Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

Why a downtown streetcar?

Posted by Transit Action Network on October 4, 2011

Probably the best reason for a streetcar is that the people in this corridor want it. If you look at past voting records from the light rail votes, people in the downtown corridor consistently vote for it. People in this area will also be the biggest beneficiaries of it; and they’re the most enthusiastic about it.

Rail is a service upgrade from buses. Streetcars offer a smoother ride. Their route is clearer, especially for infrequent riders such as visitors. There is a lower risk you will wind up where you don’t want to be and have to find a way back. Many people simply prefer rail over buses.

Rail, together with appropriate land use policies, transit oriented zoning codes and improved passenger amenities, offers potential for channeling economic development to the route.

10,000 people live downtown now. An estimated 57,000 people work and live within three blocks of the proposed line. River Market is the fastest growing residential area in the city. The Sprint Center, Power & Light District, Kaufman Performing Arts Center, the continued explosion of retail and entertainment in the Crossroads, new buildings and renovated buildings all mean more and more people are living and working along the proposed streetcar route. In the downtown corridor there is now the density of residents, jobs, and entertainment destinations to generate the number of trips that should make the streetcar a success.

Since this 2.2 mile starter line focuses on such a small segment of the city no one is going to ask the whole city to pay for it. Although the project team is just starting an in-depth analysis for financing options, a Transportation Development District is high on the list of options for at least some of the funding. Additional funding sources, like federal Small Starts money, can be pursued. The project team may identify other funding mechanisms too. Many other cities started off paying for small starter lines themselves.

What about MAX? MAX has proved that additional people will take transit if it meets a certain standard. Much of the Main Street MAX won’t be affected by the streetcar but a small section of the MAX route may change to another street, where MAX overlaps the streetcar. This change would provide even more transit options in downtown.

Let’s do this Kansas City. It is time to get started with rail in an area that cries out for it!

Additional information

Click to enlarge

The Project Team for the Downtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis recommended a streetcar on Main Street for a service upgrade between the River Market and Crown Center. The City Council unanimously adopted this alternative last Thursday.

Summary of evaluation findings: this table shows the preference for each evaluation criteria for both the alignment (Main vs Grand) and the mode (Streetcar vs Enhanced Bus).

See the project team’s full presentation to the Parking and Transportation Committee on 9/20 including the map with major activity centers.  Preliminary engineering may cause some changes to the final route. KC-DCAA-Tier2-Evaluation-Presentation

View all the project team documents at

According to the project documents “The financing plan may potentially be used to apply for federal funds through New Starts, Small Starts, or other federal programs. Creative leveraging of private funding options, public/private partnership options, and federal grant opportunities will be explored. Ultimately, the preferred financing strategy will be one with great local support—voted on not through a city-wide initiative, but by targeted partners willing to invest in strengthening the downtown Kansas City economy through this project.”

Read the KC Star:


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