May 24, 2011

Sherri McIntyre, Kansas City, Mo., Assistant City Manager for Infrastructure,, 816/513-1408

Tom Gerend, Mid-America Regional Council Assistant Transportation Director,, 816/701-8303

Dick Jarrold, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority Senior Director of System Development and Engineering,, 816/346-0356

Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis underway

A planning effort is underway — to be concluded at the end of this year — that will take Kansas City one step closer to realizing a possible starter line for an expanded regional public transportation system. Funded by a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant, the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis will identify the locally preferred alternative for a downtown fixed-transit solution, and a viable plan to fund the construction, operation and maintenance of the line as a first step in the implementation process.

This Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis focuses on transit options in a narrow two-mile corridor running from the River Market on the north, through the Central Business District and the Crossroads areas to Union Station and Crown Center on the south. This study area was approved by Kansas City Council resolution for the FTA grant application, as a corridor that will better connect our major activity and employment centers, and elevate the quality and functioning of our regional transit system.

The result of this study will be a starter line for Kansas City's future expanded regional transit system. Previous study efforts have been conducted that examine the feasibility of downtown transit services, but those studies did not succeed in securing voter approval for picking a single starter project or a feasible financial plan to pay for capital, operations, and maintenance. The study team is comprised of representatives from the city of Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City Area Transportation Authority; Mid-America Regional Council (MARC); and Jackson County, Mo. The analysis will build on previous efforts, MARC's regional Smart Moves transit plan and ongoing commuter rail projects, and will ultimately select both the type of transit for downtown, as well as the route it should follow.

The recent renaissance occurring in Downtown Kansas City will serve to maximize the opportunities for success of a downtown fixed-transit solution — "going downtown" is once again becoming a major event like it was in the early 20th century, where people can go to work, go to dinner, see a show, or experience any number of Kansas City's tourist draws. The alternatives analysis will compare modern streetcars to an expanded bus service/bus rapid transit and no-build alternatives, leading to the identification of the locally preferred alternative.

Kansas City has a historical tie to the streetcar system, with streetcar operations beginning in the late 1800s through the 1950s. Walking along the sidewalks of downtown Kansas City you can still find remnants of embedded rail. As downtown fixed-transit solutions, streetcars serve to promote density and intensity of uses, making them particularly effective tools to spur economic development, link jobs with daily activities and destinations, and create quality places. Streetcars are about fueling economic growth while providing transportation choice, whereas buses typically satisfy transportation needs but are not as effective at attracting developers who want to build along a permanent transit corridor. Streetcars do not work everywhere, of course, and the alternatives analysis will study how streetcars could interact with Kansas City's existing bus service and future commuter-rail opportunities.

The preferred alternative will be financed by sources other than the existing dedicated transit sales taxes, and without sacrificing existing transit services. An important component of the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis is the development of a reasonable capital and operations financing plan that will be used to secure funding to implement the locallys prefered alternatives, and may potentially be used to apply for federal funds through New Starts, Small Starts or other federal programs. Creative leveraging of private funding options, public/private partnership options, and federal grant funding opportunities will be explored. Ultimately, the preferred financing strategy will be one with great local support — voted on not through a city-wide initiative, but by targeted partners willing to invest in strengthening the downtown Kansas City economy through this project.

The consultant team for the study is led by HDR, and supported by Nelson/Nygaard; Polsinelli Shughart; Patti Banks Associates; HG Consult, Inc; Burns & McDonnell; and Architectural and Historical Research. The project schedule is aggressive, beginning in April 2011 and concluding with the final report in January 2012. Because of the diverse target audiences who will be participating in the planning process, the study team will work diligently to engage many stakeholder groups and the general public in order to obtain their input at key project milestones.

Everyone will have an opportunity to be informed and weigh in:

As project updates and upcoming meetings are announced, we will be contacting our stakeholders and public through a series of outreach methods. Please bookmark MARC's Smart Moves website at for materials and updates on the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis, as well as other regional studies.

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