Changes coming to the Main Street Max route are aimed at making the bus service faster and more reliable for those traveling between KC’s Waldo and River Market areas for work and entertainment.
Beginning Oct. 1, the Main Street Max will run on Grand Boulevard between Crown Center and the River Market rather than winding through downtown Kansas City.
The change will “allow us to really simplify for our customer the route, making it cleaner and faster,” said Robbie Makinen, president and chief executive of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
The new route will improve service reliability, boost ridership and give riders a direct route through downtown, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority hopes. It will also make bus service more understandable for those who don’t ride every day.
The rapid bus service, which passes by the Country Club Plaza, Westport, Crossroads, Power & Light and River Market shopping and entertainment districts, will be renamed the the Main MAX.
The Main Street Max, which began operating 12 years ago, was the city’s first bus rapid transit route. It is the KCATA’s third most popular route, attracting about 4,500 riders each weekday.
“Main Street Max is one of those routes that is more than just a route to get people to work,” said Dick Jarrold, the KCATA’s vice president for regional planning and development.
Because of all the activity centers in the Main Street MAX corridor, it is among the most popular routes on weekends.
“If you think back to when Main Street Max was planned, which was really in 2002 — 15 years ago — things have changed dramatically downtown,” Jarrold said.
That was before the arrival of the Sprint Center, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Power & Light District. It was before the population boom that is taking in place in downtown KC and the Crossroads district.
And it was before the Kansas City Streetcar, which began operating on Main Street more than a year ago.
“Because of what has changed in downtown — a lot more people downtown, a lot more activity downtown, a lot more traffic downtown, and actually, some growing jobs downtown — our MAX alignment is not allowing us to provide the high-quality, reliable service that we want to provide,” Jarrold said. “We cannot maintain our current schedules.”
The change shortens the 2 1/2 mile route through downtown by about a half mile by eliminating the twist and turns.
Current riders might have to walk a couple of blocks further, but the new route will get the bus service closer to some attractions like the Sprint Center. The route will be more direct, just like the streetcar, Jarrold said.
The Main MAX stops will be around 22nd, 18th and 19th, 16th and 17th, 12th and 11th streets, many of which already exist as stops for local bus service.
During peak service of Main Street Max, buses run at 10 minutes intervals during the week, 15 minute intervals on Saturdays and 30 minute intervals on Sundays and holidays.
While there are plans underway to put bike lanes on Grand, the KCATA believes that won’t impact either mode of transportation.
“We are very confident that this can be a safe operation for both the bicyclists and our bus operators — and our bus passengers, many of whom are bicycle riders,” Jarrold said. “I think it’s a nice mix — the buses, the bikes and the boulevard. It can really be a showcase location.”