Streetcar is taking Kansas City on a costly ride

04/04/2014 2:54 PM

04/08/2014 6:59 PM

Even before a single streetcar leaves the station, our city spenders have deemed the project a success.

So much so that a $472 million expansion is proposed for 7.6 more miles. That’s $62 million a mile. Perhaps a more rational approach would be to wait on the promised economic dividends from the first two-mile streetcar line before extending it.

If you’re against our mayor’s master plan, he counters with name-calling. He’s labeled critics “CAVE” people or Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

Perhaps a more suitable acronym would be CASI: Citizens Against Stupid Ideas. I would suggest CAVE people are only opposed to another project based on unrealistic estimates to solve non-existent problems.

Citizens would like to explore alternatives before committing themselves, and future generations, to a half-billion dollar mistake. It appears that no bad idea ever dies in Kansas City.

Today the streetcar, tomorrow an unneeded $1.2 billion airport redo. Our city purports that there is a great need for streetcars. Let’s ignore that a bad rush hour in Kansas City means you wait at a stoplight twice. Does anyone believe adding a 7.6-mile streetcar line, with stops every other block, will improve traffic congestion or speed up your journey?

The streetcar is a want, not a need. A far more efficient solution is to add buses to our current fleet of 257. According to the ShowMe Institute, for the same cost we could add 105 buses and increase service 40 percent to the entire city.

If you don’t like buses, high-flying gondolas are being used for transportation from Medellin, Colombia, to London, England, and at a fraction of the cost. The city tells us that we can expect conservatively 13,700 riders a day or roughly the same as the streetcar system in Portland, Ore.

What we are not told is that Portland has 4,375 people per square mile, three times that of Kansas City. Even if you believe that rosy estimate, it’s still cheaper to purchase each rider a Toyota Prius.

Memphis has 200,000 more citizens and 30 percent greater population density than our city. Its streetcar transports about 4,000 daily riders. Is there a reason Memphis results are ignored?

Our leaders have a peculiar habit of putting forth estimates based on desires rather than realistic expectations. Economic development is always the next rallying cry for the streetcar.

Our mayor touts the Power & Light District as his case study. But he fails to mention that the only thing keeping the lights on in the district are our tax dollars.

I suspect CAVE people are feeling trapped because they are being force-fed another misguided project with unrealistic estimates to solve a nonexistent problem with taxes that will run for an eternity. Taxpayers not willing to move to Kansas are forced to pay for everything from failing schools to all of the ill-conceived projects our city leaders desire.

Even if this problem existed, there are far better, more economical solutions.

The minimum taxpayers should demand is that the promised economic benefits materialize from the first two miles of streetcars. If it becomes a success, which I doubt, then an extension could be considered.

However, to more than double down based only on hope is the definition of government malfeasance.

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