The $102 million Kansas City streetcar is supposed to be a great success. Projected to carry 2,900 people per weekday in its first year, it actually attracted 6,800 people per weekday in its first few months of operation. In fact, the cars are supposedly so crowded that the city is ordering two more cars.
On the other hand, the city so far hasn’t dared to charge fares. When Atlanta began charging fares, ridership fell more than 50 percent. It is hard to claim success with a straight face when you are giving something away. In addition, the ridership projections did not count event-related riders, while actual ridership numbers include a “large event-related market.”
The streetcars go through downtown Kansas City, an area that was already gentrifying with $6 billion worth of new development before the decision was made to build the streetcar line. Despite claims that the streetcar stimulated this development, the reality is that the streetcar goes through the heart of an urban redevelopment area that has benefited from tax-increment financing. Continue reading