Kansas City International Airport: Tear it down and replace it? Or keep the current terminals? Both sides are becoming more certain.
By CINDY FREWEN WUELLNER
Special to The Star
I wonder, are we even asking the right questions?
• As passengers, will we get more flights to more destinations or cheaper fares?
• Will the new KCI be as convenient with more services?
• Is KCI currently a proper gateway to Kansas City?
Most airports have fewer flights, including Kansas City. More flights in the future are not likely. When compared with three cities that boast huge new terminals, Kansas City still has more flights to more destinations and more passengers, for equal or cheaper rates.
Will a new terminal improve those numbers? Probably not. In fact, Id wager that a new terminal may increase fares, reduce airlines and cut flights.
How will Kansas City pay back the $1.2 billion for a new terminal? Five years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration might have subsidized 80 percent to 90 percent of new construction. Now the opposite is true. Every flier or visitor will pay increased airfares and parking fees, while the airlines will be hit with pricey leases. One industry insider estimated daily parking rates could go from $22 to $80.
With figures like that, the last of the airlines may have to find cheaper airports. And as airfares rise and flights shrink, passengers will look to other modes of travel. Game over.
Imagine 2025. To be a global leader, we need higher aspirations coupled with fiscally smart sustainable choices. Lets transform KCI. Start with who we are and with stories of an amazing place, rooted in the Kansas City spirit. Build on that presence.
More than a new terminal, cultivate a healthy ecosystem. Integrate KCI in the daily patterns of the city through community, business and transportation networks, rather than remote and isolated.
Consolidate to two terminals and create high energy zones that reshape the image. Build up a level, in between, or out. Use mobility on demand with speedy buses or charming streetcars.
Create bridges and shrink distances with people movers, pod cars, or trams. Mix fixed and mobile assets, digital and physical realities, and paid and volunteer services to stretch resources and boost amenities. Dont lose drop-off conveniences for older passengers just as we are all aging.
KCI cannot continue to be a Midwestern desert, the brunt of derisive cracks for its desolate circular terminals. The current trajectory must change.
Moreover, we cant build a big box KCI like every other place. Lets get our airports mojo back!
What can we do to spring KCI toward the 22nd century? Make it fun!
Make it safe! And make it ultra-cool with high tech gadgets, the greenest living airport, full of kindness and local knowledge, convenient with a memorable presence and ultimately good business. Because thats the Kansas City I know and love.
Wheres the can-do KCI? Wheres the future dream?
Have you connected in Kansas City lately? Wow, what a place!
Cindy Frewen Wuellner is an architect and urban futurist. To reach her, send email to email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.