Kansas City Plans for Autonomous Buses
According to Startland, “Kansas City’s Home for Innovation News,” city leaders proposed a few ideas they would pursue if they received a $50 million transportation award from the federal government. One of them, interestingly, is an autonomous shuttle to the airport.
We at the Show-Me Institute have been writing about the great potential of driverless cars for years, writing about their potential as the future of transit. We’ve also been critical of the city’s oversized spending on the streetcar, exactly because it is the opposite of the future of transit. As if to underscore that point, Startland writes of the city’s plan,
An autonomous shuttle system would be deployed along 11th, 12th and 18th streets, according to the plan. The shuttle system will connect the current 2.2-mile streetcar line and the downtown smart city project to the 18th and Vine Jazz District and the West Side community.
“The 20-mile corridor from KCI Airport to the downtown area will serve as a highway test corridor for connected and semi-autonomous vehicles in addition to connecting passenger terminals at KCI to the downtown area, and provide state-of-the-art transportation to visitors and residents,” the plan reads.
How ridiculous is this? New, state-of-the-art autonomous shuttles are going to pick people up from a 2.2-mile fixed-rail streetcar line and take them around town and to the airport. How much cheaper would it be to scrap the streetcar altogether and have those same autonomous buses run that same 2.2 mile streetcar route themselves?
Our fear is that Kansas City really isn’t serious about planning for its long-term transportation needs, but prefers instead to hop aboard the latest trend in an attempt to secure federal dollars. Streetcars just aren’t a forward-looking transit solution. By planning for autonomous buses, are city leaders admitting as much?