TransitKC

Streetcar projects opening in 2016

Kansas City joins the small group of cities with operating streetcar systems this year, while a few other cities have new lines that have seen significant delays in their original opening dates. Here’s what 2016 holds:

DC Streetcar on H Street

H Street, Washington, DC (Early 2016) – OPENS FEB. 26, 2016

New leadership and a peer review has helped get this bad boy back in shape and a January opening seems very possible. Most transit projects survive bad reputations shortly after they’re operating, but it will take a long time for this one to recoup having been under construction since 2009.

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, both curb- and center-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 15 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connections: Union Station (subway, commuter rail, Amtrak), local bus
  • Funding: Local

Seattle streetcar

First Hill, Seattle, WA (Early 2016) – OPENED JAN. 23, 2016

We said it last year: This project is one to watch due to the combined bike and streetcar facility on a busy commercial street. Having seen the infrastructure up close, it’s a testament to a city’s focus on bike safety. Both Seattle and DC projects were on last year’s opening list.

  • Length: 2.5 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: $2.25
  • Major transit connections: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (local bus and light rail), new light rail station (
  • Funding: Local

Streetcar #801

Main Street, Kansas City, MO (April 2016)

Our baby finally opens this Spring! After decades of false starts with light rail, the little starter line succeeds.

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (CAF)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: Free
  • Major transit connections: 11th/12th street “transit emphasis corridor”, 3rd & Grand transit center, Union Station/Crown Center (Amtrak, local bus)
  • Funding: Federal, local

Loyola streetcar

Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA (Spring 2016)

One of the few cities melding new and old streetcar implementations, New Orleans is home of the oldest line (St. Charles) and soon one of the newest (Rampart). All lines converge at historic Canal Street, which is a wonder to watch at all times of day. This new line will serve the French Quarter more directly.

  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, center-running
  • Vehicles: Heritage replica
  • Peak headway: 15 minutes (estimated, based on existing service)
  • Fare: $1.25
  • Major transit connection: Existing streetcar and bus routes via Canal Street, Union Passenger Terminal (Amtrak)
  • Funding: Local

Cincinnati streetcar

Downtown, Cincinnati, OH (September 2016)

Our streetcar brethren — we’re sharing a vehicle contract — has held their September 2016 opening out for a long time, and it looks like they’re going to make it. Perhaps the most caustic political meddling in a transit project outside of Milwaukee (just Google them both).

  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (CAF)
  • Peak headway: 12 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection:
  • Funding: Federal, local

Loop Trolley rendering

Delmar Loop, St. Louis, MO (Late 2016)

Despite having received a stern warning from the feds, it looks like the Loop streetcar (sorry, we don’t use the “T” word here) will at least finish construction this year, if not start operating. It helps to already have all of your vehicles on the ground.

  • Length: 2.2 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic along curb and dedicated median-running
  • Vehicles: Vintage
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: Two light rail stations (Forest Park and Delmar)
  • Funding: Federal, local

dallasstreetcarphaseIIandIII

Oak Cliff Extension, Dallas, TX (Late 2016)

The initial segment is one of the smallest lines in operation (1.6 miles), but that was just to get the off-wire ball rolling (it’s the first in the US to operate a segment without overhead wires). This next phase will extend further into the Bishop Arts District.

  • Length: 0.7 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic with off-wire segments
  • Vehicles: Modern (Brookfield)
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: Free
  • Major transit connection: Union Station (Amtrak, commuter rail, light rail)

Projects starting construction this year include Milwaukee and Fort Lauderdale.

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Top transit stories of 2015

RideKC bus on 12th Street

Completion of the streetcar starter line and a new focus on regionalism were the hot topics in Kansas City’s transit discussion this year. Here are the top stories, ranked in order of impact.

1. Reardon takes the helm (then leaves)

Former Unified Government CEO Joe Reardon took the top executive spot at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in April and has been on a nonstop tour of the community ever since. The selection process was relatively quiet, but insiders knew Reardon was a top choice based on his history with regional cooperation — a necessity, if we’re to ever achieve a regional funding mechanism. Shortly after I finished drafting this list, Reardon announced he was leaving KCATA to head the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

2. Streetcar construction ends, vehicles arrive

KC Streetcar vehicles #801 and #802 arrived on Nov. 2 and Dec. 9, respectively, and immediately began test runs on Main Street. Just search #KCstreetcar on Twitter and Instagram to see how excited the community is to welcome rail back to the city. Service begins in Spring 2016 after two additional vehicles arrive.

3. More funding for transit

Johnson County passed a 2016 budget with a property tax increase for transit (as well as parks and libraries). KCMO sent $3 million more to the KCATA. The streetcar TDD exceeded revenue projections. The Missouri Legislature even extended the 1/2-cent transportation sales tax forever (it was due to expire Dec. 31). It was great year full of small-but-significant wins in the funding battle.

4. RideKC brand hits the streets (and the web)

New leadership made the new RideKC brand appear on buses much quicker than anyone predicted. “In the wild” appearances started in August, beating the brand new streetcar vehicles by several months (streetcars are also branded with the “RideKC” name). The entire fleet — including buses serving Johnson County, Wyandotte County, and Independence — will be repainted before the end of 2016. A new regional transit website debuted in October.

5. Transit carries 200,000 Royals fans

Whether the crowd was 800,000 or 500,000, KCATA provided an eye-popping 200,000 rides to and from the Royals’ World Series parade and rally downtown. Despite the crush of riders, the agency handled the demand as well as the local freeway network.

6. Kansas City commits local funding for Prospect MAX 

With little fanfare, the Kansas City Council passed a resolution in October that they would provide the local match for building the city’s next MAX bus line. Funding is expected to come from a future general obligation bond sale (if approved by voters).

7. Bridj announced

A totally new type of transit service called Bridj is coming to the region. KCATA will be the first public transit agency to partner with the startup, which is currently only providing service in Boston and DC.

8. Real regional passes — finally

A regional month and day pass was made official in April. It wasn’t technically difficult, but required four transit agencies (and their funding partners) to agree to make it work. The next stop is off-board fare collection, possibly on Prospect MAX, as well as smartphone payment.

9. Megabus leaves Kansas City

Declining ridership took a toll on private intercity carrier Megabus, which ceased twice-daily runs in September serving Kansas City and Columbia via it’s Chicago hub. During an eight year span in Kansas City, the low-cost curbside provider changed boarding locations from 10th & Main to 3rd & Grand and peaked a three KC departures. Most intercity bus passengers continue to use Greyhound and Jefferson Lines from the Greyhound station at 1101 Troost.

10. Stop consolidation

Up until 2015, no one bothered to make sure regular local bus routes were moving quickly. Stops would often appear twice in the same block, slowing service to a crawl. Now, we have the first attempt to eliminate redundant stops that are often too close together and make long bus rides unbearable.

A few updates from last year’s list:

  • Rock Island advances. Jackson County and KCATA announced in September that they had reached an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad for KCATA to acquire the Rock Island Railroad’s underutilized right of way that serves the Truman Sports Complex, Raytown and Lee’s Summit. The right of way will become a trail in the near future and will reserve space for future transit service. As of this writing, the deal had not been signed.
  • Bike share expansion #3. After expanding into Midtown last year, seven new B-cycle stations were added in greater downtown, Brookside, and Waldo. A total of 27 stations now cover the interior parts of KCMO.
  • WiFi expansion. By the end of 2016, the entire fleet of Kansas City buses and streetcars will have WiFi available onboard. Zero Kansas City buses had WiFi as recently as 2008.
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Car #801 is here and testing

Streetcar #801

The first Kansas City streetcar vehicle in a generation is now plying Main Street on a regular basis for testing. It’s numbered 801 — a nod to the last vehicle order received by the Kansas City Public Service Company in 1946.

Most of those cars continued serving passengers in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto after our system shut down in 1957.

Three more modern CAF Urbos vehicles will arrive — the second will arrive in early December — allowing service to start in Spring 2016.

The system will be free to ride and will be fully accessible to all, with level boarding and a 100% low-floor interior.

In the meantime, check out these great animated shorts about how to safely drive and walk near the streetcar. There’s also a great video about the insane amount of development that’s occurred since the line was approved.

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Streetcar projects opening in 2015

While construction on Kansas City’s starter streetcar line will be complete in 2015, service won’t actually begin until 2016. A few other cities will open new lines or extensions this calendar year, pending final testing and safety certification:

H Street Line, Washington, DC (January)

DCstcar_Hst_linemap+circles-1024x370

Underway as both a streetscape and transit project since 2009, DC’s first streetcar line is a standout because it was done without federal funding; most of Portland and Seattle were built without explicit federal funding, but many of the newer lines (including a recent Portland expansion) have received competitive grants or New/Small Starts funds.

  • Length: 2.4 miles (22-to-37 miles planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: Union Station (subway, commuter rail, Amtrak)
  • Funding: Local

Gold Line Phase 1, Charlotte, NC (Spring)

CityLYNX-Map2

The Gold Line will open as early as March and connect the existing Blue Line light rail line that opened in 2007 to neighborhoods. Phase 2 is expected to start construction in 2016.

  • Length: 1.5 miles (10 miles planned)
  • Vehicles: Vintage (initially)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connection: Charlotte Transit Center (light rail, local bus)
  • Funding: Federal, local

Oak Cliff Streetcar, Dallas, TX (Spring)

lateststreetcaralignmentmap

America’s first off wire modern streetcar will connect downtown Dallas with the Oak Cliff neighborhood across the historic Trinity River bridge (which originally carried streetcars). A 1-mile loop extension of the existing M-Line vintage streetcar line is also planned to open in 2015.

  • Length: 1.6 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Brookfield)
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connections: Union Station (light rail, commuter rail, local bus, Amtrak)
  • Funding: Federal, local

South Loop, Portland, OR (September)

tilikum

A new car-free river crossing will complete the full loop of both sides of the Willamette River originally envisioned in the late ’80s. The cable-stayed bridge will share space for buses, streetcars, light rail, bikes, and pedestrians — the first of its kind.

  • Length: 1.3 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Skoda, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 12 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: New Milwaukie light rail line
  • Funding: Federal, state, local

First Hill Line, Seattle, WA (Fall)

project_area_map_lg

The first streetcar line to incorporate a significant bike facility in the same corridor also stands out for lack of federal funding. Eventually a new Central Connector will join the First Hill line with the existing South Lake Union line.

  • Length: 2.5 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connection: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (south), new light rail station (north)
  • Funding: Local

Atlanta opened December 30, 2014 and Tucson opened July 25, 2014, rounding out last year’s new systems. Both used federal funding, modern vehicles (Siemens and Oregon Iron Works, respectively), and are already planning extensions.

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Top transit stories of 2014

IMG_0266

It was a big year in local transit news: elections, streetcar construction, new amenities, and a makeover of our only bi-state transit agency. Here’s the recap:

1. Election defeats

Voters said no to transportation ballot questions multiple times in 2014 — some good (streetcar & MAX expansion), some mediocre (Missouri Amendment 7), and some just plain bad (Clay Chastain’s latest underfunded petition initiative).

City Hall says wait until the streetcar starter line is up and running (early 2016) before attempting expansion again. Statewide transportation funding will likely resurface sooner (Gov. Nixon’s push for tolling on I-70 is the first attempt). Meanwhile, Clay Chastain is running for Mayor (yes, he qualifies) and claiming he will dismantle the starter line if elected.

2. Downtown starter line

The starter line officially broke ground in May and by Dec. 19 had laid 7,165 feet (33%) of the mainline track. A major component of construction was replacement and modernization of utilities, which caused impacts to linger far longer than just installing tracks. The pace of redevelopment along the line also exceeded expectations, with new residential, job, hotel, and retail announcements arriving almost weekly. Also in 2014: Operating hours were announced, branding was approved, and a new Executive Director took the helm.

3. KCATA reorganization

A flurry of activity from within the walls of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority made for an interesting year and a promising future. Here’s a quick timeline:

  • January 22: Jackson County’s Robbie Makinen re-elected as chair of KCATA board
  • April 23: KCATA announces plans to refocus (and reorganize) the agency around being truly regional
  • August 15: Long-time General Manager/CEO Mark Huffer resigns
  • September 25: Johnson County Board of Commissioners approves management consolidation with The JO
  • November 19: New CEO search begins, KCATA approves new “RideKC” regional brand

Reports indicate that deals to bring Wyandotte County and Independence back into the KCATA fold are in the works.

4. SpotShotter success

Gunfire along the Troost MAX line is down 26% thanks to new technology that pinpoints the location with sound, aiding police response. It’s a collaboration between agencies (KCATA and KCPD) that’s producing real results.

5. Bike share expansion

BikeShareKC finally opened new kiosks in Midtown and near the Plaza.

6. Rock Island ROW purchase

Jackson County finally reached a deal to purchase the Rock Island right of way from Union Pacific, as well as a federal grant to fund part of the purchase. After negotiations stalled with Kansas City Southern over access to their existing tracks, the Rock Island remains the best chance to rekindle County Executive Mike Sanders’ regional rail plan.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.14.11 PM

7. Downtown bus realignment

In transit speak, the “Comprehensive Service Analysis” would shift all downtown bus routes to Grand and 11th/12th streets (“Transit Emphasis Corridors”). The change would dramatically enhance KCATA’s utility for short trips within the greater downtown area, provide better passenger amenities (“superstops”), and dovetail perfectly with frequent streetcar service on Main Street. The 10th & Main transit center would be replaced by an on-street facility just east of City Hall.

8. New service (#105, expanded #47, larger #101 buses)

It’s not common for KC to get a completely new transit route, but the modest #105 is actually notable for being the product of grassroots efforts by the Rosedale community in KCK. Constant complaints led KCATA to improve #47 service to the Truman Sports Complex. KCK’s flagship route #101 finally got larger buses in January to relieve overcrowding.

9. 31-day & regional passes

Both The JO and KCATA switched to 31-day passes (which cuts down on the cost of printing unique passes for each calendar month). The Regional Transit Coordinating Council facilitated making the more expensive JO pass the de facto regional pass that would be accepted on all of KC’s transit systems. Both efforts were easy wins entirely focused on existing customers.

10. Workforce connex grant

The Mid-America Regional Council scored a $1.2 million TIGER planning grant to study how to “double the number of jobs accessible by public transit in the greater Kansas City area” after an embarrassingly-low ranking by Brookings. The real test will be what the region does with the study’s findings (hint: it will require regional funding).

11. More WiFi

KCATA unveiled free WiFi service on MAX and other key routes. The system is basically free to the agency, as well, thanks to T-Mobile. The JO began free WiFi on its commuter routes in 2010. “SmartCity” partner Cisco unveiled plans that would enable free WiFi along the downtown streetcar route.

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Support lines up for streetcar & MAX expansion

Photo Jul 19, 2 17 24 PM

With just a few weeks left until voters decide on Question A – shall we organize a new Transportation Development District that would fund streetcar and MAX expansion? — organizations have been lining up to support the effort.

Media

Both the Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Business Journal endorsed Question A on their editorial pages. Both have previously endorsed official light rail and bus plans.

Organizations

Mayor Sly James and the City Council, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, Center City Neighborhood Association, South Plaza Neighborhood Association, Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), Downtown Council, Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association, Columbus Park Community Council, and the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance have all passed resolutions of support.

The above list contains neighborhood associations from each of the streetcar and MAX expansion corridors. City Council continues to vote unanimously on funding and policies related to streetcar.

Donors

Heavy Constructors, BNIM, Burns & McDonnell, Herzog Contracting Corp., HNTB, UMB Bank, Stacy & Witbeck, and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences have all contributed to the Question A campaign.

The Heavy Constructors previously fought larger light rail plans, so their financial support for both streetcar districts is noteworthy. KCUMB’s main campus is on the Independence Avenue line.

State of Missouri

An approved Amendment 7 project list for the KC region includes $144 million in matching funds for Question A. In return, the sales tax within the TDD would be lowered so that no one pays more than an additional penny if both initiatives pass on August 5. This is the first time the State of Missouri has provided direct capital funding for any transit project. MARC and Mayor Sly James deserve recognition for keeping the region’s project list focused on transit (something MoDOT and Amendment 7′s sponsors did not want).

Election Day

Polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, August 5, and close at 7 p.m. Question A will be at the bottom of the ballot and will only appear if you are registered to vote inside the TDD boundary.

Downtown

Meanwhile, Phase 1 construction continues with track installation resuming this month and a new Executive Director on board for the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, which is in charge of operating the system.

Downtown voters have a very good reason to approve the expansion TDD as they’ll get 8 miles of streetcar for the price of 2, since their assessments and sales tax rate won’t change.

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Judge’s ruling confirms benefits of streetcars

photo (3)

Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan ruled last week that the proposed Transportation Development District to fund three streetcar expansions (Main Street, Independence Avenue, and Linwood Boulevard) and one MAX expansion (Prospect Avenue) is legal and placed it immediately on the August 2014 ballot. [Map of TDD boundary]

Kansas City and the Port Authority filed the TDD petition in January, based on recommendations from the feasibility study.

If voters inside the TDD approve its formation on Aug. 5, a subsequent election will occur on Nov. 4 to approve the sales tax and special assessments. It’s important to note:

  • The 1% sales tax applies within the entire district (some sales are exempt)
  • The special assessments apply only to properties within 1/3-mile of streetcar tracks actually constructed
  • No taxes or assessments will be collected until there is a minimum 50% federal match

Streetcars — and fixed rail, in general — increase the value of adjacent real estate, which is the legal basis for the special assessment (not whether or not you will use it). The city’s legal team provided evidence of this during the TDD proceedings, and Judge Roldan concurred in his ruling.

The argument for the sales tax is the same as any citywide election. Does the presence of streetcar — and the resulting increase in transit ridership and economic development — benefit the city as a whole? The answer is yes.

In short, the argument over the benefits of streetcars is over. The question for KC voters now is: Where to expand?

Starter line update

The City issued a Notice to Proceed for full starter line construction on May 15. An official groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 22 at south of Truman Road on Main Street. Water and sewer work will begin first — overseen by KC Streetcar Constructors — then follow with track construction.

On April 25, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority announced their recommendation to hire Herzog Transit Services, Inc., of St. Joseph, to operate and maintain the starter line — pending city approval and contract negotiations. Selection of the operator reflects the final partner required to be in place to start operating in 2015.

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Consultants finalize Phase 2 streetcar plan

tdd

The Phase 2 streetcar consultant team published their draft final recommendations today. Key points to remember:

  • All at once. Streetcar on Main Street, Linwood Boulevard, and Independence Avenue — plus upgrading Prospect bus service to MAX — would be funded and constructed as a single project.
  • You get to vote. Council’s expected approval this week just puts the election on the calendar if courts approve. Voters within the revised Transportation Development District still get TWO chances to chime in at the voting booth — in August to form the district and in November to approve the sales tax and special assessments.
  • You don’t pay now. No sales tax or special assessment will be collected until a minimum 50% federal match is secured. This project could be the largest single federal grant — and the biggest investment east of Troost — in Kansas City history.
  • One TDD. The new TDD funds all of the above and replaces the downtown streetcar TDD. The new TDD map — after the elimination of Brookside and Waldo — is here.
  • Existing bus riders unaffected. If you ride a bus that runs in one of these corridors, you won’t be forced to transfer to streetcar. No reduction in bus funding and no drivers will lose their jobs due to streetcar expansion.
  • Bike enhancements still on the table. It’s up to advocates to make the case to those who live along the routes to support bike lanes and other amenities.

Meanwhile, Phase 1 official construction should start any day with a big rail shipment due to arrive in April. See kcstreetcar.org for the latest information.

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Top 13 transit stories of 2013

First Streetcar Track Installed

1. First streetcar weld, first track installed. Even jaded advocates beamed with pride during the November 14 press event showcasing Kansas City’s first new streetcar rails since 1947 (service ended in 1957). Prior to the event, the first weld and installation of track was completed ahead of schedule thanks to excess materials from a Dallas streetcar project.

2. Dismissed, dismissed, and denied. Two downtown property owners — whose combined annual assessments will be about $1,500 — sued the transportation development district set up to fund downtown streetcar construction and operations. A Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit in March, then the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in August, then the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the case on Christmas Eve.  A long-delayed bond sale can now proceed.

3. Phase 2 streetcar advances. Expansion was always in the cards for the initial 2-mile streetcar segment, and the City Council kept its promise by advancing three south-of-the-river corridors for additional study — Main Street Plus (south to Waldo and beyond), 31st/Linwood, and Independence Avenue. Wisely, all three are solid transit corridors today and streetcar corridors of the past. Expansion north of the river is still in planning stages.

4. Transit Emphasis Corridors. It hasn’t been widely reported, but refocusing all bus routes that terminate downtown on just two streets — 12th Street and Grand Boulevard — would result in the highest level of transit service in the entire region (1-2 minute peak headways). Changes could come on Grand as early next year (along with federally-funded bike lanes), while 12th Street will be implemented in tandem with Prospect MAX.

5. Wyandotte County’s 2014 Budget. In addition to seeing completion of TIGER-funded transit centers and improved State Avenue bus stops, Wyandotte County’s Board of Commissioners approved a 2014 budget that contained two hard-fought rewards: larger buses to relieve overcrowding and a brand new route serving Rosedale and Argentine. Props to the Rosedale Development Association and Transit Action Network for their advocacy work.

6. Prospect MAX advances. The next corridor to get MAX treatment is #71-Prospect, currently the second-highest ridership route in the metro. Genius trumped organizational boundaries as the project was grouped with the Phase 2 streetcar expansions to make the first attempted at package funding in FTA history. The project was originally studied as part of the Jackson County Commuter Corridors.

7. CNG buses. KCATA stepped up their transition from dirty diesel to cleaner Compressed Natural Gas buses. The new vehicles entered service in July.

8. Transit Coordinating Council. This newly-formed replacement for MARC’s Transit Committee hasn’t made a big splash with the public, but wonks are all abuzz about much-needed policy shifts that will finally put our region’s resources where our mouths have collectively pretended to be. On tap in 2014: regional fare structure, regional branding, and more focused regional projects.

9. Commuter rail hopes fade. Indifferent railroad executives, a competing ballot initiative from the state (see #13), and a distracting loss on the translational medicine sales tax added up to a sour year for Mike Sanders’ regional rail proposal. The words are still there, but Jackson County leadership is losing patience for action.

10. Missouri’s multimodal transportation plan. In the last legislative session a bill to put a 1-cent transportation tax in front of voters suffered a last-minute defeat at the hands of a few Tea Party extremists. It would have been the first plan to include “multimodal”, and it reflected new priorities of MoDOT’s “listening tour” that proved Missouri residents aren’t just focused on highways (Missouri is at the bottom of the state transit funding list). The proposal has resurfaced as a petition initiative. If it succeeds, it might compete directly with Jackson County and Kansas City transit plans on the same ballot.

11. Streetcar wins $20 million TIGER grant. After being initially rebuffed due to lack of a local funding source, the Department of Transportation finally came through with additional funding for the downtown streetcar. This grant is in addition to the two other federal grants the project won in 2012.

12. Dedication of streetcar maintenance facility. The new streetcar maintenance facility in Columbus Park was dedicated to longtime transit advocate Kite Singleton on November 7. In an appropriate follow-up, a Columbus Park development project Kite worked on for years found financing specifically due to its proximity to the streetcar line.

13. Daily airport service. People aren’t using it much, but the psychological barrier has been broken: You can now get to KCI seven days a week by a single-seat bus ride from downtown. Service runs from 10th & Main between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

For reference, here’s 2012′s top 12 transit stories.

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First rail installed, next election in 2014

The first segment of streetcar track was installed on Nov. 14 on the new Main Street bridge over I-670, months ahead of schedule. It was the first since a small extension of the original streetcar on Troost Avenue was completed in 1947.

Rebuilding the Main Street bridge over I-670 wasn’t originally supposed to include track installation. Temporarily fill material was planned until full track installation in 2014. That changed when the newly-hired Construction Manager team offered to coordinate installation of excess steel rail from Dallas’ Oak Cliff Streetcar project. It was a bonus that likely wouldn’t have come together had it been in the original plan.

The rail and welding team arrived by truck a few days prior. By Nov. 12, the team had started welding 40-foot segments together to create four continuous rails that would make up the two standard gauge tracks that cross the bridge. Concrete was poured around the new track on Nov. 15. The bridge will reopen to cars and pedestrians by December and will include noise abatement, public art, wider sidewalks, and more clearance for vehicles on the freeway below.

In other Phase 1 news, City Council approved the Construction Manager contract, the purchase of four streetcar vehicles, full funding of the project, and dedicated the vehicle maintenance facility to longtime transit advocate Kite Singleton. The Construction Manager also opened a project office at 1828 Walnut, new developments have been announced along the line, and private utilities began relocating away from the tracks.

waldorail

Phase 2 election

A 2014 election for Phase 2 streetcar has been proposed, and City Council heard consultant recommendations for scope. Kansas City’s streetcar system could be as large as 10 miles by 2020, triggering a major renewal of the urban core. The top scoring corridors are:

  • Main Street south to UMKC (3.45 miles, $230 million)
  • 31st/Linwood east to Prospect (1.74 miles, $105 million)
  • Independence Avenue east to Benton Boulevard (2.17 miles, $129 million)

Phase 2 costs are in 2019 dollars and generally work out to about $60 million per mile. While the Country Club Right of Way (shown above, near Waldo shops) didn’t score well, it’s relatively low cost of implementation ($35 million per mile), dedicated right of way, and strong neighborhood support could make it an obvious extension further south from UMKC; a southern terminus for that added scope hasn’t been determined, but could be as far as Waldo through the use of single-tracking. The full consultant report is available here.

Consultants recommended a new Transportation Development District levying the same taxes and assessments as the downtown TDD. The new TDD would stretch from the Missouri River south to 63rd (or whatever the southern terminus might be) and State Line east to I-435. The 1% sales tax would apply to the entire district, while the assessments would apply only to properties a reasonable distance from the actual streetcar lines.

As with the downtown TDD, one election would form the district and a second would approve the levies. Due to the larger voting pool, a traditional election would be held, which removes the unpopular application and notary requirements specified in the TDD Act. If both new elections are successful, the downtown TDD could be dissolved with a simple vote of its board as it has no financial obligations.

Phase 2 expansion north of the river is on a different timeline — first public meeting on Nov. 21 — and may take advantage of an existing citywide TDD passed with broad support in 2008.

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