Friday, November 15, 2013

Mike Sanders gets back to talking mass transportation in Kansas City area

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Mike Sanders is back into transit.
click to enlarge Mike Sanders talks to reporters after delivering the State of Jackson County speech.
  • Mike Sanders talks to reporters after delivering the State of Jackson County speech.

Fresh off a bruising defeat for the translational medical research tax, the Jackson County executive gave his annual state of the county address, ending it by renewing a call for mass transit in the region.

"The millennial generation feel empowered more than ever by iPhones than their cars," Sanders told a crowd of about 300 at Union Station on Friday. "Less than half of 17-year-olds nationwide are even seeking a driver's license."

Before transit enthusiasts get too excited, Sanders was short on specifics. Sanders was dealt a setback earlier this year when his commuter rail project ran into opposition from the railroads. 

He had little in the way of definitive timelines, details or updates on the development of his transit project.

"We continue to have very productive conversations that continue to this day with our railroad partners," Sanders told reporters after his speech. 

The main new development was the completion of a capacity study by the Mid-America Regional Council on the commuter rail proposal.

But otherwise, Sanders didn't offer much about how it would be paid for and when new developments might be revealed.

"We expect some exciting developments in the near future," Sanders said, without elucidating on what "near future" meant.

In the past, he was anticipated to ask for up to a one-cent sales-tax increase to fund the $500 million or so transit project. A big question is whether voters are suffering sales-tax fatigue. The Jackson County translational medical research tax suffered a crushing defeat on November 5, losing 84-16 against a half-cent sales-tax hike. Sanders was an early advocate for the tax.

But transit and research are two far different things. Voters are more keen on approving sales taxes for tangible public improvements rather than speculative research bets for private institutions.

Sanders didn't address financing transit improvements, saying that was way down the line.

"We're not going to talk about financing at this point," Sanders said to reporters. "That's not in the cards."

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