KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The plan to have streetcars in downtown Kansas City took a step forward on Wednesday, but opponents of the plan say that the fight is far from over.
A majority of downtown residents – around 63 percent – approved a one cent sales tax increase and property tax hike to pay for the $100 million streetcar system plan. A total of 700 downtown registered voters were qualified to cast their ballots in the election, which was certified by election commissioners on Wednesday.
The planned 2-mile streetcar line is set to run from the River Market to Union Station. People like Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen manager Barry Tunnell say that the new trolley system will attract more people to live downtown and enjoy what urban living has to offer.
“It creates a flow of people who might be potential customers of ours,” said Tunnell. “The more access people have to our neighborhood and our business the more we hope they will join us.”
But others aren’t so sure. Kansas City Library director and Show-Me Institute chairman Crosby Kemper III, who lives downtown, says that the starter line will have the highest cost-per-mile and the lowest ridership of any rail project in the nation.
“This will be attractive to 20-somethings, but it’s $200 million and you can attract a lot of 20-somethings if you put 200 million dollars into doing something with Google Fiber if we did something that actually had to do with business and creativity, as opposed to a frou-frou upper-middle-class amenity,” said Kemper.
Kemper claims that the tax increase will make downtown sales taxes higher than any other downtown in the region. But supporters point to other cities where streetcars have helped lure thousands of young, talented workers to revitalize blighted downtowns.
Opponents are promising a legal challenge to the plan.