Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Downtown Streetcar Would Be on Main or Grand

Posted by Transit Action Network on August 21, 2011

If a Downtown Streetcar line is built, it will be on Main Street or Grand Boulevard.

That was the big announcement from the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis (DCAA) study team on Thursday, August 17, at the monthly meeting of the City’s Parking and Transportation Commission (PTC).  That body is acting as the study advisory committee for the DCAA.

Complete information has been posted on the project website maintained by Mid-America Regional Council: 

That site has links to all study documents, including:

+ The August 17 Technical Memorandum, which analyzes each potential route:

+ The August 17 consultant team presentation to PTC:

+ A map of the two alignments for further study:

DCAA study manager Charlie Hales of HDR presented the recommendations to the Commission.  Seven possible routes were considered:  four were bi-directional routes (i.e., using the same street for both northbound and southbound tracks), and three were couplets (i.e., north on one street and south on another).  In all cases the end-points are 3rd and Grand on the north, and Pershing Road on the south.  The Grand route would terminate at Pershing and Main, while the Main route would terminate at Pershing and Grand.

Each of the two finalist routes has pluses and minuses. Grand offers the widest right-of-way (100 feet for nearly all of the distance), it is the straighter of the two, and it is closer to the government district and its concentration of jobs.  Main is closer to the geographic center of Downtown, closer to hotels, the Convention Center and Performing Arts Center, and closer to the center of the River Market district.  It also serves Union Station more directly.

Main gives less right-of-way to work with (about 60 feet), while Grand suffers from the prospect of having to be closed for major events at the Sprint Arena.  (That is a sticking point that the City never should have allowed to exist, in our opinion.  Letting a few transit vehicles through an on-street event should not be a big deal.)

With approval of these two potential routes by the PTC, the team will subject them to more intense study and present a recommendation for adoption at the September 21 meeting of PTC.

Selection of a route might be the most visible decision to be made, but it is far from the most important.  Other factors to get careful consideration include:

– What operating speed and level of service will be provided on the route?  Count us as among the many who have assumed from the beginning that this two-mile line would be the first segment of a longer rail line that would extend at least to the Plaza, and perhaps beyond.  We favor frequent service and as high a speed as can be accommodated in the corridor to make the service attractive.

– What fare collection mechanism will be used?  An off-board system is preferable since that would speed boarding and permit faster trips.  Some advocate making this a no-fare line — an attractive alternative but perhaps not practical.  Clearly a climb-on-board-and-put-cash-in-the-farebox system is undesirable.

– Would the streetcars travel in a reserved lane on the chosen street (preferable for a line that will ultimately serve as the last two miles of a longer line), or in “mixed traffic” (which may be acceptable for a local circulator line that might never run very fast).

– How will the streetcar work with existing transit routes?  KCATA has said it would reconfigure bus routes to work with the streetcar, but it’s not clear if that would be a tweaking of routes, or major shifts that might encourage more riders to use the streetcar to get to one end of the line or the other and then transfer to a bus for the rest of their trip.

– How will the streetcar be financed?  It’s been assumed all along that property owners and/or businesses and/or residents of the corridor would pick up a significant part of the cost of the line.  Just how that will happen is yet to be determined.

Those are among the questions that citizens should be asking at upcoming public meetings and events.

Formation of a Transportation Development District (TDD) is likely to be part of the funding mechanism, and under that arrangement only those most directly affected would go to the polls.  Out of concern for that question and the importance of building support from within the project area, Transit Action Network met early with leaders of the River Market Neighborhood Association, Downtown Neighborhood Association, and Crossroads Neighborhood Association.  Out of those meetings came Streetcar Neighbors:

We expect that group to play an ongoing leadership role in shaping this project as it evolves.

Finally, while this study is often referred to as a Downtown Streetcar study, it is officially an alternatives analysis, and all modes are being actively considered and evaluated against one another, including an upgraded MAX bus line.


One Response to “Downtown Streetcar Would Be on Main or Grand”

  1. Beth Ciperson said

    If you are saying that Grand would be closed and prevent the streetcar access, let alone through- travel during certain Sprint events (which might be a reason one would USE the public transit to go to an event) than how can you even consider Grand?!

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