Voters say YES to KC Streetcar extension to UMKC

The KC Streetcar reached a milestone on Wednesday, as voters approved local funding for 3.5-mile extension from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Voters in the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District (TDD) have overwhelmingly approved the local funding structure to support the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension. The final tally was roughly 75.6 percent yes on Question 1 (sales tax) and 74.7 percent yes on Question 2 (special assessments). Final results are available on the KC Election Board website,

In August 2017, these same voters approved formation of the Kansas City Main Street Rail TDD with a 70 percent yes vote and in October 2017, entire slate of TDD Board of Directors endorsed by Mayor Sly James was elected to oversee the TDD. This was the third in a series of local elections to seek local approval for a KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project.

The Main Street Rail TDD is a separate entity from the Kansas City Streetcar Authority and the City of Kansas City, Missouri. This latest election allows the TDD Board of Directors to impose the TDD’s revenue sources, which will generate local funding to support the Main Street extension of the KC Streetcar.

The TDD’s revenue sources will not be collected until the extension is fully funded, either through Federal grants or other non-TDD sources and will replace and expand the existing downtown TDD used to support the starter-line’s construction and operations. The TDD boundary extends from the Missouri River on the north to 53rd Street on the south; State Line Road on the west to Campbell Street on the east.

“We are grateful for the voter’s support today and will work closely with the KCSA, the City of Kansas City and the KCATA to ensure this projects’ success. We are also grateful for all the hard work, time and energy put in by the volunteers and transit advocates during this election process,” said Jan Marcason, chair of the TDD.

The funding structure is similar to the current downtown TDD structure in which:

  • A sales tax not to exceed 1 percent on retail sales within the TDD boundary.
  • A special assessment on real estate within the TDD boundary, with maximum annual rates as follows:
    • 48¢ for each $100 of assessed value for commercial property
    • 70¢ for each $100 of assessed value for residential property
    • $1.04 for each $100 of assessed value for property owned by the City
  • 40¢ for each $100 of assessed value for real property exempt from property tax, such as religious, educational, charitable, etc. property, but only on market value more than $300,000 and less than $50 Million.

A supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots within the TDD boundary (not garages and not free parking lots). The maximum rate for the supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots will be $54.75 per space per year. This special assessment primarily applies to parcels in the Downtown area.

“The completion of our local funding mechanism is a critical step necessary to advance this project for federal funding and bring the project to life,” said Tom Gerend, executive director with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. “This is one step in a long process but the strong support from the public is a great motivator for all of us and reinforces the importance of making this vision a reality.”

The KC Streetcar project team, consisting of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), the KC Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), the City of Kansas City, MO (KCMO), and the consultant team led by HDR, Inc., has continued to advance the project planning for the Main Street Extension to UMKC, including work to refine streetcar stop locations, track alignments, and coordinated transit connections.

The KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project is being planned through a data-driven process. In order to build the best streetcar extension for Kansas City, the planning group is looking at operational efficiency, cost, constructability and public input. The Main Street extension would run from Union Station to the vicinity of the University of Missouri-Kansas City at approximately 51st and Main Street.

The project team recently held two public meetings in order to gather community input on stop locations and track alignment. A final recommendation from the project team about stop locations and track alignment, along with projected cost, will be available to the public this summer.

Spring Urban Homes Tour reflects booming times in Downtown

The self-guided Spring Urban Homes Tour is back in Downtown Kansas City this Saturday!

Organized by the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the free tour of 11 residential properties will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday. The tour is in response to the high demand for living in Downtown KC and will feature multiple properties along and around the KC Streetcar line.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen an incredible influx of new residents,” said the DNA President, Jared Campbell, “With the development boom along the Streetcar line, Downtown Kansas City has become the place to live, work and play.”

The Spring Urban Homes Tour is one of two free Downtown housing tours that occur annually. The other is a holiday-inspired Urban Homes Tour presented each December, as part of the Downtown Dazzle holiday activities.

Spring Urban Homes Tour guests will enjoy viewing urban living spaces and luxury amenities at each of the 11 participating properties, as well as experience tastes from local restaurants, special offers, seasonal cocktails, raffles and more. The self-guided tour is free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to ride the KC Streetcar to connect them to the participating properties on the tour.

“It has been thrilling to see the buzz surrounding Downtown KC living and the lifestyle that it has to offer,” said Power & Light Apartments Property Manager, Dawn Cole. “Many Downtown residents enjoy being within walking distance to upscale dining, entertainment, grocery stores, the City Market and the Crossroads Art District. Additionally, their apartment communities offer onsite amenities allowing them to enjoy fitness centers, media rooms, spas, social gatherings and outdoor spaces without ever leaving home.”

Each guest can begin the tour at any of the participating properties and will receive a map with additional details.

Participating properties include Power & Light Apartments, One Light Luxury Apartments, Two Light Luxury Apartments, Fountains Lofts, Board of Trade Lofts, Stuart Hall Lofts,
Summit on Quality Hill, Commerce Tower, 531 Grand, Centropolis, and Union Berkley Riverfront.

All Urban Homes Tour participants are encouraged to visit Cleaver & Cork for a happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Visit www.DNAKCMO.org or email info@dnakcmo.org for more information.

###

About the Downtown Neighborhood Association. The DNA is focused on building relationships among neighbors through its meetings and events. Members can meet other professionals and learn about businesses in the Downtown area so that you can work together to strengthen the economic fiber of our neighborhood. Networking with one another and improving social relations builds a stronger community. The Downtown Council works closely with the DNA on numerous issues and events, including the upcoming homes tour.

Debut of ‘Party Car’ signals start of a Summer of Art

KC Streetcar #802 made its debut as the ‘Party Car’ on First Friday. The party rolls on daily.

First Fridays in Downtown Kansas City just got a little bit cooler.

On First Friday, June 1, the KC Streetcar Authority, along with Art in the Loop and Amy Kligman, unveiled the Streetcar Party Car as the latest art installation for Art in the Loop: KC Plays.

Kligman is the artist behind the vinyl wrapped streetcar known as the Party CarAmy created the Party Car by photographing party materials such as confetti, glitter, ribbons, balloons, tissue paper, and creating a design with them for the exterior of the streetcar. Party Car is meant to surprise and delight the public with bright, energetic, colorful designs that incite a sense of joy and playfulness. 

“Inspiration for the Party Car comes from work I’ve been doing for some time now – large scale collage installations of disposable party goods,” said Kligman, an Art in the Loop artist. “I liked the idea of a mobile party that people could encounter on their way to work, doing errands, or meeting a friend, that sparks conversation and positive interactions between strangers.  My hope is that it’s a moment of surprise and brings a smile to folks as they get about in their day.”

Bringing art such as the Party Car, Celestial Heap, and the Stranger on the Train to the streetcar line enhances the ridership experience for passengers while simultaneously bringing art to a new audience of people.

“The KC Streetcar is more than transporting people from point A to point B. It is also about making connections to new destinations and new social experiences,” said Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the KC Streetcar Authority. 

Riders will also see art inside the Party Car alongside a tribute to the legacy of Teri Rogers who recently passed away. As KC Streetcar Authority Board member and Marketing Committee Chair, Teri helped shape the streetcar experience, from the look of the vehicles to the KC Streetcar brand to the graceful and artful design of the streetcar stops.

The Party Car is a tribute to Teri Rogers, chair of the KC Streetcar marketing committee, and a creative force in the Kansas City arts, business, creative and philanthropic worlds. Teri passed away this spring.

Teri was a creative catalyst who was passionate about the Crossroads community, the arts and the KC Streetcar, which she saw as a way to connect people from all over the City with the unique arts culture.  

“The Party Car is the embodiment of the teamwork that the KC Streetcar and Art in the Loop have developed over the years,” said Ann Holliday, director for Art in the Loop. “Through this teamwork we are able to not only put art on the streetcar but make the streetcar art itself.” 

In addition to the unveiling of the Party Car, First Friday started with an Art in the Loop lunchtime gallery reception at The Box Gallery in the Commerce Bank Building at 1000 Walnut.  The Box Gallery exhibit, which is free, is a companion show to KC Plays, Art in the Loop’s summer program of temporary artwork, events, and performances. The exhibit is intended to provide insight into the development and creative process of the many local artists who are participating in this year’s public events and to encourage viewers to explore downtown and experience the art for themselves. It will run through August 3..

KC Streetcar tops 4 million passenger trips in 2 years

 

The KC Streetcar celebrated its second birthday on Sunday by simply doing its job.

Two years earlier, the Downtown KC Streetcar service opened to much fanfare after five years of planning, designing and construction. With four vehicles and 2.2 miles of route, the KC Streetcar completed 4,037,499 trips since opening day in 2016.

“In two short years, Downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers. The transformation of Downtown and the excitement its generated is nothing but remarkable,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of KC Streetcar Authority. “We thank Kansas City and greater Downtown, including our partners with the City of Kansas City and the KC Area Transportation Authority for the amazing support and believe the best is yet to come.”

During the first two years of service, the KC Streetcar traveled 257,840 miles and logged 32,550 vehicle hours. The KC Streetcar team (operations and maintenance) has 30 employees who keep the streetcar running 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

In addition to providing free, reliable and efficient public transit, the KC Streetcar also supports local businesses, events and the arts community by supporting programs such as Art in the Loop, National Travel & Tourism Week, Downtown Dazzle, Techweek Kansas City, and more.

The KC Streetcar is not the only thing seeing an increase in numbers.  Downtown Kansas City is also booming. Since the Downtown streetcar project was approved by the voters, there has been more than $2.1 billion dollars invested in the Greater Downtown Kansas City area, with more than $1.1 billion still planned.  This includes residential, commercial, retail and hotel developments.  Other Downtown growth facts include:

  • 25,078 residents
  • 16,630 residential units (this includes multi-family and single-family homes)
  • 90,595 employees
  • 2,221 hotel rooms

“The KC Streetcar has continued to make a positive impact in the City Market,” said Deb Churchill, City Market property manager. “Our tenants saw an increase in sales the first year of service and the momentum has continued. The Streetcar has proven to be instrumental in creating a connectivity with Downtown and the Crossroads that we had been lacking for years.”

The KC Streetcar has made a difference for visitors, employees, businesses and residents.

“I work in the Crossroads Arts District and live in Columbus Park. Every day I walk from home to the City Market streetcar stop and take the streetcar to the Kauffman Center stop.  Having the streetcar has allowed my family to support public transit and become a one-car family,” said AJ Harbison, downtown resident.

Since streetcar service began, there has been at least 20 new businesses open along or near the Main Street route.

“We opened a year ago in the City Market and the KC Streetcar has been instrumental for our business,” said Robin Luther, owner of Hawthorne 109. “The streetcar connects our boutique to people who live and work Downtown with the convenience of having a stop at 5th & Main.”

As response to the demand in ridership, the KC Streetcar Authority ordered two more streetcar vehicles for the Downtown route.  Those vehicles should arrive in 2019.  Additionally, the KC Streetcar Authority, along with the City of Kansas City, the KC Area Transportation Authority and Port KC, are planning for future streetcar extensions north towards Berkley Riverfront as well as south to UMKC.

More information on both of those projects can be found on the KC Streetcar website.

Voters + Streetcar Authority fuel streetcar expansion plans

The KC Streetcar is not only a hot topic with riders along its Downtown route seven days a week, but also at the ballot box in Kansas City, Missouri, these days – including a special election this week.

VOTE #1 – Streetcar taxing district

Voters approved the creation of a new taxing district that could eventually lead to expansion of the Downtown starter system south 51st and Brookside and the UMKC Volker campus. The Kansas City Election Board certified the election results on Friday, which confirmed a vote of 2,458 in favor of and 1,048 again the formation of an expanded streetcar district.

Eligible voters included only those who live within the boundaries of the new taxing district (roughly from the Missouri River south to 53rd Street and from State Line east to Campbell Street). Even though 30,000 people were eligible to vote, only 3,642 cast their notarized ballots, according to The Kansas City Star on Aug. 5.

“This was critical, because if this didn’t pass, the whole thing was stopped in its tracks,” said David Johnson, a member of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA) board and chair of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance.

This election marked the first of three steps necessary to eventually build the expanded rail system some 3.75 miles from Union Station to 51st and Brookside.

“This vote establishes the transportation development district TDD boundaries to help pay for streetcar expansion,” according to Star reporter Lynn Horsley. “Two more elections are required: to elect a streetcar district board and to approve the specific local sales and property taxes needed to help fund the expansion, which is estimated to cost about $227 million.”

 

Election results prompts action by Streetcar Authority

Spurred by the resounding vote to form a TDD to fund a southern streetcar line to UMKC, the Streetcar Authority and their partners are wasting no time jump-starting the necessary engineering and planning work to make the project a reality.

On Monday, the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), in coordination with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) and the City of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) issued notice to proceed to begin planning work on the Streetcar Southern Extension project. A team led by HDR Engineering will provide the planning and engineering services with support from Burns & McDonnell, HNTB, Trekk Design Group, Hg Consult, Parson + Associates, VSM Engineering and Architectural & Historical Research.

This phase of planning, estimated at approximately $1 million, is jointly funded by the KCSA and KCATA. The planning and engineering work is estimated to take nine months.

“We are thrilled to be working hand-in-hand with our partners with the KCATA and KCMO, to detail specific plans for a southern streetcar extension and related bus improvements connecting Downtown to University of Missouri, Kansas City’s campus,” said Tom Gerend, executive director, KCSA on Monday. “This effort is a critical step towards advancing the region’s transit vision and completing the due diligence that will be required to make this vision a reality.”

As for the voters, the next vote is set for Oct. 10, when voters within the TDD boundaries will select directors. Then, a mail-in election to approve sales taxes and property tax assessments for the TDD is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 3.

If the project clears all the elections, the streetcar could begin transporting passengers in 2022, at the earliest.

To learn more about the taxing district and the mail-in election, see The Star and The Kansas City Business Journal and visit the KC Streetcar website.

VOTE # 2 – Special Election on Tuesday (Aug. 8)

KCMO voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to weigh in on three separate questions, which sparked this special election through initiative petitions. Two of the questions are related to the streetcar system extension.

Click here to see a sample ballot for the special election.

According to the Kansas City Business Journal:

  • “Question 1 would require a citywide vote on matters related to a streetcar expansion. Johnson said the measure effectively would negate the City Council’s involvement in the process.
  • “Question 2 is a proposal from transit activist Clay Chastain to build out a citywide transit network. The wording includes a caveat for the city to build what it can afford.”

The KCRTA announced on Aug. 2 its support of Question 2, along with its opposition to Question 1.

The KCTA believes the Chastain proposal “includes a scope of work that can be scaled to available resources, assuming federal funds are made available, through a ‘build what you can’ caveat that would allow progress to continue in reasonable phases.”

“The transit appliance sees Chastain’s plan as a good antidote to Question 1…,” according to The Star on Aug. 3. ”

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8

 

 

 

 

 

KC Streetcar rolls to 2 Million & $2 Billion milestones

Downtown not only celebrated the first birthday of the KC Streetcar yesterday, but also some major league milestones for performance and economic impact..

Saturday’s party celebrating the first year of operation for the KC Streetcar took on even more prominence with confirmation that a staggering 2 million rides have been reached and the economic development underway in the area has soared past $2 billion.

Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte led a host of supporters who gathered at Union Station to recognize the positive impact KC Streetcar is making in Downtown, the City communications team reported this weekend.

“We’ve said from the start that the streetcar was about more than just transit,’’ Schulte said. “Fixed rail generates economic development, and combined with the city’s investment in smart city technology, we are building a tax base that will benefit residents citywide both now and in the future.”

Kansas City has more than two billion dollars in economic development underway within the boundaries of the KC Streetcar TDD, or Transportation Development District. As of May 2017, this includes more than $2.1 billion in development projects completed, in progress or publicly announced since voters approved the streetcar in December 2012.

The Downtown Council continues to work closely with the City and the Streetcar Authority to track and report the economic impact of the streetcar.

The streetcar has been immensely popular with Downtown business owners, as well as local patrons and tourists who routinely praise the clean, smooth rides and the free Wi-Fi. Original forecasts of 2,700 for average daily rides were blown away by an actual average of 5,500 over the past 12 months.

Planners predicted Kansas City’s system would reach 1 million rides by its first anniversary. However, that mark was reached in October. Ridership naturally dipped in December and January, but April was the third busiest month behind July and August of last year.

A few noteworthy achievements so far include:

  • 97 percent of businesses surveyed along the route credit the streetcar with having a positive impact on their business
  • 2 million rides since May 6, 2016
  • Sales tax receipts in the TDD has grown 58 percent since 2014, outpacing citywide growth of 16 percent for the same period
  • Winner of 2017 American Council of Engineering Companies Award
  • Winner of 2016 Envision Platinum Sustainable Infrastructure Award
  • Winner of 2016 American Institute of Architects KC Community Impact of the Year Award

“Today we hit an amazing milestone, our 2 millionth trip in our first year of service, making the KC Streetcar system one of the most productive streetcar systems in the entire county,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority.  “Even more important than the strong ridership, the system is fueling an economic renaissance in downtown and that is incredibly exciting for all of Kansas City.”

To read more about the KC Streetcar celebration on Saturday and its impact on the City and Downtown, stop by The Kansas City Star.

 

CID Ambassadors ride the streetcar rails daily in Downtown

Streetcar Ambassadors (from left) Oscar Palacios, Ciera Edmonds and Avery Williams ride the streetcar daily in their roles as Community Improvement District Ambassadors. 

Ambassadors from the Downtown and River Market Community Improvement Districts (CID) are nearing the first anniversary of staffing the KC Streetcar, as it travels the two-mile route through Downtown seven days a week.

Three full-time CID Ambassadors began riding the streetcar – covering three shifts per day – when the KC Streetcar began operations on May 6, 2016. Since that opening day, the streetcar has drawn nearly 2 million rides from Downtown residents, workers and visitors.

“The Streetcar Ambassadors have been essential to the success of the KC Streetcar in our first year of operations,” said Tom Gerend, streetcar executive director. “They have proven to be great assets to the streetcar, as well as warm and friendly hosts for riders and guests.”

The three-person Streetcar Ambassador staff includes Ciera Edmonds, Oscar Palacios and Avery Williams.

“We are delighted with the partnership between the CIDs and the KC Streetcar Authority,” said Mark Rowlands, CID director. “The streetcars have proven themselves to be very effective at drawing guests to Downtown, and the Ambassadors are demonstrating how to help our guests feel welcome, safe and secure.”

Rowlands explained that Downtown and River Market CIDs are committed to providing a safe environment for the passengers of the Kansas City Streetcar and the surrounding public.

The Ambassadors will definitely be on duty this Saturday, as the KC Streetcar celebrates its first birthday with celebratory events from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Union Station streetcar station. The public is invited to attend, and enjoy free cake, refreshments, games, music and a hands-on truck-a-palooza exhibit for kids. And, of course, an opportunity to ride the streetcar!

The CIDs employ three Ambassadors to patrol active streetcars in order to provide an enjoyable environment. Such services will include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Serving as a friendly, helpful source of information and guidance for passengers regarding local amenities, geography, commercial opportunities, residential communities and history;
  • Identifying and addressing public safety issues on the streetcars and stations;
  • Coordinating communications between the KCSA and its representatives;
  • Identifying and reporting to KCSA public nuisances and maintenance issues; and
  • Graffiti, poster and handbill removal on streetcars and stations

“By providing these services in a polite and courteous manner, we support an atmosphere that allows an enjoyable and safe experience for passengers,” Rowland said. “The is a classic win-win opportunity for the KC Streetcar and the Ambassadors.”

 

 

 

KC Streetcar tops 1 million rides in just 5 months

In just 5 months of service, the Kansas City Streetcar completed its one millionth ride.

During the lunch hour, on Friday, Oct. 7, the KC Streetcar marked its one millionth ride.  As a sign of appreciation, Mayor Sly James, the entire Kansas City Streetcar team, the Downtown Council and other partners are saying “Thank you” to all those that made this milestone possible with a “Thanks a Million, KC!” community celebration on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 5-8 p.m. along 14th Street, between Main and Walnut streets, in the Kansas City Power & Light District.  There will be games, giveaways and live music provided by Art in the Loop performer, Amado Espinoza, local funk/rock/soul band The Phantastics and live art provided by J.T. Daniels.

“This milestone is a clear sign of the success of the KC Streetcar,” Mayor James said. “I’m incredibly grateful to the KC Streetcar Authority and its efforts to help make the starter line not only a reality, but a huge success. The KC Streetcar continues to exceed even our wildest expectations and it’s more important than ever that we keep this momentum going.”

Since opening day on May 6, streetcar ridership has steadily increased with a daily average of 6,600 passengers. The previous projected daily ridership average was 2,700. Weekends tend to be the busiest, with the highest ridership day of 15,780 being on July 16, a Saturday.  July saw the highest ridership totals with 233,683 rides during that month. Since May 2016, the Kansas City Streetcar fleet has traveled a combined 64,796 miles.

“The Kansas City community is riding the streetcar in far greater numbers than anyone ever imagined and today we say “thank you” for the amazing support. It is our hope this is just the beginning and a sign of even better things to come,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

Streetcar ridership, otherwise known as Unlinked Passenger Trips, is calculated by Automated Passenger Counters (APC) located over each door of each streetcar. Passengers are counted as they board and exit the streetcars, and the data collected shows which stops are the most used and which hours of the day are the busiest.  The ridership data is downloaded daily and reviewed by a third-party for accuracy. During July, members from the Ride KC team performed thirty manual passenger checks in order to check for accuracy. The conclusion of that activity was that the APC counts are within 1.4% accuracy of the manual counts.

To follow the project of the KC Streetcar,  go online at kcstreetcar.org and on Twitter (@kcstreetcar), Facebook (@kcstreetcar) and Instagram.

KC Streetcar to mark its 1 millionth ride today

 

million

Thanks A Million, Kansas City! 

With that theme, the Kansas City Streetcar is expected to crest 1 million rides today – just five months after the two-mile starter route began service exclusively in Downtown KC. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect this afternoon:

WHAT: After 5 months of service, the Kansas City Streetcar will log its one millionth ride.

WHEN: According to trip count estimations, at approximately 12 p.m. today (Friday, October 7, 2016), the KC Streetcar will complete its one millionth ride.

WHO: To mark this milestone, members from the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the Downtown Council, the Community Improvement Districts, and the UMKC Athletics Men’s Basketball team will be hand delivering thank you notes to the riders on board the streetcars the afternoon of October 7.

Since May 6, streetcar ridership has steadily increased with daily averages of 6,600 passengers. The projected daily ridership average was 2,700.  Streetcar ridership, otherwise known as Unlinked Passenger Trips, is calculated by Automated Passenger Counters (APC) located over each door of each streetcar. Passengers are counted as they board and exit the streetcars.

WHAT’S NEXT? A public celebration of this milestone is planned for 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Power & Light District. More details to come.

MEDIA: For media interested in interviews, members from the Kansas City Streetcar Authority and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, will be available at 12:00 p.m. at the Power & Light District Northbound stop at 14th and Main Street.

For KC Streetcar inquiries, contact Donna Mandelbaum with the KC Streetcar Authority at 816.627.2526 (office), 816.877.3219 (cell) or by email at dmandelbaum@kcstreetcar.org.

For City of Kansas City inquiries, contact Chris Hernandez, Director of City Communications, at 816.513.3474 (office), 816.787.1507 (cell) or email at Chris.Hernandez@kcmo.org.

The KC Streetcar is also online at kcstreetcar.org and on Twitter (@kcstreetcar), Facebook (@kcstreetcar) and Instagram.

KC Streetcar earns rave reviews from national pub

The KC Streetcar received kudos from a national online magazine this week, as ridership continues to soar on the streets of Downtown KC.

The Downtown KC Streetcar is getting some love from a national online magazine.

Although streetcars have been popping up all over the nation during the last two decades, there’s one that stands out, according to Slate magazine.

Slate is a national, online magazine of news, politics, technology, and culture. It combines humor and insight in thoughtful analyses of current events and political news. The streetcar article appears under the headline:

Did an American city finally build a good streetcar?

Just when we were all set to consign the 21st-century American streetcar to the scrap heap, Kansas City comes along and injects a sliver of uncertainty into the debate.

Streetcars have been popping up all over the U.S. in the past couple decades, in cities like Salt Lake City, Tampa, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Critics say they’re badly designed as short spurs of track, with streetcars stuck in traffic, and shoddily managed, with poor service that discourages riders from the get-go.

The proof has been in the ridership. Salt Lake’s S-Line counted about 1,000 passengers per day along its two-mile route in 2015. Atlanta’s 2.7-mile streetcar was counting just 1,000 riders a day during the first months of 2016. In June, Tampa’s TECO line counted just 600 passengers a day!

And then there is the new streetcar route in Kansas City, Missouri, which is getting6,660 riders a day over the first three months of operation—and rising. Total ridership is 550,000 riders in just 84 days of operation. That’s an order of magnitude above its counterparts in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and more than double ridership on the H Street Streetcar in D.C., which runs in a densely populated urban area.

Per mile, Kansas City ridership is double Phoenix’s exemplary, set-apart light rail, and on par with the Los Angeles Blue Line, one of the country’s most successful transit projects of the past few decades.

This is … surprising. Kansas City’s streetcar runs in traffic, so it can’t save riders any time over driving. It runs in a downtown whose residential population was just 20,000 at the time of the 2010 census. And—here’s the craziest part—there are more than 12,000 off-street parking spots within one block of its route. That doesn’t count on-street parking, or parking that might be two or three block away.

All that said: It’s been a runaway success.

Time to revisit the in-traffic streetcar as an effective way to move people around the city? Not just yet. The KC Streetcar is definitely benefiting from a novelty boost in a city that hasn’t had rail transit in half a century. The warm weather is also pumping up the numbers—June, July, and August were the best months for the Atlanta Streetcar last year, which peaked in July.

Finally, the KC Streetcar is free. Unlike Atlanta, which saw ridership drop when a $1 fare was implemented at the start of this year, KC has no plans to charge riders. But that makes it tough to compare with similar operations elsewhere, which must take in revenue at the farebox to support operating costs. (In a way, riders are paying for the streetcar anyway, via a 1 cent sales tax within the “Transit Development District” around the line. Property owners are also paying a small special assessment.)

Rail boosters in KC don’t want to wait and see if the starter line’s popularity holds—they’ve already got plans ready for a second phase. Best to strike while the rail is hot.

To comment directly with Slate, click here.

KC Streetcar exceeds 250,000 riders in its first 5 weeks

“Thank you, Kansas City!” That’s the message from the KC Streetcar Authority this week, as it tallies ridership numbers from its first five weeks of operations.

Since opening day, more than 250,000 people have boarded the KC Streetcar to explore Downtown Kansas City.

The numbers continue to outpace expectations, and the rush began on the grand opening weekend – May 6-8 – which brought 32,326 riders. The first four weeks of operations accounted for 211,741 riders, before topping the quarter-million mark in the last several days.

 

“People are using the streetcar to go to lunch, attend meetings, pick up groceries, go to work, drop kids off at school, see a show at Sprint Center or the Midland, shop in the City Market and the Power & Light District, browse the art galleries in the Crossroads, dine in the restaurants and so much more,” said a jubilant Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar.

The streetcar is free and available daily to help you get around and access all of the amenities of Downtown. Events happening this week and weekend include may be found via the Downtown Council blog, the VisitKC website and its Discover Kansas City map.

The KC Streetcar operates daily with the following hours. It is free to ride.

  • Monday – Thursday: 6 a.m. to midnight
  • Friday – 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Saturday – 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Sunday – 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more information, visit KCStreetcar.org.

 

KC breaks through with Streetcar, Smart City – Huffington Post

Kansas City’s introductions of the Streetcar and Smart Cities technology over the last several week has captured the attention of The Huffington Post and its national audience.
The Post published its accounting of the arrival of these technological and transit gains as “…a glimpse into what 21st-century urban life should look like. The story appears under the headline, The Stone Age is Over. Kansas City Definitely Got the Message:
“The arrival of a new streetcar in Kansas City, Missouri, heralds the beginning of a major technological shift for the Midwestern city.
Lights along the 2-mile transit line … sense when the sun sets and turn on when it gets dark. If there isn’t anyone waiting for the streetcar, the lights dim automatically. They will also send alerts to the city if something is blocking the rail path or if icy roads need to be salted.

Kiosks installed at streetcar stops and throughout downtown allow travelers to check the arrival of the next trolley, and display curated content about the city’s restaurants, concerts and sports games.

Residents will also benefit from a public wifi network covering nearly 3 square miles of downtown that, along with the lights and kiosks, are part of an infrastructure overhaul in Kansas City that will reduce energy costs, improve traffic safety and increase access to public services and events.

“We see connectivity as a new utility,” Bob Bennett, the city’s chief innovation officer, told The Huffington Post. “You can’t get a job without getting on the Internet, and you can’t figure out where you need to go without connectivity. Cities have to evolve.”

Even parking woes would be made easier by the new technology. The city plans to eventually use the sensors along the streetcar line to develop a mobile app that allows drivers to see when parking spaces become available. And the sensors could help streamline wastewater and stormwater runoff management.

The interactive kiosks may soon turn into small social hubs for locals, and it’s not uncommon to hear people use the booths as a meeting point, Bennett said.

“It’s gotten people’s noses out of their phones and looking at each other while using 7-foot-tall representations of what they have in their pocket,” Bennett added.

The kiosks can be synced to smartphones with a mobile app. That way, for example, users who see an ad for a lunch special at a local cafe can pull up that information on their own device when they get hungry later in the day. In a boost to local businesses, shop and restaurant owners can elect to push out ads on the kiosks based on what a user is searching. (Sessions are wiped to protect users’ data.)

“Innovation is coming from everywhere,” said Tom Touchet, CEO of Smart City Media, which manages the kiosks. “It’s not just a big city game.”

City-wide wifi networks have become increasingly common as local governments scramble to address issues of inequality and access to services. President Barack Obama has called high-speed Internet a “necessity” and said increased access is crucial to a competitive economy. In New York City, thousands of rusty pay phones will be converted into wifi hot spots and charging stations for mobile devices.

As these smart cities proliferate, the private sector has rushed to partner with municipal governments. IBM, Philips and Cisco, which is helping Kansas City upgrade and manage its digital infrastructure, have worked with hundreds of cities internationally to pilot new technology.

In Barcelona, parks have added irrigation systems that turn on sprinklers when plants need to be watered, and smart trash cans notify workers when they are full.Copenhagen installed bike path lights to warn cyclists approaching red traffic lights, and aims to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

“Data is the asset now,” said Kim Majerus, a vice president at Cisco who oversaw the Kansas City project. “Now the question is, how do cities use it to do things more effectively and provide solutions to their citizens.”

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is eyeing smart cities of its own. It plans to partner with disadvantaged regions and outfit them with new technology, in addition to using them to showcase its self-driving cars, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Three connected vehicle pilots, funded by the Department of Transportation, are currently underway to improve pedestrian safety and reduce congestion. The agency is also granting $40 million for its smart city challenge, which seeks to integrate autonomous cars and smart technology into a city’s transportation network. (Kansas City is a finalist.)

“Over time the most powerful technology becomes invisible. It’s about lowering costs and modernizing cities,” said Herb Sih, a co-founder of the Kansas City-based incubator Think Big Partners, which advised the city on its new project. “There’s an opportunity in Kansas City to solve problems and improve the quality of life.”