Olsson Associates


Olsson uses transit tools to help determine cities’ developments

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Suzanne Small, Marketing

By investigating their transit options, several Kansas City communities are determining their cities’ future developments. Olsson was instrumental in this effort by undertaking a transportation and land use feasibility study for Kansas City’s major Burlington-North Oak Trafficway corridor, which runs through the cities of Kansas City, North Kansas City, and Gladstone, Missouri. Through this study, Olsson helped the cities define what types of development they want by making changes to their zoning and land use policies to achieve higher densities that would support future transit goals.

Olsson’s Transportation Planning team has been working with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) to develop a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for the Kansas City area. Olsson’s design group already has one BRT transit corridor under its belt with its completed BRT transit corridor design on Metcalf Avenue in October 2011. 

The team started this process anew with a transportation and land use feasibility study for the Burlington-North Oak Trafficway corridor, which was completed in the Spring of 2013. The study for the Burlington-North Oak Trafficway was funded as part of a sustainability grant awarded to MARC. The purpose of this project was to examine the costs and characteristics of a range of transit options.  However, the study took the work one step further to examine the corridor’s development characteristics and to identify what changes in the corridor would make transit most successful.

Working with the affected communities, Olsson analyzed the level and type of additional development that would support a high level of transit ridership along the Burlington-North Oak Trafficway. Olsson also worked with these communities to improve the walking access to transit stops and detailed the basic transit stop amenities that would make transit service work effectively. 

Olsson understood that the communities saw transit as a method to help revitalize their communities and worked with the communities to describe transit options. These options included making smaller scale increases to existing bus service, moving to the more advanced BRT models with amenities like those being constructed on Metcalf Avenue, or extending the streetcar route now being constructed in downtown Kansas City north across the river on Burlington.

Given these options, Olsson was asked to determine the option that was most feasible. Secondly, Olsson needed to determine what conditions would be necessary to make the other options feasible. Instead of relying on ridership and land use metrics from cities far removed from the region, Olsson’s Transit team addressed this question by researching the relationships between land use and ridership in existing Kansas City-area transit corridors. Using GIS buffering methods to identify population and employment within a half-mile of these corridors, Olsson created a regression model that identified the relationship between the population and employment densities in these corridors with ridership. The correlation was then used to describe employment and population density requirements that would support various levels of transit investment. The results provided a guide to the corridor communities to the level of additional population and employment density that would be most compatible with cost-effective service for the three transit options.

Before this study, cities may have recognized that BRT or streetcars could help support a stronger future. However, they may have been unsure of what type of land use changes could help catalyze this. In collaboration with Confluence, a landscape architecture, urban design, and planning services firm, the Olsson team was able to illustrate how this higher density could occur. The team created land use scenarios that took into account the existing land use and future land use plans. The team then selectively painted additional land use densities at these nodes. The team was then able to produce a corridor graphic that showed the level of population or employment growth that would lead to the best result for a streetcar line and improved transit

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