The Kansas City Streetcar Authority expects to choose a consultant next week to study the feasibility of extending the downtown streetcar route north to Berkley Riverfront Park.
Streetcar Authority executive director Tom Gerend told the board Thursday that multiple qualified firms responded to a request for companies able to conduct such a feasibility study, although he declined to say exactly how many valid responses were received.
Interviews will be conducted next week, and the authority hopes to select a firm by Dec. 9, Gerend said.
In late September, the authority board authorized a study on the merits of extending the downtown starter route past the River Market about one-half to three-quarters of a mile to Berkley Riverfront Park. The Streetcar Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Port KC are sharing the study cost, estimated at $225,000.
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The study will assess the technical feasibility of such an extension, the cost and a financial strategy if it is feasible and affordable. The study would include some public engagement sessions.
The riverfront is seen as a potential extension site because development is finally starting to occur there. Port KC just broke ground Tuesday on a $72 million apartment and retail project on the riverfront.
“We’re optimistic, but we’ll see what the study reveals,” Gerend told the board. The goal is to complete the study by May 1.
The Streetcar Authority also voted in September to explore adding two more streetcars to the downtown system’s four-vehicle fleet, because ridership remains high. But Gerend said he’s still researching whether it’s possible to purchase two more CAF vehicles similar to those acquired for the starter route. He hasn’t yet reached a conclusion on a path forward to procure new vehicles.
Ridership on the streetcar has dipped since a high of more than 233,000 rides in July. But even as colder weather has set in, average ridership continued to top 6,000 rides per day in November.