We wrote recently about NextRailKC’s poorly compiled and even more poorly considered claims of economic development resulting from the streetcar. NextRailKC corrected the original chart after we pointed out some basic mathematical errors. But the new chart's claims of economic development still contain some very questionable assumptions.
For example, the chart claims that the streetcar "impacted" the General Services Administration (GSA) decision to move downtown. We were skeptical and a quick Google search confirmed our suspicion. A Dec. 10, 2013, story in the Kansas City Star suggests otherwise:
The location of Two Pershing Square near the new downtown streetcar line scheduled to open in 2015 was an added benefit. It’s also close to bus routes and a rental bicycle station.
The building has parking for 1,700 vehicles, but the GSA will use only 28 for official vehicles. The federal government does not pay for employee parking but does reimburse workers using public transit.
“The streetcar is a bonus,” [GSA Regional Administrator Jason] Klumb said.
That doesn't sound to us like the streetcar had any "impact" on the decision, but was considered after the fact. Yet city officials consider this to be $50 million of the $900 million in so-called economic impact, "wholly or partially influenced by the streetcar project."
It is clear that the streetcar wasn't really a contributor to GSA's decision to move. What's more, it is likely that very few of the GSA employees will use the streetcar to get to and from work. Judging by the size of the parking garage (to repeat - 1,700 vehicles), GSA clearly expects them to drive.
But streetcar proponents seem to think that GSA employees will relocate into the Columbus Park apartments at the northern end of the streetcar line. According to a story in the Kansas City Business Journal:
A few months later, the General Services Administration will begin moving 900 employees to Two Pershing Square, which will be adjacent to the southern end of the new streetcar line. [Senior VP for Zimmer Real Estate Services LC, Dan] Musser said that means the Columbus Park project's initial apartment construction could be filled by GSA employees alone.
This is how streetcar economic development works: when a large employer moves a few miles north to the yet to be built streetcar line, you claim credit for the move. Then you suggest that all those employees will sell their homes and relocate to another point on the streetcar line. We're tempted to write this off as Musser just being silly, but given other economic development claims that streetcar supporters have made, those very well may be the assumptions they are making.