Kansas City Streetcar Authority Looks To Reconnect Riverfront To Downtown

Jun 8, 2017

The 2.2 mile Kansas City Streetcar route from Union Station to the River Market opened just over a year ago. To date, the line has completed just over 2 million trips with an average of 5,860 riders a day in 2016. 

And now they're looking into expansion options to the south — and the north.

"Ridership remains strong," said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Streetcar Authority, to the board of directors on Wednesday. Gerend said, for example, on June 2, a First Friday in the Crossroads Arts District, all four cars were running for a total of 15,000 trips. 

An extension of the streetcar to UMKC's Volker campus is under consideration by property owners who live roughly between the Missouri River and 53rd Street and State Line and Campbell. If residents in that area applied for a ballot, they'll be able to vote on a new Transportation Development District, or TDD, which would generate funds for the streetcar. Ballots are due on August 1. 

And, on Wednesday, board members endorsed a proposed northbound line from the River Market to the Berkley Riverfront. Over the last six months, a consulting team explored ways to extend the line north along 3rd Street, 5th Street, or Grand Boulevard. 

"Grand Street viaduct is convenient because it's in-line with the existing operation. It's a bridge so it's predictable in terms of the constructability of rail on top of the bridge and the analysis has said that it can support streetcar," said Gerend. "And it provides the most direct, most efficient connection to the Riverfront."

And it's also the most cost-effective, although the board declined to discuss cost estimates just yet. Board approval will allow Gerend to dig into the project, talk to partners, and create a funding strategy. 

"The Riverfront, historically, has really sat underutilized and isolated from the rest of downtown," said Gerend. "So one of the goals is to reconnect it and to really activate the development vision that the Port has been working on now for a number of years."

The Streetcar Authority, Port KC, and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority shared the costs of the $225,000 feasibility study for the northbound line.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter a t KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer