRIEFING PAPER strategic planning

Huffer’s presentation at BOC KCATA BOC Visioning Process

Advertisements

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Gladstone’s North Oak Transit Stops – Opportunity Lost?

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 19, 2013


City_of_Gladstone__MissouriThis morning we saw a Tweet from one of KCATA’s people about a new real-time arrival sign at 70th and North Oak.  We hadn’t been up that way in a while, and hadn’t even been aware that these signs were being installed, so we hopped on the next Route 142 – North Oak bus to have a look.

Southbound stop on the west side of North Oak

Southbound stop on the west side of North Oak. It has a shelter and bench, a trash receptacle, and a pedestal that holds the digital sign.

Real-time arrival sign at Southbound Gladstone Route 142 stop, 70th and North Oak. The display is working, it's just that our camera speed is too fast to capture it.

Real-time arrival sign at Southbound Gladstone Route 142 stop, 70th and North Oak. The display is working, it’s just that our camera speed is too fast to capture it.

We found two very nice stops, one of which had a digital real-time arrival sign that was indeed working.

Ironically, the “official” bus stop sign is still attached to a well-worn utility pole just beyond the pedestal, and we’re not sure it will ever become physically attached to the stop.  (It seems that KCATA bus stop signs are never attached to shelters.  We don’t understand why that is.)  We think the color leaves something to be desired (gray is not very noticeable) and we’re always concerned about bus shelter roofs that slope toward the street because that occasional snow and ice build-up is eventually going to slide onto the sidewalk, if not onto someBODY.

There's a crosswalk nearby to cross North Oak, but the call button is about shoulder high and oriented wrong, and thus not ADA compliant.

There’s a crosswalk nearby to cross North Oak, but the call button is about shoulder high and oriented wrong, and thus not ADA compliant.

Northbound Route 142 Gladstone stop at NE 70th Street. Nice, but there's not going to be any shade.

Northbound Route 142 Gladstone stop at NE 70th Street. Nice, but there’s not going to be any shade.

But all in all, it’s nicely done.

Nearby is a crosswalk for getting across North Oak.  It has a call button that you push to get a walk light, but it’s located on the wrong side of the pole.

Moreover, it’s mounted about shoulder height, and there’s a concrete curb at the base of the pole, so it’s probably not ADA compliant.  (This is something for Gladstone to fix, not KCATA.)

Across the street is the northbound Route 142 stop.

It’s nicely designed and landscaped, too, but it looks like there’s not going to be a roof.  Unfortunate.

These stops are part of the TIGER-funded transit improvements in the North  Oak Corridor.  Route 142 is the busiest route in the Northland, carrying nearly 1,000 riders each weekday, and it’s expected to become the Northland’s first bus rapid transit route.  There are 31 round trips each weekday, with fewer trips on Saturdays and Sundays.  That translates to over 180 trips in each direction every week.  Pretty respectable, considering that the Metcalf – Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor in Johnson County (Routes 556/856 and 664) has only 125 trips per week, all of them on weekdays.

But we wonder why these stops are on North Oak rather than closer to Gladstone’s “downtown.” Has Gladstone missed an opportunity by not insisting that Route 142 swing over to North Holmes, a mere quarter-mile to the east?  Yes, that might add a total of about two minutes to the schedule, but it would provide access to the Gladstone’s City Hall, Central Park, Community Center  and Gladstone Office Building.

Maybe there was extensive discussion at a public meeting that we missed.  (We can’t be everywhere.)  Maybe there were some overriding reasons to not serve the heart of Gladstone’s “civic center.”  We just don’t know.

Nevertheless, the new shelters and other bus stop improvements all up and down North Oak (and the rest of the route westward along Barry Road to Boardwalk Square) are a welcome and very positive addition to public transit in the Northland.

Gladstone City Hall, northwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone City Hall, northwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone Central Park, northeast corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Gladstone Central Park, northeast corner of 70th and North Holmes.

 Gladstone Community Center, southeast corner of 70th and North Holmes


Gladstone Community Center, southeast corner of 70th and North Holmes

 Gladstone Office Building, southwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.


Gladstone Office Building, southwest corner of 70th and North Holmes.

Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

First Look at KCATA’S New “Clean Air” Buses – July 10 at 10am

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 9, 2013


KCATA unveils its new CNG (Compressed Natural Gas ) buses tomorrow.

Compressed_Natural_Gas_Unveiling-5

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Oak Park Mall Getaway

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 24, 2013


opmOK, so maybe you’re not really a Mall Rat. In fact, you might even have some strong biases against shopping malls. No matter. Visiting a mall once in a while is OK — especially if it’s 105 degrees in the shade outside.

Here’s a plan for a half-day excursion from Kansas City, Missouri (or KCK) to Oak Park Mall  http://www.thenewoakparkmall.com/shop/oakpark.nsf/index in nearby Johnson County.

Let’s assume you’re a Metro rider. Take the Metro bus of your choice to Crown Center (or nearby Union Station), arriving there by 1:15 pm on any weekday. These are some of the many Metro routes that can get you there: Main Street MAX, 27, 47, 51, 54,123, 142, 173, etc.jo-672-m

Be sure to get a Metro transfer. (If you are using a Metro monthly pass or a Metro day pass, just tell your Metro driver, “I need a transfer to The JO.”)

At 1:19 (or thereabouts), board The JO’s Route 672 (Midday) bus

http://www.thejo.com/routes/672.shtml at the southbound MAX stop at Crown Center Square, across from the fountain.  (You can also board at 10th and Main at 1:12 pm, or at the northbound MAX stop on Main across from Union Station at 1:23.)

When you board, swipe your Metro transfer through the farebox, just as you would on a Metro bus, and settle in for a 50-minute ride. You’ll find the JO bus to be clean and comfortable (with really cushy seats), and the driver courteous and helpful.

After a quick sprint along I-35 the bus goes south on Roe through Roeland Park, west along Johnson Drive (pausing at The JO’s new Mission Transit Center at 5251 Johnson Drive), then west on Martway and Shawnee Mission Parkway, south on I-35 and US-169, and west on 95th Street to Oak Park Mall.

You’ll arrive at the Oak Park Mall bus stop / park-and-ride lot about 2:02

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Once at OPM you can (1) Shop, (2) Window-shop, (3) Shop, (4) People-watch, (5) Shop,  or (6) Eat at one of the many eateries in the food court or near the mall.

Transit Schedule poster at Oak Park Mall. (Our photo is a bit out of date, so refer to current times in accompanying text.)

Eventually — even though you might not want to — you’ll need to head back home. Fortunately The JO has several buses that will get you back.

Route 670 (Gardner – Overland Park Xpress) will get you back to Downtown or Crown Center in practically no time at all.  It leaves the OPM park-and-ride lot at 4:49 and 5:49, and the trip takes about 30 minutes. http://www.thejo.com/routes/670.shtml

You can also return via Route 546 or Route 575.

Route 546 (KCK – Quivira) leaves OPM at 3:25, 4:25, and 5:25, and takes you to Downtown KCK via the Mission Transit Center (where you can transfer to Route 556 Connex to the Plaza or Troost). http://www.thejo.com/routes/546.shtml

Route 575 (75th Street – Quivira) leaves OPM at 3:20, 4:20, and 5:20, and takes you to Waldo or 75th and Troost. http://www.thejo.com/routes/575.shtml

Be sure to watch the time, though.  The last buses back are:

Route 575 at 5:20 (to Waldo)

Route 546 at 5:25 (to Downtown KCK via the Mission Transit Center)

Route 670 at 5:49 (direct to Downtown KCMO and Crown Center)

After that, your coach becomes a pumpkin, and you’ll have to call a friend or a taxi — or start walking.

Important note about your return fare:  You probably got to OPM using a Metro transfer. The JO accepts a Metro transfer, but not a Metro monthly pass or day pass, so you’ll need to pay the regular fare to The JO to return. (Shades of Charlie on the MTA?) The regular fare is $2.25 for adults, and $1.10 for seniors (with any ID that shows your date of birth). Kids 5 and under ride free, and kids 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. If you don’t have a Metro monthly pass or day pass to complete your trip once you return to Metro territory, just tell your JO driver, “I need a transfer to the Metro.” The Metro accepts The JO transfers.

Easy, right? We think so. You’ll have kept cool for an afternoon while experiencing one of the region’s biggest shopping malls.  You’ll also have become one of the relatively few transit riders in the region who can say, “I’ve ridden the Metro and The JO!”

So what’s keeping you? Give it a try and let us know what great fun you have!

Originally posted August 8, 2012.  Updated June 24, 2013

Posted in Transit Adventures | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

KCMO Relationship With KCATA Under Review

Posted by Transit Action Network on June 12, 2013


kcmo_big_logoKansas City Missouri (KCMO) is KCATA’s biggest “client,” and therefore their relationship has a huge impact on transit service in the region. Two important events are shaping this relationship. In the short-term, budget decisions this year by the Kansas City Council have forced KCATA to take a 10% loss on the transit service it provides to the City and continue to use its emergency reserve fund to cover this loss. According to KCATA the $46 million budget is $5 million short of the approximate $51 million cost of the current level of service. In the mid/long-term, a new ordinance created a “KCATA Funding Review Committee” which will determine the ongoing relationship between the two entities.METRO ogo

The short-term: The KCATA Board of Commissioners has approved the new $46 million contract, even though they know it is affecting the agency’s ability to respond to emergencies in the future.  KCATA expects to use $5 million of its reserve fund to prop up the city’s transit service, despite the fact that the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax had an additional $9 million available to budget for the bus service. Instead, the city decided to spend the money on Public Works and the streetcar. Some of this money should have been used to eliminate the difference between the cost of the service level and the budget. KCATA used $3.5 million of its reserve fund last year to prop up this service level. KCMO has not fully paid for its transit service out of the budget since 2008.

To understand why KCATA would continue to use its emergency reserve fund after the economic emergency is over and the KCMO sales tax receipts are budgeted to be the highest ever, you need to know that the reserve fund came from the KCMO 3/8 cent Transit Sales Tax  (more about this later) and understand KCMO’s impact on KCATA’s business. 62% of KCATA’s total budget comes from KCMO but if you omit federal funding and fares and such, and just look at the local funding part — then KCMO provides 92% of those funds. Although KCATA is an independent public transportation agency created by an act of Congress, it doesn’t have any taxing authority, and therefore relies on contracts with government entities to provide transit service. So if you have one client that contracts for 92% of your business, you try to make them happy.  Keeping that in mind, KCMO still purchases transit services as a client of KCATA, not an employer and not an owner.

kcmo_kcata_contractSo the mid-term and long-term relationship between these two separate entities has to be resolved since the current situation is unsustainable. No organization can continue to provide the city with more service than the city can (or will) fund.

That leads us to the mid-term outlook. Although during the budget process the city’s Finance committee deleted Section 2 of Ordinance 100951, which required KCMO to incrementally increase KCATA’s share of the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, it retained Section 1, which says KCATA will receive 95% of this sales tax (after TIF and an Administration fee) starting May 1, 2014. During the budget hearings City Manager, Troy Schulte, said he had made preparations to comply with Section 1 of the ordinance. That means that the use of this money for Public Works, which is $6 million for FY 2013-2014, would shrink to about $1-1.5 million for Transportation Planning and the Administrative fee in the next budget. If Section 1 of Ordinance 100951 is implemented and KCATA starts to receive the money that has been diverted to Public Works since 2003, then the current discrepancy between the budget and the cost of the service level will hopefully be eliminated and KCATA can stop depleting the reserve account in the mid-term.  Use of the reserve account in the long-term is a different matter.budget_discussion

The long-term situation. The city’s new “KCATA Funding Review Committee” has had two meetings with the KCATA. The committee has to present a recommendation to Mayor James by Aug 1, 2013 — in time for the next budget deliberations.

A new Ordinance, 130173, set up this committee to look at using the money from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax to create  “a multi-year financial plan for distribution of the transportation sales tax after reviewing the needs of the bus service and establishing a maximum allocation for development and expansion of a streetcar system”. Councilman Ed Ford chairs the committee. The other four council members are Dick Davis, Jan Marcason, John Sharp and Scott Wagner.

The first committee meeting mainly consisted of KCATA’s general manager, Mark Huffer, making a presentation he called “KCATA 101” to explain KCATA’s operations and funding situation. There are links to both the presentation and the meeting, with Huffer’s explanation of all the slides, at the end of this article.

The second committee meeting happened at the last KCATA Board of Commissioners meeting. KCATA addressed several concerns that were brought up at the first meeting, including the sustainability of this level of transit service and the use of the KCATA Reserve account.  There are several issues that have emerged.

Issue 1: How to maintain the current level of transit service. The city council is basing these talks on the unique prerequisite that the current level of transit should be maintained. To transit riders and transit advocates that sounds pretty good, except improving and expanding the service level would sound even better. However that has never been the way KCATA has provided service to the city. They have always provided the most service possible for the funding provided. Councilman Dick Davis (previous general manager of KCATA) told us how he used to adjust service levels all the time based on the money the city actually gave KCATA.  Service levels have never been fixed because the cost of service and the funding for the service always fluctuates.

Prior to 2009 KCMO fully paid for the transit service it received. Historically, if the city cut the budget, then KCATA either cut service or raised fares, so the city budget and the amount of transit service were always in agreement. When the recent recession hit, KCMO cut KCATA’s funding $9.5 million or 19.3 % between FY 2008-2009 and FY 2009-2010. The reason transit riders didn’t suffer more during the recession is because KCATA raised fares (by 20 percent or 25 cents) and cut service by only 9.5%. That didn’t fully cover the budget reduction, so KCATA used its reserve account to make up the cost difference and maintain the higher level of service. The decision to use the reserve account left KCMO and KCATA out of sync, with KCATA propping up the city’s transit service at a level higher than budgeted. This situation had never happened before and we doubt if a lot of people even know about it. Most people assume the service cuts and fare increase happened just like before and they matched the amount of the funding reduction. That is not the case.

KCATA acted like a real partner to the city when sales taxes took a nose-dive. The reserve money kept transit riders from having deeper service cuts and bigger fare increases, as happened in many other cities. KCATA used its reserve fund like it is supposed to be used:  for an emergency.

Now, KCATA is being told to maintain this level of service, even though the city isn’t budgeting for it. They are seriously looking at scenarios where the reserve account will be totally exhausted. So the KCATA reserve account is an important part of this discussion.

 Background: How did KCATA get this reserve account? Prior to 2003 KCATA did not have a reserve fund. The reserve money originally came from the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax. Although KCMO has control over how to spend the city’s ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, it acts as a fiscal agent collecting and passing through to KCATA proceeds from the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax since language of that ballot measure specifically directed the money to KCATA. After the successful 2003 transit election, it took time to implement new services and get more buses. During that build up time KCATA used some of this money to create its first and only reserve fund for emergencies (it was 6 months of operating costs – which is not uncommon for a transit agency). The original concept for the reserve fund was to protect service levels in the event of unexpected fuel price spikes. This unique opportunity to build the reserve only existed once and KCATA has no way to replenish this money for future emergencies, since the contract with the city does not currently have a provision for funding a reserve account.  The reserve fund is already partially depleted. That is why forcing KCATA to use up this money when the city is flush with transportation funds was unnecessary and irresponsible on the part of the city, because it diminishes KCATA’s ability to respond to future contingencies.

KCATA having a reserve account is no different from anyone having a rainy-day fund. Coming out of the recent recession, people should understand how important it is to have some extra money tucked away. We hope that during the review process KCMO sees the wisdom of KCATA having a reserve account and incorporates this modern risk-management practice into the contract. Properly using a reserve account is good management. It should be used to maintain service levels when less revenue is collected than budgeted or when there are unexpected costs, and then re-filled when revenues go back up.

Without the KCATA reserve account, service cuts and fare increases worth the whole $9.5 million, or 19.3%, would have been necessary during the recession.

Issue 2: There is a serious long-term funding problem for KCMO, which will affect KCATA. The city may have to make drastic changes in many programs, not just transit, unless revenues start growing faster or costs are cut. Considering that sales tax revenue is projected to increase only 1%-1.5% annually, the city is on a collision course when costs will exceed revenue in multiple city endeavors, unless there are big changes. The city’s overall costs are projected to increase at 5%-6% annually.

KCATA is currently managing costs pretty well at a 2-3% yearly increase. If the cost of maintaining this level of transit service continues to grow faster that the sales tax revenue, then at some point, this level of transit service becomes unsustainable.rider_profile

One of the main goals of these meetings is to find a way to maintain this level of service and pay for it. The committee has to decide if that goal can be reached with the funding sources already available. As transit riders, constant fluctuations in service levels based on the city’s current year budget is a transit nightmare. KCATA surveys of riders show that 74% of the transit riders have household incomes less than $30,000 and 62% of the riders are transit dependent, yet 76% of the trips are for work, job seeking or school. The need for transit is well documented and no one wants to cut service or raise taxes, but reality can’t be ignored.

KCATA has been trying hard to cut costs. The goal of implementing the recommendations of the Comprehensive Service Analysis was to make the routes more efficient and eliminate duplications. KCATA negotiated an improved union contract and they plan to change the vehicle fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). They expect cost reductions from all of these efforts.

So the ball is in the City’s court. In Huffer’s presentation he suggested several ways for the city to deal with the potential collision course between costs and revenues as they affect the transit service.

INCREASE REVENUE

  • City 1/8-cent sales tax capacity
  • More use of ½-cent sales tax
  • State investment
  • Regional investment
  • County
  • Bi-State
  • Fare increases

Of course, KCMO only controls the revenue streams highlighted in red. Another possibility, not on the list, is the U.S. Congress giving state, county and local governments the ability to charge sales tax on Internet sales. If that happens, it will be a boon to government coffers all over the country and a boon to transit services funded by sales taxes. Any increase in the 3/8-cent Transit Sales Tax revenue would automatically go to KCATA, and depending on the decisions made regarding the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, KCATA could receive more money for transit.

DECREASE COSTS

  • Greater labor efficiencies
  • Focus only on core services
  • Services reductions/redesign
  • Limit Share-A-Fare to ADA requirements only
  • Alternate fuels/utility savings

Approximately 80% of the transit trips happen on 20% of the routes (core service), so KCTA could reduce the non-core routes. Twenty percent of the routes are about a dozen routes. For perspective, KCATA operates nearly two dozen routes on Sundays.

Currently a city ordinance allows able-bodied people over 65 with an annual income of no more than 150% of the current poverty level to use the Share-A-Fare service. There would be significant cost savings if the service were limited to the people with disabilities.

KCATA’s estimates did not include any cost savings from changing to CNG as a fuel, so that is an outstanding potential cost savings.

All of the above options to decrease costs are within the control of either KCATA or KCMO.

These first two issues, maintaining this level of transit service and the eventual situation where the service level becomes unsustainable due to slow revenue growth and potentially exhausting the reserve account, have been part of the discussions during these committee meetings.

At the second meeting, Mr. Huffer presented several scenarios looking at when the reserve account would be exhausted. The basic assumption is that KCMO doesn’t increase KCATA’s budget. Other scenarios include keeping the same budget but starting to make service reductions and the last scenario doesn’t make service reductions but increases the budget $5 million next year and then revenue only grows at 1% per year.

Of course, exhausting the emergency reserve fund to maintain basic operating levels is not a long-term funding strategy. Councilman Dick Davis, told us recently that he would be concerned if the reserve fund dipped below $10 million. We don’t believe the KCATA Board of Commissioners should let the reserve fund be totally depleted under these circumstances.  See Huffer’s Reserve Presentation at the end of the article.

Issue 3. Another wrinkle that hasn’t been resolved. In December 2010 when Ordinance 100951 was passed, the streetcar didn’t exist.  In the current budget the city allocated $2 million to the streetcar to cover the streetcar’s financial obligations. This amount of money will be needed for the duration of the streetcar bonds, which could be 25 years for a total of $50 million (this amount is equivalent to the cost of a whole year of KCATA transit service to KCMO). One of the questions for the committee is “Will the streetcar money continue to come from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, or some other revenue source? “peer_cities

The streetcar is transit and this is a transportation tax so it fits legally. However, originally the Transportation Development District (TDD) was supposed to pay for the streetcar costs and there was no discussion about using the limited funds available for the bus system to help pay for the streetcar. The streetcar has to be paid for, but TAN would prefer the TDD exhaust its revenue sources before taking the easy way out and use the revenue stream used to pay for the bus system. If the TDD truly can’t pay for the streetcar, then of course revenue sources outside of the TDD have to be tapped.

If there is no other option and the streetcar money has to come out of the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax, then Section 1 of Ordinance 100951, which currently gives KCATA 95% of the money, will have to be changed.  The city manager’s current plan is to take the streetcar money out first, like the TIF money, and give KCATA 95% of what is left, if that is still the percentage the review committee decides on.   Don’t be misled into thinking KCATA is getting 95% of the money if the city continues to take money out for other priorities first. Getting 95% of the leftovers is a much smaller amount of money. In fact, if money for the streetcar comes out of this fund, the city manager said the maximum percentage of the total amount available for KCATA would be reduced to 87%.

During the budget hearings the council made it very clear that they can do whatever they want with this sales tax regardless of promises to voters or ordinances. The point that the “council can change its mind any time it wants to” is an important one. For instance, even if a $2 million cap is placed on using the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax money for this first streetcar, this council or a future one could just eliminate the cap and decide a precedent had been established for using these funds to pay for streetcars.

What lies ahead? What about new or improved services? Even though the city has not been fully budgeting for the transit service, KCATA continued with the implementation of several new projects including the Troost MAX in 2011 and the expansion of service to the airport this year. A Prospect MAX is a potential new service since it did well in the recent Jackson County US 71 Transit Study. How the city defines its on-going relationship with KCATA and how the city decides to fund basic transit service to the whole city will determine what improvements or expansions KCATA can make in the future.

The City’s “KCATA Funding Review Committee” has a lot of work to accomplish. So far the committee has been learning about the issues. We look forward to the meetings when they get down to dealing with the difficult questions. They only have June and July to come up with a plan.

Next “KCATA Funding Review Committee” meeting is Thursday June 13, 2013, at City Hall, 10th floor.

Links to the presentations and the video of the first meeting

Huffer to KCMO City Council – ATA 101 Final_20130425

Video of first KCMO City Council “KCATA Funding Review Committee”  (includes Mark Huffer’s explanation of the slide presentation)

KCATA BOC Reserve Fund Presentation  from the second meeting

For more background: TAN posted a series of articles related to the KCMO FY 2013-2014 budget process for funding KCATA. Start with Our Request to KCMO: Move Transit Funding Closer to Goal in Next Budget   and Action Alert! KCMO City Manager’s Budget Is Failing The Transit System  and read through to the last budget article Last Chance – Speak up for KCATA Budget at KCMO Finance Committee Meeting Mar 20  They all have the Tag: KCMO2013-2014budget

Soon: KCATA’s New Vision

Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

US 71 Transit Study Open House – May 23

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 6, 2013


US_71_open_house

Posted in Events, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

KCMO holds first KCATA Funding Review Committee Meeting – April 25

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 24, 2013


kcmo_big_logoKansas City’s new Ordinance 130173 set up the KCATA Funding Review Committee,  to “recommend  a multi-year financial plan for distribution of the  (1/2 cent ) transportation sales tax after reviewing the needs of the bus service and establishing a maximum allocation for development and expansion of a streetcar system”. The committee’s final recommendations are due to the Council by August 1, 2013.METRO ogo The meeting is open to the public.

The initial meeting of the committee is tomorrow and will include a presentation on “KCATA 101”.

KCATA FUNDING REVIEW COMMITTEE

Thursday, April 25, 2013, at 10:30 AM
10th Floor Committee Room, City Hall

Chair, Councilman Ed Ford

Additional Council members are Dick Davis, John A. Sharp, Jan Marcason, Scott Wagner

Proposed Agenda

1. Discussion on the purpose of the committee.

2. Future meeting schedule.

3. Presentation on the KCATA.

4. There may be a general discussion regarding current KCATA Funding Review Committee issues.

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 4, 2013


Please attend the KCATA downtown workshop.

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

Kansas City Design Center
1018 Baltimore
Kansas City, MO 64105

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

Planning efforts will examine the following:

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

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues, Rail | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

KCATA Route 129 Now Serves KCI Airport Seven Days a Week

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 3, 2013


Expanded Route 129 service to KCI Airport began on March 31, with hourly trips connecting Downtown Kansas City with KCI seven days a week, 19 round trips per day. Buses now also serve all three terminals.

Passenger boards southbound Route 129 bus to Downtown Kansas City.

Passenger boards southbound Route 129 bus to Downtown Kansas City.

There’s a bus stop sign and schedule poster on the median at each terminal:
+ Terminal A, about half-way around
+ Terminal B, about two-thirds of the way around
+ Terminal C, about two-thirds of the way around

www.flickr.com/photos/58867268@N03/8609519893/

We’d give you an approximate gate number for each stop, but KCI Airport does not have a consistent system of location reference points outside the terminal buildings. We consider that to be a serious oversight on their part.  Perhaps some of our local “frequent flyers” can help persuade the KCI folks to do better.

Note that there’s relatively little information on the KCATA schedule poster, even though it’s more than half blank. No hint of destination (Downtown at 10th and Main Transit Center), or travel time (less than one hour), or fare ($1.50), or transfer policy (free transfer good for two hours). Nor is there a route map, or even a simple “stick map.” Such information would be immensely helpful to out-of-town travelers who just naturally expect to find a low-cost public transit connection from a major airport to a city’s Central Business District.

Buses from Downtown (via Boardwalk Square) loop around each terminal before making a final stop at Terminal C. Then they pull forward and wait near the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office until their scheduled departure time several minutes later. Because this dwell point is not at the curb, drivers would probably not allow a late-arriving passenger to board.

We looked for information about this KCATA service inside the terminal buildings but couldn’t find any. KCATA used to have a colorful panel at each of the nine information kiosks (one opposite each baggage carousel), but those panels are no longer present.
www.flickr.com/photos/58867268@N03/6001852767/

Nor did we see any “Public Transit” directional signs inside the terminal. (Face it, KCI has no incentive to encourage public transit use since they derive much of their revenue from parking and car rental fees.)

All in all, even though there are details to be improved, we applaud KCATA for this new transit connection.

Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Last Chance – Speak up for KCATA Budget at KCMO Finance Committee Meeting Mar 20

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 19, 2013


METRO ogoThe city council is almost finished working on the FY 2013/2014 budget. Tomorrow may be your last chance to comment in front of the council on the Public Mass Transportation Fund (1/2-cent Transposition Sales Tax) budget.kcmo_big_logo

Finance, Governance & Ethics Committee
March 20, 2013 at 8:30 am
10th Floor Committee Room
City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
 

In your testimony about the budget for the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax and Ordinance 130173:

  1. Encourage the committee to table the new ordinance, 130173, which is an attempt to deal with the transit issues we’ve have all been concerned about. The council hasn’t had sufficient time to thoroughly discuss the ordinance and determined how to get the best result. It is possible to complete this budget with the current ordinance.
  2. Even if the committee tables the new ordinance, which we hope it will, please ask them to comply with the existing ordinance relative to non-transit uses and restore funding to KCATA.
  3. Ask that $5 million, currently allocated to non-transit uses, be moved to KCATA:
    •  to comply with current ordinance 100951 to restore funding to KCATA.
    •  to eliminate KCATA’s need to use its emergency reserve account to maintain current transit service levels.
  4. Ask that the streetcar only uses this funding source for one year, while an alternative funding source is identified.

Currently the FY 2013/2014 budget for the  city’s use of the 1/2 sales tax money includes $6 million dollars allocated to non-transit projects, $2 million to the streetcar, and $600 thousand to administrative fees.

Based on Ordinance 100951, city non-transit uses were supposed to start shrinking in 2011 so the KCATA budget could rise to 95% of the available funds from the ½ cent Transportation Sales tax by 2014. KCATA would only be allocated 71% of the available funds in the new budget.

The 2003 and 2008 elections for a 3/8 cent sales tax were based on the assumption that the ½ sales tax would continue to go to the KCATA but here is what actually happened.

1_2_cent_comparison_2003_2014

Up until now the city has ignored its own ordinance and continued to spend money on other priorities.

Contrary to what most people think, KCATA has not been receiving 7/8 cents in sales taxes (sum of ½ cent and 3/8 cent sales taxes). In the proposed budget KCATA is budgeted LESS money from the ½ cent transportation sales tax than it received in 2003 although receipts have increased considerably.

In 2003/2004 the city was only using $1.3 million for non-transit uses from the ½ cent transportation sales tax.

Here’s what we propose:

  1. Table the new ordinance: it is not needed.
  2. Move $5 million from Public Works Capital Improvements to KCATA. That would move the budget closer to complying with the current ordinance and eliminate the need for KCATA to use up its emergency money. Based on the ordinance, KCATA should be receiving close to 88% of the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax for the proposed budget.
  3. Due to the short time-frame, use $2 million from the Public Mass Transportation Fund  for the streetcar for this one-year only.
  4. Once the budgeting process is completed, begin working on alternative funding sources for the $2 million, preferably out of the TDD.  The city sold the idea of the streetcar being funded out of the TDD. Do this and provide long-term financial stability for the streetcar using those new funds.
  5. Convene the Transit Working Group that Councilwoman Circo proposed at the March 6 meeting of this committee, and let that group take some time to explore all of the transit-related issues involved.  There are a lot of issues, and decisions related to transit should not be made in a vacuum.
  6. Include Transit Action Network in that Transit Working Group, as we asked two weeks ago.

The council can work this out, but the time is running out. The budget has to be voted on next week.

Contact Kansas City Mayor and City Council

Mayor’s office 816-513-3500 email Mayor@kcmo.org

Council office 816-513-1368

Go to http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/CityCouncilOffice/index.htm for phone numbers and emails for specific council members

TAN has been writing about this issue since January when the city manager released his proposed budget for FY 2013/2014.

See previous articles for more information.  KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

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

KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 13, 2013


METRO ogoPeople are  speaking up about the failure of Kansas City’s proposed budget for FY2013-2014 to properly fund KCATA as required by Ordinance 100951 and expected by elections in both 2003 and 2008.

Watch the testimony: http://kansascity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=7223kcmo_big_logo

Testimony related to transit begins at 38:30 and ends about 1:41:30

  • Loretta Jackson-Cowans about 38:30
  • Councilman Ed Ford about 41:40
  • Councilwoman Marcason about 46:40
  • Mark Huffer of KCATA about 48:02
  • Councilwoman Cindy Circo about 1:05:08  – We need to create a working group…
  • Councilman Michael Brooks about 1:07:00
  • City Manager Troy Schulte about 1:07:12
  • Jonothan Walker of ATU about 1:19:22
  • Sheila Styron of The Whole Person about 1:23:25
  • Janet Rogers of Transit Action Network about 1:26:13
  • Ron McLinden of Transit Action Network about 1:33:02
  • Closing remarks by Council members about 1:39:10
  • End of transit testimony about 1:41:30

Lynn Horsley’s KC Star article about the meeting http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/06/4103920/concern-about-kc-bus-money-going.html

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

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 5, 2013


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

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

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

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

So we spoke up again this year asking the council to

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

Instead responses have included

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask for

The first blank:  95%

Second blank: providing bus service through KCATA.

This would keep the ordinance basically as it is.

ORDINANCE NO. 130173

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

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

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

Sec. 68-472.1. Distribution of tax.

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

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

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

Public Budget Hearing Saturday Feb 23 Speak Up About the Millions Diverted From KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 22, 2013


kcmo_big_logoLast KCMO Public Budget Hearing for FY 2013-2014

Saturday, February 23
9am to 11am
KCPD South Patrol Division (main entrance)
9701 Marion Park Drive , KCMO 64137

In 2003 and again in 2008, Kansas City passed a 3/8-cent transit sales tax in order to build a bigger better bus system. It was a package deal: the 3/8-cent transit tax would add to the already existing ½ cent transportation sales tax (which previously had been the only source of funding for the Metro) to provide KCATA with the equivalent of 7/8 cents sales tax for operating the Metro.  That is NOT what happened.METRO ogo

In the City’s proposed budget for FY 2013-2014, KCATA is getting less than 6/8 cents in sales tax. The city is diverting nearly $10 million away from KCATA even though they are violating Ordinance 100951 to do so.

For the proposed FY2013-2014 budget, 1/8-cent sales tax generates a little over $8 million.

$10_million_shortIf the city was obeying the ordinance and started incrementally increasing the KCATA share of the ½ cent transportation sales tax in May 2011, then KCATA would be getting about $6 million more in the FY 2013-2014 budget. If KCATA only got $5 million more in this budget, they would not have to bleed out the reserve account to maintain service.

Saturday is the last public budget hearing to comment on the city diverting money away from KCATA despite the clear intention of voters that the full 7/8 cent of sales tax should support the bus system.  However, continue to contact the mayor and your council members though March until the budget is adopted.

Where is nearly $10 million going in the proposed budget instead of to KCATA?

  • $6 million to non-transit projects in public works – 18% of the money
  • $2 million to the streetcar – 6.1%
  • Almost $2 million is held back by the city  – 5.4%
    • The previous two years, the city hoarded over $5 million in the fund rather than pass the money on to the KCATA.

    At this point, KCATA is not going to get one more dollar than it did this year.

This diversion of tax money away from the KCATA is not new. This is why in 2010 we approached the city to pass an ordinance that required the city manager to give 95% of the ½ cent transportation sales tax to KCATA by May 2014, and to start incrementally increasing the KCATA share of the money in May 2011. This ordinance meant the city would comply with the promises made to voters in the two earlier elections. Instead the city has violated the ordinance every year. KCATA is getting a smaller share of the fund than it did in 2010. The KCATA share has gone from 74% down to 71%.

1_2_comparison_again

Voters should understand that legally the city could trash Ordinance 100951 and totally ignore the two elections and give all the ½-cent transportation fund to roads and streetcars. Voters never get to vote on this money since it is taxing authority given to the city from the State of Missouri. That is why we approached the council in 2010 and tried to protect the bus service from encroachments from other projects by passing the ordinance. Up to this point the city has chosen to flagrantly ignore that ordinance.

In fact, the city manager is already saying he wants the council to change the ordinance. One possibility for changing the ordinance being openly discussed is to allocate $2 million to the streetcar off the top and let KCATA have 95% (or less) of what is left.

No matter how great it is to have a streetcar and give more money to roads, the bus system still has to carry the heavy load of transporting nearly 55,000 people daily to work and home and all their other transit trips. And KCATA ridership is increasing. Kansas City is huge geographically and it takes a lot of money to transport people over all these miles.  Continue to shrink the money, expect to shrink the service area and service level.

For a change, we would prefer to see KCATA fully funded and get MAX systems added to Prospect and North Oak, instead of having to cut service in a couple of years. There are consequences to the city’s actions.

The city council still has time to fix all of this. Do they have the will? Some of the council members do, such as Ed Ford and John Sharp. Please contact the mayor and the city council and let them know what you think about taking all this money away from the Metro.

Previous posts:

Action Alert! KCMO City Manager’s Budget Is Failing The Transit System

Speak Up to Restore KCATA Funding and Listen to KKFI To Get the Scoop

Lynn Horsley’s column in the KC Star http://www.kansascity.com/2013/02/08/4056689/bus-backers-worry-about-funds.html

Listen to Janet Rogers, co-founder of Transit Action Network discuss this issue on KKFI radio’s TellSomebody, hosted by Tom Klammer on Feb 5, 2013

http://tellsomebody.libsyn.com/city-manager-schulte-reneges-on-transit-funding-obligation

Contact Kansas City Mayor and City Council

Mayor’s office 816-513-3500 email Mayor@kcmo.org

Council office 816-513-1368

Go to http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/CityCouncilOffice/index.htm for phone numbers and emails for specific council members

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

Speak Up to Restore KCATA Funding and Listen to KKFI To Get the Scoop

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 1, 2013


This Saturday tell your Council Members and the Mayor to restore funding to KCATA as intended by Ordinance 100951.METRO logo (Read our previous article for Ordinance details-see link below)

Saturday, February 2
9am to 11am
Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center (auditorium)
3200 Wayne, KCMO 64109

kcmo_big_logoThere are only three public budget hearings about the city manager’s proposed budget. Tell your Council Members and the Mayor that the failure to “incrementally increase” the KCATA budget toward 95% of the available money is unacceptable and against the wishes of the voters.

People depend on this service for all aspects of their lives including getting to work and school, buying groceries and medicines, and going to the doctor. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) announced that 2012 Metro ridership exceeded 16.1 million trips, the second highest annual ridership in nearly two decades. The Metro is an essential service.

The city has not “incrementally increased” the percentage that KCATA is receiving despite what the ordinance instructs the city manager to do.  KCATA received 74% when the ordinance was passed in 2010. Funding for KCATA has to be at 95% by May 2014.  The city manager’s budget is only proposing 71% for KCATA, which is less than when the ordinance was passed. If the KCATA budget was “incrementally increased” after the ordinance, then it should receive close to 88% in this budget.

The beginning of 2011, right after the ordinance was passed, TAN held an on-line forum for the mayoral election. Before the ordinance was passed the city was diverting over $5 million to non-transit uses.  Here is Candidate Sly James’ comment about that situation:

“I’ve been a strong advocate for public transit and will continue to be as mayor.  However, we need to restore the public’s trust in City Hall before we ask for additional tax dollars.  The city’s plan to withhold $5.4 million in tax revenue intended for KCATA is simply unacceptable and represents a systemic problem with the way our city conducts business.  Withholding funds that have been allocated by voters for a specific purpose continues to breed the type of widespread distrust of City Hall that must be fixed.  Our budget must always reflect the priorities of the citizens of Kansas City, not simply the priorities of our bureaucracy.”

 Message to Mayor James – This proposed budget has increased the amount being diverted to non-transit uses to $6 million. KKFI 90.1 FM

If the city doesn’t follow the ordinance, KCATA will need to subsidize the city’s bus service $5 million this year to maintain this service level.  KCATA continues to provide more transit service than the city is paying for. KCATA is using up its emergency reserve account to pick up the difference. KCMO should stop dragging its feet and use the taxes the way the voters intended.

Listen to KKFI Community Radio 90.1 FM

To hear more about this issue, TAN advocate Janet Rogers will be a guest on two KKFI radio shows to talk about what is happening to KCATA funding and why the proposed budget needs to be changed.

Saturday February 2 – Sharon Lockhart’s Every Woman between 3-4 pm

Tuesday, February 5 – Tom Klammer’s Tell Somebody between 6-7 pm

Previous TAN article: Action Alert! KCMO City Manager’s Budget Is Failing The Transit System

Opportunities to speak up at 2013-14 Public Budget Hearings

Saturday, February 2
9am to 11am
Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center (auditorium)
3200 Wayne, KCMO 64109

Saturday, February 9
9am to 11am
Northland Neighborhoods Inc.
4420 NE Chouteau Trafficway, KCMO 64117

Saturday, February 23
9am to 11am
KCPD South Patrol Division (main entrance)
9701 Marion Park Drive , KCMO 64137

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

Action Alert! KCMO City Manager’s Budget Is Failing The Transit System

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 25, 2013


kcmo_big_logoIn December of 2010, Transit Action Network lead an effort to get Ordinance 100951 passed to restore funding to KCATA  from the 1/2 cent transportation sales tax (officially the “Public Mass Transportation Fund”). Groups representing over 160,000 people, in addition to bus riders, spoke up in support of this ordinance.

Now the City Manger’s submitted budget for FY 2013-14 doesn’t abide by this Ordinance to restore funding to the Metro.

KCATA averages nearly 55,000 daily riders and 2012 ridership was the second highest in 20 years. The transit system is vital to people getting to work and looking for work, yet the City Manager’s budget appears to be ignoring this simple instruction regarding KCATA funding based on the ordinance:

Section 2. That the City Manager is directed to incrementally increase the current appropriation to 95%, beginning with the budget taking effect on May 1, 2011.

The 95% requirement to restore funding to KCATA has to be met by May 2014, yet KCATA is budgeted a smaller percentage (70.5%) in the proposed FY 2013-14 budget than when the ordinance was passed in December 2010 (73.8%).  The dollar amount budgeted for KCATA is the same for FY 2013-14 as FY 2012-13. The City Manager’s KCATA budget is going in the wrong direction! It isn’t fair and it doesn’t match the wishes of the voters or the ordinance passed by the City Council. Why do people have to fight the same battles with public officials over and over again?

1.   Call your council member or Mayor James to insist that Ordinance 100951 be followed and not ignored. Ask that the KCATA funding be moved close to  $29 million (88%) from the Public Mass Transportation Fund, which is appropriate for this step in implementation of the Ordinance, instead of the $23.5 million (70.5%) the City Manager has proposed.

Mayor’s office 816-513-3500 email Mayor@kcmo.org

Council office 816-513-1368

Go to http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/CityCouncilOffice/index.htm

For phone numbers and emails for specific council members

Where is the incremental increase for KCATA?

Where is the incremental increase for KCATA?

2. Attend the budget hearings and insist that the ordinance be implemented correctly.

2013-14 Public Budget Hearings Currently Announced

Saturday, February 2
9am to 11am
Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center (auditorium)
3200 Wayne, KCMO 64109

Saturday, February 9
9am to 11am
Northland Neighborhoods Inc.
4420 NE Chouteau Trafficway, KCMO 64117

Saturday, February 23
9am to 11am
KCPD South Patrol Division (main entrance)
9701 Marion Park Drive, KCMO 64137

The non-transit uses were supposed to be reduced to allow the KCATA budget to increase. The 1/2 cent transportation sales tax was not supposed to be diverted to non-transit uses when the 3/8 cent transit sales tax was voted in. In fact, the non-transit uses have gone from $4.6 million in the year the ordinance was passed to $6 million for the proposed budget.

KCATA is providing more transit service than the city is paying for by using up its reserve account. Their other choice is to significantly cut service again and no one wants that. The reserve account was used to help out in the recent financial crisis, but this shouldn’t still be happening. There is a serious need for the Ordinance to be implemented and the city should stop dragging its feet, pay its bills and provide the essential transit service the voters want.

In addition, the city has taken the $2 million it committed for the streetcar from this fund. The $2 million for the streetcar is a long-term yearly commitment for the city.

TAN has alerted the City Auditor, Gary White, to this situation. Part of his job is to alert city officials to potential problems that could undermine the public’s trust in City government.” Not abiding by this ordinance certainly falls into that category.

==============================================================================

See our recent article. Our Request to KCMO: Move Transit Funding Closer to Goal in Next Budget  (This article was written using the previous budget numbers)

Links to two 2010 blog posts  A Great Victory For Transit and The Scoop on Kansas City Transit Funding

Public Mass Transportation Fund-Submitted FY 2013-14 Budget from the City Manager’s budget

The full Manager’s Budget can be found online in the City’s Open Data Catalog at http://data.kcmo.org.

Ordinance 100951

Posted in Action, Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Jackson County AA Study Team Will Reveal Recommendations Tomorrow

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 26, 2012


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

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

Here’s what we expect tomorrow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jackson County Transit Studies Open House Nov. 27

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 21, 2012


Click to Enlarge

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

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

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

There will be prizes and giveaways, too!

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

Posted in Events, Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Our Request to KCMO: Move Transit Funding Closer to Goal in Next Budget

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 16, 2012


In late 2010, Transit Action Network initiated and led a campaign to restore transit funding from the Public Mass Transportation Fund (1/2-cent city transportation sales tax).  We were successful in getting Ordinance 100951 passed. The Ordinance increases the share of revenue going to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority back to the 95% level it received before voter approval of the 3/8-cent transit sales tax in 2003. Full implementation to 95% is due in the budget for FY 2014-2015, beginning May 2014.

In 2010,  KCATA was receiving only 74% of the ½ cent sales tax. The ordinance has three years to be fully implemented.  From 74% to 95% is a 21% increase. Over the three years of implementation, that would be 7% per year if increased in equal amounts.

One year has passed and KCATA currently receives only 4% more than in the pre-100951 budget. The city is working on the second budget (FY 2013-2014) and we would like to see KCATA receive closer to 88% of the Total Available Resources. That would be 14% higher than when the ordinance was enacted and would represent a more consistent phased increase.

We recently sent a letter to the Mayor, City Council and City Manager asking for the upcoming budget to move significantly closer to the May 2014 goal, in conformance with Ordinance 100951. (2012 Letter and copy of Ordinance to Mayor and Council)

KCATA Share of the Public Mass Transportation Fund

Graph based on Public Mass Transportation Fund budget page for FY 2012-2013

Percentage equals Pass Through Payments1 times 100 divided by Total Available Resources.

1This is the amount KCATA receives, see budget page.

Follow us on Twitter Twitter.com/transactionkc

Join us on Facebook Facebook.com/TransitActionNetwork

Posted in Local Transit Issues | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

KCATA Route 175 on Metcalf Avenue?

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 24, 2012


Metro Route 175

Transit Trivia: How many places along Metcalf Avenue can you find a posted bus schedule?

Did you know that KCATA (The Metro) operates a route deep into Johnson County? Route 175 has six daily round trips that go south from Ward Parkway Shopping Center (88th and State Line) along State Line, 95th Street, and Metcalf to the Sprint Campus, Menorah Hospital, and St. Luke’s South Hospital. There are about 80 riders daily. (One person making a round trip counts as two riders.)

In this view, the second northbound afternoon Route 175 trip stops to board another rider (plus your humble snapshot taker) at the southeast corner of 95th and Metcalf.

Note the bus stop sign, and the frame for the bus schedule below it on the light pole. This schedule, along with one across the street on the southwest corner of the intersection, are the only places we know of where one can find a bus schedule posted along Metcalf.

That’s the answer to the trivia question: TWO.

What irony that the only bus schedule along Metcalf — the street that’s being prepared for Johnson County’s “Connex” service next spring — is provided by KCATA, and it’s only about their Route 175.

Oh — about all that dirt: This is the site of one of the new Connex bus stops. It’ll have a shelter and a digital sign that’ll tell you when the next bus arrives. Off to the left is the Metcalf South Shopping Center. The JO’s park-and-ride lot will be relocated to this corner from its current location on the east side of the shopping center next to the Glenwood Arts Theater. Another Connex stop and shelter will be constructed on the west side of Metcalf, just south of 95th Street.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Jackson County Transit Studies Update – Our Current Assessment

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 15, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That plan would:

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail, Regional Transit Issue, Transit Studies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »