Glazer: Does Kansas City Really Need to Blow $100 Million on Streetcars?

A streetcar named desire?

Kansas City mayor Sly James and most of city council are for a new $100 million streetcar system that will connect much of midtown to downtown. The plan calls for an early try with the first streetcar route between the River Market and Union Station.

Of course taxpayers get to pay for the, uh, experiment.

So while both presidential hopefuls go on and on about lowering our federal income taxes, the bigger load continues to fall on city and state taxes for business. These once small amounts of two and three percent have risen to 10% and more over the last couple decades. And as we add the bills up to be paid by small businesses with increased taxes, it’s created major stress in a slowed economy.

Two big questions on the streetcar system are, do we need one today and will it make our city grow?
There’s not very much midtown traffic today at all. Having lived in LA, I can tell you that our lack of backed up highways and major streets in the city are one of the best things about Kansas City. Much of that is because our city is large in size and small in population.

Everyone who works, for the most part, has a car. Those that don’t ride the bus, but most buses I see are empty or close to it. I NEVER see young upwardly mobile young people riding a bus. Unless it’s just for fun like the Bill Nigro led Westport late night crowd going bar to bar.

So I see this as something that would replace bus transport for lower income people in the area.

Our downtown has only a few thousand people living there. All of our shopping is on the Plaza and up North. Downtown has no retail to speak of at all. So I guess it’s for the urban core to go back and forth to work or home and those who have cars will never use it.

So no, I don’t think it’s needed.

As far as making our city grow, you need to have a real downtown or midtown in the first place. Even with the Power and Light, Sprint Center and some condos, downtown has miles to go to become attractive for upper middle income people to want to live in that area. True, the apartments will help. So we need to make it nicer, safer and at least add one or two gas stations, Quick Trips and a retail store first.

Don’t you think?

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19 Responses to Glazer: Does Kansas City Really Need to Blow $100 Million on Streetcars?

  1. Nick Wrong says:

    If by “a few thousand” you mean “nearly 20,000,” yeah, what you say is accurate.

    Except you couldn’t be more wrong. Do your goddamned homework.

    • Craig Glazer says:

      I did, I have family that owns many of the condos down there…I don’t know what you think downtown is…but it doesn’t have 20,000 living there…and everything I said is correct…so you feel a streetcar line is of great need huh?

      Maybe I missed something …for what retail stores…guess they built some things I haven’t seen yet…fill us in.

      • Craig Glazer says:

        PS If there were close to 20,000…big wow…they need a streetcar system for what? They all have cars….and no Quick Trip or place to buy a shirt, dress, or get gas unless you like the 1965 style gas station on jerk off street…In its ten year attempt to work…its been a HUGE failure..HUGE.

        Maybe in ten or twenty years it will grow but today its not happening…so until then save your 100 million for other issues not a street car system that is not needed by anyone.

  2. John Wayne says:

    Glazer, you are exactly right on this one. Stick to this kind of writing and you will develop a reputation as a thoughtful, well informed columnist.

  3. the dude says:

    Short answer; hell no.

  4. Kyle Rohde says:

    Nope. This is a barely-legal, undemocratic push for a highly-visible pet project that will benefit a few companies and politicians to the long-term detriment of the city. The fact that every effort to make sure the fewest people possible vote on it is all the proof I need to make that claim.

    This city has the same amount of infrastructure as Los Angeles, with 1/6 the population. You can drive close to 50 miles north to south and still be in Kansas City, MO. The idea that any kind of fixed transportation solution (streetcar or train) can truly change the way people here get around is laughable. The ONLY real mass transit solution for Kansas City is buses.

    If it were really about making transit around this city better, they’d spent $100 million on natural gas/electricity-powered buses that covered the entire metro (except JoCo, because we know they’re not helping pay for it) with frequent routes and comfortable buses equipped with WiFi and other amenities to broaden the appeal beyond people who can’t afford cars. But that’s not what it’s about – it’s about benefiting a few under the guise of economic development.

    The ONLY logic for streetcars over buses is the belief that it spurs development along the route. I’ve seen research that says this only happens when additional tax breaks are given, and I’ve seen research that says it happens in spades. I’m inclined to believe a streetcar isn’t enough to make businesses want to invest in a downtown that’s already got way-too-high of taxes.

    Beyond that, the whole thing smacks of class warfare/racism to me. The buses aren’t good enough for streetcar supporters (read: they’re not waiting at 9th & Main or 11th & Grand and riding the bus with “those people”), but what are they going to do when “those people” ride the streetcar, since it’s going to be free because the people behind it know nobody’s paying to ride their novelty train?

    If you can’t tell, I hate this plan and everything about it. Beyond that, who is going to ride this thing? Let’s throw out some scenarios –
    – Shopping at Crown Center: faster & easier to just drive and park in the massive free parking garages
    – Event at Sprint Center: this makes sense, since it’s expensive to park near Sprint and can be hard to find a spot. But where are you going to park to ride the streetcar? The park & ride lot at 3rd & Grand I suppose, but where else?
    – Commuting to work: sure, I guess that could work if you live and work on the route, which has to be about 100 people.

    Maybe I’m too much of a pessimist, but I imagine this toy train is dead by 2020 and we pay for it far beyond that.

  5. Reggin Tnuc says:

    For $100,000,000.00 you could buy everyone that lives downtown, assuming that the correct number is 20,000, a Segway. Transportation problem solved and we will have taken a unique and innovative approach towards urban mass transit.

  6. Super Dave says:

    This issue has been discussed on every blog in KC for several months. Been in the news for months, glad to see you finally have a clue what’s happening in KC. Just too bad you post as your opinion what everyone else against it has already said for months.

    • Craig Glazer says:

      Super hater, I knew we could count on you for more “I hate Glazer” comments..Super dumb shmo…it was a story today cause it was front page news today….sorry you agreed with me..hard isn’t it…you are like all the haters on my sports stories as time has moved on and my picks are outstanding as are my predictions on Chiefs etc….nobody much has anything bad to say…funny how that happens huh..?

      • Craig Glazer says:

        Guess when I write about the President winning the debate tonight…that will be what everyone has to say….

        • Super Dave says:

          Oh and Glazer calling me your stupid jew names does not offend me in anyway. Just shows your bullish nature.

      • Super Dave says:

        We don’t move on most just get sick of it and no long go to those or any sites you mess up.

  7. Kerouac says:

    “Does Kansas City Really Need to Blow $100 Million on Streetcars?”
    – only if Pioli determines it is the Chiefs new franchise QB…

  8. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    The streetcar idea is dumb. Check out the link below…why can’t we make something like this work in Kansas City?

  9. Rick Nichols says:

    Traffic along I-35 in Johnson County was terrible this morning. I’d much rather see the money spent on a light rail system serving those who live in Kansas City’s “bedroom” communities than those who live within the urban core, whatever the number is. Trouble is, we keep adding more and more lanes to the highways and are fast approaching the point where we will have used up all the land originally set aside for 435 and the like. I can clearly remember when there was still a fairly wide grass median between the inbound and outbound lanes of I-35 in Johnson County. That’s where the light rail lines could’ve gone had the political will to do the right thing existed at the time, assuming, of course, the vision was there.

    • Super Dave says:

      But where will all the people park to ride this rail system you think would work so well if it was in the middle of I-35?

  10. Walt says:

    We need street cars about as bad as we need a new airport. Wait! We are getting a new airport! Kansas City International, or MCI to you pilots out there, is the one of the most user friendly major airports I have ever used and I have been to lot of them either as a passenger or pilot. What a waste.

  11. Rainbow Man says:

    The more embedded the system the better… so I like a street car much more than an express bus, yet less than full light rail. This is a great idea that will get heavy use… and result in more downtown residences. The voters want it.

    • Kyle Rohde says:

      Which voters are you referring to? The less than 700 that get to make a $100 million decision that affects a city of 3 million? Or the voters among that 3 million that’s voted something like 7 times AGAINST light rail plans in the past 10-15 years?

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