public transit

Clay Chastain
Video frame courtesy of TV-9

It took just 1,709 valid signatures to qualify for a public vote. And Clay Chastain turned in 47 more than that.

But a place for his latest light rail plan is not assured a place on the ballot yet.

Chastain, who lives in Virginia most of the time, expects resistance from the Kansas City Council to his $2 billion plan.

Stinging from the slap of having a previous proposal blocked from the ballot because city attorneys found court support for their contention that the measure as put forth was illegal, the activist has tried to ward off another refusal.

HDR, City of Kansas City

Northland council members were most skeptical, but all members of a joint City Council Committee seemed to agree  Thursday that a proposed city-wide transit-oriented development plan still needs more work.

First District Councilwoman Heather Hall seemed to sum up the concerns of her colleagues.

“First of all, it's too big to be effectively run by all the different components that we need to do; and it doesn't meet the needs of  every part of the city, but in fact the whole city will be responsible for all of it,” Hall told the group.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Streetcar officials say they are still investigating what caused a streetcar to go slightly off its rails near Union Station Monday, but they admit rain might have contributed to the car shunting off its track. 

Speaking on KCUR's Up To Date Tuesday morning, Donna Mandelbaum with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority said the problem originated at the track-switch area near Union Station, where streetcars turn back north on the 2.2-mile line. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Collaboration. Open data. Public private partnerships. Streetcars.

These are a handful of reasons local leaders today told Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx  why Kansas City deserves the $40 million the U.S. Department of Transportation will award to one city later this year.

The secretary picked on one of these points after an hour-long  pitch in which officials, community leaders and tech businesses praised the local plan. 

The streetcar, he told them, had Kansas City moving.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

After months (some would say decades) of anticipation, Kansas City will once again have a downtown streetcar line. It opens Friday. You may have heard the buzz and the hype. You might have read about the delays and labor disputes. But now, really, all you care about is this question: when can I ride it? 

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

After $102 million and more than five years of design, construction and testing, Kansas City is about to get a taste of streetcars again.

The 2.2 mile starter line marks the first time the city has brought back public rail transit since 1957, when the historic line was shuttered. For KC Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend, the process has already been worth the effort.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders looks at 17.7 miles of old Union Pacific train tracks and sees the future.

“It has the potential to change the entire way our community works, the entire way our community lives and the entire way we move for generations to come,” Sanders said of the Rock Island Corridor, which Jackson County officially acquired Monday after years of back-and-forth with the railroad.

With the backing of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Jackson County struck a $52 million deal to buy the corridor from Union Pacific last fall.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority launched a new shuttle service Monday called Bridj.

It’s app-based microtransit that creates a bus route around where users request to be picked up.

“When the technology works together, it’ll tell you, ‘OK, go down the street half a block,’” says KCATA’s Robbie Makinen. “It’ll tell (me) to go down the street a block. We’ll meet at that place. It’s the pop-up bus stop.”

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Every Tuesday and Friday, about a dozen seniors from the Santa Fe Towers Apartments in Overland Park eagerly drop quarters into the fare box of the 812 Flex route bus. 

Many of the passengers are old hats when it comes to public transit. They've got their fare ready well before they get on the bus, and some pull along wheeled baskets to tote around the groceries they'll get from Hy-Vee.

One of the riders on a recent Tuesday was a woman named Carolyn, who asked that only her first name be used. She's used buses to get around Johnson County for the past 7 years.

Kansas City needs an effective public transportation system to build density, but maybe we need density to build said transportation system. As the streetcars prepare to debut next month, we discuss where this system is headed.

Guests:

  • Daniel Serda, InSite Planning, LLC
  • DuRon Netsell, Hyde Park resident
  • Bryan Stalder, Historic Northeast resident
Paul Sableman / Flickr-CC

Just like the millions of people who will make resolutions this week, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is making changes in the new year. 

The transit service will extend its 107 line in Kansas City, Kansas, to connect the transit center on Johnson Drive in Mission to KU Med Center. Riders can also go from there to downtown Kansas City, Missouri, if they choose.

Cindy Baker with the KCATA says officials consider the expansion to be the metro's first truly regional route, and hope KU Med employees take advantage of it.

bridj.com

Kansas City soon could be home to something called microtransit.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is negotiating with Bridj, which offers a popup bus service.

Bridj is the bus version of Uber or Lyft. Customers sign up and can use an app to book a bus ride and be picked up within a five-minute walk. Unlike Uber or Lyft, you’re riding a small bus with 10 or so other people.

KCATA CEO Joe Reardon says it another way to connect people to jobs.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Around two dozen community members joined Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) officials and Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed on a tour of Prospect Avenue Wednesday to give feedback on the proposed Prospect MAX bus line.

The $54 million project is currently in its early development phase while the Federal Transit Administration mulls over the ATA's application for federal funds. The ATA asked for $30 million, and the city just passed a resolution pledging matching funds of $12.4 million. 

Jarrett Stewart / Flickr-CC

A Prospect Avenue bus rapid transit corridor moved a step closer to reality at Thursday's meeting of the Kansas City City Council.

The resolution passed by the Kansas City council commits to partial matching funds so the ATA can proceed with its application for a $30 million federal grant to expand the “MAX” bus rapid transit system to what is now the city's second-most utilized bus route.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said the Prospect line has about 6,000 regular riders. The MAX now operates in two corridors: Troost Avenue and Main Street.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Jackson County is one step closer to the regional transit system that’s long been the vision of County Executive Mike Sanders.

Sanders announced Wednesday the county and the Kansas City Area Transit Authority had reached an agreement to buy the Rock Island Corridor, 17.7 miles of train tracks that stretch from the Truman Sports Complex through Kansas City, Raytown and Lee’s Summit.

“If you’re planning for what you have today, by definition, you’re falling behind the curve,” Sanders said. “Today, Jackson County and this community will not fall behind the curve.”

Johnson County

University of Missouri-Kansas City students with a valid student ID can now ride Johnson County's bus lines for free.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority expanded the service as part of its new focus on regional transportation since former Kansas City, Kansas Mayor Joe Reardon was hired as president.

City of Kansas City. MO

Two city officials who went to Elmira, New York, to check on progress and attempt to speed up the process, if possible, have returned with better, if not definitely good news.  CAF U.S.A., the company custom-building four streetcars for Kansas City's starter line says the first car should be delivered by Oct. 29.

Earlier, CAF had alerted the city to the fact that delivery could be as late as December.  Because of DOT testing requirements, that would have made it unlikely Kansas City could have had a streetecar running in time for the Big 12 Tournament in March.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

At two public meetings on Wednesday, officials with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority shared the latest work on a broad vision for transit in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Around 60 downtown residents, business people, and commuters heard about changes to bus routes, efforts to beautify and fortify transit stations, and improved pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Last summer the public told the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority transit downtown is about much more than commuters now.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Johnson County's "JO" bus line is now managed by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, effective Feb. 1. The consolidation effort has been in the works for more than a year.

Jameson Auten of the KCATA says that the merger isn't a total takeover, but just a managerial shift. 

"Johnson County remains in control of policy decisions, but the KCATA is able to provide recommendations on how to better coordinate services," Auten says. "This arrangement does provide cost savings to Johnson County."

Eric Langhorst / Flickr Creative Commons

Throughout the year we put the Kansas City metro area under a microscope examining the details of the events and issues facing its residents and leaders.

On this edition of Up to Date, we zoom out for a broader view. Steve Kraske and three area journalists bring us their analysis, thoughts, and observations on what's working and what's not in Kansas City, Mo. 

Guests:

Commuter rail to Kansas City from the eastern suburbs is one step closer to reality after Jackson County secured $10 million dollars in federal highway dollars for the purchase of old train tracks known as the Rock Island Corridor.

"I mean, that’s roughly 16 percent of the purchase price," says Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. "That’s significant for the federal government to provide that for acquisition, which is fairly rare."

Rethinking How To Assess Public Transit Needs

Oct 14, 2014
Ian Fisher / Flickr Creative Commons

Gridlock on the freeway, orange construction cones everywhere, and congestion. Traffic problems abound and cities are scrambling to improve their public transportation. On this edition of Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with Jarrett Walker, a public transit consultant, about how cities assess their transportation needs. Mr. Walker discusses the importance of improving existing infrastructure and building on it, as well as highlighting the difficulties posed by a sprawling metro area. 

Guest:

Stephen Rees/Flickr-CC

The Kansas City city council is considering making group public transit benefit plans a requirement for companies to get economic development incentives. 

"UMKC —All the students have through their student ID a bus pass. That actually where this idea started," says transit chair Russ Johnson.

Johnson says companies with more than 100 employees would have to provide employee bus passes to get the incentives. The cost would be up to 0.1 percent of company payroll.

The plan, he says, would help support public transit, thereby boosting economic development.

Clay Chastain's latest light rail proposals will go to the voters in November as the Missouri Supreme Court ordered, but not in a form voters would easily recognize.

The city council is taking advantage of a loophole in the court order that allows them not to mention a plan or even “light rail.” Instead, one tax initiative is listed as for “capital improvements” and the other for “public transportation.”

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders says a deal is in place with the Union Pacific Railroad to extend the Katy Trail the 25 miles from its present terminus to the Truman Sports Complex.

That would not only make it possible to hike or bike to St. Louis, but, Sanders says, also is a major step toward an area light rail system.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Transit advocate Clay Chastain got his day in court Thursday, but it's still unclear if his plan to build a light-rail system will go before voters.

For three years, Chastain has been locked in a battle with city officials who say the 3/8-cent sales tax increase he's proposed isn't enough to pay for light-rail. The Missouri Supreme Court weighed in earlier this year, ruling that even if voters approved the plan, the city wouldn't have to build it.

Clay Chastain
Video frame courtesy of TV-9

Kansas City transit advocate Clay Chastain is in town this week to promote his light-rail proposal ahead of hearing that could put the issue before voters.

Chastain, a former Kansas City resident who now lives in Virginia, has for years pressured the city to build an interconnected transit system with a hub at Union Station. His idea has a lot of moving parts – light rail line to the airport, commuter rail to the southeast and streetcars to the Kansas City Zoo. And in 2011, he gathered enough signatures to put a 3/8-cent sales tax on the ballot to help pay for it.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Earlier this month, we ran a story about the accessibility to jobs in the Kansas City metro by public transportation. It takes Kara McGowan, of Kansas City, Mo., more than 90 minutes to get to her job in Westport once she drops off her children at day care.

Submitted photo / City of Kansas City, Mo.

There will be no gold-plated shovels at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the  streetcar in downtown Kansas City, Mo. – that's a promise.

"We wanted to do something different because the streetcar is a game-changer for Kansas City," says city spokesman Chris Hernandez.

Thursday is set to mark the start of major construction on the downtown starter line, the first phase in the city's multi-year streetcar initiative.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Just after 7:15 a.m. in the morning, Kara McGowan rushes out of her house, carrying her baby, Airis, on one arm, a bulging diaper bag on the other. Her four-year-old, Addison, trails behind.

"We got eight minutes. Come on!" McGowan pleads.  She doesn't want to miss her bus. She doesn't have a car, so her only option to get her kids to daycare and to herself to her job as a receptionist in Westport is to take public transit.

McGowan's bus rolls away from the intersection before she and the children arrive, so she reroutes them to catch the 12th Street bus across town.

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