Erin Davis Pech 
Member since Mar 17, 2013


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Re: “Kansas City streetcar lawsuit dismissed

I think that the only public transportation idea that would help us significantly into the future would be express rail lines along the I-35, I-70, I-29 and 71 Hwy corridors, along with commuter parking lots near the stations. The immediate vicinity of Downtown doesn't need any stations (no one who only has a 10-minute commute will switch out of their cars). In the suburbs, big companies such as Sprint or Cerner need to be signed up for shuttles connecting the stations to their campuses so that commuters from Downtown don't even need cars.

Chicago has had the very successful Metra commuter rail system for thirty years now. It's the second-busiest in the country by number of riders. I think that Kansas City won't be able to convince drivers to switch unless they're stuck in traffic and see the trains zip by every morning and afternoon. Last year was the first year that the JO commuter buses were allowed to drive on the shoulder of the interstate when the lanes are backed up. Ridership on the South OP/Downtown line increased 31.6% from 2011 to 2012, and I bet that the increased shoulder usage had much to do with it. The JO line with the most on-shoulder miles, the Gardner/OP line, saw 16.4% growth last year.

A comprehensive commuter rail system would cost a fortune, but I think that we quickly forget the cost of upgrading our existing highways. Grandview Triangle $300m, 435/69 interchange $500m, 69 south of 435 another $500m - just those projects could have probably paid for a couple of rail lines and stations. I-35 would be the best target and already has a rail line running along it all the way from Gardner to Union Station.

The Midtown/Downtown streetcar line is extremely expensive because of all the infrastructure that's in the way, and I really don't think that the cost will ever get offset by its benefits. However, it may serve to remind us that Kansas City once had one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the nation. Cable-car and streetcar lines crisscrossed our urban area until long after cars had become a general household item and didn't meet their demise until the federal highway system allowed the suburbs to absorb all the urban growth.

The only way to get back into competition with the car is to offer the same (and even more) convenience. No one in the suburbs will ever walk out of their front door to jog 15 minutes to the nearest train station, nor would it ever be possible to put a station within 15 minutes walking distance of even 50% of suburbanites. Thus the concept of commuter parking lots would be crucial to the success of rail lines.

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Erin Davis Pech on 03/17/2013 at 3:08 PM

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