Kansas City Envisions 150-Mile Regional Commuter Rail System

» Project could be built on the “cheap” as it would use existing tracks; resistance likely from activists who are more excited by a proposed inner-city light rail system.

Hoping to push forward with new transit connections as quickly as possible, officials in the Kansas City metropolitan area are moving forward with a plan for a huge network of commuter rail lines that they say can be ready for operations in just two years. But with proponents of a long-proposed light rail system still angling for investment on their side and with no funding yet allocated for either project, the future of fixed-guideway public transportation in the region remains up in the air.

Missouri’s western metropolis has a history of public interest in better transit, but the city has yet to invest in new rail lines because of government confusion and voter discontent — over the years, eight serious rail

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Kansas City Begins Construction of Troost Avenue BRT

Project would be city’s second rapid bus line and is sponsored by federal Small Start funds.

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

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Kansas City Up for LRT Referendum Again?

Activist expects to fight for LRT on this year’s fall ballot

There are few individuals who have been fighting so hard for transit improvements as Clay Chastain, who has made his mark over the years on Kansas City. In 2006, he almost single-handedly organized a referendum for a 27-mile light rail line through the city, and won, surprising the city council, which had done very little to support his effort. Lacking funding for or interest in the project, the city council repealed the plan in 2007. But Mr. Chastain struck back, putting a referendum for a 3/8¢ sales tax on the ballot last November, with the new goal of building a $1 billion north-south rail line. Nevertheless, citizens of the city were some of the only in the country to reject transit funding on election night 2008, and by the middle of February, Kansas City’s Regional Transit Alliance had abandoned

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Kansas City Abandons Light Rail; Australian Rapid Transit Projects In Development

Kansas City abandons light rail for regional commuter system

In November, Kansas City voters abandoned hope for a light rail system by a 44-56% margin. There had been several efforts over the past few years to build a variety of lines, led by community organizer Clay Chastain, who in 2006 won an endorsement from voters for a 27-mile rail system to run throughout the city. In 2008, however, the city council decided on a $1 billion 14-mile north-south line (shown in the plan to the right) that would be sponsored by a 3/8¢ sales tax; voters obviously weren’t interested.

But now the area’s Regional Transit Alliance has decided to replace its light rail plan with a commuter rail system that would run using diesel locomotives on existing tracks. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders sees the commuter rail system as more ambitious

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  • by Yonah Freemark
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