Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Jefferson City transit riders may face a potential fare increase in the next fiscal year.
At the Budget Committee meeting Tuesday, council members heard presentations on the transit and public works budget. Public Works Director Matt Morasch highlighted several aspects of the transit budget, including the proposed 50 cent fare increase. Currently, the fare for JeffTran riders is $1 and the fares have not been raised since 2007. Morasch specified that any fare increase would require public hearings before implementation.
The proposed increase is estimated to bring in an additional $30,000 of revenue to the transit division.
Morasch said the department also is working on how to accommodate service to the new St. Mary’s Health Center on Mission Drive within its existing service. Mayor Eric Struemph allocated $25,000 in his draft budget to allow for that addition. Morasch said it is a challenge and staff is continuing to work on how routes will be modified to add the new stop and keep their 40-minute headways.
“We’re thinking it may take three route modifications to do this,” Morasch said.
Moving into the overall Public Works Department, Morasch noted several positions that have been eliminated as well as issues with a continually aging fleet of vehicles that will need to be replaced.
Morasch said the engineering division has lost 75 percent of its design staff since last year and is down to one person. Two employees left last year when the city offered a separation incentive program and another position was eliminated after Morasch was promoted to department director from his former position as city engineer. The city eliminated the engineering supervisor position when David Bange, who previously held that title, moved to the city engineer position late last year.
But another long-term issue likely will be the department’s vehicles. Throughout his presentations Tuesday, Morasch continually spoke about the city’s deferred maintenance on vehicles and how, at some point, they will need to be replaced.
Operations Division Director Britt Smith said the street division alone has roughly $6 million worth of vehicles and $2.9 million of that is at or past its service life. He said it would require a $250,000 annual investment from the city to stabilize that life expectancy, without improvement, but it would take a $500,000 annual investment to improve the overall fleet to where city staff believe it should be.
“We know that money doesn’t just happen,” Smith said. “We don’t want to be on an unsustainable path.”
Council members took no action on the issue of the aging fleet, but did make two changes to the proposed budget. The council unanimously approved a motion to place $18,900 on the parking lot to fund a new global navigation satellite system in the engineering division. Morasch had described the item as their number one unfunded priority in that division, describing the system as a survey instrument.
Morasch said it’s a seven-year-old computer used daily for design and construction, as well as accident surveys for the Police Department. He said the system often fails to connect and will need to be replaced soon. Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner, who made the motion to fund the item, said the system often can take one or two hours to connect and, when the police need an accident site surveyed, that can cause delays in reopening highways.
“If we’re going to ask our staff to do more with less, this is one area where we need to give them more rather than less,” Scrivner said.”
The council also unanimously approved a motion to place funds for six pink sheet items of the wastewater division on the parking lot. Because the wastewater division is an enterprise fund, it is self-sufficient and all funds for new items would come from the division’s reserve fund, having no affect on the city’s general fund.
The wastewater division currently has more than $6 million in reserves. The items placed on the parking lot Tuesday were:Replacing sewers in the Woodward subdivision — cost of $120,000;
Pump replacement at the Westview Heights pump station — cost of $20,000;
Eliminating the Sharron Drive pump station — cost of $350,000;
Replacing blowers at the treatment plant — cost of $670,000;
Replacing a Jetter truck — cost of $250,000; and
Replacing the security lighting at the treatment plant — cost of $9,000.
The Budget Committee will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall and is expected to discuss the Planning and Protective Services Department, followed by all administrative sections of the budget.
Posted 09/09/2014 by Lenora Fisher
Senator McCaskill’s office just announced that TIGER Grants were approved for capital funding for the St. Louis CORTEX MetroLink station and CWE Station upgrades and MO River Bridge in Washington, MO. Approximately $10.3 million was awarded to the Cortex project specifically.
TIGER funds are highly competitive, federal grant monies for infrastructure projects. The funds are designated for major national and regional transportation projects that are difficult to pursue governmental funding for. This year, the DOT received 797 applications totaling $9.5 billion, 15 times the $600 million available. This is a momentous moment for transit, Metro, Missouri and the St. Louis region.
The TIGER award for the project was made possible by completion of the feasibility study Citizens for Modern Transit led earlier this year. In partnership with area stakeholders, the study represented a true public-private partnership that raised the local match to pay for the study and to team with Metro to manage the project and move it forward.
“As a transit advocacy organization, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work proactively and collaboratively with stakeholders in the region, Metro and others to complete the necessary feasibility study and move the process forward for an additional station on the MetroLink alignment. Congrats go to the stakeholders and Metro for ensuring St. Louis sees more MetroLink now in much nearer future. This is an opportunity for a true TOD in ST. Louis where residents can live, work and play on transit,” said Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.
The study was prompted by growth in the study area and the need to consider the merits of transit improvements requested by area stakeholders and to adhere to an FTA study process for making changes to Federal assets.
Of the projects funded, McCaskill said, “After seeing these projects firsthand earlier this year, I knew that new resources would mean more jobs and more economic opportunities for for our state-and that’s why I’m thrilled to make this announcement. These grants are competitive, and are awarded based on merit, so Missourians can be confident that these are worthy investments that will strengthen Missouri’s economy.”
BY MIKE HENDRICKS
THE KANSAS CITY STAR
08/15/2014 6:48 PM
Updated 08/15/2014 6:59 PM
The longtime general manager of Kansas City’s bus system has resigned at the outset of a plan to reorganize the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
Mark Huffer, whose resignation is effective next Friday, has headed The Metro since 2000.
He is leaving as the ATA board is trying to position itself as the metrowide coordinating body for transit, the role it was meant to fill when it was created a half century ago.
Huffer worked on the reorganization plan and said the timing was right for him to step aside.
“KCATA is well positioned for the future, and I have no doubt that it will continue to thrive,” he said in a statement.
During his tenure, Huffer modernized Kansas City’s bus system. He oversaw the addition of the two MAX bus rapid transit lines, added real-time passenger information and began converting the diesel fleet to compressed natural gas.
Huffer will be replaced on an interim basis by Sam Desue, the current vice president of operations and chief operating officer.
But the job of ATA general manager is being reconfigured. The ATA board plans to create a new chief executive officer position to oversee a reorganized transit authority with broader goals than running a single bus system.
In addition to overseeing operation of The Metro, the CEO would work toward blending The Metro with the area’s three other bus systems.
Johnson County; Kansas City, Kan.; and Independence all would continue to own their own bus systems, but under the plan they would coordinate more with the ATA than they do now. The aim, ATA officials said, is to increase that cooperation to the point that the average passenger would perceive it to be a single system.
The ATA also hopes to build closer ties with Kansas City’s streetcar authority.
“I’m really excited about the direction of the ATA,” said board chairman Robbie Makinen, who praised Huffer for his service.
Makinen, who represents Jackson County, and fellow board member Steve Klika from Johnson County have been pushing to reorganize the ATA for a couple of years. They see the ATA as the vehicle to unify the area’s transit systems and fill the many service gaps.
That was supposed to be its role when the ATA was created in 1965 by agreement between Missouri and Kansas to take the place of the private bus systems then operating. The bistate compact approved by Congress gives the ATA the power to plan, construct, own and operate public transportation systems in the seven-county metro area.
But although the compact gives the ATA broad authority to provide public transit services, it’s never had a dedicated source of local funding other than Kansas City taxpayers.
As such, other jurisdictions set up their own systems or dropped public transit entirely.
Under the new plan, the ATA will try to increase cooperative efforts beyond those that currently exist, which includes the ATA’s metrowide call center. The CEO would oversee divisions responsible for regional planning and development of public transportation, as well as service delivery, The Metro and four other support areas.
Makinen and Klika said key announcements are upcoming. For instance, the ATA and Johnson County are currently in discussions to take over the administrative responsibilities for The Jo bus system.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Klika said of the unified system he and Makinen envision. But it’s heading that way, they said.
To begin, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to you for supporting Amendment 7.
While we know Amendment 7 was the best option for Missourians, they have proved time and time again they dislike tax increases, and unfortunately this measure was no exception. We spent eight years traveling the state, talking to citizens, and working with lawmakers to formulate this solution, but the less than receptive attitude in combination with other tax policy changes this year were just too much to overcome. However, what we can all be proud of is the formation of one of the strongest coalitions in the state and a tremendous campaign against difficult odds. This hard work is reflected in the wide variety of supporters—groups who normally are at odds banded together to push for this measure joined forces for the betterment of our state.
Even though the measure did not pass, we feel tremendous steps were made in educating the public about the problems facing our transportation system. The funding crisis is not going to improve, it will only get worse, and we are not going to stop working to find a solution. We commend you all for working so diligently to educate friends, neighbors, and coworkers about the needs of our transportation infrastructure, and, hopefully, voters will be more receptive to the next proposal.
Looking to the future, we hope to be able to count on your support for the next transportation measure. After years of working to find the answer to transportation funding, we hope to soon find a solution that is both practical and passable.
Once again, we cannot fully express how thankful we are for the support you have offered our coalition during this campaign.
Bill McKenna and Rudy Farber
Paid for by Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs, Bill McKenna, Treasurer
From News Tribune staff and AP wire reports
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Missouri transportation officials warned Wednesday of a potential rise in traffic fatalities and bridge closures, after voters defeated a sales tax hike that would have funded hundreds of highway and transportation projects across the state.
The sales tax had been touted as a way to avoid an impending shortfall between Missouri’s needed road-and-bridge repairs and what it can afford to spend. The tax would have raised at least $540 million annually for 10 years.
Missouri has no alternative funding plan.
But a key lawmaker said Wednesday that he hopes to start a discussion next year about other ways to raise money for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Those could include higher vehicle registration fees, new fees for electric or hybrid vehicles, indexing the fuel tax to inflation or turning to private investors to build major road or bridge projects, said Rep. Dave Hinson, a Republican from St. Clair who sponsored the rejected sales tax proposal.
“We have to come up with an alternative way to raise revenues for MoDOT, because the funding issue is going to continue to get worse,” Hinson said.
The mood was subdued Wednesday at a meeting of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. It approved an annual update to its rolling five-year spending plan that included just 30 new projects instead of the hundreds that have been typical in recent years.
Although commissioners didn’t officially campaign for the sales tax hike, they had hoped it would pass.
“It is a disappointing, sad day, but we’re moving forward and we’re going to keep doing our business,” said MoDOT Director Dave Nichols.
The campaign against the sales tax took to its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon to thank those who helped them win.
“Thank you Missouri voters!” the brief note said. “Amendment 7 was rejected … receiving only about 41percent of the vote statewide.
“Voters in the St. Louis region were even less favorable to the tax increase, with only about 33 percent voting yes.”
Since the votes still have to be certified, they still are considered unofficial.
But of the 998,495 ballots cast on the issue, statewide, only 407,532 voters (40.82 percent) endorsed the proposed tax, while 590,963 (59.18 percent) rejected it.
The proposal won a majority of votes in only 21 counties, out of 116 voting authorities counting ballots (114 counties, plus the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City).
In Mid-Missouri, only Camden County had more yes votes than noes.
Nichols said the agency needs to spend at least $485 million annually just to keep roads and bridges in good repair, and that doesn’t account for any major new projects.
Without additional revenues, MoDOT won’t be able to improve the shoulders on thousands of miles of narrow two-lane roads, potentially leading to a rise in traffic fatalities that had been declining in recent years, said transportation officials. Fatalities on Missouri’s roads already are up 3 percent so far this year compared with last year.
Because of the funding gap, transportation officials said the department may also be forced close some of the state’s 814 worst bridges, resulting in inconveniently long detours for drivers.
It may take time before voters can see the need for more transportation funding, said Commission Chairman Stephen Miller.
“The public will, at some point and time, have to embrace some form of new funding,” Miller said. “When that is, what that funding is, we don’t know.”
In its Facebook post, the “No On 7 Committee” said: “We all look forward to continuing the conversation about Missouri’s actual transportation needs, while planning a transportation system that looks to the future and paying for it with an equitable revenue stream.”
Nichols and Miller declined to criticize Gov. Jay Nixon’s opposition to the proposed sales tax increase.
But state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, who helped carry the proposal through the Legislature this year, said in a statement Tuesday night: “As the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, it is my sincere desire that in the coming days Governor Nixon will begin to lead on this issue and will endeavor to find a solution to a problem that is not going away.”
People won’t see anything different in the near future, Nichols said.
“Our focus is going to be on keeping Missourians, and the people who travel on our transportation system, safe,” he said. “Our primary focus is maintaining the transportation system that we have in Missouri.”
But, he noted, Missouri still has the seventh largest highway system in the nation at 33,890 miles.
“And we’re 40th in funding — that hasn’t gone away and we still have that to deal with,” Nichols explained.