Kansas City Streetcar Northern Extension: The Bus With Rails Also Wants Its Own Bridge
Kansas City is proposing to build a wasteful addition onto its as yet unopened streetcar line. As the Kansas City Star reports, the city is planning to conduct a $600,000 study on a 2.2-mile streetcar route from the River Market across the Missouri River to North Kansas City. The estimated price tag: $50 million for the bridge alone. The Show-Me Institute has consistently detailed how publicly funded streetcar construction in Missouri is not good policy. We argue that streetcars have exorbitant costs, do not increase mobility, and only divert economic activity. But this latest proposal is especially egregious for the following reasons:
- Price tag: Streetcar lines are expensive; most cost more than $50 million per mile. With an additional $50 million for a dedicated streetcar bridge across the Missouri River, the Northern line would be far more expensive per mile than the starter line in downtown Kansas City. To make matters worse, federal dollars might be difficult to come by, because, as the Star reports:
. . . funding depends in part on the economic development potential of the project. There’s no way to have economic development activity, consultants admitted, on a bridge that would have to span 1.7 miles of existing heavy railroad lines, the river itself and other unusable land to get to North Kansas City.
Of course, a much cheaper option is to run the line across the Heart of America Bridge. But this route has significant congestion from cars, trucks, bicycles, and buses. Which brings us to:
- Public transit options already exist for the route. Three bus lines (38, 133, 142) already connect the River Market with North Kansas City, two along almost the exact route of the proposed streetcar. If those bus routes do not adequately serve the area, Kansas City could increase bus service for a fraction of the cost of the streetcar.
All streetcar lines are expensive and redundant, but the proposed northern extension is especially wasteful. Opponents and friends of the streetcar alike should be able to agree that this is not the best use of city resources.