There are a lot of reasons why I'm voting yes on the plan for light rail tomorrow. I think it's an important vote for the city, but not an end-all vote. However, unlike the misleading advertising by those who don't want the light rail plan, I feel like now is the perfect time for us to be moving forward.
1) Alternatives for transportation -- I'm a strong believer in providing multiple alternatives for people to move about the city. Light rail is yet another option -- and it will bring new riders into public transit.
2) Democratic Power in Washington -- it is very likely that Barack Obama will be voted in as President tomorrow, along with a couple of dozen other House and Senate seats going to the Democrats, giving them a strong majority in both houses. With the Democrats being more in favor of energy efficient transportation options, there will be no greater time to get Federal dollars than over the next 2-4 years.
3) Kansas City Needs this -- not just in the "keeping up with the Jones" kind of way (although there's that too). We are badly in need of routes that will move people from the urban core to the jobs in other parts of the metro. In leiu of adequate bus service -- particularly in our suburbs -- a regional light rail plan would fit the bill nicely. 6 of the 20 top zip cods for jobs in this city lie either directly along the most likely connector rail line that would come in from Johnson County -- with another 3 major job hubs being easily connected with circulator bus routes in those areas. We must find a way to open up those jobs to the large percentage of urban Kansas Citians that don't have access to them because they don't own cars. While this plan is not a regional rail plan, a truly regional rail plan that includes the Kansas side of the state line is unlikely in the same tax vote. Kansas City, MO dedicating itself to the starter route (and the eventual regional route on the Missouri side) is the best way to put pressure on the Kansas side of the line to develop their commuter rail line.
4) Urban development -- rail will move more people more efficiently than buses can (once the line is up and going) -- which will (and has everywhere) spurred density growth along the rail routes. The replacement of surface parking lots in exchange for urban development and population density will be great for the city, and will bring a population tax base into the city that can then help the city pay for other services (like those pesky sewers).
5) Rising Gas prices - - now that gas prices have fallen below $2 a gallon,it is easy to forget that the price of gasoline continues to go up. (click on the 6 year map to see the trend). The government has allowed prices to drop following the collapse of our credit flow in this country -- and leading into the election -- to improve consumer confidence. However, it is undeniable that the trend in gasoline prices is up. And will continue that way for the next 5-10 years. Having this ready to go in 5 -7 years will be important, vs waiting for the gas price crunch to get us.
6) Rising demand for public transit -- With the higher gas prices, more people moving to the urban core, and a greater emphasis on our environment, there is a greater demand now for public transit. Bus ridership is up to a level not seen in decades. Amtrak has seen it's numbers go up 30% on the year. There is no reason to believe this trend, which is taking place across the US, will go down any time soon.
Is the plan perfect? No. Not in my mind. But it's a good, workable start -- that will give other areas in the metro confidence that we are moving forward as a city and that they will be left behind if they don't participate. It's a good plan. And the timing is right to move forward. Let's get on board.