TransitKC

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MARC Transportation Committee recap

The following condensed transit updates are from the MARC Transportation Committee July meeting:

  • SmartMoves – Two phases underway: urban corridors (with a bi-state application for a TIGER stimulus grant) and commuter corridors; consultants have been selected for each. Phase 1 deadline of Sept. 12th and the second phase has no deadline at this time.
  • Transportation Outlook 2040 – Project solicitation for the long-range transportation plan is in progress. A high speed rail section will be added.
  • Unified Government Transit – UG Transit does not have funds to make it through the rest of the year (service cuts may occur in October); next year will also be difficult for funding.
  • KCATA – Service cuts implemented June 28; additional cuts may be needed.
  • Johnson County Transit – First phase of the Metcalf/Shawnee Mission Parkway BRT study (also a SmartMoves corridor) is near completion and phase 2 will start soon; action from the Kansas legislature is required in order to run the service in this corridor and the northern terminus has been determined to be the Plaza (instead of downtown, the terminus for most JO services today). Fifty-five new JO bus stop signs will be installed in downtown Kansas City (where none exist today) via an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the KCATA.

The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 5 at MARC offices, 600 Broadway, in downtown Kansas City.

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JO fare increase effective July 6

The JO will increase — and simplify — it’s fares on Monday. All the details are here [PDF]. The ozone day fare will remain 50 cents. Unlike Kansas City, Johnson County is increasing service with this fare hike.

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The JO to raise fares in May

All local and express routes will rise to $2 each way (from $1.25 and $1.75); commuter routes (K-10, currently $2.50) will rise to $3 each way. Monthly and multi-ride passes will also rise, if approved by the Johnson County Transportation Council and County Commission. Unfortunately, the increased revenue will not address the #1 problem for users: interoperability between our three transit providers (JO, ATA, and UG). More info can be found on page 40 of this PDF. Here’s the proposed schedule for the increase:

- JCTC approval to move forward: March 10, 2008
- Notice of fare proposal public meeting: March 12
- Comment period: March 12 through April 10th
- Public Hearing: April 13
- Report to JCTC (at April meeting) April 14
- Recommendation of JCTC to BOCC April 14
- BOCC approval April 30
- Fare Change May 11, 2008

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Kansas counties host regional transit meetings

KDOT and MARC are hosting a series of public meetings in five area counties — Johnson, Wyandotte, Douglas, Leavenworth, and Miami — to “develop recommendations that are technically feasible, politically acceptable, and financially realistic.” Our translation: Tell us where you want buses to go and don’t bother asking for commuter or light rail. The first meeting was last week in Lawrence (sorry!). KC metro meetings start tomorrow night in Olathe and continue into next month. Things to keep in mind, if you plan to attend:

- The Kansas side of the KC metro has no weekend or evening bus service.
- KDOT is actively studying Amtrak service in this area.
- Bus rapid transit has been proposed for the Metcalf Avenue, State Avenue, and I-35 corridors.
- Unified Government Transit (Wyandotte), The JO (Johnson), the T (Lawrence), and ATA (KCMO) do not have interoperable payment systems or trip planners.
- KDOT actually funds local transit services (more than MoDOT!).
- Leavenworth and Miami counties have no regular transit service and no inter-city travel options other than private automobiles (no Amtrak, no Greyhound, no nothing).
- Lawrence just merged its city transit operator with that of the University of Kansas last year (and approved dedicated local funding for the first time).
- There is no current regional plan to make connections between modes (trails don’t connect to bus routes, bus routes don’t go to the airport, inter-city buses don’t stop in the same place as inter-city rail, sidewalks often don’t exist); this, of course, makes auto travel a necessity for nearly everyone… people who are underage or elderly, people who drink, and people who otherwise are physically impaired or cannot drive themselves.

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Johnson County ends Chiefs Express

Johnson County Transit will no longer offer the Chiefs Express route to Arrowhead Stadium in 2009 due to low ridership and shifting priorities. The KCATA Chiefs service is not changing. See here for more information.

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Johnson County will shame KC into improved transit

You said it wouldn’t happen. Surely, Jackson County & Friends would pick up the leftovers from the failed light rail vote and kick the regional conversation into high gear. Johnson County leaders won’t play ball and “don’t get it”. Well, you were wrong. Today’s Star notes that Johnson County will soon surpass what Kansas City is spending on transit. Yes, you read that right.

KCATA 2008 budget: ~$48 million
The JO budget in 5 years: $52 million

Planned improvements include bus rapid transit lines, expanded commuter routes, park-and-ride lots, and better links to regional transit services.

Of course, the cities in Johnson County — a completely urbanized patchwork of older first-ring suburbs and sprawling over-consumption — must match the investment with facilities to support transit. Most major thoroughfares lack contiguous sidewalks, an absolute prerequisite for bus riders. Good luck finding a bus shelter, too.

Our wish list for Johnson County — knowing the above prerequisite will not and probably cannot be met, ever — consists of expanded commuter services. The biggest successes in Johnson County use this model: notably the K-10 service and all downtown KCMO routes. While BRT would match well with a significantly reworked Metcalf Avenue, it’s unlikely the current infrastructure would ever support any other local services beyond paratransit. Direct airport routes centered around the county’s malls with spare parking capacity (Metcalf South, Town Center, Great Mall) would probably be runaway hit, too, since a good chunk of KCI‘s customers would never waste time taking an indirect route through downtown KC.

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Other KC transit developments

With our singular focus on the starter line election, we’ve neglected several non-light-rail transit initiatives that have had some successes:

Bike/Ped:

Mass transit:

Inter-city:

Please consider transit alternatives if you must travel this Thanksgiving. Fatalities always spike over the holidays due to longer travel distances and increased congestion. Kansas City is served by Amtrak at Union Station, Megabus at 10th & Main, Greyhound and Jefferson Lines at 11th and Troost, and all major domestic airlines at KCI (all services offer last-minute online ticketing). Frequent MAX service is available for the Plaza Lighting Ceremony.

We’ll return on Dec. 1.

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Metcalf BRT study set to begin

Johnson County finally gets serious about transit as the Overland Park City Council is set to approve funding Monday night for a BRT study to remake Metcalf Avenue — a thoroughfare currently serving as a smorgasbord of fast food drive-thrus, car lots, and check cashing stores.

The county and the City of Mission have already approved their share of the funding. The route is expected to run from I-435 along Metcalf, then head east through land-locked Mission along either Johnson Drive or Shawnee Mission Parkway, finally terminating at the Plaza or downtown KCMO (or alternating between the two). If light rail is approved, some trips are likely to terminate at the Plaza — especially on weekends. Most existing JO bus routes terminate downtown with no evening or weekend service currently offered.

Johnson County has no dedicated transit funding — and is unlikely to ask for it anytime soon — instead relying on general fund support and a mish-mash of federal and state money. A study of the congested I-35 corridor failed to attract serious political support last year, in part due to obscenely high implementation costs (+$300 million) driven by coal traffic along the existing rail lines and a lack of connections to the downtown loop (terminating at Union Station).

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More Lawrence service?

A trial run of weekday bus service connecting the KU Medical Center with the KU Main Campus in Lawrence might begin Sept. 2. “Pending administration approval,” the trial would last three weeks and would be self-funded. In reality, we’re confident that they won’t be able to cover the costs of two, 70-mile round trips with fares and this is really a exercise prove that these services are valuable enough for a state subsidy. The service would be open to anyone willing to pay the fare (we’re assuming at least $5 each way). The popular K-10 Connector ($2.50 each way) that serves the KU Edwards Campus, Johnson County Community College, and the Lawrence campus is funded by short-term CMAQ grant.

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A love letter to JO riders

In what has to be the straw that might just break Johnson County Transit’s back, riders have been reminded to make space on overcrowded suburban buses:

ROUTE: K-10, B, C, L, N, S

DATE: June 4, 2008

OVERCROWDED ROUTES

As the price of gas continues to climb, so does JO ridership. We are so happy to have new riders, but it is creating issues with our buses being near – and sometimes over – seating capacity. Johnson County Transit is aware of these routes being overcrowded and we are working on a solution. Please be aware that buses may change according to ridership. The largest buses we have in our fleet are older buses and they seat a total of 43 riders.

The simple solution may be to add more runs, but currently we are out of vehicles and there are no additional funds in the budget to add service.

Tips:

- As ridership continues to grow, please be aware that there may be people standing on buses.
- Please do not put your personal items in a seat, hold them on your lap so others can sit.
- Please be courteous to those that may have a disability. Remember, not all disabilities are visible, so if someone asks you to move, they are probably disabled. The seats behind the driver are reserved for those that are elderly or disabled.
- If you can wait an additional 15 minutes for the next bus, please do so. Not all routes have this flexibility, but it can help spread out our ridership, making everyone more comfortable during their ride.

Thanks for your patience and cooperation. For further information, questions, or comments, please feel free to contact us at (913) 782-2210 or by visiting www.thejo.com.

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