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Old 09-29-2011, 02:34 PM
Location: Washington, DC area
10,705 posts, read 18,498,983 times
Reputation: 5415


While I think that KC needs improved transit big time, the current plan of commuter rail has always bothered me as something that is just not going to work. The downtown street cars will be awesome, especially if they are expanded to the plaza quickly. The downtown/plaza corridor needs better transit and the rest of the city could use better bus lines like existing max lines.

But this plan for commuter rail in Jackson County? I'm just not so sure. While I have worked in the urban planning and transit industry for 10 plus years and have personally been involved in most of the transit projects and proposals in metro KC, I think my experience of actually using transit in KC and around the country has even more merit.

I grew up riding metro buses in KC and for six years, I took the Blue Springs Express (2-3 days a week) after I moved away from the core.

Taking the Blue Springs Express took about 5-10 minutes longer than driving. The drive from Blue Springs to Downtown is not congested. People drive slow and stupid, but it's not because of volume, it's just bad driving and those bad drivers crashing into each other which does cause congestion. (I used to see more crashes in a week on I-70 in KC than I do in a month in DC on a drive twice as long and on freeways that carry 3-4 times the traffic at ten times the density).

Basically unless there is a big crash (probably caused by somebody getting on I-70 going 35mph or somebody on a cell phone or both), there was almost no delay and even with a major crash, delays were minimal because the surface streets in KC were wide open options. Here in DC, the surface streets are worse than the freeways, no matter how bad the freeways get.

So why would people want to get out of their cars and take a train that will make their commute take 2-3 times as long? I could leave my home in Blue Springs and be downtown in my office in 30 minutes max, usually 20. If I drove to the park and ride and caught a bus, it would take under 45 minutes and as little as 30 so long as a bus came pretty quickly. The bus dropped me off at my office.

Now think about a train. I would now need to drive into blue springs (vs the highway park and ride), then park and wait for a train. From my experience in DC, this alone could add 5-10 minutes because you generally park further away and trains take longer to load.

Now the train leaves and rather than getting on relatively uncongested I-70 in a straight shot to downtown, it meanders and zig zags around Jackson County's undeveloped freight rail corridors (serving no built up commercial areas) till it reaches a point in east KC where it jumps into traffic on surface streets and slows down even more. Then about 60-90 minutes after I walked out of my door, I'm at union station, a mile or more from my office. So I walk the five minutes to a bus or street car stop and wait 5-10 more minutes for a bus to arrive and take one of those for a 5-10 minute ride that may or may not get me as close to my office as the good old commuter bus did in 35 minutes. And guess what? It cost me twice as much to take a train!

KC really needs to stop trying to use its under used freight tracks for transit and start using its under used highway system for a fleet of modern commuter buses and park and ride facilities that could compliment bus rapid transit and street cars in the urban core. The city would move ten times the people at one tenth the cost in half the time.

I would bet anything though that at least half the existing blue springs express riders would probably go back to driving if their buses went away due to the trains replacing them.

Just my thoughts on this.

Last edited by kcmo; 09-29-2011 at 02:54 PM..
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