NY Times spotlights Union Station – ‘Rescued from the Edge’

Union Station, Downtown Kansas City

The New York Times has shined its spotlight on seven Midwestern rail depots, including Kansas City’s iconic Union Station. The story, “Grimy, Glorious, Gone. The Divergent Path of 7 Train Stations,” appeared in The Times on Saturday. 

The New York Times: “We traveled to seven rail depots in the nation’s middle. The stations, some remade and others crumbling, reflect the trajectories of their towns.” The feature shined a spotlight on depots in Gary, Ind.; Ashtabula, Ohio; Cincinnati; Perry, Ark.; Creston, Iowa; Joplin, Mo.; and, of course, Union Station in Kansas City.

The Union Station portion of the story appears below:

“KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If ever there was a model of a decaying station brought back to vibrancy, it would be in Kansas City.

Singers film music videos in Union Station’s Grand Plaza. Travelers board Amtrak trains bound for Los Angeles or St. Louis. Schoolchildren arrive by the busload to tour its science museum. And the building, the country’s largest train station outside New York when it opened, has been at the center of a renaissance in Kansas City’s formerly barren downtown.

“Just a decade ago, the station was on the verge of bankruptcy and closure. Its renovation in the 1990s, funded by taxpayers in both Kansas and Missouri, was seen as an architectural success, but a financial failure. The nonprofit group that ran the property was millions of dollars in debt and unable to pay its utility bills.

“‘It was the single best economic development tool in the history of Kansas City and the worst business model on the face of the earth,’  said George Guastello, the chief executive who brought in new tenants and saved Union Station from closing.”

Guastello responded to the article by writing, “Thanks to the visionary leadership and support from so many in Kansas City, our Union Station was saved and remade into what is today, an internationally-recognized and awarded masterpiece focused on Science Education, Preservation of History and Celebration of Community. Even better, we’ve only just begun to realize our full potential. ”

To read more about the other six train stations, check out Grimy, Glorious, Gone. in The New York Times.

KC Streetcar marks its 5 millionth ride in 28 months

The KC Streetcar recorded its 5 millionth ride last weekend in its first 28 months of services to Downtown KC.

The KC Streetcar logged its 5 millionth ride last weekend, as Downtown Kansas City was flying high with activities and events. This milestone was reached in less than 2 ½ years of service, since the streetcar became operational in May 2016.

In its 28 months of operations, the KC Streetcar has traveled 305,128 miles with a daily ridership average of 5,806. Each streetcar averaged 76,282 miles and 34,673 trips per vehicle. The summer months tend to be the busiest for streetcar ridership, with July 2018 being the highest ridership month to date with 262,593 total rides, that’s an increase in 31,000 rides from the previous July, according to Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA).

The highest ridership day to date was July 6, 2018, with 19,181 total rides.

Ridership is important but so is safety and reliability. The KC Streetcar has an average on-time performance of nearly 95 percent and an employee safety record of 863 total days injury free. The KCSA monitors and tracks daily ridership on board the KC Streetcar.

Streetcar ridership, otherwise known as “Unlinked Passenger Trips”, is the national standard used by the Federal Transit Administration for calculating usage on public transportation systems across the county.

KC Streetcar ridership is calculated by Automated Passenger Counters located over each door of each streetcar vehicle. Passengers are counted each time they board vehicles no matter how many vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination.

More information about KC Streetcar ridership can be found http://kcstreetcar.org/ridership.

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. Later this year, streetcar shelters will be installed at the North Loop stops at 7th and Main Street as a direct response to ridership in that area.

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 the Main Street Extension to UMKC.

 

Sit back, relax and celebrate 816 Day on Thursday, 8/16

Downtown Kansas City will celebrate 816Day – a “holiday” inspired by Kansas City’s area code to celebrate civic pride and everything that’s great about KC next Thursday, Aug. 16. Yep, 8/16 is 816Day.

“The goal for 816Day is to connect people with our local businesses, service industries and artistic & cultural organizations,” said Jared Campbell, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and a leading organizer of the event.

Locals and visitors are invited to celebrate and appreciate the best of what local businesses and organizations have to offer during 816Day branded events – oftentimes, happy hours or food/drinks specials on Aug. 16. Early examples of participating organizations include:

  • KC Streetcar will participate in several 816Day events next Thursday, including a local sketch artist drawing portraits of riders – along with the streetcar and Downtown scenes – from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • John’s Big Deck, 928 Wyandotte, will be a featured 816Day party location from 5-11 p.m. with a DJ, food and drink specials, and local goodies and giveaways, including concert tickets.
  • The City Market will feature a free ’90s themed 816 Day concert featuring ThunderJacket from 5:30-730 p.m., along with an 816Day party at Brown & Loe, featuring beer, wine, water and a signature 816 Day cocktail specials.

City Market businesses are also being asked to set up a presence during the concert to help promote themselves and Kansas City.

Campbell also issued an invitation for Downtown restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retailers and destinations to participate in 816Day by providing KC-themed specials on local goods and services, live music, great food, nightlife and entertainment:

What?: How your business can take part in 816DAY?

  • Restaurants, Bars & Entertainment Venues
    • Create an event or party at your business.
    • Already have an event scheduled? Great! Brand it as part of 816Day.
      • Live music, DJ,/ Karaoke / Bar Games: Cornhole, Large Jenga / Trivia / Contests & Giveaway
    • Offer unique food & beverage specials.
    • Already have a food and drink special planned for that day? Perfect! Brand it as part of 816Day.
      • Reduced Admission or Free Event
      • Feature locally made or produced products? KC themed food special
      • Create KC themed cocktails
  • Retail & Other Service Industry Businesses
    • Offer specials/sales on goods and services
    • Already have a sale on goods and services planned for that day? Super! Brand it in part of 816Day
      • Feature KC apparel
      • Feature KC made products
      • Decorate your business with a KC/816 theme

For questions or more information, contact info@dnakcmo.org.

816Day is presented in cooperation by the DNA , Do816.com, the Downtown Council of Kansas City, the Crossroads Community Association, KC Streetcar, John’s Big Deck, the City Market, and the KC Power & Light District.

NY Times shines global spotlight on Downtown KC

The KC Streetcar: Credit Anna Petrow for The New York Times

The Perfect Way to Explore Modern Kansas City? A Streetcar, Believe It or Not

The contemporary trolley, introduced in 2016, takes visitors to an arts district, an entertainment district and a happy state of mind.

By Richard Rubin, The New York Times

In 2002, when Sylvester “Sly” James moved his law office to downtown Kansas City, Mo., he made a wager with a colleague. “I bet him I could walk across Main Street naked at 6 p.m. and nobody would see it,” he recalled. “And the proof that I was right is that no video of that has ever shown up on YouTube.” Downtown, he said, “was freakin’ desolate.”

A decade later, Chris Hernandez remembered, he saw an item on the local news about a two-car accident downtown one evening at 7. “I took it as a sign that things were turning around,” he said. “There were actually two cars there to hit each other!”

As it turns out, Mr. Hernandez was onto something: Things were, in fact, starting to turn around. Today Kansas City can be said to have actually achieved the elusive dream of scores of proud old American cities that have seen better days: It has revived its downtown, which now skews closer to “bustling” than “desolate” many nights.

Mr. Hernandez is the city’s director of communications; Mr. James is its mayor. Both can rattle off countless examples of nearly miraculous urban revitalization: thriving businesses in storefronts that stood vacant for years; gleaming new high-rise apartment blocks that are largely (some say entirely) rented out even before they’re completed; vibrant arts and culinary scenes. But you can see what is arguably the single best embodiment of the phenomenon for yourself at regular intervals as you stroll along — or even stand still on — downtown’s Main Street.

If at this point your mind absolutely must drift to 1940s musical lyrics, I recommend nudging it away from “everything’s up to date in Kansas City” and toward “clang clang clang went the trolley” (even though, technically, that one is set in St. Louis; same state, anyway).

Pizzas at Il Lazzarone, a restaurant at the River Market West streetcar stop. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Yes: Kansas City has a trolley. And not one of those old-timey trolleys that doesn’t go much of anywhere and goes there slowly. The one in Kansas City is sleek. Modern. Has air-conditioning and Wi-Fi.It runs a real route — 2.2 miles from end to end, then back again — through the heart of downtown.

At peak times, like rush hour, one comes along every 10 minutes; off-peak, it’s more like every 12 to 18 minutes. (Every stop has digital kiosks announcing how soon the next one will be along.) It starts running at 6 a.m. and doesn’t stop until midnight on weeknights, 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. (This being the Midwest, on Sundays it starts late — 7 a.m. — and shuts down early, at 11 p.m.)

Oh: And it’s free.

And not, technically, a trolley; they take great care here to remind you (cheerfully) that it’s a streetcar. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it reflects the way the city and its denizens view it. A trolley, in this day and age, is a self-conscious quaintness, almost an amusement-park ride; a streetcar, on the other hand — as Mr. Hernandez explained — is more of a “pedestrian accelerator.”

And, as it turns out, an attraction, too.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

In my experience, the whole “Midwestern nice” thing can be overstated; but not when it comes to Kansas City. Step off the KC Streetcar (as it is officially known) and look around as if you don’t know where you are going and a passer-by will stop and ask where you’re trying to get to. Sport that expression while you’re still riding it and someone sitting across the aisle from you will do the same thing. Ask them how they like the streetcar and they will tell you, sincerely and in a fair bit of detail.And they do like it. They ride it. The city — which has a population just under a half-million — projected one million riders in the streetcar’s first year; it got twice as many by day 364. A year later that figure exceeded four million.

No one would have predicted such a phenomenon as recently as the beginning of this decade.Back then, Mr. James recalled, “things were slow here. People were depressed. They didn’t believe the city could do things.”

But then Kansas City won a lottery of sorts: In the spring of 2011 — just as Mr. James was starting his first term as mayor — Google announced that it would be inaugurating its broadband internet and television service, Google Fiber, there. “That was a big boost,” Mr. James recalled. “Google was putting us on the map — we could leverage that.”

They did. The streetcar — which made its first run on May 6, 2016 — wasn’t by any means the only element of downtown’s revitalization, but it was perhaps the boldest, and certainly the most dynamic. “It’s been a tremendous catalytic thing,” Mr. James said. “It’s created much more flow—more profits for businesses downtown, more foot traffic.” In the streetcar’s first year of operation, revenue from sales taxes along its route — an area known as the Transportation Development District, or T.D.D. — rose 54 percent, as opposed to 16 percent citywide.

Birdie’s, a boutique in the Crossroads Arts District. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

If this seems like a boon for those businesses, you could say they earned it: “They decided it would be free,” the mayor explains — paid for by a special assessment on business owners and residential landlords along the T.D.D. (The construction boom in new high rises that are rented out before they’re even completed would seem to indicate that landlords are O.K. with the surtax, too.) “The funds,” Mr. James said, “are more than sufficient to cover the costs. It’s worked out very well.”

Unlike most successful ventures, few individuals have claimed credit for Kansas City’s streetcar; most, when asked, will give you an answer like Mr. Hernandez’s: “It was a very grass-roots effort,” he said. “How to create the streetcar, where it should go. Businesses and residents were involved at every step — where to have stops, their exact placement, even what they should look like.”

The route they all devised does a good job of introducing downtown Kansas City to both tourists and locals who had never really gotten acquainted with it before — and, perhaps coincidentally, showcasing the area’s revival.

It starts and ends at the point where decades of visitors arrived at and departed from the city: Union Station, an imposing 1914 classical structure that, despite its grandeur and the fact that it once hosted more than a half million travelers a year, was actually closed for a decade and a half in the 1980s and 90s; today it’s a museum as well as a functioning rail depot, and the anchor of a neighborhood that includes the Crown Center,an indoor shopping and entertainment complex, and the National World War I Memorial and Museum.

Farmers sell fresh meats and produce at City Market at River Market. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Heading north, it stops next at the Crossroads Arts District, a neighborhood of old warehouses and factories that have been reclaimed as live/work spaces and is now home to a lively arts scene. Then comes the Power & Light District — named for an Art Deco 1931 skyscraper that was for decades both the home of the local electric utility company and the tallest building west of the Mississippi — which is the city’s newest entertainment district; it features the Sprint Center (a sports and concert arena), Kansas City Live! (a block-square outdoor atrium surrounded by pubs and restaurants and containing a performance stage and massive Jumbotron), most of those new residential high rises and, naturally, the world headquarters of H & R Block.

The next stop is Metro Center, home to government buildings, business offices, hotels, cafes and restaurants; then the Library stop, named for the city’s Central Library, which occupies a 1906 bank building that features 13-foot-high bronze doors, a roof garden with a life-size chess set, and a basement vault that has been converted to a movie theater; then the North Loop, which doesn’t have much of note yet except a neat older Western Union building and a neat newer office building known as “the flashcube” because, well, it looks like a flashcube; and finally the River Market, which includes old warehouses that have been converted to lofts, lots of restaurants and an expansive farmer’s market that has been going year-round since 1857.

There are edifices worthy of a good long look all along the route, but none more arresting than what you will spot looking out the window to your left as you shuttle from Crossroads to Power & Light: There, up on a hill, is the Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2011 and which, depending upon your aesthetic sensibilities, you will find either sublime or terrifying.

The National World War I Memorial and Museum. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

It contains two 1,500-plus-seat theaters, each of which, I am told, has fine acoustics; the building, which sits on more than 18 acres, is said to have been so well-designed that it can and often does host two different performances simultaneously without any aural crossover. In addition to hosting touring companies, the city’s symphony orchestra and opera and ballet companies all call it home. “We have a very strong arts scene here in Kansas City,” Jean Luzader, a volunteer at the Kauffman Center, told me. “People think we have cows running through the streets, you know, but we don’t.”

Streetcars — once almost ubiquitous, later almost extinct — are having a moment: In the past five years, lines have also started operating in Salt Lake City, Tucson, Dallas, Cincinnati and Detroit. (Two others, in Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, are scheduled to open by the end of this year.) Some have been more successful and transformative than others, but few seem to have had the impact of Kansas City’s. It’s the only one that’s free to ride, but what really makes it distinct is the palpable sense that is more than just a way of moving people around: It’s a movement — one that, judging by the crowds riding on weekends, transcends age and ethnicity.

Everyone seems to like each other, too. “When you’re on the streetcar,” Mr. Hernandez said, “you truly get a sense of community. It gets people off their phones and talking to each other again. I see it every time I’m on it. I think people who are from Kansas City are having fun talking to visitors and telling them about places they should check out.”

The Crossroads Arts District. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Of course, many of them — locals and visitors — are there to check out the streetcar itself.Riding it around and around will strike a certain type of person as a fine — not to mention economical — way to pass a few hours. Technically, you’re supposed to get off and re-board every time it pulls into Union Station; but this being the Midwest, no one will get too terribly upset if you stay put instead. Just smile.


Richard Rubin is the author of “The Last of the Doughboys” and “Back Over There.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article inaccurately described Kansas City’s location in relation to the Mississippi River. It is west of the river, not east.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR9 of the New York edition with the headline: It’s Not Named Desire, but They Love It Just the Same. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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.

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.