Next month, Kansas City will begin construction on its second bus rapid transit line, to run 13 miles from downtown to 95th Street, mostly along Troost Avenue. Costing about $30 million, the effort will modestly improve public transportation along the corridor, whose buses currently carry about 8,000 passengers a day. New buses will begin using the route next fall, after a bridge is replaced over Brush Creek near Country Club Plaza.
Kansas City opened its first MAX BRT line a couple of years ago along the 5-mile Main Street corridor between Country Club Plaza and downtown. That line has proven successful because of a concerted effort to provide as high quality a bus service as possible. Stations are glassy and have identifiable signs and names; they also all provide easily comprehensible route maps and next bus information. These are all features that should be standard on regular bus lines, but which are typically considered too expensive for U.S. transit agencies to include on anything other than “BRT” routes.
Ironically, one thing the existing MAX line is not, however, is particularly fast — the short route still requires 17 minutes for customers to traverse because buses aren’t separated from automobile traffic and the route includes 22 stops, hardly a time saver.
The new route along Troost, which will mimic most of the features of the Main Street line, won’t be too quick either, with 31 stations on the 13-mile corridor. Yet considering that it takes buses more than an hour to make the trip today, any improvement will be exciting to the city’s transit users. The Troost route is the city’s densest corridor, and therefore most likely to benefit from this investment. Buses will run every ten minutes throughout the day. The line received an 80% federal Small Starts funding commitment last year, allowing the city to commit to the project while investing very few of its funds.
The project won’t do much to extinguish the hopes of light rail promoter Clay Chastain, whose plan for a new 9-mile route may make the ballot this fall. That effort would result in truly significant improvements for transit in the city, notably because it will speed trip times. The Troost BRT, on the other hand, will make riding the bus nicer, but not necessarily more convenient.
Image above: Troost BRT map, from KCATA