April 11, 2013

KC is shopping for downtown streetcars

Kansas City might save money on ordering streetcars for its new rail system by piggybacking on orders already to manufacturers from cities like Cincinnati or Salt Lake City.

To cut costs for its downtown streetcar system, Kansas City might piggyback its order on top of one already submitted by another American city.

As long as those vehicles fall within the specifications the streetcar authority has set, it would also mean quicker delivery because the cars wouldn’t have to be built to Kansas City’s exact specifications, City Engineer Ralph Davis told the City Council during its business session Thursday.

Salt Lake City is adding cars to its existing system through the German company Siemens AG, while Cincinnati is just slightly ahead of Kansas City and has an order in for five cars at the Spanish company CAF.

Both companies have U.S. divisions with factories in this country to meet federal “Buy American” guidelines for transportation dollars.

Kansas City will eventually be ordering four cars — three that would be in daily service and one as a spare for special events and when the other cars are in for maintenance.

Kansas City’s minimum requirement is for cars that hold at least 115 passengers each. Both Salt Lake City and Cincinnati are ordering cars that hold 140 to 150.

Both would also run on regular gauge railroad tracks like the Kansas City system. Kansas City is designing its system to accommodate modern streetcars and light rail vehicles, Councilman Russ Johnson said.

But as the system expands beyond downtown, even the streetcars could operate like light rail service at speeds up to 55 mph and with fewer stops.

“We will see in the future a blurring of the terms streetcar and light rail,” he said.

This first phase of system, which is being funded by a downtown taxing district, will operate along Main Street between the River Market and Union Station beginning in 2015.

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