City is shopping for streetcars

One company vying to provide streetcars for Kansas City is CAF. Scroll to the bottom of this story to see the other option, offered by Siemens. The city saw these slides of the two options this week.

It’s not like shopping for a Chevy or Ford, officials said, but it’s almost time to decide which model of streetcar to buy.

Ralph S. Davis, assistant director of public works, on Thursday reported the two company finalists to the city council.

Three cars will operate at a time on the two-mile route from the river market to Union Station when the line opens in 2015, he said. A fourth will be used for special events or when one of the others is down for maintenance.

Each car will hold from 140 to 150 people, be ADA complaint and meet other criteria, he said.

One company in the running is called CAFUSA Inc. CAF is headquartered in Spain but it would assemble the cars in Elmira New York. Its resume includes orders from 26 cities, including four in the United States.

The other company is Siemens, a German-based firm with a facility in Sacramento, California. Its car is used in eight cities in the United States.

The city is negotiating with each company for “piggyback” buying of the cars, which means it would buy them at prices and to specifications that have been negotiated by other cities.

Cincinnati, Ohio has negotiated a deal with CAF to buy so many cars with options for many more and it can transfer some of those options to Kansas City.

Salt Lake city has a similar deal with Siemens.

The rails being constructed for the $102 million Kansas City system will allow either streetcars or light rail cars, which are generally used for longer runs at somewhat higher speeds.

Councilman Russ Johnson said that will allow for expansion of the Downtown line into other areas with different rail needs.

“We will see in the future a blurring of the terminology of streetcar and light rail,” he said. “In Europe both are called tram now.”

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