Last night, many people gathered down at the Kansas City Library to hear a presentation about plans for a new starter rail line that would run down the central business corridor from the River Market to Crown Center/Union Station.
The routes would be on one of four roads: Grand, Walnut, Main or Baltimore -- and could either feature two lanes on one road, or a north route on one road, and a south route on the other. Since the lines would be for Modern Street Cars, they would share lanes with automobile traffic so they wouldn't have to have dedicated lanes like former light rail proposals required.
There were two presentations at the Library -- the 5:30 presentation that I attended had just fewer than 50 people in attendence who were not part of the presentation. Also, council members Jim Glover, John Sharp, Russ Johnson and Jan Marcason were all on hand).
You can get a lot more information on the planning proces at kcsmartmoves.org, but they are trying to weigh the pros and cons of the different routes -- including store frontage, redevelopment possibilities, road closures for parades and events, and even catwalks that would have to be navigated over/under.
While I prefer the Walnut route because I think it creates the most central access to a number of points, and the best of eastern access to the River Market and then to Union Station (Grand creates some problems getting to Union Station, and Main enters the River Market on the wrong side IMO), I think any move to get a starter line started to improve the overall public transit structure in this city is to be rewarded. They are also looking at different funding options including federal and state funding, and possibly a localized property and/or sales tax for residents/businesses near the route that will most be impacted (these would be the people who would get to vote on this as well).
Meanwhile, last Friday, Mike Sanders was out talking to the Lee's Summit Chamber of Commerce about his hopes for regional rail in Jackson County. The idea would be for whatever commuter line that comes into the city would eventually connect (either via Truman Road, the River Market or possibly Union Station) with the streetcar route.
These steps are all necessary for the metro. Permanent rail will bring development in a way that changable bus routes never can -- and continue to add density to our urban core. And improved transit will certainly help lower-income families in the metro who require it because they do not have automobiles.
Some good news -- although we're a long way from any of it happening...but with good support from the council and many strong groups downtown, an affordable option like a modern streetcar option has a decent chance of getting built.