The Kansas City downtown streetcar project has been noted for its significant stakeholder involvement in all aspects of the project, including the formation of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, a not-for-profit corporation set up to operate the system which is made up of a majority of downtown stakeholders. That starter line phase incorporated over 200 meetings, and counting, with a wide variety of parties.
Today, Mayor Sly James announced that he will appoint a committee of stakeholders, including residents and business owners, surrounding the Country Club Right-of-Way, to serve on an advisory committee for the planning of the streetcar expansion through that area. Interested individuals can apply at www.kcmayor.org/streetcar. The group will be appointed by February 19, 2014.
“We’ve already seen the economic impact of the streetcar starter line downtown and the first car hasn’t even hit the pavement yet,” said Mayor Sly James. “Over 30 new or renovation projects worth approximately ¾ of a billion dollars are already in process or in the planning phases. I want that type of economic development to spread throughout the city as much as possible. We’re going to be as strategic with these next steps as we were with the starter line. Bringing together a group of people to examine neighborhood concerns shows that the community is at the heart of this project.”
This committee will address several community concerns regarding how the expansion may proceed that are unique to the Country Club Right-of-Way area. As specific concerns arise on other expansion corridors, it is anticipated that similar stakeholder advisory groups will be created as needed. Frequently asked questions specific to the Country Club Right-of- Way are:
1. Will the streetcar preserve the Trolley Track Trail and its benefits to the community?
Yes. The Mayor and Council are committed to making any streetcar route that utilizes even a portion of the Country Club Right-of-Way co-exist with the trail. The trail is a community asset that all parties agree must be preserved.
2. Will there be a vote of the people on the revenue streams?
Yes. In fact, there will be two votes that are tentatively planned to take place August 5, 2014 and November 4, 2014. The first vote will be to form the TDD. The second vote will be to authorize the sales tax and the special assessments.
3. Will the TDD revenue streams have a sunset?
Yes. The proposed TDD would only allow special assessments to be collected on properties near the streetcar lines for a maximum of 25 years. The sales tax would have a 30 year sunset.
4. Will the sales tax and special assessments be in place before we know about getting federal funding?
No. The revenue streams will not be levied until sufficient federal funds to construct a material portion of the expansion plans are secured.
5. Will the Streetcar Authority’s membership be amended to reflect a larger system?
Yes. When federal funds are secured and the new TDD’s revenue streams levied, the Authority’s membership will be amended to reflect the larger system and will not be made up of only downtown interests as it currently is.
6. Are the streetcar vehicles loud?
Streetcars operate at approximately 80 decibels, which is quieter than a Main Street MAX hybrid bus which is approximately 83 decibels. In addition, a streetcar emergency horn is 93 decibels which is quieter than a standard car horn.
7. Will the streetcar on the Country Club Right-of-Way cost close to $200 million?
The cost of the expansion is dependent on how many miles are constructed and the characteristics of the line (e.g. double vs single track, etc.) Conceptual cost estimates of the streetcar on the Country Club Right-of-Way from 51st and Brookside to 85th and Prospect are approximately $200 million (the study containing these can be found online at www.nextrailkc.com). These numbers are based on using a portion of the Country Club Right-of-Way and with a maximum of 6.25 miles in length. While multiple options are being evaluated which include utilizing a portion of the Country Club Right-of-Way, running with traffic in the street or a hybrid, it is anticipated that only a portion of this would be constructed as part of the current phase. While the exact terminus is not currently known, the initial cost estimates to get the the Waldo area utilizing a portion of the Country Club Right-of-Way are approximately $100 million. The Mayor’s committee will be tasked with helping to identify the best alternative for the stakeholders and the system.
8. Will the streetcar impact neighborhood safety?
Streetcar systems have been built worldwide and these systems have proven safety records. All safety precautions to ensure that the streetcar operates as safely as possible will be taken. When properly designed, trails that are adjacent to fixed rail transit (streetcar, lightrail, commuter rail) are safe. According to a survey of 88 trails conducted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, there has only been one rail-related trail user fatality in over 20 years. With adequate spacing, barriers, and signage, pedestrian and resident conflict with a streetcar vehicle can be easily minimized.
9. Will the streetcar close streets?
This is unknown at this time and cannot be meaningfully evaluated until significant engineering and design is well underway. However, if it is determined that some minor residential streets should be considered for closure, the Mayor’s committee and other stakeholders will be consulted. It should be noted that West 69th Street underpass has long been closed as such a closure improved the safety and the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
10. Will the streetcar mean less parking?
It is not anticipated that there will be less parking. The preliminary budget for streetcar along the Country Club Right-of-Way has included funds to replace any parking currently encroaching on the Country Club Right-of-Way.
11. Will the Streetcar replace the Main Street MAX Bus?
It is intended that the streetcar will operate at a service level at or above the current Main Street MAX, which would remove the need for the Main Street MAX service. In addition, the original Main Street MAX buses and shelters will soon need significant maintenance and/or replacement. The funds currently used to operate the Main Street MAX will be used to operate the planned Prospect MAX. The City and KCATA continue to work together to ensure that the streetcar integrates well with the MAX and Metro bus systems.
12. Will an Environmental Impact Study be done prior to the first TDD vote?
The City and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will work together to ensure the project complies with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and will do so in parallel to other project tasks (such as financing) in the same way the Downtown Streetcar was planned and studied. At this time the City does not know what exact environmental analysis the FTA will require and the FTA usually cannot make that determination until additional engineering work is well under way.