Kansas City’s Shifting Development Claims
How much has downtown Kansas City grown? And why? It’s not so easy to know. Here are some claims from the past year.
In January 2014, streetcar boosters floated downtown economic growth figures of $879 million. By March of that year, they reduced it to $791 million. That dropped further to $750 million in May. According to KCTV at the time [emphasis added]:
The mayor also said businesses are already investing $750 million in downtown, like with the new Marriott Hotel that’s set to be built just feet from the construction site. The mayor said it’s all thanks to the new streetcar.
A few months later, the number shot up to $900 million again, albeit with a caveat. Amy Hawley at KSHB reported:
The city has long said streetcars drive business. It attributes $900 million of new downtown business to the new streetcar line.
“We have about $900 million in projects in the downtown area right now since the starter line was first approved by the voters,” Chris Hernandez, the KCMO Director of Communications, said.
Those are very different standards. On the one hand the city wants to say the development happened because of the streetcar, on the other the city says the development happened after the streetcar. This is a classic logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc or “after therefore because of.” The city wants to claim everything that happened after the streetcar vote as happening because of the streetcar vote. We have pointed out that basic flaw for over a year here and here and here.
As of January 2015, the number is $1.24 billion, according to the Downtown Council. They put the number at $1.24 billion according to their “research.” But they seem to commit the same logical fallacy as the city [emphasis added]:
The past two years marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the renaissance of Downtown Kansas City as more than $1 billion dollars of new investment was announced or started construction since voters approved the new streetcar line.
If the economic development benefit of streetcars is so concrete, why can’t boosters agree on a number? The answer, of course, is that the numbers aren’t concrete. In fact, they’re often baseless.