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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

KC Voters Approve Light-Rail

One of the most surprising upsets in city election history was when voters passed Clay Chastain's plan for light rail transit.

Voters- by a 53 to 47-percent margin- said they want a national-class transportation system that includes rapid-transit light rail as well as busses.

Kansas City council members threatened before November 7th that they may well reject this plan should it pass. It has passed and I think these councilpersons- many up for election soon- better rethink rejecting the citizen's voice on this matter.

A plan should be now be developed and implimented that INCLUDES a light-rail hub system utilizing the under-used Union Station.

The Union Station used to be a transportation hub. Look at a big map of Metro Kansas City and it's location is virtually right in the center.

In that vein, I have long wondered why a rapid-transit rail line was not first at least strongly considered between the Truman Sports Complex and the Union Station. It would surely be viable from a usage standpoint.

During weekdays- the line could serve commuters working downtown. A rapid-transit station built on a corner of the stadium complex would provide drop-off and park & ride facilities.
This could take untold numbers of vehicles off I-70. Busses then could run frequent shuttles from the Union Station to points Downtown.

During game days- travel from the Union Station hub TO the stadiums would benefit residents & tourists alike - the Amtrak station is already at Union Station plus the nearby hotels.
The growing Warehouse District is just over the recently installed pedestrian bridge at Union Station and Sprint Center and the Loop's entertainment district just a mile north.

Future plans could be made to extend the stadium line east toward Blue Springs or southeast along existing railroad right-of-way into Lee's Summit.

Additional rapid-transit lines could eventually be built south along the Broadway/Brookside/Wornall corridor, southwest into Johnson County and north across the Missouri River - which could be smartly planned into the new Paseo bridge and west into Kansas City, Kansas with possibly another park and ride station at the Kansas Speedway.

The north line could be extended to KC International airport as funding and population trends dictated.

Voters could accept some vision as that described above as a logical modification of Clay Chastain's actual plan. The initial Sports Complex line can be done with the approved 5/8-cent extention even with minimal state & federal help and serve a considerable potential ridership i.e. most likely to pay for itself over time.

If we aspire to become a world-class city we must first become a livable, national-class city. A multi-modal, efficient transportation system plays a large part of that equasion.

Kansas City voters have said at the polls and are willing to fund from their pockets we are ready for that national-class rapid transit system.

Kansas City politicians should heed this mandate- as well the mood of the voters in this election.