Huge KC Streetcar expansion plan arrives at just the right time

KCSA_SocialMedia_FacebookAs Kansas City Streetcar ridership plunged six straight months into January, supporters claimed one thing would bring back more riders: warmer weather.

They were right.

February’s passenger count hit 125,935, officials announced Thursday. It was the second lowest monthly figure for the service that started last May 6, but still far over the low point of 89,660 in January. The biggest days for the streetcar in February occurred during spring-like temperatures over a few weekends, when travel is higher anyway.

The good news comes just in time, as streetcar proponents get ready to promote a big expansion of the 2.2-mile downtown line.

Here are many of the details about the exciting proposal to add about 3.75 miles of rail. It would stretch south from the current ending at Union Station along Main Street through midtown, near Westport and the Country Club Plaza, ending around the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.

The project is expected to cost $227 million. However, it won’t be completed until 2022 — and that’s if things go well.

First things first: Starting early next month, residents within the proposed transportation development district can request ballots to vote on actually forming a new transportation development district. A separate vote would be needed later this year and early in 2018 to pass a higher sales tax and property tax assessments to help finance the expansion.

Here’s a map of the proposed district. And here’s the complete timetable.


Streetcar officials also are counting on up to $100 million in federal funding for construction costs — something  that could be imperiled by the presidency of Donald Trump.

Mayor Sly James and others contend with good reasons that the streetcar line has helped spur at least some redevelopment downtown.

If the expansion is approved, a dramatic retail and residential resurgence could spread all through midtown neighborhoods, up and down the Main Street spine on several blocks east and west.

The streetcar has become a key cog in revitalizing the urban core. The next needed step is to approve an expansion that can keep that revival revving along.