KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Council will vote Thursday whether to spend nearly $12 million dollars to buy two new streetcars.
The KC Streetcar Authority says the new cars are needed because twice as many people as expected, two-million riders, boarded streetcars during the system's first year. That's led to crowded streetcars and longer than desired wait times.
“I have not ridden the streetcar because the few times I’ve tried it’s been full," a woman who identified herself only as Genevieve said.
Nearly 6,000 riders per day also meant more people spending sales tax at businesses around Main Street between Union Station and River Market.
“We’ve seen a 58 percent increase in the last fiscal year alone, that means people are coming to dine shop go to movies what not within that area," KC Streetcar Authority Communications Director Donna Mandelbaum said. “We’re running our existing streetcars to capacity so we need to fill the demand that’s there and we feel two streetcars will help do that."
The new streetcars would expand their fleet from four to six, allowing for more maintenance and reducing wait times. The number of streetcars running at any one time would increase from three to four, but could go up to five during peak demand.
“I think it would be nice to get the wait down kind of spread out some of that congestion," said Tre Morgan, who commutes on the streetcar from River Market to the Crossroads daily.
The new streetcars would take two years to build.
Thursday's council vote comes at the same time people who requested them received ballots to vote on possibly extending the streetcar line to UMKC and Country Club Plaza. Voters must first decide if a special tax development district should be created along the proposed streetcar line, similar to that already in place along the existing line.
Mandelbaum says the success of the streetcar downtown shows how midtown could benefit.
The existing one-percent sales tax district would be extended. Homeowners living within one-third of a mile of Main Street along the line would pay a special assessment of $266 per year on a $200,000 thousand home. Those taxes would only cover operations of the extended streetcar line.
Only voters along the line were able to request ballots. They have to be returned via mail or in person at the circuit court. All votes must be notarized.
An estimated additional $227 million would need to be raised to extend the streetcar line. That money would likely be raised through bonds, state money and federal grants.