Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘Regional Rapid Rail’

Commuter Rail? Maybe-Maybe Not – – – $1.8 million to Study Transit Corridors!

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 22, 2010

December 21,2010 MARC announced that the Kansas City Region was awarded $1.8 million by the FTA for ‘Alternatives Analysis’ studies for transit in three corridors.  Two have been identified as having potential for commuter rail — they are part of the ‘Regional Rapid Rail’ system promoted by Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders — and the third has potential for modern streetcar in the downtown to Crown Center corridor.

The media are jumping to commuter rail conclusions based on expectations from Sanders’ innumerable public presentations. In fact, while the studies will look at commuter rail they will also look at other options such as express bus, BRT and even light rail. This is different from the recent ‘Commuter Corridors Study’ in which MARC allowed commuter rail to be the preferred solution.  In an FTA Alternatives Analysis all the transit modes have to be treated in an equivalent manner. The MARC press release is objective and doesn’t promote a particular alternative.  Stories in the Star and KC Business Journal jump right to commuter rail conclusions.

The bottom line for now is that press reports about this grant feed unrealistic public expectations. The FTA recently changed its evaluation process and that is partly why rail is being considered again in these corridors. Previous analysis along the I-70 corridor resulted in express buses as the preferred alternative. At first glance commuter rail looks remarkably (and seductively) cost effective.  With closer scrutiny however, the realities of this plan suggest that federal funding will be difficult to secure. Unless the changes to the FTA evaluation process make a huge difference, express buses will likely come out on top for the two suburban corridors.

Meanwhile, the ‘downtown streetcar’ corridor study will restart work in preparation for rail in the most promising corridor for federal funding in the region.


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

Big Week for Regional Rapid Rail

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 5, 2010

This week two very informative articles appeared in the papers about the TranSystems Regional Rapid Rail concept and the hard work Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders has done to promote the idea.  Both articles discuss problems the plan is encountering and give an update of its status.  We strongly encourage you to read them both since they provide different but complementary information.

Report by KC Star’s Brad Cooper and Michael Mansur –Area rail plans advance slowly. Included in the article is a quote by Transit Action Network advocate Janet Rogers.

Report by the Pitch’s David Martin- Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders puts his energy and his reputation into an unlikely commuter-rail plan.

Transit Action Network reported on July 15 that four of the six lines in the Regional Rapid Rail plan are not being pursued at this point. Federal money is being requested by Mid-America Regional Council to study the remaining two lines and a downtown streetcar distribution system.

Additional information about this concept:

The Regional Rapid Rail concept does not use streetcars or light rail. Both of those are electrified and light-weight by train standards. This idea uses Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). Each DMU would be a two-car train probably run on bio-diesel fuel. They can run on freight lines and city streets. This plan uses underused, abandoned freight lines and new tracks in the suburbs. These freight lines are not available in Jackson County once the train enters Kansas City north of the Truman Sports Complex. At that point it would run on new tracks laid on the streets in what is being called a COMMON LINE for the trains from eastern Jackson County. With this concept the trains on the common line would not function like streetcars or light rail, but would travel much like regular trains except they would be on the streets.

The $2 million Alternatives Analysis (AA) is being requested for these two routes:

The two remaining corridors, the I-70 corridor to Blue Springs and beyond using the Kansas City Southern line, and the Rock Island corridor via Raytown and Lee’s Summit, face their own challenges.

These two lines would share the common line from the vicinity of Union Station — the proposed passenger facility would be across the tracks to the north of Union Station and not in the station itself (freight house district in the region of Lidias Restaurant). The common line would travel to the vicinity of 23rd Street and the Blue River where it would link with the Rock Island right-of-way.  This common line would probably be along yet-to-be identified streets. (Truman Road was studied originally but other alignments would be investigated in the AA).

The Rock Island corridor would have to be completely re-built because the existing rails and roadbed have not been maintained since the last trains used them some 30 years ago.

The I-70 corridor faces additional challenges since it is so circuitous. The current alignment has commuter trains from Blue Springs traveling on the existing KCS line to near 33rd and Noland Road, from which there would be a new line parallel to the existing Union Pacific line south to I-70, then westward along the I-70 right-of-way to a point near Blue Ridge Cut-Off where the route would head south to join the Rock Island line south of Truman Sports Complex.

If federal money is received to study the remaining two commuter routes, a downtown streetcar will be reviewed as well.

For the commuter routes, Expanded Express Buses, Light Rail Transit and Regional Rapid Rail would be evaluated and compared in the commuter corridors.

The study of the downtown circulation system would evaluate and compare Local Bus and Bus Rapid Transit, Streetcar and Light Rail Transit.

Various reasons the other four commuter routes will have express bus/bus on shoulder recommended for the near term:

+ The Wyandotte County corridor has little congestion, relatively little ridership potential as a commuter rail line, and would require significant new right of way.

+ The I-29 and I-35 corridors require the high cost of a Missouri River bridge, and have low ridership projections.  The I-29 corridor faces the added challenge of re-assembling an old inter-urban alignment that has been abandoned for many decades.  The I-35 corridor faces the added challenge of a very circuitous route:  commuters to and from Liberty, for example, would travel via Riverside and the north edge of North Kansas City.

+ The US 71 corridor was eliminated largely because of low ridership projections.  In addition, the alignment under consideration would run on or near Van Brunt Extension and Swope Parkway, and would require a new and yet-to-be defined corridor from near the south edge of Swope Park to an intersection with the existing Kansas City Southern line in the vicinity of 83rd and I-435.

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Rail, Regional Rapid Rail | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Regional Rapid Rail and MARC’s Alternatives Analysis Request

Posted by Transit Action Network on July 15, 2010

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has submitted to the Federal Transit Administration a $2 million request for funding an Alternatives Analysis (AA) based on the results of the Commuter Corridor Study that TranSystems is currently completing. This study includes the Regional Rapid Rail system.

The AA would investigate two commuter corridors: 1) I-70/Blue Springs corridor alignment to Odessa and 2) the Rock Island/Lee’s Summit corridor alignment to Pleasant Hill. In these corridors Expanded Express Buses, Light Rail Transit and Regional Rapid Rail would be evaluated and compared.

In addition a downtown circulation system is included in the request. It would evaluate and compare Local Bus and Bus Rapid Transit, Streetcar and Light Rail Transit.

According to the submission, “Through the proposed alternatives analysis, the region will determine the type of transit that can best facilitate positive changes for the citizens of Greater Kansas City with commuter and urban service”.

Federal funding for this analysis is not guaranteed.

Read the submission: AA request

At the July 7th MARC Transit Committee meeting TranSystems presented an update of the current Commuter Corridor Study. Four of the Regional Rapid Rail lines, US-71 (Grandview), I-70 West (State Ave.), I-29 (KCI Airport), and I-35 North (Liberty), will not be pursued in the Alternatives Analysis.  Express buses/ Bus on Shoulder solutions will be recommended. Multiple reasons were given for 4 of the 6 regional rapid rail lines not being pursued at this time but they mainly related to lack of sufficient ridership numbers to warrant the expense.

Posted in Rail, Regional Rapid Rail | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Mike Sanders will be on Up to Date Tuesday May 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 24, 2010

Mike Sanders will be on Up to Date tomorrow, KCUR 89.3FM at 11:00 AM.

They will discuss the County’s Regional Rapid Rail concept, the charter review process and property assessment.

Posted in Rail, Regional Rapid Rail, RRR | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

TAN to City Council–Postpone Support for Commuter Rail

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 20, 2010

Two weeks ago Mike Sanders and Jim Terry (TranSystems) presented the Regional Rapid Rail concept to the Kansas City Council and requested a letter of support for a $4.5 million earmark to do an Alternative Analysis of this concept and supporting transit. The Kansas City Council proposed a resolution to provide this letter. Testimony was held this morning on the resolution.  Mike Sanders and Jim Terry spoke in favor of the resolution. Ron McLinden spoke in favor of putting the resolution on hold until the MARC Commuter Corridor Study is complete in 6-8 weeks. This study is supposed to evaluate the feasibility and viability of the concept. The legislative committee passed the resolution this morning.

Link to Kansas City’s resolution

Below is a copy of Ron’s statement this morning.

Presentation to the Kansas City Council Legislative Committee on May 20, 2010 by Ron McLinden

The idea of turning underused rail lines into a regional transit system is appealing – almost seductive.  There’s a lot of interest in having rail transit.  Every big city has it, and we don’t want to be left behind.  There’s less agreement, of course, about where it should go, and how we should pay for it.

In January, 2008, when the ATA was doing its most recent light rail study, you heard a presentation from Jeff Boothe, a rail transit expert from Washington, DC.  I recall distinctly one of the things he said:  Before you do light rail you need to know what you want it to do for you.

The same applies today.  What do we want rail transit to do for us, and will this proposed system actually do it?

You may be aware of a commuter corridors study that Mid-America Regional Council has had under way for about six months.  Its principal focus is to determine whether this commuter rail concept makes sense:  Can it deliver the travel time savings needed to attract enough riders to make it a viable project, one that can successfully compete for federal funding?  That study should be completed in six to eight weeks.  We suggest that you hear the results of the MARC study before you endorse the concept.

The concept envisions using city streets for some of the most critical rail segments, and it would cross several boulevards at grade.  We suggest you get input from your Public Works Department, and also from the Parks Board.

If you adopt this resolution now, before you have all the facts, you will further heighten public expectations about a concept that might or might not be viable.  The resolution says that you support asking for federal money to study the proposal further, but the headlines will say that commuter rail is a big step closer to becoming reality.

Candidly, we’re concerned that this proposal is a distraction from more fundamental transit issues:  What kind of total transit system will best serve the citizens of Kansas City, and help our city to grow as the vibrant urban center of the region?  How can we assure adequate and reliable funding for the transit service we already have, and for expansion to meet growing needs?

All of us applaud Jackson County’s interest in transit, and we should seize this opportunity to work with the County to put in place a mechanism for county-wide funding of major transit corridors, including commuter service using buses or rail.  Creating a county transit authority under existing state law is one such funding mechanism.  Jackson County outside Kansas City has unmet transit needs, and funding will be needed regardless of what kind of transit service is ultimately provided, so let’s get going on it now.

In summary, here’s our request to you:

+  Put this resolution on hold pending the results of the MARC study, and input from Public Works.

+  Join with other elected officials and work with Jackson County to establish a broader funding base for transit through creation of a county transit authority.

KC Regional Rapid Rail Concept

Posted in Rail, Regional Rapid Rail, RRR | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »