On my way to lunch today, I passed this new piece of chalk art on Main, just North of 18th Street. The art is an almost obvious set of rail tracks directing people to ourstreetcar.com. Instead of being a website with information about the downtown street car plan, the url takes you to a neighbor.ly url that is going to, eventually, try to crowd-source some of the funding necessary to build the street-car line.
Personally I'm not sure how viable crowdsourcing this type of $$ is, but I do applaud their efforts. While the idea of a streetcar line in Kansas City has been very controversial, it seems very obvious to me that Kansas City NEEDS to develop a fixed transit line.
I realize that the initial cost of rail always seems to be more expensive than bus transit -- which, short term, is always a more efficient way to move people about in a city.
But the long-term impact of rail is much different than bus.
1) Fixed rail lines build density -- and have proven over and over again to do so. With the density comes increased tax revenue per square mile, more people, a more vibrant urban environment -- and yes, more people to ride public transit.
2) Once established, rail lines are less expensive to operate than buses -- meaning less need/opportunities to cut existing services every time the budget gets tight (which is currently happening now with our bus lines).
2) There has also been talk about adding commuter rail lines into the city. While commute times in Kansas City are relatively low, it's in part because our state and federal highway departments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually in rebuilding major highway interchanges -- such as at I-435 and I-70 near the sports complex, and the Grandview Triangle - -in recent years. Without commuter rail, major, and costly highway infastructure improvements will remain necessary. However, commuter rail lines need to feed into something once they reach the central business district -- and that something needs to be permanent to justify the expense of the commuter rail lines.
3) While the initial streetcar proposal is very small - -we must start somewhere - -and this is a good, viable place for the streetcar line to begin. I would imagine additional lines would be in the works even before the starter line gets completed.
4) Good pulbictransit is too important for cities to ignore. It is excellent at building density, but also important at moving people from place to place, alleviating congestion on roads, and allowing low-income individuals without cars to move to and from jobs easily. Without viable transit (which now is very limiting), people without cars or very restricted on where they can find jobs - -which means the poor stay poor. There are exactly zero good case studies that I am aware of (even after looking) of cities with good public transit that are relying solely on buses. It just doesn't happen. There is no reason to believe Kansas City can succeed at it when others haven't.
So, go check out ourstreetcar.com -- and see how you can help.