Pollutants and warm temperatures contribute to active ozone season

Locally produced pollutants, warm temperatures and drought from late-May to mid-July contributed to high concentrations of ground-level ozone in the Kansas City region during the 2018 ozone season. Fortunately, the dry conditions began to improve in August and ozone levels remained at a lower concentration from mid-August until the end of ozone season.

Each ozone season (March 1–Oct. 31), MARC issues a daily SkyCast — an ozone pollution forecast that corresponds with the Air Quality Index (AQI), an information tool that associates colors and health messages with ranges of air pollution concentration. When higher ozone levels are expected, residents are encouraged to take actions that help reduce emissions, like carpooling to work and postponing mowing. During the 2018 ozone season, ozone monitors showed 12 exceedances of the federal health-based standard for ground-level ozone set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite these exceedances, the region is still considered to be “in attainment” — for now — because EPA uses a rolling three-year average to determine whether a region is in compliance with the standard. Once the 2018 monitor readings are validated, they will be averaged with values from 2017 and 2016 (creating a design value) to officially evaluate whether Kansas City still meets the standard. Based on preliminary data, this appears to be the fifth consecutive year in which the region has met the ozone standard.

As shown in the chart above, EPA has lowered the level of ozone concentration considered to be unhealthy twice in recent years — from 85 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb in 2008, and to 70 ppb in 2016. EPA sets the standard based on scientific review of the health impacts of ozone. The overall trend for ozone pollution levels in the Kansas City region has also declined, due in part to voluntary actions by businesses and residents, with a little help from Mother Nature in the form of an occasional mild summer. It is vital to public health for local governments, businesses and residents in the Kansas City region to continue to employ voluntary strategies to reduce ozone-forming and greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in the region’s Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP). Our region’s participation in the Ozone Advance program also helps guide local efforts to reduce ozone pollution. Ultimately, our success depends on everyone’s willingness to help take care of our air.

Driving change: preparing the region for autonomous and connected vehicles

In June 2017, MARC launched a regional effort to examine autonomous and connected vehicle (AV) issues and create a policy framework that will help the region position itself to maximize opportunities and minimize negative impacts of these new and potentially disruptive transportation technologies. MARC formed an AV Task Force and convened a broad group of stakeholders, including seven work groups that each focused on a key policy area and identified priorities for moving forward:

  • Travel demand management and system performance.
  • Infrastructure, planning and investment.
  • Data management.
  • Environment and land use.
  • Equitable access and mobility services.
  • Economic and workforce opportunity.
  • Certification, liability and insurance.

As the working groups completed their discussions, common themes emerged. These overarching themes — each identified by two or more working groups — are recommended for initial action.

  • Identify ongoing opportunities to provide AV information, education and training to a wide range of stakeholders in the region.
  • Research, develop and build regional consensus on land-use policies related to AV implementation.
  • Develop pricing strategies to address shifts in revenue sources.
  • Develop agreements for sharing and storing data.
  • Ensure equitable access to the opportunities provided by AV technology.

Read the whitepaper

Report provides update on transportation system condition and performance

What is the condition of Kansas City’s roads and bridges? How are roadway fatalities and serious injuries trending? What modes do people use to move around the region? The answers to these questions, and others, tell the story of how our transportation system is performing. The 2018 Performance Measure report provides current and historical data in hopes of painting an overall picture of the system.

The report is organized according to goals in the region’s long-range transportation plan, Transportation Outlook 2040 (TO2040). The plan’s policy framework is based on a shared vision of a more vibrant, connected and green Kansas City. TO2040 includes a set of performance measures that help MARC and other transportation stakeholders better understand and evaluate regional progress in meeting the plan’s goal. 

The performance measures included in the report have evolved over time, as federal laws have required the addition of specific measures and targets. The 2018 report includes performance measures defined specifically for Greater Kansas City, as well as measures required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

More than $57 million allocated to transportation projects

In its role as the designated metropolitan planning organization for the Kansas City region, MARC has solicited applications and awarded funds for several transportation funding programs this year.

CMAQ, STP and TAP grant programs

  • Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) — funds for transportation projects that improve air quality.
  • Surface Transportation Block Grant (STP) — funds for roadway projects on the federal-aid highway system, capital improvements for public transportation and other multimodal projects.
  • Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) — funds for smaller-scale transportation projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, recreational trails, community improvements such as historic preservation and vegetation management, and environmental mitigation related to stormwater and habitat connectivity.

Funding for these three programs is estimated to total $55 million in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. MARC received 100 applications for projects seeking a combined $223.6 million. After initial evaluation and scoring of applications, transportation planning committees reviewed proposals and made recommendations to fund 51 percent of CMAQ requests, 25 percent of STP requests and 38 percent of the TAP requests.

Section 5310 grant program

In June, MARC issued a separate call for projects for the Federal Transit Administration Section 5310 grant program in partnership with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. This grant program funds projects that advance mobility services for older adults and individuals with disabilities. More than $2.4 million was allocated to projects that will purchase handicap-accessible vehicles, continue three local taxi voucher programs, support an online information resource and create a travel training program.

The federal funding projects and Section 5310 funding projects were approved by the Board of Directors and Total Transportation Policy Committee (TTPC) at their October meetings. The projects were recently added to the TIP. See the list of projects.

That’s a wrap on the 11th annual Green Commute Challenge

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MARC’s RideshareKC and Air Quality programs held the 11th annual Green Commute Challenge from June 1 to Aug. 31. The challenge is a friendly competition for employers in the Kansas City region with the goal of taking vehicles off the road during the height of ozone season by encouraging the use of alternatives to driving alone, such as carpooling, riding the bus, bicycling, walking and telecommuting.

The 2018 Green Commute Challenge by the numbers:

  • 44 employer teams
  • 631 participants who took 45,471 trips
  • 508,336 driving miles reduced
  • $102,468 in money saved

Teams compete based on number of employees. This year’s winning teams for the each size category:

  • 500+ employees — City of Kansas City, Missouri
  • 250-500 employees — The University of Kansas Medical Center
  • 50-249 employees — Kansas City Public Library
  • Under 50 employees — Confluence

During the challenge, RideshareKC staff held daily, weekly and monthly drawings and gave away more than $3,500 worth of prizes to participants.

Thank you to all the participants, to the businesses that donated prizes and to our official sponsors: Hallmark, JE Dunn, KC Streetcar, UMB, Enterprise and Stinson Leonard Street for providing funds to purchase prizes. And a big shout out to our partners at RideKC, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and KC Streetcar for their help in raising awareness with area businesses and providing support.