Proposed policy change for KC transit projects

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 16:15:52-04

City leaders are putting together a framework for future transit projects in the metro that may make it easier to get federal funding for them.

Planners are working on the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policy because fewer people in Kansas City are driving, and more people are using public transportation.

"It seems like, as a city and a region, we are making bigger investments in transit," explained city planner Gerald Williams.

The TOD policy would be applied to transit projects and put a focus on economic development, accessibility and standards for things like parking and sidewalks tied to the plans.

"As the transit network develops, this is a guide for how developments should occur along that transit corridor," said Williams.

The future of KC's public transportation

City leaders are working on this policy as multiple major projects across the metro continue to take shape.

In Jackson County, planners are making strides on developments tied to the Rock Island Corridor project. Rail service to and from the Truman Sports Complex is one of the options tied to the project.

In Kansas City, a project bringing rapid bus transit to Prospect Avenue is continuing to develop.

Also, with the streetcar continuing to gain popularity as a way to get around the city, developers may explore expanding the service to areas like the Plaza.

City leaders said getting federal funding for these projects could be made easier by having a TOD policy to present to planners.

"This is the kind of planning that needs to happen along those corridors to help ensure the success of those transit investments," Williams said.

Groups like BikeWalkKC have endorsed the TOD policy.

Community planning manager Thomas Morefield explained that the plan could help grow the metro area and lead to more walkable neighborhoods.

"For me, as a downtown resident, I'll see real impacts in terms of quality of life and quality of infrastructure of the streets I walk up and down," he said.

Morefield added that with more major transit projects possibly on the horizon, a TOD policy could help lead Kansas City into a new era for public transportation.

"[The TOD policy] really sets the tone for a Kansas City that works better for all transit users," he explained.

TOD could be most important for disabled Kansas Citians

Greater investment in Kansas City's public transportation could also help an underserved and often-overlooked group: people with physical disabilities that make it unsafe or impossible for them to drive cars of their own. 

“It's all about cars in this city, and we have a lot of people who are transit dependent,” said Sheila Styrom.

Styrom, who relies on her guide dog, Paxton, as well as the MAX bus line to get around town, would know: she’s sight impaired and works at The Whole Person, an organization that helps people with disabilities.

“I hope this ordinance passes and that it's the first in a series of steps to make this city a more connected, accessible, higher quality of living environment for everybody, whether they take buses or drive cars,” she said.

City council breaks it down

The city council met Thursday morning to discuss the ongoing project. 

Approving the TOD plan would make it easier for Kansas City to apply and qualify for federal dollars to improve transit. While most attendees supported the move, Councilwoman Heather Hall did have concerns over the project's scope.

“It sounds like there's a whole lot of elements listed in this plan, whether it's the bike/walk, trails, bus stops, bus routes and then the street car,” said Hall. “To me, it seems like there's a whole lot of components. I'm wondering if all those components need their own special treatment because there are a lot of different things that happen in different parts of the city and each of these we need to address.”

The City decided not to vote today. Instead, members will go over all the documents and report their findings back to their constituents who will weigh in with their own opinions. The city will meet at City Hall in the next couple of weeks to move the TOD forward.


Tom Dempsey can be reached at

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