by Alan McArthur
A new public transportation proposal presented at the Regional Transit Meeting on Friday, developed by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), was openly discussed in Gladstone.
The new proposal, titled Smart Moves Regional Transit Vision, outlines the method to create a regional transit system in the three counties covering Kansas City, Mo. The proposal is broken into three different phases to be implemented once a regional transit proposal is approved by voters.
If approved, the first phase calls for an immediate implementation of bus and rapid-bus lines to connect some communities in the three-county area before a rail transit system is implemented.
The phase would have an express bus transit run to a number of cities in the Kansas City area and several in Platte County. Cities connected would include Platte City, Riverside and Parkville. The bus connections to Riverside and Parkville as well as KCI along Interstate 29 and along Barry Road to the east would be a limited stop bus line.
Through the Parkville-Riverside area, the line would begin in North Kansas City and run along 9 Highway through Riverside and into Parkville. The line would then turn east on 45 Highway and meet up with I-29 again.
A second phase would remove some bus routes through downtown Kansas City and replace them with a light rail line running from the intersection of North Oak and Vivion Roads to the Plaza along Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard.
The third phase of the transit development would develop commuter rail to several cities south of Kansas City and also Liberty. A possible line shown in the third phase would travel along the old Interurban railroad line through Platte County and end at Ferrelview near I-435.
The phase also shows a possible extension of the light rail to the northwest into Platte County, however a specific route is not known.
The Smart Moves plan was presented to transit committee before a public input gathering session.
One of the topics discussed in the meeting was the funding for a regional transit system. Previously, Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser has presented a funding mechanism through a three county tax of half cent for 15 years, which would raise $1.27 billion.
Another possible funding mechanism proposed was the implementation of up to a 1-cent tax through a county-based transit authority without a sunset date.
The committee expects the fares collected from passengers will only cover about 20 percent of the annual operating costs.
Funkhouser stressed to the committee that the plan should continue to include several forms of transit and not only bus.
“It needs to be light rail, street cars, commuter rail, and bus,” said Funkhouser. “Rail gives you density and development patterns that are sustainable for the future. This will shape what happens for generations.”
Funkhouser also said the system should be able to connect to a larger inter-city high speed rail system. According to Funkhouser, the federal government appropriated a larger amount of money for Amtrak this year than in previous years.
Several citizens expressed their support for a multi-modal regional system during the public input session.
The citizens stressed the importance of doing something quickly because of overcrowding on the current bus system.
There is no timeline for when the Smart Moves proposal may be placed as a ballot initiative.
A separate, but not competing proposal for a Kansas City-only light rail starter line will be on the ballot in November. This proposal for a 3/8-cent sales tax in Kansas City only would fund a 12-mile light rail starter line along the same route as outlined in the Smart Moves proposal.
The Kansas City proposal also includes a multi-modal system with buses connecting to the light rail line allowing transfers.
The line would also run through North Kansas City along Burlington and would require approval and cooperation with North Kansas City.
The ballot proposal includes a stipulation that the 3/8-cent sales tax be repealed if a regional transit system is approved later.