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Tackling Public Transit Is Next Up On Kansas City Chamber's Big 5 List

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority CEO Robbie Makinen addressed the future of KC transit at the KC Chamber's Big 5 kickoff event Wednesday.

Next up for the Greater Kansas City Area Chamber of Commerce's Big 5 initiative? Improving public transportation.

The Chamber hosted a kickoff event Wednesday morning, where regional representatives from Kansas City Area Transit Authority and Ford Motor Company, to name a few, outlined goals for KC-area transit.

First on the agenda was funding.

"It's been 21 years and counting since we've addressed transportation funding in a significant way in the state of Missouri," said Jeff Glenn, executive director of the MO Mercury Alliance.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recently identified an annual need — which is currently unmet — of $800 million, nearly half of which is needed to repair and reconstruct major interstates like I-70 and I-44.

Executive Director of Economic Lifelines Tara Mays said Kansas, too, has had its share of funding difficulties — she pointed to tax changes in 2013 that created a budget hole, effectively delaying 23 scheduled transportation projects.

Justin Groenert from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce shared some tactics — like raising the gas and diesel tax by 10 cents — that worked for his state, which recently passed a historic road funding plan.

The KC Chamber's plans place a heavy emphasis on the future of transit. Big 5 co-champion Julie Lorenz hopes a new partnership with Google will help innovate local transportation. Kansas City has been chosen as a pilot city for Google's Urban Mobility Initiative.

"You don't know throughout the city every day how people move. Fact of the matter now is, Google does. And they've been working to organize that information in ways to help cities," said KU researcher Brian McClendon.

The Chamber is circulating surveys over the next 60 days to collect community input on the Google partnership and identify the metro area's biggest transportation needs.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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