Kansas City (Southtown LRT)

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Southtown Corridor

Kansas City, Missouri

(November 1996)

Description The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) is proposing a 15.2-mile light rail transit (LRT) project in the Southtown Corridor. The project would extend from the riverfront and downtown Kansas City south to the Country Club Plaza and to 85th Street and Holmes Road. The project also includes an eastern line from the Country Club Plaza to Watkins Drive and south to 75th Street. KCATA proposes to build the project in phases. The starter project is 5.6 miles in length and runs from the River Market to 51st Street at the southern edge of the Plaza. It is estimated to cost $200 million (1994 dollars) and would carry 10,800 riders per day in 2010. The full 15.2-mile system is estimated to cost $450 million (1994 dollars) and would carry 16,800 riders per day in 2010.


Section 3035(k) of ISTEA directed FTA to enter into a multiyear grant agreement in the amount of $5.9 million with KCATA to provide for the completion of alternatives analysis and preliminary engineering. Through FY 1997, Congress has appropriated $4.48 million (of which $0.46 million was rescinded in FY 1995). Of that amount, $1.04 million has been obligated.

In December 1994, the KCATA Board of Commissioners selected the Southtown Corridor LRT as the locally preferred alternative. The Alternatives Analysis/Major Investment Study (MIS) was completed during 1995. The project is included in the Mid-America Regional Council of Governments (the MPO) adopted long range transportation plan.

In October 1995, FTA approved the initiation of preliminary engineering on the 5.6 mile starter project. Draft and Final EISs will be produced and the financial plan will be refined during preliminary engineering which is scheduled for completion in 1998.

Justification Mobility Improvements. KCATA estimates that the 15.2-mile route will increase total transit trips (bus and rail) by 8,100 per day. The preferred alternative is projected to save 420 hours of travel time per day in the year 2010.

Cost Effectiveness. The cost-effectiveness index for the 15.2-mile system is $15 per new rider. For the starter project, the index is $12 per new rider.
Environmental Benefits. Kansas City is a "maintenance" area for ozone and carbon monoxide. The project is expected to have some modest, positive impact on emissions.

Operating Efficiencies. Based on 20-year projected ridership and operating costs, the systemwide operating cost for the TSM alternative would be $2.37 per passenger, $2.54 per passenger for the preferred LRT alternative and $2.92 per passenger for the starter project.


KCATA considered several financing scenarios in the MIS, ranging from a 50 to 80 percent Section 5309 New Start share. The remaining funds would be derived through a new, yet to be determined, local or statewide funding source. KCATA has been working with the Missouri Legislature and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department in an attempt to develop a state-supported permanent funding source for transit capital and operating costs. An increase in the state sales tax is one proposal.

The ratings of capital financing commitment and operating revenues are based on the most recent information available to FTA. The capital finance plan is rated "low-medium." While KCATA has a general financing strategy, a specific funding source has not yet been identified. The financial feasibility of the project depends on the creation of a new funding source that is adequate to meet capital and operating funding needs. A state program along the lines of those being pursued could be sufficient to fund the $200 million starter project even with a 50 percent Federal share.

The stability and reliability of operating assistance are rated "low-medium." One-half cent of the general sales tax in the City of Kansas City, Missouri, is reserved for transportation and currently represents the largest source of funding assistance to KCATA for the existing bus system. This source is keeping pace with inflation, but KCATA has found it necessary to reduce service levels. Additional funding sources not yet identified or in place will be needed to support the expanded operations associated with the LRT line. In 1994, KCATA's bus fleet averaged 7.5 years old, which is better than the national average.


Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)
Section 5309 New Start $360.00 ($4.02 million appropriated through FY 1997)
Local: 90.00
TOTAL $450.00
NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions.

Other Factors Assessment of Land Use Policies and Conditions: This project was among those in the FTA Office of Planning's pilot assessment of land use and conditions (as a pilot for evaluation and rating of transit-supportive land use policies as a new start criteria, beginning in FY 1999). This pilot application is described earlier in this report. The Southtown corridor includes the highest densities and greatest number of activity centers within the Kansas City metropolitan area, including the CBD, the Crown Center and Country Club Plaza. Currently, there are no specific policies or plans in place related to transit supportive development within the proposed light rail corridor. In recognition of the need for such policies and plans, a Light Rail Transit Development Corridors Analysis has been completed, and has recommended a series of public policies and actions to support transit-oriented development within the corridor.