by Paul Thompson
Northeast News

On the morning of Saturday, September 16, a small group of Northeast residents from the Indian Mound neighborhood gathered together for a trip on #11 Northeast bus route to the Boulevard Brewery Beer Hall. Sensing an opportunity to write about public transportation in Kansas City, I shamelessly invited myself along for the ride. What follows are my thoughts and experiences from the trip.

The #11 bus was one minute late arriving to the intersection of St. John and Lawndale, which was a real boon for me; I was a minute late, too.

At 10:26 a.m., I hopped on the #11 going westbound. The bus was full but not crowded on the 20-plus minute ride from the Northeast News office to the Boulevard Brewery Beer Hall. It was a beautiful morning, and the bus trip was decidedly pleasant; a casual jaunt from the Historic Northeast through the heart of Kansas City’s downtown. There are 38 stops along the route, which cuts from St. John to Lexington, south down Woodland Avenue to E. 9th St. before a quick jump at Charlotte St. to W. 11th, which brought us through the bustling heart of downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

We didn’t worry much about the directions, nor about what stop we should disembark at. All of that information was readily available on the RideKC phone app, which clearly marks all of the nearest bus stops to your position. What’s more, your location is perpetually updated, and indicated by an easily decipherable pulsating GPS tracker. In this instance I brought cash to pay for the trip, but if I didn’t I could have easily paid directly through the app. Here’s another pro tip: if you download and use the RideKC app, you’ll be rewarded with a free day pass good for unlimited ridership. When I did this, I merely had to show the bus driver my digital day pass and I was on my way. Not bad!

The trip allowed our small crew of neighborhood residents ample time to wax eloquently about the state of Kansas City. We wondered about Kansas City’s planned bid for Amazon’s HQ2 project, and the big-time consultants hired to make the bid as competitive as possible. On this day, with clear blue skies surrounding Kansas City’s ever-expanding skyline, anything seemed possible. Just before 11:00 a.m. we were dropped off a stone’s throw from Boulevard Brewery, across the street from a mesmerizing Kansas City Royals-themed mural at 25th and Southwest Boulevard.

This wasn’t my first experience at Boulevard’s Beer Hall, but it was my first time arriving at the premises before lunch. I didn’t expect the picturesque campus to be crawling with tour groups at so early an hour, but lo and behold, it turns out our idea wasn’t as original as I suspected it would be. If you’d like to make an argument that Kansas City is on the precipice of an economic boom, the Boulevard beer hall at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning is a reasonable case in point.

Crowd or not, the beer hall is a sight to behold. It features high ceilings, an impressive outdoor deck overlooking Kansas City, and a couple of dozen beers on tap, including a handful of tasting room selections not yet available in stores.

I began the experience by ordering a tasting room Oat Pale Ale, barely eschewing the temptation to order a doughnut along with my brew. Having exhausted our talking points about the Amazon headquarters, our group turns its attention to the billion-dollar single terminal airport that Kansas City residents are weighing ahead of the November 7 election. We feel generally confident that the selection committee’s recommendation of Edgemoor Development to construct the single terminal will be approved by City Council. We’re more unsure of whether the airport project will pass muster with Kansas City voters, but we’re eager to see how the process plays out. Is the City doing enough to sell the merits of the airport? Will working class voters value the ancillary economic benefits? Did Burns and McDonnell get a fair shake?

We move on to a discussion about the extension of the streetcar route; the challenges innate to life in an urban core neighborhood; the state of the Northeast News. We eventually peruse the gift shop, and everyone leaves with at least one souvenir. By then, the place is packed. A member of our party relays a story he heard, that Boulevard did more business in its gift shop in the first week after opening its beer hall than it did during the entire year preceding its grand opening. The anecdote is met with no dispute.

My one regret with the outing? My own rank incompetence. Without a moment of planning, we exit Boulevard’s gift shop and walk to our bus stop. Foolishly, we neglect to plan our route, and wind up waiting in the suddenly humid September sun for the next 20 minutes.

There are no villains but ourselves. A simple glance at RideKC’s aesthetically pleasing transit app would have saved us the trouble, we acknowledge. I lament my ignorance, but take solace in the fact that I’ll be better equipped to plan my trip for my next dalliance with our public transportation system. The trip home yields itself to more moments of introspection, but none more important than this: which destination should I investigate next time?