Mail-in ballot application window is now open


The window to apply for a mail-in ballot for the Midtown/UMKC streetcar extension is open through May 23. More info at

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Midtown streetcar expansion election coming in 2017


No, not the Chastain petition that’s circulating (again). For more information, see

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Grand opening and first week ridership

Mayor James on inaugural ride

Kansas City’s first streetcar to accept passengers in nearly 60 years left Union Station at 11am on Friday, May 6. Since then, the first week of ridership has exceeded expectations.

Feedback has been positive, reflecting good choices throughout the public-private partnership: modern vehicles, frequent service, a straightforward alignment, level boarding, and good connectivity to activity centers and other transportation modes.

Average daily ridership was estimated at 2,700 and every subsequent day has surpassed that. Clearly the decision to not charge a fare was a good one, even though crowded vehicles have slowed operations and required occasional use of the starter line’s only spare vehicle. There are already discussions about acquiring a fifth vehicle, since lead times are long. Lots of passengers are asking when service can be extended to the Plaza, even though a multi-line expansion plan was defeated in August 2014.

It’s not just about streetcar, either. Late night MAX service started May 13 to allow more access to downtown jobs and entertainment venues (two additional routes will run weekends until 2am starting in July). Bike share has seen some of its highest usage near the streetcar route. Restaurants have already reported brisker business, in addition to an opening weekend boost. Social media reports reference a spike in pedestrian traffic, as well as Kansas City finally feeling like a “city”. Coverage of Smart City investments along the line have boosted KC’s profile nationally.

It even spawned a rap song and launch video worthy of a Bond film…

Here are some key news articles about the streetcar since opening weekend:

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KC starter line opens to public May 6


We finally have an official opening date for the streetcar starter line — Friday, May 6.

A series of neighborhood events is planned along the route to encourage circulation on Friday and Saturday.

The final vehicle — #804 — is slated to arrive in late March, which will enable full service on the first day of operations.

Here’s a short list of features that will make riding the streetcar easy:

  • All rides are free. No exact change or tickets required. Walk on and walk off as much as you want. No transfer required from local buses.
  • Frequent service, daily. Weekday from 11am to 7pm a streetcar will arrive at all stops every 10 minutes. Off-peak they’ll arrive every 12 minutes (every 18 all day on Sundays). Streetcar will also run until 2am on Friday and Saturday.
  • Easy boarding. Once you’re on the platform, there are no steps to board the streetcar and there are no steps inside the vehicle. Wheelchairs, walkers, bikes, and baby strollers roll on and roll off with ease. If you’ve got wheels of any kind, use the center doors for the best experience.
  • Real-time arrival. Digital signs at every stop display your wait time in minutes until the next streetcar arrives. Two “shared” bus/streetcar stops — Union Station and Crossroads — will also display real-time arrival information for Main Street MAX.
  • Lots of connections. Streetcars will stop just steps from dozens of local bus routes and Union Station, where Amtrak trains arrive daily. Transfer from Main Street MAX to streetcar at Union Station using the same waiting area. Bike share kiosks are also available nearby at 3rd and Grand, 10th & Main, and Union Station.
  • Technology. Sprint is providing free public WiFi on board the vehicles and in the corridor as part of the Smart City, which will also feature interactive kiosks at every streetcar stop.
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Streetcar projects opening in 2016

Kansas City joins the small group of cities with operating streetcar systems this year, while a few other cities have new lines that have seen significant delays in their original opening dates. Here’s what 2016 holds:

DC Streetcar on H Street

H Street, Washington, DC (Early 2016) – OPENED FEB. 27, 2016

New leadership and a peer review has helped get this bad boy back in shape and a January opening seems very possible. Most transit projects survive bad reputations shortly after they’re operating, but it will take a long time for this one to recoup having been under construction since 2009.

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, both curb- and center-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 15 minutes, no Sunday service
  • Fare: $1 (free initially)
  • Major transit connections: Union Station (subway, commuter rail, Amtrak), local bus
  • Funding: Local

Seattle streetcar

First Hill, Seattle, WA (Early 2016) – OPENED JAN. 23, 2016

We said it last year: This project is one to watch due to the combined bike and streetcar facility on a busy commercial street. Having seen the infrastructure up close, it’s a testament to a city’s focus on bike safety. Both Seattle and DC projects were on last year’s opening list.

  • Length: 2.5 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: $2.25
  • Major transit connections: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (local bus and light rail), new light rail station (
  • Funding: Local

Streetcar #801

Main Street, Kansas City, MO (Spring 2016) – OPENS MAY 6, 2016

Our baby finally opens this Spring! After decades of false starts with light rail, the little starter line succeeds.

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (CAF)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: Free
  • Major transit connections: 11th/12th street “transit emphasis corridor”, 3rd & Grand transit center, Union Station/Crown Center (Amtrak, local bus)
  • Funding: Federal, local

Loyola streetcar

Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA (3rd Quarter 2016)

One of the few cities melding new and old streetcar implementations, New Orleans is home of the oldest line (St. Charles) and soon one of the newest (Rampart). All lines converge at historic Canal Street, which is a wonder to watch at all times of day. This new line will serve the French Quarter more directly.

  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, center-running
  • Vehicles: Heritage replica
  • Peak headway: 15 minutes (estimated, based on existing service)
  • Fare: $1.25
  • Major transit connection: Existing streetcar and bus routes via Canal Street, Union Passenger Terminal (Amtrak)
  • Funding: Local

Cincinnati streetcar

Downtown, Cincinnati, OH (September 2016)

Our streetcar brethren — we’re sharing a vehicle contract — has held their September 2016 opening out for a long time, and it looks like they’re going to make it. Perhaps the most caustic political meddling in a transit project outside of Milwaukee (just Google them both).

  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic, curb-running
  • Vehicles: Modern (CAF)
  • Peak headway: 12 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection:
  • Funding: Federal, local

Loop Trolley rendering

Delmar Loop, St. Louis, MO (Late 2016)

Despite having received a stern warning from the feds, it looks like the Loop streetcar (sorry, we don’t use the “T” word here) will at least finish construction this year, if not start operating. It helps to already have all of your vehicles on the ground.

  • Length: 2.2 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic along curb and dedicated median-running
  • Vehicles: Vintage
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: Two light rail stations (Forest Park and Delmar)
  • Funding: Federal, local


Oak Cliff Extension, Dallas, TX (Late 2016)

The initial segment is one of the smallest lines in operation (1.6 miles), but that was just to get the off-wire ball rolling (it’s the first in the US to operate a segment without overhead wires). This next phase will extend further into the Bishop Arts District.

  • Length: 0.7 miles
  • Implementation: Mixed traffic with off-wire segments
  • Vehicles: Modern (Brookfield)
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: Free
  • Major transit connection: Union Station (Amtrak, commuter rail, light rail)

Projects starting construction this year include Milwaukee and Fort Lauderdale.

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Top transit stories of 2015

RideKC bus on 12th Street

Completion of the streetcar starter line and a new focus on regionalism were the hot topics in Kansas City’s transit discussion this year. Here are the top stories, ranked in order of impact.

1. Reardon takes the helm (then leaves)

Former Unified Government CEO Joe Reardon took the top executive spot at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in April and has been on a nonstop tour of the community ever since. The selection process was relatively quiet, but insiders knew Reardon was a top choice based on his history with regional cooperation — a necessity, if we’re to ever achieve a regional funding mechanism. Shortly after I finished drafting this list, Reardon announced he was leaving KCATA to head the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

2. Streetcar construction ends, vehicles arrive

KC Streetcar vehicles #801 and #802 arrived on Nov. 2 and Dec. 9, respectively, and immediately began test runs on Main Street. Just search #KCstreetcar on Twitter and Instagram to see how excited the community is to welcome rail back to the city. Service begins in Spring 2016 after two additional vehicles arrive.

3. More funding for transit

Johnson County passed a 2016 budget with a property tax increase for transit (as well as parks and libraries). KCMO sent $3 million more to the KCATA. The streetcar TDD exceeded revenue projections. The Missouri Legislature even extended the 1/2-cent transportation sales tax forever (it was due to expire Dec. 31). It was great year full of small-but-significant wins in the funding battle.

4. RideKC brand hits the streets (and the web)

New leadership made the new RideKC brand appear on buses much quicker than anyone predicted. “In the wild” appearances started in August, beating the brand new streetcar vehicles by several months (streetcars are also branded with the “RideKC” name). The entire fleet — including buses serving Johnson County, Wyandotte County, and Independence — will be repainted before the end of 2016. A new regional transit website debuted in October.

5. Transit carries 200,000 Royals fans

Whether the crowd was 800,000 or 500,000, KCATA provided an eye-popping 200,000 rides to and from the Royals’ World Series parade and rally downtown. Despite the crush of riders, the agency handled the demand as well as the local freeway network.

6. Kansas City commits local funding for Prospect MAX 

With little fanfare, the Kansas City Council passed a resolution in October that they would provide the local match for building the city’s next MAX bus line. Funding is expected to come from a future general obligation bond sale (if approved by voters).

7. Bridj announced

A totally new type of transit service called Bridj is coming to the region. KCATA will be the first public transit agency to partner with the startup, which is currently only providing service in Boston and DC.

8. Real regional passes — finally

A regional month and day pass was made official in April. It wasn’t technically difficult, but required four transit agencies (and their funding partners) to agree to make it work. The next stop is off-board fare collection, possibly on Prospect MAX, as well as smartphone payment.

9. Megabus leaves Kansas City

Declining ridership took a toll on private intercity carrier Megabus, which ceased twice-daily runs in September serving Kansas City and Columbia via it’s Chicago hub. During an eight year span in Kansas City, the low-cost curbside provider changed boarding locations from 10th & Main to 3rd & Grand and peaked a three KC departures. Most intercity bus passengers continue to use Greyhound and Jefferson Lines from the Greyhound station at 1101 Troost.

10. Stop consolidation

Up until 2015, no one bothered to make sure regular local bus routes were moving quickly. Stops would often appear twice in the same block, slowing service to a crawl. Now, we have the first attempt to eliminate redundant stops that are often too close together and make long bus rides unbearable.

A few updates from last year’s list:

  • Rock Island advances. Jackson County and KCATA announced in September that they had reached an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad for KCATA to acquire the Rock Island Railroad’s underutilized right of way that serves the Truman Sports Complex, Raytown and Lee’s Summit. The right of way will become a trail in the near future and will reserve space for future transit service. As of this writing, the deal had not been signed.
  • Bike share expansion #3. After expanding into Midtown last year, seven new B-cycle stations were added in greater downtown, Brookside, and Waldo. A total of 27 stations now cover the interior parts of KCMO.
  • WiFi expansion. By the end of 2016, the entire fleet of Kansas City buses and streetcars will have WiFi available onboard. Zero Kansas City buses had WiFi as recently as 2008.
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Car #801 is here and testing

Streetcar #801

The first Kansas City streetcar vehicle in a generation is now plying Main Street on a regular basis for testing. It’s numbered 801 — a nod to the last vehicle order received by the Kansas City Public Service Company in 1946.

Most of those cars continued serving passengers in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto after our system shut down in 1957.

Three more modern CAF Urbos vehicles will arrive — the second will arrive in early December — allowing service to start in Spring 2016.

The system will be free to ride and will be fully accessible to all, with level boarding and a 100% low-floor interior.

In the meantime, check out these great animated shorts about how to safely drive and walk near the streetcar. There’s also a great video about the insane amount of development that’s occurred since the line was approved.

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Streetcar projects opening in 2015

While construction on Kansas City’s starter streetcar line will be complete in 2015, service won’t actually begin until 2016. A few other cities will open new lines or extensions this calendar year, pending final testing and safety certification:

H Street Line, Washington, DC (January)


Underway as both a streetscape and transit project since 2009, DC’s first streetcar line is a standout because it was done without federal funding; most of Portland and Seattle were built without explicit federal funding, but many of the newer lines (including a recent Portland expansion) have received competitive grants or New/Small Starts funds.

  • Length: 2.4 miles (22-to-37 miles planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: Union Station (subway, commuter rail, Amtrak)
  • Funding: Local

Gold Line Phase 1, Charlotte, NC (Spring)


The Gold Line will open as early as March and connect the existing Blue Line light rail line that opened in 2007 to neighborhoods. Phase 2 is expected to start construction in 2016.

  • Length: 1.5 miles (10 miles planned)
  • Vehicles: Vintage (initially)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connection: Charlotte Transit Center (light rail, local bus)
  • Funding: Federal, local

Oak Cliff Streetcar, Dallas, TX (Spring)


America’s first off wire modern streetcar will connect downtown Dallas with the Oak Cliff neighborhood across the historic Trinity River bridge (which originally carried streetcars). A 1-mile loop extension of the existing M-Line vintage streetcar line is also planned to open in 2015.

  • Length: 1.6 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Brookfield)
  • Peak headway: 20 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connections: Union Station (light rail, commuter rail, local bus, Amtrak)
  • Funding: Federal, local

South Loop, Portland, OR (September)


A new car-free river crossing will complete the full loop of both sides of the Willamette River originally envisioned in the late ’80s. The cable-stayed bridge will share space for buses, streetcars, light rail, bikes, and pedestrians — the first of its kind.

  • Length: 1.3 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon, Skoda, Oregon Iron Works)
  • Peak headway: 12 minutes
  • Fare: $1
  • Major transit connection: New Milwaukie light rail line
  • Funding: Federal, state, local

First Hill Line, Seattle, WA (Fall)


The first streetcar line to incorporate a significant bike facility in the same corridor also stands out for lack of federal funding. Eventually a new Central Connector will join the First Hill line with the existing South Lake Union line.

  • Length: 2.5 miles (Expansions planned)
  • Vehicles: Modern (Inekon)
  • Peak headway: 10 minutes
  • Fare: TBD
  • Major transit connection: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (south), new light rail station (north)
  • Funding: Local

Atlanta opened December 30, 2014 and Tucson opened July 25, 2014, rounding out last year’s new systems. Both used federal funding, modern vehicles (Siemens and Oregon Iron Works, respectively), and are already planning extensions.

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Top transit stories of 2014


It was a big year in local transit news: elections, streetcar construction, new amenities, and a makeover of our only bi-state transit agency. Here’s the recap:

1. Election defeats

Voters said no to transportation ballot questions multiple times in 2014 — some good (streetcar & MAX expansion), some mediocre (Missouri Amendment 7), and some just plain bad (Clay Chastain’s latest underfunded petition initiative).

City Hall says wait until the streetcar starter line is up and running (early 2016) before attempting expansion again. Statewide transportation funding will likely resurface sooner (Gov. Nixon’s push for tolling on I-70 is the first attempt). Meanwhile, Clay Chastain is running for Mayor (yes, he qualifies) and claiming he will dismantle the starter line if elected.

2. Downtown starter line

The starter line officially broke ground in May and by Dec. 19 had laid 7,165 feet (33%) of the mainline track. A major component of construction was replacement and modernization of utilities, which caused impacts to linger far longer than just installing tracks. The pace of redevelopment along the line also exceeded expectations, with new residential, job, hotel, and retail announcements arriving almost weekly. Also in 2014: Operating hours were announced, branding was approved, and a new Executive Director took the helm.

3. KCATA reorganization

A flurry of activity from within the walls of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority made for an interesting year and a promising future. Here’s a quick timeline:

  • January 22: Jackson County’s Robbie Makinen re-elected as chair of KCATA board
  • April 23: KCATA announces plans to refocus (and reorganize) the agency around being truly regional
  • August 15: Long-time General Manager/CEO Mark Huffer resigns
  • September 25: Johnson County Board of Commissioners approves management consolidation with The JO
  • November 19: New CEO search begins, KCATA approves new “RideKC” regional brand

Reports indicate that deals to bring Wyandotte County and Independence back into the KCATA fold are in the works.

4. SpotShotter success

Gunfire along the Troost MAX line is down 26% thanks to new technology that pinpoints the location with sound, aiding police response. It’s a collaboration between agencies (KCATA and KCPD) that’s producing real results.

5. Bike share expansion

BikeShareKC finally opened new kiosks in Midtown and near the Plaza.

6. Rock Island ROW purchase

Jackson County finally reached a deal to purchase the Rock Island right of way from Union Pacific, as well as a federal grant to fund part of the purchase. After negotiations stalled with Kansas City Southern over access to their existing tracks, the Rock Island remains the best chance to rekindle County Executive Mike Sanders’ regional rail plan.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.14.11 PM

7. Downtown bus realignment

In transit speak, the “Comprehensive Service Analysis” would shift all downtown bus routes to Grand and 11th/12th streets (“Transit Emphasis Corridors”). The change would dramatically enhance KCATA’s utility for short trips within the greater downtown area, provide better passenger amenities (“superstops”), and dovetail perfectly with frequent streetcar service on Main Street. The 10th & Main transit center would be replaced by an on-street facility just east of City Hall.

8. New service (#105, expanded #47, larger #101 buses)

It’s not common for KC to get a completely new transit route, but the modest #105 is actually notable for being the product of grassroots efforts by the Rosedale community in KCK. Constant complaints led KCATA to improve #47 service to the Truman Sports Complex. KCK’s flagship route #101 finally got larger buses in January to relieve overcrowding.

9. 31-day & regional passes

Both The JO and KCATA switched to 31-day passes (which cuts down on the cost of printing unique passes for each calendar month). The Regional Transit Coordinating Council facilitated making the more expensive JO pass the de facto regional pass that would be accepted on all of KC’s transit systems. Both efforts were easy wins entirely focused on existing customers.

10. Workforce connex grant

The Mid-America Regional Council scored a $1.2 million TIGER planning grant to study how to “double the number of jobs accessible by public transit in the greater Kansas City area” after an embarrassingly-low ranking by Brookings. The real test will be what the region does with the study’s findings (hint: it will require regional funding).

11. More WiFi

KCATA unveiled free WiFi service on MAX and other key routes. The system is basically free to the agency, as well, thanks to T-Mobile. The JO began free WiFi on its commuter routes in 2010. “SmartCity” partner Cisco unveiled plans that would enable free WiFi along the downtown streetcar route.

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Support lines up for streetcar & MAX expansion

Photo Jul 19, 2 17 24 PM

With just a few weeks left until voters decide on Question A – shall we organize a new Transportation Development District that would fund streetcar and MAX expansion? — organizations have been lining up to support the effort.


Both the Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Business Journal endorsed Question A on their editorial pages. Both have previously endorsed official light rail and bus plans.


Mayor Sly James and the City Council, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, Center City Neighborhood Association, South Plaza Neighborhood Association, Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), Downtown Council, Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association, Columbus Park Community Council, and the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance have all passed resolutions of support.

The above list contains neighborhood associations from each of the streetcar and MAX expansion corridors. City Council continues to vote unanimously on funding and policies related to streetcar.


Heavy Constructors, BNIM, Burns & McDonnell, Herzog Contracting Corp., HNTB, UMB Bank, Stacy & Witbeck, and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences have all contributed to the Question A campaign.

The Heavy Constructors previously fought larger light rail plans, so their financial support for both streetcar districts is noteworthy. KCUMB’s main campus is on the Independence Avenue line.

State of Missouri

An approved Amendment 7 project list for the KC region includes $144 million in matching funds for Question A. In return, the sales tax within the TDD would be lowered so that no one pays more than an additional penny if both initiatives pass on August 5. This is the first time the State of Missouri has provided direct capital funding for any transit project. MARC and Mayor Sly James deserve recognition for keeping the region’s project list focused on transit (something MoDOT and Amendment 7′s sponsors did not want).

Election Day

Polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, August 5, and close at 7 p.m. Question A will be at the bottom of the ballot and will only appear if you are registered to vote inside the TDD boundary.


Meanwhile, Phase 1 construction continues with track installation resuming this month and a new Executive Director on board for the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, which is in charge of operating the system.

Downtown voters have a very good reason to approve the expansion TDD as they’ll get 8 miles of streetcar for the price of 2, since their assessments and sales tax rate won’t change.

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