TransitKC

Archive for the 'Bus/BRT' Category

Basketball and the bus

The best way to avoid the crush of basketball fans downtown over the next month is to take the bus to the game. All of the upcoming Big 12, NCAA, and NAIA events this month are steps away from nearly every route in the metro.

First, use Google Transit to plan your trip, then read on while we demystify Kansas City’s transit scene.

MAX

If you live close to the MAX route, you’re in luck: KCATA is increasing service every day of the Big 12 Tournament (March 10-14). If coming from farther afield, park free in any of the free garages on the Plaza (the two closest to the Plaza MAX stop are across the street from each other, by Jack Stack Barbecue). There is also a free park-and-ride at 74th & Wornall, but the MAX doesn’t run as frequently south of the Plaza.

VENUES

  • Sprint Center is within a three-block walk of almost every bus route that serves downtown. The entrance on Oak Street is less congested. Grand Boulevard will be closed March 10-14, likely leading to large crowds at the main entrance. Riders should be aware that the “Arena” stop is temporarily west of Grand.
  • Municipal Auditorium is next to Bartle Hall, one block west of Broadway, and best served by MAX (13th & Wyandotte) or #25. Most other KCATA routes require a bit more walking, but none more than 6 blocks.

FARES & PASSES

We highly recommend buying a day pass when you get on board. It’s only $3, which covers your inbound and outbound ride, and can be bought on board. Bus drivers can’t make change, but they can give you a change card for any bills or coins you have, that can be used for future rides.

GOOGLE TRANSIT

The best thing about Google Transit isn’t that it gives you the fastest trip at your desired departure or arrival time – online trip planners have been doing that for years — it’s the combination of displaying bus stops (the tiny blue bus icon) with their corresponding routes (click on that icon) on a map, and Street View.

Let’s say the bus stop closest to you is only served by one route, but the one two blocks in the other direction is served by three routes (therefore offering more departures)… that’s a powerful tool for transit users. Use Street View to see exactly what the bus stop’s surroundings are like; is there a shelter, a bench, or even a sidewalk?

If you’re a smartphone user, download Google Maps for mobile right now. Transit directions are now available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, Nokia, and Windows Mobile.

THE JO

Since many of the games will be during the weekday, using The JO to get downtown from Johnson County is also a great idea. Plan accordingly, as most routes don’t run after 6 p.m. We recommend using the park-and-ride at 6000 Lamar due the number of routes available and the shorter travel time.

All JO routes are also on Google Transit. The JO’s fare is $2 and they accept transfers from KCATA. However, they do not accept KCATA passes nor do they provide change cards.

Enjoy your hoops!

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TIGER: Winners/losers, streetcar (not) in play?

While some media outlets thought otherwise, it’s not entirely clear after today’s TIGER announcement that the downtown streetcar is completely unfunded. Unfortunately, it takes a bit of math to deduce where the entire $50 million award will go. The full request [PDF] was $88.761 million.

In practical terms, the entire amount will go to MARC to be distributed to various agencies who handle the Green Impact Zone of Missouri (GIZMO) and transportation services in the metro — the latter being handled exclusively by KCATA, The JO, and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.

Of the $50 million awarded to KC today, however, GIZMO and bus corridor improvements cover only about $48 million. The Bike KC, Front Street interchange, and West Bottoms freight rail projects were not specifically mentioned, which leaves the remaining transit project — design and engineering for the downtown modern streetcar — up in the air. We have yet to hear from KCATA about their take on today’s event.

Streetcar awards were confirmed for Dallas, Tucson, New Orleans, and Portland. Streetcar requests that didn’t make the cut were Cincinnati, Boise, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta.

Another smaller round of streetcar-specific funding using unspent transit dollars — not stimulus — will be awarded later this year; Kansas City is unable to apply for that program because it has not delivered the local match required.

As for the other nationwide winners and losers in today’s announcement [PDF], Streetsblog, The Infrastructurist, and The Transport Politic have excellent posts that cover the big picture.

Hope you enjoyed our live tweets. We also finally figured out video (see above), and MARC has plenty of pictures.

UPDATE: KCATA confirmed Thursday morning that the streetcar element was not funded. Their site has been updated with details about the bus corridor improvements.

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KCATA: More bad news for 2010

The Star reports that KCATA’s 2010 budget will have plenty of bad news for transit users: fare increases, service cuts, and depleting reserves.

Fixed route services have been spared, unlike in this year’s budget, but the “swing shift” service — providing taxi rides to late night workers after regular service hours — will be cut.

General fares, now $1.50, would rise to $1.75 if diesel fuel rises above $3 per gallon. Share-a-Fare rates would increase, as would ozone day fares.

Even worse is news that the agency’s reserves would be depleted by 2014 unless new revenue is secured. There is no silver lining yet for new revenue, but there are state and federal efforts that may provide relief.

At the federal level, climate change legislation may provide funding for “clean transportation” using revenues from the cap-and-trade system that will control greenhouse gas emissions. A new transportation bill is in limbo, with no indication operational funding would be available.

Regarding state assistance, KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer indicated a new transportation initiative is on the horizon, but that effort has yet to report on what funding would be available for transit. Missouri currently ranks near the bottom in state transit funding.

Locally, city leaders continue to passive-aggressively underfund KCATA by using money from the 1/2-cent transportation sales tax — the one with no sunset — for “other transportation uses”. A separate 3/8-cent “bus tax” was renewed in 2008. The TIF orgy of the last decade also hasn’t helped maintain stable funding.

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Round-up: This week in local transit

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Streetcar proposal submitted to USDOT

The regional TIGER application has been submitted to the US Department of Transportation, and it includes a $6 million request for design and engineering of a downtown streetcar. There are lots of other elements (bike/ped, freight rail, Green Impact Zone) in the plan, but the streetcar and BRT portions have been posted on the KCATA website.

We’ll be poring over the application in the coming days to bring you an overview and our analysis.

As a reminder, the TIGER grant program is unique to the stimulus program and is competitive and discretionary. MARC’s proposal is going up against MoDOT (for I-70 truck lanes, natch), St. Louis (leave a comment if you know what they’re applying for), Columbia (ditto) and any other entity in the state that can receive federal transportation funds.

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Troost BRT breaks ground

KCATA held a groundbreaking ceremony this morning at 47th and Troost for the new Troost MAX BRT line. Here’s a pic of the formalities, courtesy of MARC.

Service will begin in late 2010. The route map is here.

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State Avenue BRT recap

State Avenue BRT Map

The only city in Kansas with Sunday bus service is about make another serious move. This time it’s a KCK version of the MAX running down State Avenue from downtown KCMO to Village West.

The message at last night’s public meeting was mixed: the route, frequency, and technology has basically been selected, but no funding mechanism exists to operate the service. The Unified Government has posted a survey for you to weigh in on whether transit should be included on a November sales tax election.

The operational funding question must be answered before KCK can apply for federal funding to cover capital costs. Currently, the city’s transit services (a mix of fixed and circulator routes that serve over a million rides annually) are funded directly from the city’s coffers. As with all municipalities, cuts are expected this year as a result of the economic downturn.

Transit has ranked high on KCK resident surveys in the past [PDF, see p. 4], so chances are good that any sales tax dedicated to it will pass.

The proposed route is served daily by #101 today. The BRT route is straighter (no loop at KCK Community College) and bypasses the West Bottoms in favor of the Intercity Viaduct (I-70); the Bottoms would continue to be served by local KCK routes. New transit centers would be built at 7th & Minnesota in downtown KCK, Indian Springs Shopping Center, and Village West.

The State Avenue BRT project is part of the regional SmartMoves transit program. The first line on Main Street in KCMO opened in 2005, the second line on Troost Avenue is slated to open in 2010.

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State Avenue BRT meeting tomorrow

Three questions beg your input at tomorrow’s State Avenue BRT meeting in KCK. We offer reasonable expectations for those who plan to attend.

Where would it run?

Preferably on State Avenue, eh? Unfortunately, the top benefit of a bus is also it’s worst enemy: they can go anywhere there are streets. But should they be shoehorned into door-to-door service at the cost of ease of use and visibility? Does simplicity ever trump convenience in bus routing? Not really in KC due to our erratic development patterns.

Regardless, expect ridership estimates to drive route diversions like those made along Main and Troost, although the proposed alignment appears fairly straightforward.

What will it look like?

What you will get: the “BRT lite” imprint established by the Main and Troost BRT lines (normal 40-foot buses, limited traffic signal priority, real-time arrival at most stations, and frequent service.

What you won’t get: “light rail on wheels”, as is frequently promised (off-board ticketing, level boarding, a comfortable ride, any capacity improvement over an existing bus); more than a 10-20% improvement over the current hour-long travel time (although the current claim is 30 minutes from KCK to Village West). Due to the light traffic loads on the sprawling western portions of State or Parallel Parkway, don’t expect dedicated lanes outside of downtown KCK.

How would it be paid for?

Establishing frequent service that people can depend on requires a dedicated operational funding mechanism that can’t be raided by elected officials when times get tough (here’s why). Limited capital funding ($10 million) is being sought at part of MARC’s TIGER stimulus proposal. Total cost is estimated at as much as $35 million for the entire route. Residents should encourage the city to require the purchase of hybrid or natural gas buses, which could offset the impact of increased frequencies.

Meeting details:

4:30 to 6 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009
Eisenhower Rooms A & B
Hilton Garden Inn
520 Minnesota Ave.
[map]

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T&I advances streetcar proposal

The city council’s Transportation & Infrastructure committee just advanced an ordinance supporting a regional stimulus funds application that includes $6 million to advance the downtown streetcar project. The original proposal indicated that stimulus funds might pay for the entire capital cost, but in the end MARC built consensus around an all-inclusive (or “watered-down”, some would say) application.

The application will also include elements of the SmartMoves BRT plan from both Kansas and Missouri (The JO and Unified Government are not submitting their own applications, it appears), as well as significant bike/ped improvements. The leading element is additional transportation-related funding for US Rep. Cleaver’s Green Impact Zone, which has been lauded for focusing a wide array of government programs on disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The full council will take up the ordinance at today’s legislative session; it is expected to pass.

The specific stimulus funds grant program is called TIGER and is unique to the stimulus act — unlike other formula transportation funds from ARRA. It is rumored to be a trial balloon for discretionary grants in an 18-month extension of the existing transportation bill, something the White House has been pushing for in lieu of taking up a brand-new 6-year authorization in the middle of the health care debate.

According to testimony at today’s committee meeting, an estimated 40 awards will be granted out of thousands of applications.

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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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