Now that all the track is in place for Kansas City’s new downtown rail route, officials are gearing up for a public safety campaign that boils down to this: Don’t get hit by a streetcar.
On Thursday, the Streetcar Authority board discussed the Respect the Rail campaign that will roll out slowly, beginning next week, using social media and other strategies. Signs and slogans with the streetcar logo will proclaim, “Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Ready.”
The messages are aimed at the motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and others who will eventually interact with the streetcar vehicles on the 2.2-mile downtown route.
The streetcars won’t actually start to carry passengers until next year, but streetcar advocates said it’s important to start educating the public now.
“This will be a big component of our communication,” said Streetcar Authority executive director Tom Gerend, adding that in addition to signs and website postings, there will eventually be safety education videos as well.
The messages will cover how to drive on the tracks, where to park to avoid the tracks and how cyclists and others can avoid getting stuck between the tracks.
The Kansas City Council has already passed an ordinance prohibiting cars from parking past the white parking stripes adjacent to the track, and the city staff is finalizing a program for how to tow cars that block the tracks.
The streetcar vehicles, which have not yet been delivered to Kansas City, will undergo an extensive testing period this fall before they begin carrying members of the public by spring 2016. City spokesman Chris Hernandez said that testing process will also require an extensive public education campaign because people will first see the streetcar vehicles being towed along the route before the system is electrified.
The city is bracing for people to call, wondering if the vehicles are already malfunctioning. The city will try to make sure people realize that the tow is part of the normal testing process and not indicative of a problem.