(Mostly) Private Mass Transit
A trolley line serving the Kansas City Strip recently opened and is slowly building a clientele in the area by providing easy transportation to bar patrons on weekend nights. The Kansas City Star reports:
While ridership has fluctuated wildly depending on the weather, it has ticked up most weekends since June (except for the slow July 4 weekend), reaching more than 800 people on July 30 and 31.
That’s not yet close to the system’s capacity of 1,200 per night.
“You don’t change people’s patterns immediately,” [chief executive of the Kansas City Transportation Group Bill] George said. “Let’s face it, this is not a mass transit town.”
But he said ridership is where he hoped it would be at this point.
Most remarkable of all is that this trolley line receives very little government funding:
KC Strip received $100,000 in tourism tax dollars through the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund.
The City Council also approved $295,000 in convention/tourism taxes. Of that, $95,000 was a grant and the rest a secured loan, to be paid back over four years.
These are tiny subsidies compared to the $25 million in federal funding that the Loop Trolley in Saint Louis is set to receive. The KC Strip trolley service should prove to be a fairly good market test for trolleys in Missouri’s cities. If it prospers, it will show that such mass transit options do not require lavish public subsidies to survive. However, if it fails to make money, it’s a good indication that people are not terribly interested in riding a trolley system, so we should save our public dollars for more pressing needs.