Citizens give input on future transportation option

Citizens at an open house Tuesday learned and gave input on the future of mass transit in Jackson County and Kansas City.

Of key interest to Midtown residents is what happens along the U.S. 71 corridor. Commuter rail along it from the River Market area to Grandview is one of three commuter routes under consideration and planners are still evaluating options for that corridor.

Bus rapid transit along Prospect Avenue and U.S. 71 is one option, and that is likely to be done no matter what, experts said, possibly with construction of elaborate transfer stations.

Other options besides commuter rail on existing track are to do nothing or to just follow city plans for regular bus service there.

City Councilman John Sharp, who attended the gathering at the River Market, said he favored a combination of upgraded bus service with the commuter rail line.

“If we can get this we can bring back the Bannister mall area,” he said.

Just bus lines with elaborate transfer stations can’t do it alone, he said. “You can spur a little development around that hub but with a rail line, you’ve got development all along the route.”

The meeting was the latest step in a comprehensive effort called Smart Moves to expand and enhance transit services like commuter rail, buses and trails.

Draft proposals are already in place for two other commuter rail routes. One would go from the River Market along the I-70 corridor linking cities all the way to Odessa.  The other would go from River Market roughly along 350 Highway to Pleasant Hill and could someday connect to the Katy trail.

County officials hope to have a proposal ready for voters next summer for a 1-cent sales tax they say could pay for all of the transit improvements over time.

But the ongoing vote on Kansas City’s proposed two-mile streetcar system is also important to the county effort.

All the county rail projects would supposedly dump commuters and others at the River Market, where people would need the streetcars and buses to take them the rest of the way to their destinations.

The streetcar voting system is unusual, with ballots due back by Dec. 11 from fewer than 700 registered voters in the streetcar district. They must decide whether to approve property and sales tax increases to pay the local cost of the $100 million city streetcar system.

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