Streetcar expected to increase transit ridership

streetcar-hearingIf the $512 second-phase of the streetcars is built, it would increase overall Kansas City transit ridership by from 19-to-36 percent, according to a consultant report.

They reported that and much more today to three city council committees that together approved a resolution on the next phase.

The matter goes to the full city council this afternoon.

In a city that was shaped by its many streetcar lines in the past, only 19 percent of its jobs are now accessible by 90-minutes or less of public transit, consultant BNIM reported.

The scaled back expansion would go on Main Street to UMKC, off Main on Linwood Boulevard to Prospect and on Independence Avenue to Benton Boulevard.

Significant opposition developed to taking a line as far south on Main as 85th Street.

The southern boundary of a transportation district for the project was cut back to eliminate Brookside and Waldo.

Doug Stone, an attorney working for the city on the project, today told committee members that it was not financially viable to go father south on Main Street anyway.

The transportation district, if voters approve it and if federal funds are raised, would together fund $512 million for just under eight more miles of streetcars, he said.

Local funding would pay about $177 million and federal funds the rest, except for a $31 million shortfall he believes can be plugged.

The transportation district would include a one-cent sales tax in the area and higher tax assessments on property within a third of a mile of the lines.

Councilman Russ Johnson noted that no local taxes would be collected until federal money is approved – but federal money is not available until the local taxes are approved.

He said the city extension, which would include a MAX bus line on Prospect Avenue, has a good chance of funding under a federal grant program for transport systems.

The grant program funded by a gasoline tax dates to 1984, has a pool of $1.9 billion, and has gone to big city transit projects, he said, never to Kansas City.

“Do you like that arrangement or do you think we should get some of (the grant) money – that’s the decision we’re asking the public to make,” he said.

(Disclosure: The Midtown KC  Post’s Mary Jo Draper and Joe Lambe were part of the NextRail KC Project team).

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