Kansas City’s streetcar silver bullet?

By Bill Holloway

Later this month, 730 residents of a special taxing district in downtown Kansas City will vote on a plan to tax themselves and area shoppers a total of $10 million per year for the next 25 years to pay the construction and operating costs for a 2-mile streetcar circulator. This funding, along with $18 million from the local MPO, would be enough to operate the system, which would be free for riders.

So far, the project has been largely free of opposition, a major accomplishment for the project’s promoters as more than a dozen previous attempts to establish light-rail or commuter rail service have failed. Because the project will not rely on direct taxation of the general public, only those within the special taxing district will vote on the plan.

Economic development is the primary motivation for the streetcar. So far the plans are having the desired effect, with new residential developments growing along the streetcar’s proposed path. Assuming voters approve funding, as expected, the project will break ground in 2013. The streetcar will be operational in 2015.

Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.