Council candidates contemplate transportation decisions

 Fourth district at large candidate John Fierro at the transportation forum. Behind him (from left to right: candidates Jim Glover (4th district), Jermaine Reed (3rd district), Lee Barnes (5th district), Kathryn Shields (4th district) and Dennis Anthony (5th district).

Fourth district at large candidate John Fierro at the transportation forum. Behind him (from left to right): candidates Jim Glover (4th district), Jermaine Reed (3rd district), Lee Barnes (5th district), Kathryn Shields (4th district) and Dennis Anthony (5th district).

Candidates for the city council acknowledge that many key issues facing the city involve transportation – from sidewalks, streetcars and road diets to bike lanes, commuter rail and transportation taxes.

Candidates responded to questions about transportation last night at a candidate forum sponsored by the Regional Transit Alliance and BikeWalkKC.

The entire forum is available online

They also see a range of options for addressing those issues, and bring to the table differing philosophies about what values are most important in the debate. For example, some think it is important for the next council to develop transportation policies that connect people with jobs, while others think the key is using transit infrastructure like streetcar lines to encourage redevelopment.

Either way, most agreed that transportation topics will be important to the next city council.

“Kansas City is at a crossroads when it comes to transit,” said Scott Wagner, a current council member and 1st district candidate.

Most agreed that voters seem interested in transit issues in this election cycle, although one candidate, 3rd district candidate Jamekia Hendrix, said she thinks priorities in her district are somewhat different. She cited the high rate of poverty and the number of vacant homes.

“We need to invest in entrepreneurship and education. We need to create businesses, schools and churches and then people will have something to bike and walk to.”

One issue which has been coming up at candidate forums since the primary is about how improvements to sidewalks should be handled. The current city policy puts responsibility for repairing sidewalks on property owners.

“We need to rethink how we pay for sidewalks,” 6th District candidate Terrance Nash said. He suggested the city could consider some sort of dedicated funding source for making sidewalk repairs.

The candidates were asked whether they supported expanding the downtown streetcar starter line with an extension to connect Crown Center to UMKC.

Jim Glover, a 4th district incumbent and candidate, said he supports streetcar expansion both on Main Street and on Linwood Boulevard, but voters may need to see the impact of the downtown streetcar before they are ready to vote for an extension.

Voters last year rejected the creation of a transportation district supported by sales and property taxes to build streetcar extension lines.

Once the starter line is built, people “can kick the tires and see how it works,” Glover said.

Fourth district candidate Katheryn Shields said the Crown Center to UMKC route is obviously the next phase in building a streetcar system.

“I am one of the people who will be paying the extra property tax to support it but I think its worth it,” she said.

Nash said he has opposed the streetcar and favors investing instead in the MAX bus rapid transit system. He said he does not think Kansas City is has a dense enough population to support a comprehensive light rail system.

“I think our real issue can be solved with buses,” 5th district candidate Ken Bacchus said. He added that he thinks buses are the most efficient way to get people around the city.

Several other candidates suggested the next city council needs to explore other streetcar financing methods because the property tax for a streetcar district was unpopular, especially in some areas of the city.

Candidates also expressed continued support for a MAX bus on Prospect Avenue.

The candidates responded to a question about whether Kansas City should get involved in helping to finance a Rock Island Right of Way, which some see as a step toward commuter rail for the region.

Quinton Lucas, a candidate for the 3rd district, called that idea, “a true regional solution for transit.

(4th District candidate Jolie Justus was not at the forum).


  1. Carol and David Sindelar says:

    This forum is very helpful. Thank you. ….. Few of these candidates will get our votes due to their support of pursuing streetcar expansion from Crown Center to UMKC. Kansas City does not have the density to justify the exorbitant cost of street car expansion. Frankly, a regional planning approach should have been held prior to proceeding with streetcars downtown.

    Leave the Harry Wiggin’s Trolley Trail alone for use by pedestrians, joggers, pet owners, bicyclists and all the children heading safely to school and to the local parks along the trail. The Trolley Track Trail, in its current use, is the smartest thing the KCATA ever did to improve our Plaza/ Brookside/ Waldo neighborhoods.

    The I-Max Bus system works great along Main Street / Brookside Boulevard and it does not tear up our streets and unbalance /ruin our car tires or create traffic congestion and unfair funding formulas as the streetcar lines have already done downtown.

    Putting funding for this expansion on the backs of property owners along the trail route — who do not want it and will not use it — is grossly unfair. If transient UMKC students want the streetcar expansion; let them become permanent home owners along the route; so they can be forced to fund it.

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