The KC Streetcar in Kansas City, MO. (Image: Jason Doss, Wikimedia Commons)
In 2016, Kansas City, MO opened the first streetcar the city has seen in almost 60 years and transformed the city’s downtown. Former skeptics of the line are now some of the KC Streetcar’s biggest proponents as businesses have boomed and more people are moving to—and spending in—the center city. The 2.2 mile KC Streetcar, akin to a downtown circulator, is “a demonstration of the possible.”
This month on Building Better Communities with Transit we’re joined by the Executive Director of the KC Streetcar Authority, Tom Gerend. Tom talks about some of the challenges in creating the streetcar and a broader regional transit network. He explains the value capture funding mechanism that funds 100 percent of the streetcar’s operations and maintenance (as well as some of the project design and construction). The KC Streetcar is unique in a lot of ways, including it’s lack of a fare. Tom explains the rationale behind the decision to make the streetcar free.
In Tom’s words, “it’s hard to believe that just two years ago the service didn’t exist.” It has exceeded expectations on multiple fronts—ridership, revenues, and downtown investment and redevelopment. Tom tells podcast listeners about the potential for future expansions and how laying the groundwork early for both the initial line and expansions is critical for success.
Building Better Communities with Transit is intended to provide more support to communities and local leaders who are working to catalyze new development around transit, give more people access to public transportation, increase access to opportunity, and build robust local economies.