KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The next four years are going to bring a lot of changes while Kansas City gets ready for the 2026 World Cup.

Some of those changes will be temporary, but transportation and multi-modal advocates hope improvements to how we move around the metro will last long after the final World Cup whistle blows.

The city of Kansas City, Missouri reiterates that it will have enough transit options when the hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the metro for the games, but much of that work will be focused on getting to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, the airport, and area hotels.

“I’m not much of a sports fan but I had been following this opportunity because it’s much bigger than just a sporting event,” said transportation consultant David Johnson. “It’s a big economic opportunity and certainly a transportation challenge.”

Transit advocates like BikeWalkKC Executive Director says getting to any of a long list of other attractions might be harder.

“Getting them around town, not just to and from the games, but also to bars and restaurants and shopping, and making it so that it’s accessible for the visitors to see all the great attractions in our region,” Rogers said.

The issue is that a Mid-America Regional Council Peer Cities Transit Report shows that Kansas City is towards the bottom in per capita spending on public transit.

“At the end of the day, more service would be running if there were more money available to run it,” Johnson said.

That has caused challenges for Kansas City residents trying to live in the metro without a car but also makes preparation for large events harder too.

“We just invest much less than similar cities do and so we’re starting from a really low position to begin with,” Rogers said. “We have that much more ground to make up.”

Kansas City, Missouri City Councilman Eric Bunch said these challenges are hardly unique to KCMO.

“There are very few cities in the world that can adequately handle this level of visitors with existing public transportation,” Bunch said.

Bunch said he’d be pushing for more public transit investment even without the World Cup, but that this massive event could help bring the attention to generations of underfunded transit. His goal is to make sure the transit solutions don’t just get Kansas City through the surge of the World Cup, but that those investments are permanent so citizens can enjoy them after.

“I want to make sure that Kansas Cityians get to experience some of that stuff, whether it’s improved public transit or new parks and public spaces, those things need to be made permanent and be integrated into our daily lives,” Bunch said.

It would make a big difference to cyclists like Erica Clinton, who rides 10 miles every time she commutes to work along the Gillham Cycle Track.

“We definitely need more bike lanes, especially as we get closer to downtown,” Gillham said.

The protection of a dedicated lane, behind bollards and curbs, is important to her but doesn’t exist as much downtown.

“When I see people on the bike lanes who are on bikes, walking running or in wheelchairs, those all makes a huge difference because you have a straight line with the bike lanes you don’t have cracks in the sidewalks,” Clinton said.

Bunch said the 2023 NFL Draft will bring in fewer visitors, but it’ll still be a good test that the city can use to figure out how to better accommodate big crowds.

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