City and business leaders say KC Streetcar ridership is spurring new flow of money into downtown area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The rides are free, and even so, Kansas City leaders and business leaders say the KC Streetcar is helping new money flow into downtown. Thursday night, the Streetcar officially celebrates its one millionth rider, five months after launching.

The city says the revenue coming in from all the people is really helping the area, and businesses are noticing.

“It`s definitely increased, we`ve noticed that the ridership has helped us significantly and the neighborhood a lot,” said Nathaniel Beam, a manager Of Opera House, a restaurant in the River Market.

Beam says as the Streetcar brought more accessible transportation, it also is bringing in more customers.

“It`s been difficult to keep up with the traffic at times, but at the same time, it`s a challenge that is good for a business,” added Beam.

The president and CEO of Visit KC, Ronnie Burt, says they're seeing evidence of more movement throughout the city - as the Streetcar makes getting around easier.

“Even the people that are working downtown now are getting on the Streetcar and going down to Union Station, or down to the River Market, where they would never walk to those areas previously. So the translation of ridership is translating to more money spent in the local businesses,” Burt said.

“One of our biggest areas of growth has been weekday business lunch, a lot of people that only have an hour for lunch don`t want to deal with getting their car out of the garage, driving, parking, taking it back, it`s a lot easier for them to just hop on the streetcar,” Beam added.

The city promised the Streetcar would be about transit, but also economic development. It has been watching the passenger count and rides, and all signs show strong support.

“We had certain expectations and projections, we thought that after the initial hubbub that things would slow down into a more usual pattern, but ridership has actually increased as we have continued,” said Chris Hernandez, a Kansas City spokesman.

The city projected 2,700 riders per day, and the average daily ridership now is 6,600 per day.

“It's brought a lot of people to the neighborhood just to ride the Streetcar out of novelty, but then also a lot of people that were interested in the River Market anyway, and it's provided a much more accessible form of transportation for them, so they've enjoyed the neighborhood a lot more frequently, which helps us,” Beam said.

FOX 4 also heard that vendors who come to sell at the farmer's market are bringing more goods and staying open later, because they're seeing so many more people.

The “Thanks A Million” celebration goes until 8 p.m. on 14th Street. Everyone is welcome to come out.