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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Light Rail

Saturday, December 30, 2006

In November NPH punched "yes" on his ballot when asked if his city ought to build a massive light rail line. We had been asked this question in this city at least twice before and answered the same both times: yes. But the "no's" always seem to outnumber the "yes's" where we live, and so the question kept having to be asked.

This time it was asked like this:


In order to provide for the people of Kansas City a pioneering urban rail passenger system, constituting the foundation of a future regional transit system, offering not only increased energy-efficiency, comfort, mobility, transportation savings, and convenience, but also a greener, cleaner, safer environment, a stronger economy, and a means to help America reduce its dependence on imported oil; shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri extend the current three-eighths (3/8) cent transportation sales tax, due to expire on March 31, 2009, for 25 years, beginning April 1, 2009 and ending March 31, 2034, with said tax to be used solely to fund the construction, operation, maintenance, and beautification of the following transportation improvements under the auspices of the Kansas City, Missouri City Council:

This time, to everyone's surprise, the "yes's" carried the day. An unusually large light rail starter line was approved by the citizenry, with an assumption of federal matching funds that is questionable at best and a city administration positively annoyed by the occurance. Right away there was talk that the city would have to overrule the voter's choice because the plan is unrealistic (the city has since backed away from that talk).

Well, things are going to start moving on this thing, and NPH is tickled. There's something in this blogger's soul that delights in being a part of something as dreamy and in-the-clouds as this, if only for the reason that the prevailing pragmatism of our age has bred a certain skepticism and sluggishness that we feel compelled to avoid. We understand the very real possibility that this thing never gets off the ground, or that it gets off the ground and then comes to a screeching halt. But for now, we're glowing in the fact that the yes's finally beat the no's, and we're reading this light rail blog regularly to keep up with the train.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:07 AM


Here's what I've learned about putting a mass transit system into a pre-existing city, it's gonna take time and it's gonna be a pain.

Denver had our little one track system that took people, in a straight line, roughly from the South end of town to the North end for quite a few years before they decided maybe, just maybe people would like to go other places. So they added a whole new line that runs much closer to my house and stops right outside my office and connects a major industrial area with the rest of the city. This is nice. It took 7 years for them to build and the construction was not exactly transparent to the average highway user. They say that in another 10 years they'll have a line that goes to the airport and one that goes out of the city of Denver and into neighboring towns. So in roughly 2 decades total time they should have the solid skeleton of a useful system.

I've spent a fair amount of time contemplating the point of it all and what I've come up with are two things. 1) for a mass transit system to be functional it has to connect at least one major airport with at least one major tourist destination AND one major industrial center in the area. The bright side is once you do that things like connecting major housing areas with major entertainment districts often comes along for free. And 2) it's gonna take time. Time to build for sure. But even more interesting to me is the time it takes for people to learn to use a mass transit system. If you've become accustomed to taking your car door to door everywhere you go, it seems unfathomable that you walk 3 or 4 blocks from a light rail stop to work or back. But when you think about some of the great US mass transit systems like the BART or the NYC subway or the Metro in DC there is plenty of walking involved to get to and from stops. It’s how it works people; it can’t take everyone right to their front door! I will say one thing for certain, getting a new mass transit system makes your town feel sexy!
commented by Blogger Ryan, 3:31 PM  

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