Judge’s ruling confirms benefits of streetcars

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Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan ruled last week that the proposed Transportation Development District to fund three streetcar expansions (Main Street, Independence Avenue, and Linwood Boulevard) and one MAX expansion (Prospect Avenue) is legal and placed it immediately on the August 2014 ballot. [Map of TDD boundary]

Kansas City and the Port Authority filed the TDD petition in January, based on recommendations from the feasibility study.

If voters inside the TDD approve its formation on Aug. 5, a subsequent election will occur on Nov. 4 to approve the sales tax and special assessments. It’s important to note:

  • The 1% sales tax applies within the entire district (some sales are exempt)
  • The special assessments apply only to properties within 1/3-mile of streetcar tracks actually constructed
  • No taxes or assessments will be collected until there is a minimum 50% federal match

Streetcars — and fixed rail, in general — increase the value of adjacent real estate, which is the legal basis for the special assessment (not whether or not you will use it). The city’s legal team provided evidence of this during the TDD proceedings, and Judge Roldan concurred in his ruling.

The argument for the sales tax is the same as any citywide election. Does the presence of streetcar — and the resulting increase in transit ridership and economic development — benefit the city as a whole? The answer is yes.

In short, the argument over the benefits of streetcars is over. The question for KC voters now is: Where to expand?

Starter line update

The City issued a Notice to Proceed for full starter line construction on May 15. An official groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 22 at south of Truman Road on Main Street. Water and sewer work will begin first — overseen by KC Streetcar Constructors — then follow with track construction.

On April 25, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority announced their recommendation to hire Herzog Transit Services, Inc., of St. Joseph, to operate and maintain the starter line — pending city approval and contract negotiations. Selection of the operator reflects the final partner required to be in place to start operating in 2015.

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