Kansas City, Missouri’s downtown streetcar system opened in the summer of 2016, allowing locals, visitors, and the city itself to reap the benefits.
By Dani Neiley
Photography by KC Streecar Authority
Transportation in downtown areas can be tricky, especially during rush hour and at times of high demand. No one likes to sit in gridlock traffic at 5 o’clock, but sometimes other modes of transportation don’t fit the bill. It might be hard to bike to work when you have to go twenty miles each way or if you live in an area with inclement weather. Sometimes, buses don’t run to the area where your job is located or it takes even longer than by car.
In order to create a better integrated transportation system in Kansas City, Missouri, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) broke ground on the construction of the Kansas City Streetcar in May 2014, in order to connect the greater metropolitan area. During the fall of 2015, most of the substantial construction for the streetcar was completed. “We opened service to the public on May 6th, 2016 and have since clocked more than 900,000 riders,” said Donna Mandelbaum, Communications Manager for the KC Streetcar Authority. The streetcar has been incredibly beneficial to the city, and the amount of riders is sure to go up in the future.
The Kansas City Streetcar runs downtown, from the River Market to Union Station. The track runs along a 2.2 mile route along Main Street and the City Market/River Market area near the Missouri River. Numerous buildings can be easily accessed along the route, including: residences, businesses, restaurants, shops, bars, a library, schools, theatres, and the Sprint Center arena. There are 16 stops located along the route and the streetcars run every ten to fifteen minutes, making it quick and easy to get to various destinations around the downtown area on time.
The city benefits from the construction of the streetcar due to the business expansion in the downtown area. “Since 2011, downtown KC has seen $1.8 billion in development along and adjacent to the streetcar route,” Mandelbaum says. “There are new restaurants, residential units, hotels, businesses—small and large—all along the route. Sales tax receipts in the Downtown [area] have grown 58% since 2014 according to newly released City sales tax figures. The rate out-paces the growth of citywide sales tax receipts during this same period, which came in at 16 percent.” Because the streetcar gives more people access to prime locations within the downtown area, the amount of business that can be generated has grown as a result.