Kansas City: Genuinely World Class
Today the Show-Me Institute is publishing Wendell Cox’s paper, “Kansas City—Genuinely World Class: A Competitive Analysis,” in which the author considers what makes Kansas City unique – and what makes it uniquely competitive. A link to the paper itself is available at the end of this post.
Cox comes to a number of very interesting conclusions.
For one, Kansas City’s housing is much more affordable relative to incomes than in any of the cities The Economist considers for their list of the 10 Most Livable Cities. The reason for this is that while cities were increasing land regulation through urban containment policies, Kansas City did not. For example, in 1990 Denver, Portland and Kansas City were all similar in the relation of housing prices to median income. Since then, due largely to excessive land use regulation, Denver and Portland housing prices have skyrocketed while incomes have not. Kansas City homes have remained as affordable as they were before.
Another one of Kansas City’s competitive advantages is commute times. Despite its sprawl, Kansas City has one of the shortest commute times in the world. Thanks to an impressive network of highways, traffic congestion is so slight that Kansas City had the least traffic congestion (tied with Richmond) in the 2015 Tom Tom Traffic Index. And lack of congestion isn’t due to public transit. Eighty-two percent of area residents commute to work alone in a car—including 76 percent of low-income workers. In fact, only 3 percent of low-income workers in Kansas City commute to work by transit. Kansas City (like virtually all US metropolitan areas) is an automobile-oriented city and doing just fine.
Understanding these advantages is imperative if Kansas City is going to build on our strengths. Policy makers are often lured into adopting programs based on the results in Portland, or Denver, or Dallas. But Kansas City is not any of those places, and there is little guarantee that such policies will work here. If we want Kansas City to succeed, we need to understand exactly what we have to offer. This paper seeks to start that discussion.