Apologies that it has taken two weeks to visit my thoughts on the nearly-finished KC Streetcar, which is undergoing test runs, due to open any week now. The streetcar route is a 2-mile thrust from north to south, through KC’s urban core. With 16 stops spread evenly from the City Market to Union Station, the starter streetcar line connects many of KC’s most important landmarks: City Market, CBD core, convention center, Power & Light District, Sprint Center, Crossroads Arts District, the Crown Center, and Union Station.
Does the route take everyone anywhere they may need to go in KC? No. The route does however solve the last mile issue with KC’s tremendously-upgraded transit system, augmenting several BRT lines (Main, Troost, Prospect, State Street KCK). It also has huge potential to drive economic development. The Architect’s Newspaper has a nice write-up on its upside.
It’s also worth noting that the $102 million was funded through a special assessment district created along the route, which not only leveraged enough value to cover project costs, but also limited the political process to the most supportive likely voters. Attacked through at least two lawsuits, this political mechanism was legally validated by a judge’s dismissal.
I drove through Kansas City on December 28th, just after Christmas. Three conditions discount the value of my observation: 1, it was cold, hampering pedestrian activity; 2, the streetcar was not on a test run that day; 3, the sun had just gone down before I got into KC. That said, I came away very impressed. The stations are clean and simple, well-placed, and the track alignment is pretty straightforward. Different from historic streetcars, modern streetcars typically run along the curbside for ADA-accessibility reasons.