Secret Streetcar Plans Unveiled, Raise Concerns
At a City Council meeting last Thursday (8/18), a group of rail activists presented what were once secret plans for expanding the Kansas City streetcar line south along Main St. to UMKC. The rail proponents outlined timelines, costs, and new taxing districts to pay for the $227M, 3.75-mile project. But even with all the supposed “success” the $102M downtown streetcar has had, the proposal met with resistance from the council.
For one thing, councilmembers are concerned that it’s too early to know if expanding the streetcar system is a prudent investment. It’s true that the tentatively scheduled election wouldn’t be held until summer 2017, but the downtown starter line only started carrying passengers in May. If Kansas City’s streetcar is anything like other modern streetcars, ridership might drastically drop in the coming year.
Katheryn Shields, at-large 4th-district councilwoman, was concerned about streetcar expansion in generalShe was keen on pointing out the streetcar vote would be on the same ballot as a city-wide infrastructure ballot question. The bond proceeds from the latter measure (should it pass) would pay for sidewalks, roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure. Other councilmembers, including Councilwoman Canady and Councilman Fowler, seconded Shields’s worry.
So, as rail advocates try to convince Kansas Citians to invest their hard-earned money in a slow, inefficient rail project—in a corridor already served by bus rapid transit—they should ask themselves: Which is the better use of limited municipal resources: basic infrastructure that ensures the safe and efficient travel of residents, or outdated rail projects that cost over $60M per mile?