For immediate release
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Contact: Wayne Flaherty, KKTIK
An Analysis of the KC Star Regional Light Rail Proposal
In its second major transit article, the Star lays
out a plan linking routes serving
Missouri and Kansas to a Main Street Starter Line. A multi step analysis follows.
1. Cost Calculations: The $80 million/mile cost is based on past costs for light rail and steadily increasing construction costs. KC Star estimates of sales tax revenues $134 million per year would require 88 years to pay off the $11.8 billion debt assuming no interest at all. Adding a nominal 40% bonding costs drives the total payoff to $4.7 billion (interest) plus $11.8 billion (principal) for a grand total of $16.5 billion. That changes the 88 years to 123 years. Lest anyone doubt the $80 million figure, the Federal Transit Agency found the average light rail construction costs for 19 cities in the years 1999 thru 2000 to be $70 million per mile.
2. Current Costs: On November 02, 2007, a Los Angeles Times article reported the city was told their 8.6 mile Culver line could not be completed without another $145 million. The original estimate of $640 million put the cost at $74.4 million/mile. The increase drives the cost to $785 million or $91.2 million/mile. Construction costs rose at 11% per year instead of the predicted 3.5%. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for light rail projects &endash; underestimate the cost and overestimate the ridership. The cost of $50 million/mile currently being quoted by Kansas City light rail proponents has not been achieved in years.
3. Operating costs: Operating costs for the proposed KC regional system can be extrapolated from the highly praised Hiawatha line in Minneapolis. This one 11.6-mile light-rail line costs more than $20 million a year to operate.
Farebox revenues cover only about a third of that. Half the rest is paid by the state of Minnesota and most of the other half comes from Hennepin County property taxes. That places the operating cost at $1.7 million/mile per year. At that rate, the proposed KC regional light rail system would cost $252 million/year to operate or, put another way, the proposed 1Ú2 cent sales tax wouldn't even pay the operating costs, let alone the principal and interest on the bonds.
4. Inconsistencies: Some Kansas routes in the plan were measured to the spine, rather than to the state line. That extra distance is offset if you assign one half the cost of the airport line from the junction of highway 635 and I-29 to the airport. That way Missouri and Kansas pay their own costs and split the cost where the routes run together. These kinds of estimates are acceptable when discussing a proposal. A multi-year design is required to make even an educated guess at true costs.
All the above estimates omit one important factor &endash; ridership, a number described by the term boardings (the number of times a rider boards a public transit vehicle). The importance of this factor is best illustrated by local transit system figures:
While contributing 45% of the costs, Kansas would carry only 9% of the total public transit in the region. Even ridership increases bordering on miraculous, would never bring Kansas ridership to a point of equality with Missouri. While the need for better public transit is immediate and very real in local Missouri, it is but a futuristic dream in local Kansas. As one evaluates any regional transit plan, it is wise to keep in mind what you hope to achieve with that plan &endash; not some grandiose blue sky hope but a real, down to earth, measurable objective.
The Star plan has identified routes that seem most in need of good, reliable public transit service. A thorough examination of the feasibility, viability, and practicability of a single transit solution may prove it to be unworkable. If so, maybe the best idea is to ask each state to identify their transit goals and proposed solutions to those goals. If a state's plan is workable in that state, it can be readily merged across the state line with Documents of Understanding. There are only a few places where a regional transit system would connect anyway.
Alice Amrein of the JO and Marcia Bernard of the UG certainly know best what Kansas' transit needs are as does Mark Huffer at Missouri's KCATA. Each of them is better able to provide the cost/benefit figures for their systems that should drive the decisions of any public agency. It is far better to have neighbors discussing transit documents of understanding than squabbling over how to allocate some regional sales tax. The two states have different transit problems that require different solutions that only they can provide. Regional transit can become a reality using cooperation; we don't need the coercion of a regional sales tax. Don't take my word for it; analyze all the regional transit plans for yourself. Working independently and pooling our analyses we will identify the good and bad in any proposal.
Wayne Flaherty, Secretary
Keep Kansas Taxes in Kansas Committee
P. S. What about streetcars? First, fast streetcars and light rail streetcars do not exist. All streetcars generally have the same speed, size, and operating capability. The special streetcars referred to in Kansas City are for the purpose of getting the expensive light rail tracks to facilitate a conversion to actual light rail vehicles at some future date. Streetcars weighing only 50,000 pounds need only a one foot excavation for track installation. Light rail vehicles weighing 50 tons need an excavation of several feet. This difference in track installation costs is the major factor in making light rail cost from 3 to 4 times more than streetcar installation costs. The most expensive streetcar installation cost is currently under $25 million/mile, about one third that of light rail. The KC Star regional plan would still cost $3.7 billion total using only standard streetcars at $25 million/mile. Using the 1Ú2 cent sales tax, the no interest principal of $3.7 billion would take 27.6 years to pay off. Adding 40% bonding costs, the $5.2 billion principal plus interest would take 38 years. Operating costs for streetcars are slightly higher than for buses.
What about a multi-modal system? Using streetcars to feed a light rail line from the old Municipal Airport to KCI would allow both vehicles to utilize their best characteristics, speed for light rail and collection for streetcars. It would allow Wyandotte County access to Municipal without entering downtown KCMO traffic. Johnson County could use express buses to reach KCI until ridership increases enough to warrant hard rail transit.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
For immediate release
Contact: Citizens Transportation Committee,
Larry Thrasher, Chairman (816) 863 3689
The Citizens Transportation Committee recommends the KCATA Light Rail Task Force as the ideal group to study the sewer reconstruction project.
With the experience gained from months of investigation into light rail, and the knowledge that infrastructure repairs and light rail construction must proceed simultaneously, there is no more logical body to carry out this task.
Secure in the knowledge that the city will put light rail down Main Street, it makes sense to use a body already experienced in light rail matters. The combined "Light Rail and Sewer Task Force" would fall under the mantle of Councilman Ford who heads both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees ergo one leader, one task force.
A single body also facilitates communications with businesses along Main Street who will want to know how long they will be closed down while the city installs light rail. The Light Rail Task Force will know by now that light rail installation has bankrupted businesses who could not survive the loss of customers during construction. They will also know how light rail can be built without destroying businesses. (It is explained in the Federal Transit Authority Lesson # 33.) That same knowledge will aid in planning for the sewer reconstruction.
If ever there was one, this is truly a match made in heaven. It should be consummated immediately.
Tuesday, August 8, 2007
For immediate release
Contact: Citizens Transportation Committee
Chairman Larry Thrasher (816)-863-3689 or Secretary Wayne Flaherty ... (913)-831-2140
Light rail advocate Clay Chastains attitude reminds one of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The difference is that Dr. Jekylls problem was caused by chemicals while Mr. Chastain's is one of mindset. Mr. Chastain apparently believes that he, and only he, can use the initiative process. He apparently believes that voters are allowed to change their minds when, and only when, he says so.
Mr. Chastain resists any and all changes to his plan, claiming that the ballot represents the "will of the people." Strangely enough, no one who has examined his plan believes it can be built as the "will of the people" dictates. The plan has fatal flaws in funding, engineering, and political jurisdictions. Any kind of compromise plan would be a nightmare to gain acceptance amid threats of legal action.
The new petition is very clear and very simple. It just says, "Let's wipe the slate clean and start over." It won't satisfy Mr. Chastain's bruised ego but it will allow the voters of Kansas City, Missouri to establish the direction they want to go with their transit future. A short light rail starter line will take 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to implement while it completely disenfranchises citizens to the east. south, and north. To include all the citizens in the light rail dream will require billions of dollars over a span of 30 to 40 years. Perhaps there are other transit alternatives that would allow every citizen in the city to be a part of a transit plan without having to wait 30 years. The petition to rescind the Chastain light rail plan is the first step toward opening up a wider dialogue that includes an examination of all transit possibilities to better serve all Kansas City transit riders. Maybe Kansas Citys transit future should be decided after careful deliberation - by people who live here. The rescind petition is the start of that process.
* * *