Since I was there recently, my first target is Kansas City.
I found myself surprised that there was a more substantive rail network there than I'd expected; indeed, when I did some research into it I discovered that the city used to be the Midwest's second-largest rail hub (a role I had assumed fell to Omaha, the Union Pacific's historic railhead and the reason why there were once easily half a dozen mainlines traversing Iowa). Considering it, however, reveals that it makes sense: all of the four major Eastern through routes -- Pennsylvania, New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, and Alphabet route (via the Nickel Plate) had termini in Chicago and St. Louis; while the latter's role is customarily understated, it quickly becomes evident that there were few direct linkages between it and Omaha, and four between it and Kansas City (i.e. the Burlington, Rock Island, Missouri Pacific, and Katy). Kansas City thus served as a transshipment point for freight following the transcontinental alphabet route that began with the Western Pacific and followed the Rio Grande mainline across the Rockies, spreading into a raft of competing lines from Denver east. This trade route is followed by the modern I-70 corridor. It was also a principal interchange point of the Santa Fe and a handoff point where the mainlines of the major Texas-Midwest railroads (Katy, Missouri Pacific, Frisco, and Kansas City Southern) met those of the lines following the Missouri (or heading into Iowa) heading further north, towards Omaha and Minnesota. (This trade route is followed by the I-35 corridor.) All of this made for a list of about half a dozen major railroads heading into Kansas City: the Santa Fe, Burlington Route, Rock Island, Katy, Mo-Pac, Frisco, and Kansas City Southern. Nearly all of these had lines in from multiple compass directions.
|Fig 1. Major alignments into Kansas City|
From these we winnow out several routes. Some pass through populated areas but are too circuitous; others run out through largely rural regions. We seek out a string of populous towns en route -- town center stations generally help revitalize these places while also providing a built-in ridership base. Kansas City's metro region is relatively small -- most lines are about 30 - 40 miles long. It is also one that does not have any significant all-day congestion (indeed, it clearly has auto capacity overbuild: you're lucky to get the 8:00 AM stop-and-go on US 71 at noon out on the Schuylkill heading towards King of Prussia, and many surface streets -- especially the most heavily-engineered ones -- have desertion issues, a clear sign of excessive capacity relative to demand); we thus need seek the most direct routes to Union Station, the city's lone major rail hub. A system such as we would demand in Chicago and the large coastal cities -- frequent all-day service -- is probably beyond any reasonable resource allocation; instead, we'll have to settle for high-frequency rush-and-periphery* service on the weekdays, medium-high frequency all-day service Saturdays**, and medium-low all-day service on Sundays. Union Station is a through-station so we'll be able to immediately run regional service; this requires line balance. Finally, the station approaches -- especially immediately west -- present extremely high-grade grade-separated passenger rail alignments; we seek to make use of these.
|Fig 2. Key Corridors|
- Beginning along the Missouri northwest of town and moving counterclockwise, we have the Leavenworth Line, which links Kansas City, MO, with Kansas City, KS, and with Leavenworth, KS, with its prison and fort.
- Next we have the Lawrence Line, which runs along the Kansas River west to Lawrence, tapping KU.
- Down in the southwest, we have the Turkey Creek Line, which runs along the Turkey Creek corridor through the richest part of the region towards Olathe and Spring Hill. If at all possible, we would like to add a branch to Gardner to this route (however, it does not appear this is possible).
- Directly south of the city is the Peculiar Line, which runs along the Blue River into the city and connects with Grandview and namesake Peculiar.
- Southeast of that, we have the Independent Line, which connects with Independence and Lee's Summit. This route should be the most heavily-trafficked on the east side.
- To its northeast is the Eastside Line, which runs out to Blue Springs.
- Jumping across the Missouri, we have the Excelsior Line, named after its Excelsior Springs terminus. It also sports a branch north to Kearney.
- Finally, we have the Missouri Bluffs Line, serving an area along the Bluffs.
- the Turkey Springs Line is paired with the Independent Line;
- the Leavenworth Line is paired with the Peculiar Line;
- the Lawrence Line is paired with the Eastside Line; and
- the Missouri Bluffs Line is paired with the Excelsior Line.
Next we'll talk about Kansas City's major challenges.
* I.e. around "the periphery of" rush hour. We'll also need late-night service more than noontime.**
** This is because we'll be seeking to tap two markets: first, conventional commuters (particularly to Crown Center, and secondarily towards downtown via the streetcar), and second, the out-on-the-town crowd that would prefer leaving their cars at home. There's also a student market, as most of the lines have at least a midsize school along them, and the terminus of the Lawrence line is KU. Finally, in one case, there's a major prison -- Leavenworth -- and its concomitant visitors' market.