Where is the streetcar headed? Update given at NEIA luncheon

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
November 5, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – As more tracks get laid, more information becomes available about the Kansas City Streetcar.

Last month, Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority, gave a short presentation at the Northeast Industrial Association luncheon to provide a general overview of the KC Streetcar project, anticipated completion dates, and the possibilities for future expansion.

“There’s a lot of activity going on downtown at the moment,” Gerend said. “But the pain and agony will be worth the wait.”

Gerend told the group of about 25 people that by this time next year, construction should be complete and vehicle testing should be underway. The rail system should then be open to the public by early 2016. Recently, he added, the operations committee approved what time the streetcar will run from: 6 a.m. – midnight Monday to Thursday, 6 – 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Sunday.

“There will be a driver/operator for the vehicles,” Gerend said. “It’s mixed traffic streetcar so they’ll be able to hold green lights and will have to stop at red lights. There will be cars in front and behind them.”

He told the crowd the city is still working on a detailed operating plan and have been in talks with experts from across the country on how to best operate the streetcar. The length of time the route will run a streetcar approximately 13 minutes, sometimes shorter and sometimes longer depending on the time of day. The cars will stop for about 20 seconds and stop to pick-up and unload passengers every three blocks. One car can hold about 150 people and will be free to ride.

“We wanted to maximize usage and didn’t think it would be completely utilized if someone paid $2 for a ride,” Gerend said.

Gerend also updated the group on the construction work being done on the Singleton Vehicle Maintenance Facility. The facility is located in Columbus Park, at the intersection of Third and Holmes Street. The facility is named after E. Crichton “Kite” Singleton, a longtime public transit advocate.

The cost of the two-story, 24,982 square-foot station is estimated at around $10 million. The upper level will house streetcar administration while the first floor is dedicated to vehicle service, repair and maintenance for the streetcar trolleys. The facility is expected to be ready by next summer.

The continuous detours, Gerend said, are currently because of third party utility work. He added that the city’s water main issue has been bad for years and one of the biggest benefits of the rail construction has been the water main replacements.

Gerend said the streetcar has cost the city $102 million, with $65 million for construction, $20 million for vehicles and another $20 million for maintenance. This past August, Kansas City residents voted down an expansion that would have brought the streetcar further into the Northeast, as well as along Linwood Boulevard and south along the Main Street route to the Country Club Plaza and the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He noted that the city needs to clarify its expansion strategy and work to boost community support east of Troost Avenue. There are no disagreements, he added, that the next logical route is to continue the track south.

“The project will stand on its own but there’s a vision of a bigger line in the long term,” Gerend said. “We needed to start small, with just two miles first, to show the public it can work.”

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