The downtown starter line for the streetcar expansion project has officially been approved and is currently in the early planning stages. The route will span from the River Market to Crown Center and will become operational in 2015.
Vincent Gauthier, the director of planning at Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell Inc and UMKC adjunct professor. BNIM is currently working on this project. The Kansas City- based BNIM was hired as a sub-consultant for the execution of the project.
The planning team is researching eight different corridors, but none have been finalized. The proposed corridors include Independence Avenue, 12th Street, 18th Street, Southwest Boulevard, Main Street, Linwood/31st Street and the starter line, which connects to Main Street. They will narrow those options to three or four and begin studying traffic patterns, neighborhoods, job generators, institutions and retailers surrounding the smaller list. This process will take some time due to many factors including each route needing to be evaluated by the city council.
The streetcar will supplement and complement the Kansas City Transportation Authority bus system with additional routes to reach more people and locations It is also intended to be faster than the bus. The streetcar will be ADA accessible and provide storage for bicycles. Another advantage is that people won’t have to spend so much money on cars, since approximately one-third of an individual’s income is spent on auto-related costs like gas and maintenance. The new streetcar will eliminate some of these expenses.
For students who live on or near campus, it will make it much easier to get around, go shopping and frequent different popular locales in the city. The same goes for commuters, dependent upon where they live, given that the streetcar will run east and west in Kansas City, except for the Main Street route which will connect to the starter line. Commuters who live on the corridors marked on the map will not have to deal with traffic or paying for on-campus parking. For now, the project is still in the planning phase until spring 2014, so there is no projected date for ground breaking at this time.
The most important reason for fixed rail, according to Gauthier, is essentially what it can do to transform neighborhoods. Streetcars are infrastructures that set the tone for future development and people can depend on them to do that. It has the power for transit-oriented development, which maximizes access to public transportation and brings a community together by interconnecting people and neighborhoods. All of the lines being considered were once historic streetcar lines ranging all the way back to 1913. . The new streetcars have the capacity to bring back to Kansas City a small piece of history.
The streetcar expansion project is in need of more advocates. To get involved and contribute, visit nextrailkc.com and click on the Share Your Ideas link at the bottom of the page to join in the Next Rail KC MindMixer online forum discussion.