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.
The 2014 Annual Education and Training Forum in St. Louis from August 3-5, was a tremendous success! Conference attendees had beautiful weather for the event. MPTA offered a host of excellent programs and tours. Following are just a few of the highlights from the Forum!
A small cadre of attendees participated in tour of the St. Louis MetroLink operations. We heard from Ray Friem, Metro’s Operations Manager about the history of the MetroLink, resources for maintenance and how Metro had been able to increase mileage and service from its service vehicles. Participants were provided an opportunity first hand to see how the communications center operated, viewing live footage from the safety and security cameras, MetroLink stations and the bus routes. It was a great tour followed by a return ride to the hotel with enthusiastic Cardinals fans after a win at the ball park!
In photo: Ray Friem, Operations Manager, Metro St. Louis and Robert Frazier,, HDR Engineering
Attendees then gathered for the welcome reception on Sunday evening, where members were able to network and plan which sessions to attend during the coming days. John Nations, CEO/President of Bi-State Development Agency/Metro St. Louis welcomed attendees to St. Louis, inviting Jim Pettit from the Convention and Visitors Commission to make remarks. The event set the stage for an inviting and productive conference.
In photo: John Nations, CEO/President, Metro St. Louis
In Photo: Jim Pettit, St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission
The Missouri Public Transit Association especially would like to provide recognition and acknowledgement to Pam Buschjost, MPTA Finance Director, and Mary Gordon, MPTA Program Director, who coordinated the conference with the wonderful assistance of Metro St. Louis staff, Dianne Williams, Vice President of Marketing and Communication and Patti Beck, Director of Communications, Bi-State Development Agency/Metro St. Louis.
In photo: Pam Buschjost and Mary Gordon, enjoying visits with members at the MPTA Welcome Reception.
Monday morning’s welcoming remarks were provided by Mr. Nations, who also welcomed St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley to make remarks. Mr. Dooley was followed by Eddie Roth from St. Louis Mayor Slay’s office.
In photo: John Nations, CEO/President Metro St. Louis, welcoming attending and making introductions.
In photo: St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley making remarks to MPTA attendees, commending the audience for the work they do in public transportation.
In photo: Eddie Roth, Department Chief of Staffmaking attendees welcome to St. Louis and commending the transit industry for all they do and commenting on the excellence of the transit service in St. Louis.
Following the morning welcome, MPTA President, Tom Mogelnicki, Executive Director of the Cape County Transit Authority, introduced keynote speaker Kathleen Passanisi. Formerly from the St. Louis area, Kathleen was delighted to be back to present at MPTA’s conference. Kathleen had the room roaring with laughter as she helped all of us in attendance understand life balance, both from the scientific perspective, but also from an individual perspective. Having personally participated in the session, I had many take-aways and will certainly be increasing my “smile” to engender the same spirit in others around me! Thank you for a superb keynote, Ms. Passanisi!
In photo: Tom Mogelnicki, MPTA President
In photo: Kathleen Passanisi effectively engaging the MPTA audience.
As the conference progressed, we moved to more transit specific topics. We were thrilled to have an opportunity to hear from Mr. Richard Steinmann, Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC, discuss GROW AMERICA and to answer questions about federal policy and Congressional activities presently underway relative to public transportation.
In photo: Mr. Richard Steinmann, Federal Transit Administration Headquarters
Following the general session, MPTA members had time to visit the Vendor and Bus Expo. MPTA vendors had four busses on display on St. Charles Street, just outside the hotel side entrance. Thank you our bus vendors for providing MPTA participants the opportunity to examine busses first hand. At this time we also want to thank our three conference sponsors:
Sponsors are wonderful supports of public transportation and MPTA. The conference would not be what it is without sponsorships and vendor participation. To all our vendors who exhibited at conference, we extend a warm Thank You and ask that you hold August 9-10 for the MPTA 2015 conference that will be held at the Lake of the Ozarks, with the facility yet to be determined. Also be looking for information about the Transit Midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska) conference that will be held in Kansas City in 2016!
Please come back to this site for new postings about conference in the days to come. This is just a snapshot of some of the early events. More to come….
For the first time in Missouri’s history, there is a proposed State constitutional amendment which will provide dedicated state funding for public transit. Right now, each year, public transit advocates and providers of transit fight to preserve a little more than $1 million in funding for more than 30 transit providers in the state. Missouri’s transit supporters and riders deserve to have more of their tax revenue used for public transportation.
On August 5, Missouri voters will have the chance to fix this inequality. We can help support Missouri’s transit and transportation needs, including bicycling, walking, bus and rail service. If Amendment 7 passes, three-fourths of a one percent increase in Missouri’s sales tax will be dedicated to improving each region’s transportation projects, including TRANSIT.
Amendment 7 will allow communities to direct their tax-payer funds to local priorities. In many localities, this added revenue will provide increased options such as public transit for Missourians who don’t drive or don’t have access to a car. Here are some of the potential projects that would be funded here in our community:
• New MetroLink station added to current system
• Funding towards the St Louis Streetcar system
• Bus rapid transit from downtown St. Louis to I-270 along West Florissant and Natural Bridge Road
• Bus rapid transit from downtown to Chesterfield via I-64
• Light rail expansion studies – St. Louis City and County
• Infrastructure improvements at bus stops in St. Louis City and County
• MetroLink station upgrades at both the Delmar and Forest Park-DeBaliviere stations
• Enhanced passenger rail service to Kirkwood Amtrak station
Amendment 7’s list of priority projects includes more than $800 million in transit and Amtrak projects over the next ten years when combined with matching funds from regional sources. This is a game changer for transit in Missouri, and many organizations such as the MO Public Transit Association, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the Regional Business Council, and Civic Progress have all endorsed Amendment 7.
Studies indicate strong support among various age groups for public transit, especially people aged 18-35, older adults, and immigrant populations. In addition, additional transit options increase access for our lower income households and disabled citizens.
Funds dedicated to the projects identified in Amendment 7 cannot be diverted by current or future politicians to non-transportation projects. The St. Louis region’s dedicated revenue will be distributed to the MO Department of Transportation and to Metro for support of identified transit needs. Metro will be responsible for transit projects and MoDOT will provide oversight and ensure that all regional projects are completed within the 10- year timeframe.
Goods including groceries, prescriptions drugs and utilities are exempt from this tax. In addition, this tax would allow Missouri to significantly increase funding to public transit in rural and urban areas, an option that is not allowed under the current Missouri gas tax.
Citizens for Modern Transit endorses Amendment 7 for public transit. It provides a dedicated source of funding for our area’s transit needs, and on August 5, we urge all supporters of public transportation to vote Yes on Amendment 7.
For more information about Citizens for Modern Transit, visitwww.cmt-stl.org or call (314) 231-7272. You can also find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @cmt_stl.