Kansas City’s Secret Streetcar Plan
American Public Square hosted a panel discussion at the Kansas City Public Library on January 20, and I was privileged to be included. No new new ground was broken: streetcars remain very expensive investments that do not effectively or efficiently move people where they want to go; and they certainly do not themselves contribute to economic development.
What was remarkable about the discussion is what was not said. Specifically, the representative of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance, funded with taxpayer dollars, refuses to share its plans for a streetcar expansion campaign. Below is a transcript of the segment in which I repeatedly ask if KCTRA will make it's presentations public. You can see it thanks to a short, low quality Periscope video here (transcript starts at 1:53).
Patrick Tuohey (Show-Me Institute): Your organization has made presentations on next steps, correct?
Dave Johnson (KCRTA): We’re talking to all kinds of people about things that are possible, especially using the transportation development district.
SMI: Will you share those plans publicly?
KCRTA: We’re talking to people about the Main Street corridor. That shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.
SMI: So the presentation you made the Downtown Council, will you share that?
KCRTA: That is a presentation that just talks about extending the streetcar to UMKC. That’s what I’m telling you right now. Theres no secret.
SMI: …So the answer is yes, you’ll share it with us?
KCRTA: It’s got a lot of boring financials.
SMI: I would love to see the boring financials.
KCRTA: It’s the same financials you voted on in the expansion plan in 2014.
SMI: Do you commit to sharing the presentation you made the Downtown Council public?
KCRTA: We’re a simple non-profit so we don’t have to share that information.
SMI: I’m not saying that you have to share it with the public, I’m asking. Will you share that plan publicly?
The KCRTA is funded with taxpayer dollars. Regardless of whether they are subject to disclosure laws, the KCRTA should immediately share with the public how they have been spending public money and what presentations they have about next steps. If they do not, the Mayor and City Council should demand they do so, or withhold all future contributions. Good public policy requires nothing less than complete transparency.