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
The Antiplanner’s recent review of a proposed streetcar in Fort Lauderdale compared data for a dozen streetcar lines operating in 2015. Left out were streetcars in Cincinnati and Kansas City, which began operating during 2016. Now the early results for those two lines are in, and–not surprisingly–they aren’t good.
When it was planned, the Cincinnati streetcar was projected to carry 4,600 riders per weekday (see p. 16). By the time construction began, officials reduced this to 3,200 trips per weekday, and by the time it opened they dropped it further to 2,600. Actual ridership in May, its ninth month of operation, was just 1,713 trips per day. Since the city was counting on fares to help pay for operations, the streetcar is expected to have a $474,530 deficit this year and will need even more money from the city next year.
The Kansas City streetcar, meanwhile, was projected to carry nearly 3,200 weekday riders at fares of $1.50 a ride. So the city was elated when ridership in the first couple of months was more than 6,000 trips per weekday. What they didn’t mention was that the rides were free, not $1.50. Judging by Atlanta’s experience, raising the fares to $1 would reduce ridership by 58 percent; raising them to $1.50 would reduce it even more. Continue reading
Next week, Anaheim California will open the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, which is a grammatically contorted and glorified way of saying “Anaheim train and bus station.” A recent article suggests that some people think the station is an architectural monstrosity, but the real question that should have been debated is cost: was it really worth $185 million to build a train and bus station?
All this could be yours for a mere $2,784 per square foot. Click image for a larger view.
At 67,000 square feet. the station’s cost works out to an incredible $2,764 per square foot. Can you imagine any private firm spending that kind of money on a building to serve even the most profitable business, much less a money-losing one?
Kansas City voters rejected a plan to build an extensive streetcar system. The city already has plans to build a short “starter” line, and the mayor wanted to build more. But voters agreed that buses were cheaper and more sensible. This is the ninth time Kansas City voters have rejected rail transit.
Meanwhile, the Antiplanner has given several presentations in the Twin Cities about rail transit and associated land-use planning. These presentations can be downloaded, with a summary of my narration in the “notes” section, as either Zip files that include several short videos or smaller PowerPoint files that leave out the videos.
- Presentation to the SW Metro Tea Party: Zip file (111 MB) or PPT file (32 MB)
- Presentation to Daytons Bluff neighborhood: Zip file (82 MB) or PPT file (39 MB)
- Presentation to Metro North Chamber of Commerce: Zip file (98 MB) or PPT file (15 MB)
Kansas City voters won’t get a chance to vote on light rail despite the fact that proponents gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot. The court that rejected the measure said that the plan was unworkable because it didn’t provide enough money to build the mandated rail lines.
A light-rail fanatic named Clay Chastain had petitioned for light rail in Kansas City six times and lost. Then, in 2006, he put a crazy proposal on the ballot to built both light rail and an aerial tramway–this was right after Portland opened its aerial tramway–and managed to win, mainly because the people who normally opposed him figured the measure would lose and so they didn’t bother to campaign against it.
The 2006 measure didn’t include enough funding for the project because Chastain figured the federal government would pay for half. But the Federal Transit Administration looked at the numbers and realized that Kansas City would be forced to drastically cut its bus service if it built light rail, so it rejected the plan. Kansas City leaders put another measure on the ballot that voters mercifully rejected.