Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Posts Tagged ‘Unified Government of Wyandotte County’

2014: Transit in the Kansas City Region – What happened?

Posted by Transit Action Network on January 2, 2015


2014 was a busy transit year and it is fun to look back to see some of the main stories and think about the future. Links to some of our related posts are included. If you want to get actively involved in on-going transit issues, contact us at TransActionKC@gmail.com or attend our first meeting of 2015 at Noon on January 9th at the KC Central Library at 10th and Baltimore.

1. The Downtown Streetcar

The Downtown Streetcar construction got underway in May and is about one-third complete at year end. Check out KCStreetcar.com for updates. streetcar

Tom Gerend, previously the Assistant Director of Transportation at MARC, was named the Executive Director for the Streetcar Authority.

Please support the businesses along the route. Lunch Mobs are being organized to help these businesses. Check out @kcstreetcar @tacticalurbankc

2. The Streetcar expansion

Kansas City’s August election for three streetcar expansion routes (Independence Avenue, Linwood and Main Street) would have added an additional 7.6 miles to the Downtown Streetcar for a total of 9.8 miles. The Prospect MAX recommendation was 9.1 miles long. Streetcar Steering Committee Releases Recommendations and Draft Report   The proposal lost 60%-40%.  Video – KC Streetcar Expansion Election Watch and Mayor’s Speech

Next_RailRead the final Next Rail report if you aren’t familiar with the Main Street expansion to the Plaza. If the city comes up with a good funding plan, the expansion to the Plaza may be seen again in a couple of years. Next Rail final expansion recommendation

3. KCMO continues to withhold $2.5 million from KCATAKCATA_2014-2015_KCMO_budget

Although the Kansas City budgeted 95% of the revenue from the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax to KCATA based on an ordinance TAN initiated in 2010 (it was updated in 2013), the city is withholding $2.5 million from KCATA and causing KCATA’s reserve account to deplete even faster, which is ironic since the city says it is concerned that the KCATA reserve account will deplete itself before 2022; currently estimated to run out in 2018. The city is over $5 million short in its payments to KCAT̄A this year caused by the combination of insufficient sales tax revenue and the additional amount being withheld. KCATA expects the city to short them $5.4 million in 2015.

TAN hopes KCMO pays its bills to the best of its ability by the end of this fiscal year, April 30, 2015. The city administrator is holding the money in case he decides to start out-sourcing part of the bus system to save money. More in 2015.

4. KCATAKCATA

KCATA is working on a comprehensive service analysis to re-design transit downtown.  Attend Public Meetings – Redesigning Downtown KC Transit – July 17 and Downtown Service Improvement Concept 

Map Of Downtown Concept

Map Of Downtown Concept

KCATA continued it re-organization A New Vision for KCATA  and KCATA General Manager Mark E. Huffer Resigns   KCATA is currently looking to fill a new CEO position.

The year ended with KCATA Board of Commissioners re-electing Robbie Makinen for another year as Chair since the reorganization for KCATA isn’t finished and Makinen is doing such a great job pushing the agenda forward. Congratulations! Robbie Makinen Elected KCATA Chair Again 

5. TAN RADIO

Transit Action Network started a semi-regular “Transit Talk” show on 90.1 FM KKFI Kansas City Community Radio on the Radio Active Magazine show. This magazine show has numerous activist groups taking turns to inform the community on various issues. TAN Radio archive of previous shows  Interviews covered conversion to CNG buses, a MAX line for Prospect Ave, the KC Streetcar/MAX election ballot, the MO Amendment 7 election, Special Transportation issues, our inability to pay for most rail projects (like rail to the airport), and a talk with Robbie Makinen about changes at KCATA.

KKFI operates a 100,000-watt transmitter, the most powerful allowed by FCC regulations.

KKFI operates a 100,000-watt transmitter, the most powerful allowed by FCC regulations.

The next show is Jan 6 at 6pm on 90.1 FM KKFI – Your Civil Rights Related To Transit – What are they and how to protect them!

6. Sense or Nonsense –New TAN series

Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Increased Property Values Sense or Nonsense? Does rail increase property values? MAKES SENSE

 Sense or Nonsense? Streetcars and Development  Only light rail systems generate development. NOT SO.

 7. New TAXI style services in KCMO

The KCMO city council started the year by changing the taxi ordinance to allow Independent Transportation Network® (ITN), a non-profit charitable organization to operate a vehicle for hire to transport persons who are 65 years of age or older or visually impaired. Action Alert: KCMO – Please Allow A New Transit Service For The Elderly and Visually Impaired 

Uber and Lyft, App driven ride-sharing services, arrived in KC. Uber received a license to operate, but Lfyt is having legal problems.

REGIONAL TRANSIT ISSUES

It is important to remember that we need better transit throughout the whole region.

A. Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC)Transit_Coordinating_Council-2

  1. The RTCC decided to tackle tough issues: RTCC Tackles Big Transit Issues – Funding and Paratransit 

RTCC requested and received more money for transit projects from allocations of federal money (STP and CMAQ) than has ever been granted, including $10 million allocated for Jackson County purchasing the old Rock Island line and two additional railway spurs from Union Pacific.

  1. There are two groups to advise RTCC: Transit Stakeholder Forum (TSF) and the Mobility Advisory Committee (MAC).Transit_Stakeholder_Fourm-2

The TSF is totally open to the public, vague, and doesn’t have members or regular meetings.

We understand that allowing everyone to participate is a new concept at MARC and KCATA, but we think this one needs more work. The forum is very top down and is doesn’t meet regularly like MAC, which meets every other month.

  • Why wasn’t TSF asked for input on the RTCC 2015 workplan? It got to comment on the 2014 plan.
  • When transit projects were developed and prioritized by RTCC for STP and CMAQ funding, the TSF didn’t even get to look at them. (MAC got to prioritize $6 million in funding requests and actually function like an advisory committee-see below)
  • Why isn’t there time for riders to address their issues with the transit agencies?
  • When will TSF function more like a substantive advisory committee?Mobility_AC

MAC, on the other hand, has had only had two meetings, but they are developing a very large membership with voting rights, and they have already recommended a multi-million dollar list of projects to RTCC for allocating 5310 federal funds for paratransit/senior capital and operating money. True, MAC is basically reconvened from the old Special Transportation/JARC Committee at MARC, so they are bringing in the same people as before and expanding.

Mobility Advisory Committee Meets Dec 10

  1. RTCC is leading a regional branding effort that will be rolled out in 2015: RideKC.

B. Seamless Transit Advocacy

Transit Action Network believes the transit system should function in a seamless fashion so that it appears to be run by one agency. We are pleased that the seamless transit concept continues to gain steam. Besides our list of specific seamless transit suggestions Seamless Transit In the Kansas City Region, we advocate for the election of transit friendly public officials and encourage municipalities to return to KCATA for management or management/ operations, which provides the best opportunity for eliminating barriers between the transit systems (The barriers aren’t due to the jurisdictional BORDERS; the problems are caused by operational and infrastructure differences between the transit agencies)

  1. Johnson County

JoCo was in the spotlight at the end of the year with a big county election and a decision to return transit management of The JO and Special Edition to KCATA after 30 years.Johnson County

Online Transit Forum – Candidates for Johnson County Commission 

Big Win for Seamless Transit – The JO Returns to KCATA 

  1. Wyandotte County and Independence

UG logoDuring the year TAN met with Mayor Weir of Independence, Mayor Holland of Unified Government of Wyandotte County and several UG commissioners. Although we advocated for a wide range of transit issues, including better seamless transit, our main thrust was to encourage both entities to bring the rest of their transit service under the management or management/operations of the re-organized KCATA, like Johnson County recently decided. We hear rumblings that this process might start.inde log

  1. Jackson County

Jackson County reached an agreement with Union Pacific for an “option to purchase” the Rock Island right of way plus two spurs for $59.9 million. Jackson County Option to Purchase press release. The agreement has been extended to Sept 2015. Although the County has received $10 million from a federal grant (see RTCC), the County still needs another $50 million for the purchase and that money isn’t easy to come by.

Jackson_County_seal-2This corridor will make a great addition to the Katy Trail, but it showed extremely low ridership for commuter rail in the Jackson County Alternatives Analysis. Ridership between 500 and 1000 trips per day were projected and the line would not qualify for FTA New Starts money at this point. (The Prospect bus has over 6,000 trips daily and it isn’t even a MAX line.)

During 2014 TAN made presentations on financing alternatives for commuter rail and the purchase of the Rock Island property to Jackson County officials. Discussions are continuing.

  1. Unified Government New Transit Route #105 and Bigger Buses to #101

Mayor Holland promised TAN to provide bigger buses to alleviate crowding once the #101 became the new CONNEX service. The improved service went into effect in January 2014. State Ave. CONNEX Gets Big Buses Jan 5

Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

The Rosedale Development Association and the KCK community, along with TAN, secured the new Rosedale Route #105. Event: Opening of 105-Rosedale Route June 30 

  1. C. Environmental Justice Analysis and Tiger Grant

TAN has been in discussions with MARC staff about changes to their Environmental Justice Analysis, which studies how federal transportation money is spent in the region relative to minorities and low-income populations.

The Brookings Institution found that only 18 percent of jobs in the KC region are reachable via transit in 90 minutes or less — ranking the Kansas City region 90th of the 100 largest metros. From a civil rights perspective, we may not be meeting the needs of minorities and low-income populations to get to work by transit. With such a low rate, we  probably aren’t meeting the transit needs of the whole community. Meeting the needs of minorities and low-income populations should be included upfront in any assessment for transportation planning.

MARC received a $1.2 million TIGER planning grant to STUDY the situation. The goal of KC Workforce Connex is doubling transit access to jobs over the next 10 years. A major study area will be along the I-435 corridor between the new Cerner campus and I-35 in Johnson County, which includes the busiest commuter corridor in the region, yet doesn’t have any transit.

D. MO Sales Tax For Transportation Failed

Transit Action Network believes Missouri shouldn’t pass a constitutional amendment to radically change the way we pay for roads and bridgesVotenoon 7 billboard

We spent several months working against this ballot initiative of a 3/4-cent sales tax for transportation, so we were pleased when it failed in August.

Video, Podcasts, Cartoon – VOTE NO On MO Amendment 7 

However, the funding issue for roads isn’t resolved. Raising the gas/diesel taxes is the easiest and cheapest method to administer and probably the smartest option, but Governor Nixon has asked for a study to investigate tolling on I-70. That starts 2015.

Happy New Year and join us in advocating for better transit in our region.

 

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

Be Prepared: Snow Removal for Walkers and Rollers

Posted by Transit Action Network on December 5, 2014


Picture from the Easter Seals report

Picture from the Easter Seals report

It is time again to start singing that old familiar refrain, “What about snow removal?” To get everyone tuned up and ready to go, here is a great resource from Easter Seals Project Action (ESPA). It is chock full of best practices from around the country and pertinent regulations to remind us of our responsibilities to those not driving. ES_Snow_Removal_Brief

Easter_Seals

The ability of to conduct your business and your life is as important to walkers and rollers as it is drivers.

“Including pedestrian facilities in snow and ice management policies reflects a community’s commitment to equal access, safety, economic vitality and quality of life.” Roger Millar, Vice President, Smart Growth America

 

 

Posted in Action, Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Rosedale and Argentine Neighborhoods Get New Transit Service May 2014

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 13, 2013


Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

Erin, Carol, Carroll and Rachel conducting the Rosedale Transit Survey

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County Board of Commissioners approved a 2014 budget that includes a new bus route serving the Rosedale and Argentine neighborhoods.  Bus the Boulevard, an informal coalition composed of representatives from Rainbow Mennonite Church, Rosedale Development Association, Rosedale Ridge Apartments, Westwood Christian Church and Transit Action Network, started working in October 2012 to get a new bus route on Southwest Boulevard.UG logo

Bus the Boulevard came together when Rosedale residents began voicing their concerns about Rosedale Ridge, an apartment complex housing 160 families that is isolated from public transit at the top of a very steep hill.  Residents reported having little access to grocery stores, places of employment, and medical care and having to walk over 1.5 miles to the nearest bus stop.  The group began gathering data about the transportation needs of Rosedale Ridge residents and sharing their results with UG Transit.

In response to the data, UG Transit designed a totally new route (pictured as a blue line in the map below). According to Emerick Cross, Director of UG Transit,   “Currently, the newly proposed Rosedale bus route will run from 47th Street (Oklahoma Joe’s area) by KU Med. down to SW Blvd. onto Merriam Lane, north on 18th Street Expressway to Argentine and back.”

Waiting to testify at the UG Finance Committee budget meeting. Erin, Connie, Carroll, and Carol

Waiting to testify at the UG Finance Committee budget meeting.
Erin, Connie, Carroll, and Carol

The route connects Rosedale residents with medical care at the University of Kansas Hospital, the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care on the east end, and the new Save-A-Lot Grocery store on Metropolitan Avenue, as well as the Argentine Community Center and the South Branch Library, on the west end.

The new route is scheduled to start running on May 1st, 2014, following a service study by KCATA.

According to Erin Stryka from Rosedale Development Association, “We are thrilled to see people who live, work and play in Rosedale connected to essential community resources through the new bus line!”

All of the coalition members appreciate the help and support provided by UG Transit and District 3 Commissioner Ann Murguia.  We are very excited by this successful result and we thank the UG Commissioners for funding this new service.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Meeting Reports | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ribbon Cuttings KCK Metro Centers – Aug 9 and Sept 27, New Connex Service – Aug 11

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 5, 2013


INVITATION_7th_Street_METROCENTER.jpg_and_Document1 Kansas City, Kansas has a lot to celebrate with the start of the new Route #101 State Avenue Connex service and the opening of two new Metro Centers.

Join them for the first ribbon cutting:TIGER

What: Downtown KCK MetroCenter Grand Opening

Where: 7th and Minnesota

When: Friday, August 9, 2013, 10–11 a.m.

For more information about the grand opening, visit the Unified Government Transit website.

In addition, the Route #101 State Avenue CONNEX service will start Sunday, August 11th.

There are changes to the route from the current alignment, especially in downtown KCK where the route will be straightened out along Minnesota Ave.

New Alignment effective Aug. 11, 2013

New CONNEX Alignment effective Aug. 11, 2013

The new service and transit center will affect these routes:

101-Minnesota-State Ave.
102-Central Ave.
103-3rd Street-Fairfax
104-Argentine
106-Quindaro
107-7th Street
115-Kansas Avenue

The changes to these seven routes serving downtown KCK should create more convenient connections between Metro and Unified Government Transit routes.

For details of route and schedule changes see the related KCATA  bulletin.

The next ribbon cutting is scheduled for September 27th at the 47th Street Midtown KCK MetroCenter (47th and State Avenue/Indian Springs).

These transit centers are part of Kansas City’s $50 million TIGER (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Other TIGER-funded enhancements along the State Avenue corridor include bus stop platforms; passenger shelters and benches; landscaping and environment improvements.

Watch the  TIGER Progress Report  episode 9 to learn more about local transportation and transit improvements, including construction of the 7th and Minnesota Transit Center.

To learn more about the impact of TIGER on the Kansas City region, visit www.marc.org/TIGER.

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

UG Public Budget Hearing – May 16

Posted by Transit Action Network on May 15, 2013


A public budget hearing for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County is scheduled for May 16th at 7 pm in the UG Commission Chambers at 701 N. 7th Street, KCK (in City Hall).  This meeting is an opportunity for transit rider groups to voice their concerns and desires for transit.photo (51) This meeting is a great opportunity to impress upon the commissioners, especially the newly elected officials and the new mayor,  the importance of transit in the UG community.

Rosedale Development Association is one group working to get transit improvements in their area.  This week, Erin, from Rosedale Development Assn. (center), took Carroll, Carol, and Pastor Joe (photographer) of Westwood Christian Church to survey Rosedale Ridge Apartment residents about their public transit needs. They discovered many of them do not have cars. They rely on rides from friends or make a long hike to the nearest bus stop (~ 1.5 miles away). TAN supports Rosedale’s efforts and hopes that Wyandotte County is able to extend a bus line into their neighborhood.

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Online Transit Forum – Candidates for Mayor of WYCO/KCK – Election April 2

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 28, 2013


UG logoTuesday, April 2nd is the election for Mayor of Wyandotte County /KCK.  This re-print of our February online mayoral transit forum contains only the responses from Ann Murguia and Mark Holland.   We appreciate the candidates talking the time to respond to our questionnaire and sharing their philosophy, vision and ideas on transit.

We chose questions on Transit Philosophy, Funding, Meeting Increased Transit Demand, KCATA, and Creating a Transit-Friendly Environment.

Be sure to send this article to citizens of Wyandotte County so they can be informed about the candidates’ positions. Transit is a major issue in Wyandotte County since there is significant demand for a good transit system from the citizens.

The answers are given in the order TAN received them. We do not endorse a particular candidate but believe voters should be well-informed as to candidates’ knowledge of the subject and their positions. The responses are color coded in order to improve ease of reading and finding the response from a particular candidate. The candidates’ initials are used to identify their responses.

Section 1- Transit Philosophy
A. What do you see in the future for transit in Wyandotte County?

Mark Holland

Mark Holland
responses in blue

AM – We need to create the kind of public transportation system that incent ridership. I think we are off to a good start with the $10 million grant we received to improve the State Avenue corridor, but we need to do more.

Ann Murguia

Ann Murguia
responses in green

MH – I think we are going to have to be very creative in addressing the needs of our community. State and Federal funding has been under attack, and these funds are essential to providing the level of service necessary to serve our community. My hope is to improve access to transit.
I supported the “Complete Street” initiative that calls for more sidewalks. Without access for people to walk to the bus from their neighborhoods, it becomes very challenging to increase ridership.

B. Do you support continued county funding of public transit as an essential service throughout Wyandotte County?

AM – Yes….many WYCO residents depend on public transportation to meet their daily needs. The government needs to assist in developing a quality state of the art system that will create such demand, that over time, through ridership, will pay for itself.

MH – Yes. I wish it were stronger, but I believe there will always be a need for a local match for State and Federal funds.

C. Federal funding is dramatically decreasing for ALL transit. A decrease in State transit funding is also a possibility. Should Unified Government replace these lost funds, both capital and operating, in order to maintain the current level of transit service?

AM – I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. I have good relationships with this community and would hope to be able to work with them and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

MH – We are facing State and Federal funding cuts in numerous areas. Transit is one that is heavily dependent on this funding. It would be nice to say that we will not cut services, but the reality is that if this is not a national priority we will be hard pressed to replace the loss dollar for dollar.

Section 2 – Funding
A. Currently local transit funding in Wyandotte County comes out of General Revenue Funds. 1. What local transit funding mechanisms do you think are best for Wyandotte County?

AM – I think there needs to be new ideas in addressing funding for transit. This is a long-standing problem for governments across the metropolitan area and nationally. As I said above, I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. Public transportation promotes a healthier lifestyle. I would hope to be able to work with charitable organizations and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

MH – I think General Fund dollars are the best place for this fund.

2. Would you consider a small county-wide transit tax to help sustain the transit system Please explain your reasoning.

AM – I think any time we talk about taxing the people in WYCO that needs to be placed on a voting ballot.

MH – That would not be my first choice. When we unified the government 16 years ago, we brought a whole plethora of “special taxes” back into the General Budget. I understand the thought that it looks like more of a priority if it stands alone, but I think it is unnecessarily cumbersome in annual budgeting process.

B. Transit demand in Wyandotte County continues to increase. How and where would you get additional local transit funding to meet the increasing demand?

AM – I think it is simple supply and demand. As transit demands increase our product will become better and ridership will increase and therefore revenue from riders will increase.

MH – I think this is where we need to be creative. It is very difficult to put the cost on users, who in our particular community are often the least able to support it. We need to continue tracking which lines are running at capacity and which ones are not. Are there areas where we can expand call for service? Are there areas where we can run smaller vehicles? We need to keep in mind the goal of transit is to get people from point A to point B, not just to run buses.

C. How will you work to increase Wyandotte County’s level of transit funding

1. at the state level?

AM – On many occasions I have been successful in reaching across party lines and will use that experience to lobby for public transportation.

MH- We need to continue to lobby for State funding based on ridership and not on population. This is one of the biggest challenges. Transit money should follow the need, not the area.

2. at the federal level?

AM – Again I have good relationships with our elected officials on the federal level that will allow my voice to be heard for the people of Wyandotte County.

MH – We need to continue to engage with regional lobbying efforts. These collaborative conversations with the entire Metro area will yield far better results than if we go individually. I think the ongoing success of KCATA is the best hope Wyandotte County has for more funding.

Section 3 – Meeting increasing demand

A. Areas such as Rosedale, with very limited transit service, are trying to get additional service to meet the needs of its residents, many of which are transit dependent. What process should exist and/or what criteria should be met in order for residents to get new or expanded transit service?

AM – I think we have many great opportunities in Rosedale specifically to improve transit in some very creative ways. We already have a great relationship with University of Kansas and I definitely think involving them in discussions about public transportation can help improve services for that area of WYCO. But do not forget that there are other areas that struggle to get their fair share of public transportation like the Turner area. Those residents tax dollars pay for that service yet they receive nothing for it at this time. This situation needs to be addressed as well.

MH – Again, creativity. Is there a way to add call for service? How can we partner through KCATA and the Jo, leveraging the proximity to KCMO and Johnson County?

B. Route 101 will change to the Connex service later this year. Will you make sure that the upgrade in service level is enough to alleviate the current overcrowded conditions, without negatively impacting other services?

AM – As to the details of the routes, we hire professional transit staff that make those decisions. These are not made at the Commission level. I have confidence in our staff and their ability to manage over crowding without impacting other services they provide.

MH – Absolutely. It looks like this improvement will make a huge difference.

Section 4 – KCATA
A. What characteristics would you look for in making appointments to the KCATA Board of Commissioners?

AM – I believe that the characteristics of the current Board members are what we need to maintain in the future.

MH – We need collaborative, regionally minded individuals who have a heart for all the benefits transit brings to the people and the environment.

B. Unified Government currently contracts with KCATA for only 90 days at a time. This policy gives a negative impression regarding the stability of the transit system in the county. What needs to happen to return to a full year contract like other municipalities?

AM – This is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff to better understand why we are contracting in this manner.

MH – This looks like a reasonable request. I would need to speak with our team at the city to see why this policy is in place.

C. Would you consider contracting with KCATA for all fixed route services? Please explain why or why not?

AM – Again, this is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff before making any changes.

MH – With the State and Federal spending cuts, I don’t think we can take anything off the table. This would have serious considerations for our UG employees and I would not do anything without seeking assurances about their future. Again, we need to be creative in how we serve the community.

Section 5 – Creating a transit-friendly environment

What non-financial actions can be taken to create a more transit-friendly environment in

1. Kansas City, Kansas?

2. Village West?

AM – I currently use our transit system on occasion and I find it to be a very friendly environment. However, I am sure there are always ways to improve and in order to know how to create a “more” friendly environment we need to ask the people using the current system on a regular basis.

MH – 1. KCK – We are looking at residential developments in and around the new 7th street transit center downtown. The more we can foster “transit friendly” development and encourage growth nearby, the better. We are also looking for a major redevelopment at Indian Springs around the new transit center there. I think the strategic location of this center automatically makes Indian Springs a new kind of destination.

MH – 2. Village West – Coordinating routes with businesses and restaurants to make sure the buses are running at the right times for opening and closing. This makes the use of transit a more organic, and less onerous option for the employee.

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Online Transit Forum – Candidates for Mayor of WYCO/KCK

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 19, 2013


UG logoTAN asked all of the candidates for Mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas to answer questions about transit to help voters understand their positions on this critical issue. We appreciate candidates Janice Witt, Ann Murguia, Mark Holland and Nathan Barnes for talking the time to respond to our questionnaire and sharing their philosophy, vision and ideas on transit.

We have chosen questions on Transit Philosophy, Funding, Meeting Increased Transit Demand, KCATA, and Creating a Transit-Friendly Environment.

The whole document with all the responses can be downloaded at the end of the article. Be sure to send this article to citizens of Wyandotte County so they can be informed about the candidates’ positions.

Transit is a major issue in Wyandotte County since there is significant demand for a good transit system from the citizens.

The answers are given in the order TAN received them. We do not endorse a particular candidate but believe voters should be well-informed as to candidates’ knowledge of the subject and their positions. The responses are color coded in order to improve ease of reading and finding the response from a particular candidate. The candidates’ initials are used to identify their responses. JW=Janice Witt, AM=Ann Murguia, MH=Mark Holland, NB=Nathan Barnes

Section 1- Transit Philosophy

A. What do you see in the future for transit in Wyandotte County?

Janice Witt

Janice Witt
responses in black

JW – I see a beautiful transit system that is clean, efficient and respectful. One that is conducive for everyday riders to commute from and to any community or destination without trading their self- respect for a ride. I see beautiful, respectful and functional covered bus stops/landings with time and information accessible and powered by solar energy to maintain the positive green effects of the use of transit instead of personal transportation.

AM – We need to create the kind of public transportation system that incent ridership.   I think we are off to a good start with the $10 million grant we received to improve the State Avenue corridor, but we need to do more.

MH – I think we are going to have to be very creative in addressing the needs of our community.  State and Federal funding has been under attack, and these funds are essential to providing the level of service necessary to serve our community.  My hope is to improve access to transit.

I supported the “Complete Street” initiative that calls for more sidewalks.  Without access for people to walk to the bus from their neighborhoods, it becomes very challenging to increase ridership.

NB – Under my administration I see Wyandotte County a fully integrated system with more routes and bigger buses.

B.   Do you support continued county funding of public transit as an essential service throughout Wyandotte County? 

JW – Yes, without transit the small businesses in Wyco would have no means to acquire manpower other than personal transportation. Without transit the poor will remain in the cycle of poverty because of a lack of transportation. If they have no access to fresh groceries and further education, the cycle of poverty continues.  Without transit there will continue to be a drain on mental well-being, health outcomes and isolation issues that plaque Wyco.

Ann Murguia

Ann Murguia
responses in green

AM -Yes….many WYCO residents depend on public transportation to meet their daily needs.  The government needs to assist in developing a quality state of the art system that will create such demand, that over time, through ridership, will pay for itself.

MH – Yes.  I wish it were stronger, but I believe there will always be a need for a local match for State and Federal funds.

NB – Yes. It is a city and county issue and our city and county should address funding.

C.   Federal funding is dramatically decreasing for ALL transit. A decrease in State transit funding is also a possibility. Should Unified Government replace these lost funds, both capital and operating, in order to maintain the current level of transit service?

 JW – I believe that there should be a small percent sales tax added in KCK, so that we can build ourselves the transit system that we need to make our community mobile and viable to incoming business, homeowners and new adventures both into the Northeast and our entire community. Edwardsville, Turner, Bonner all of these surrounding communities that are considered any part of KCK should have access to the positive effects of mass transit. It helps us all in the long run. I also hold no aversion to a bi-state tax and joining the concept of a regional transportation authority to give smooth, efficient service to all of our communities. Why do I find this acceptable? Because right now as we speak, Schlitebahn has a proposal before our commission to tax an additional 2% sales tax to build on to their already subsidized private venture waterpark. This has ZERO benefit to the everyday citizen of Wyandotte County. It is a personal or Corporate business expense that is being added on the people who will then have to pay exorbitant fees to get into the water park even though they have paid for it twice now at the cost of our fair grounds which gave Free access to the people of this county to educational and social experiences. Unlike a bus system, which would give access for minimal fees to anyone who needed transportation hopefully anywhere in KCK, JOCO or KCMO.

AM –  I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding.  The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City.  I have good relationships with this community and would hope to be able to work with them and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

Mark Holland

Mark Holland
responses in blue

MH – We are facing State and Federal funding cuts in numerous areas.  Transit is one that is heavily dependent on this funding.  It would be nice to say that we will not cut services, but the reality is that if this is not a national priority we will be hard pressed to replace the loss dollar for dollar.

NB – Yes.The transit system is currently under funded. The least we can do is to keep the funding going. I will take Wyandotte County from the welfare mentality to the understanding that it is our responsibility to fund basic transportation.

Section 2 – Funding

A.   Currently local transit funding in Wyandotte County comes out of General Revenue Funds.

1. What local transit funding mechanisms do you think are best for Wyandotte County?

JW – I believe that there should be a percent sales tax especially in the number one tourist destination in the state of Kansas. There must be some benefit to the citizens of this county.

AM – I think there needs to be new ideas in addressing funding for transit. This is a long-standing problem for governments across the metropolitan area and nationally.  As I said above, I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding.  The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City.  Public transportation promotes a healthier lifestyle.  I would hope to be able to work with charitable organizations and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

MH – I think General Fund dollars are the best place for this fund.

Nathan Barnes

Nathan Barnes
responses in purple

NB – A dedicated sales tax.

2. Would you consider a small county-wide transit tax to help sustain the transit system Please explain your reasoning.

 JW – What I would consider is this, the bulk of the transit that is necessary at this moment involves the Legends area and transit for the dwindling population of the Northeast and other areas to get to the businesses in the West and the KU area. The specific serviced section of the community will bear the brunt of the cost over the long run every day by using the service and paying standard fees. It is my opinion that, the business districts that benefit are the areas that should bear the bulk of any percent of tax increase, as the citizens would also be included in the revenue from the increase in purchases made in that area. If a separate tax district could be utilized to ensure that the small businesses of our general community are not harmed by this increase I would not be against it. But my mind is open, this is an issue that needs to be at the forefront of conversation, but I need more information.

We are taxed to support abatements for corporations but never given the opportunity to support ourselves. I do not believe the people would have a problem with this if they could see and use the benefit.

AM – I think any time we talk about taxing the people in WYCO that needs to be placed on a voting ballot.

MH – That would not be my first choice.  When we unified the government 16 years ago, we brought a whole plethora of “special taxes” back into the General Budget.  I understand the thought that it looks like more of a priority if it stands alone, but I think it is unnecessarily cumbersome in annual budgeting process.

NB – Yes.With decreasing federal funds it is the only choice.

B.   Transit demand in Wyandotte County continues to increase.  How and where would you get additional local transit funding to meet the increasing demand?

 JW – Small percent tax approved by the citizenry.

 AM – I think it is simple supply and demand.  As transit demands increase our product will become better and ridership will increase and therefore revenue from riders will increase.

MH – I think this is where we need to be creative.  It is very difficult to put the cost on users, who in our particular community are often the least able to support it.  We need to continue tracking which lines are running at capacity and which ones are not.  Are there areas where we can expand call for service?  Are there areas where we can run smaller vehicles?  We need to keep in mind the goal of transit is to get people from point A to point B, not just to run buses.

NB – I will get additional local transit funding to meet the increasing demand from Sales Taxes.

C.   How will you work to increase Wyandotte County’s level of transit funding

1.    at the state level?

AM – On many occasions I have been successful in reaching across party lines and will use that experience to lobby for public transportation.

MH – We need to continue to lobby for State funding based on ridership and not on population.  This is one of the biggest challenges.  Transit money should follow the need, not the area.

2.    at the federal level?

AM – Again I have good relationships with our elected officials on the federal level that will allow my voice to be heard for the people of Wyandotte County.

MH – We need to continue to engage with regional lobbying efforts.  These collaborative conversations with the entire Metro area will yield far better results than if we go individually.  I think the ongoing success of KCATA is the best hope Wyandotte County has for more funding.

State and Federal

JW – The very best that I can! Those who know how this should be handled will give me guidance and I will follow their lead. I am not a micromanager. I believe that people gain the knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job that they are hired to do. As a manager I would ensure that we had the proper staffing with the proper tools to do the proper job and make the right decisions for the greater good of this community. It is my job to educate myself to their findings and support their position. In my opinion if I cannot trust them to do all of that, then I have failed as their leader. I would educate myself further, follow their lead since this would be their field and be support to good strong decisions on the local, state and federal levels.

NB – I plan to Lobby efforts at both state and federal.

Section 3 – Meeting increasing demand

A.   Areas such as Rosedale, with very limited transit service, are trying to get additional service to meet the needs of its residents, many of which are transit dependent.  What process should exist and/or what criteria should be met in order for residents to get new or expanded transit service?

JW – I would want more info and there is not enough time for me to make myself familiar enough to make a statement in section 3.

AM – I think we have many great opportunities in Rosedale specifically to improve transit in some very creative ways.  We already have a great relationship with University of Kansas and I definitely think involving them in discussions about public transportation can help improve services for that area of WYCO.  But do not forget that there are other areas that struggle to get their fair share of public transportation like the Turner area.  Those residents tax dollars pay for that service yet they receive nothing for it at this time.  This situation needs to be addressed as well.

MH – Again, creativity.  Is there a way to add call for service?  How can we partner through KCATA and the Jo, leveraging the proximity to KCMO and Johnson County?

NB – I must gain the true picture of the needs of the residents and then act on what is needed. Convene a meeting or meetings to address these individual concerns.

 B.   Route 101 will change to the Connex service later this year.  Will you make sure that the upgrade in service level is enough to alleviate the current overcrowded conditions, without negatively impacting other services?

JW – I would want more info and there is not enough time for me to make myself familiar enough to make a statement in section 3.

AM – As to the details of the routes, we hire professional transit staff that make those decisions.  These are not made at the Commission level.  I have confidence in our staff and their ability to manage over crowding without impacting other services they provide.

MH – Absolutely.  It looks like this improvement will make a huge difference.

NB – I pledge to aggressively pursue answers to address these concerns.

Section 4 – KCATA

A.   What characteristics would you look for in making appointments to the KCATA Board of Commissioners?

JW – I believe that anyone appointed to any commission should have a genuine interest in the community. Not just be there to fill a seat. I am looking for constant results from appointed commissions. If nothing is being changed. Nothing is being done, because no one is perfect and there is always room for improvement and we should be finding it by listening to the citizens. They will surely tell us the problems and maybe even how to fix it if we listen.

AM – I believe that the characteristics of the current Board members are what we need to maintain in the future.

MH – We need collaborative, regionally minded individuals who have a heart for all the benefits transit brings to the people and the environment.

NB – Knowledge of the needs and a passion for those that depend on public transportation

 B.   Unified Government currently contracts with KCATA for only 90 days at a time. This policy gives a negative impression regarding the stability of the transit system in the county.  What needs to happen to return to a full year contract like other municipalities?

JW – Committed long-term relationships based on honesty, respect and concern for the people, no exceptions. If we all care about the people that are riding on the transit including the drivers safety, comfort and health issues, there should be no room to have an issue. The bottom line is that as a business we all have to make money in order to maintain viability. But when the actual product is service and the people are the consumers of that product sometimes the measure for error and success becomes clouded by opinion, personality and politics-I think this is a mistake. I think we should set very specific service guidelines to service both the inside consumer and the outside consumer then let those perimeters establish a rock solid acceptable standard of service for us all. Including a long-term agreement with the KCATA so that the future and expectation for everyone is clear and the repercussions established, should those benchmarks not be met by either party. NO GAMES!

AM – This is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff to better understand why we are contracting in this manner.

MH – This looks like a reasonable request.  I would need to speak with our team at the city to see why this policy is in place.

NB – An open discussion. Most commissioners are not aware of this.

 C.   Would you consider contracting with KCATA for all fixed route services? Please explain why or why not.

JW – I love the idea and we will have a Transit friendly environment and I believe that KCATA will be the organization to ensure that, that happens. However, I cannot say yes or no to this question at this time since there would have to be in my opinion an opportunity for local business to play a part…potentially managed by KCATA in the growth of transit in the area. It was the mini bus of my childhood that was a privately held company that actually brought transit back to the grasp of those of us country bumpkins that lived in the west in the early 80’s when there was no transit service available. I rode the minibus to and from school during a very specific period of my life. So…I cannot say that I would close small business access to All transit routes without looking further into what that would mean to this community and the potential of other small businesses relocating here to assist in transit service. My crystal ball is cloudy on that one, lol. Ask me again later after I do some research-my mind is always open to offer the best service possible to humanity.

AM – Again, this is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff before making any changes.

MH – With the State and Federal spending cuts, I don’t think we can take anything off the table.  This would have serious considerations for our UG employees and I would not do anything without seeking assurances about their future.  Again, we need to be creative in how we serve the community.

NB – Once all of the information is presented to the Unified Government I would review the pros and cons of the issue and make a decision. I do believe that the current bus system in Wyandotte County should play some part in that system.

Section 5 – Creating a transit-friendly environment

What non-financial actions can be taken to create a more transit-friendly environment in

1.    Kansas City, Kansas?

MH – We are looking at residential developments in and around the new 7th street transit center downtown.  The more we can foster “transit friendly” development and encourage growth nearby, the better.  We are also looking for a major redevelopment at Indian Springs around the new transit center there.  I think the strategic location of this center automatically makes Indian Springs a new kind of destination.

NB – Regular updates to the powers that be.

 2.    Village West?

MH – Coordinating routes with businesses and restaurants to make sure the buses are running at the right times for opening and closing.  This makes the use of transit a more organic, and less onerous option for the employee.

NB-Make the case for why they should be a part of the discussions and the solution.

KCK and Village West

JW – Retraining in proper customer service and the emphasis on positive outcomes for the customers experience while in transit care. Service is a product. It must be fine tuned constantly to ensure good relationships and long-term viability of business ventures. Especially when the effects are of detriment to healthy lifestyles and a healthy planet. Many times the bus driver will be the only connection to the welfare of some riders. They need to be empowered to be safe consumers of their own product but have the authority to demand change to benefit the entire experience. I think answering the needs of the drivers, mechanics and service vendors of the buses will alleviate stressors that can cause frustration with a frustrated public.

AM – I currently use our transit system on occasion and I find it to be a very friendly environment.  However, I am sure there are always ways to improve and in order to know how to create a “more” friendly environment we need to ask the people using the current system on a regular basis.

Complete transcript:WYCOKCK transit forum for candidates 2013

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Rosedale Transit Meeting – Feb 19

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 18, 2013


Rosedale, a neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, is working to expand transit service on SW Boulevard in order to meet the needs of its community.

Feel free to come to the meeting and share information, make suggestions, or find out more about the project!

Rosedale Transit Meeting

Tuesday, February 19th from 5 pm – 6 pm

Rosedale Development Association • 1403 Southwest Blvd. Kansas City, KS 66103

Call (913) 677-5097 for more information

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KCK Mayoral Candidates Forum – Feb 13

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 12, 2013


armourdaleThe Armourdale Renewal Association is holding a political platform for the mayoral candidates of Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas

Date and time: Feb 13, 5 pm – 7pm

Location:

Armourdale Community Center
730 Osage
Kansas City, KS
913-551-0408

Bus service: Route 107

The public is invited and encouraged to attend.  The venue holds 70 people. Transit advocates could ask candidates questions about making improvements to the transit system in Wyandotte County, plans to maintain or increase funding even if federal or state funds dry up, and how will they make Village West more transit-friendly.

TAN is having an online transit forum with the KCK mayoral candidates, similar to our 2011 mayoral forum for KCMO. We have already sent the questionnaire to the candidates and we will post their responses next week.

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