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Parade crowd overwhelms Metro transit system

Crowds far exceeded the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s expectations. One fan, wanting a better view of the stage at Union Station, climbed a light pole and waited for the Royals to arrive Tuesday afternoon.
Crowds far exceeded the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s expectations. One fan, wanting a better view of the stage at Union Station, climbed a light pole and waited for the Royals to arrive Tuesday afternoon. rsugg@kcstar.com

Kansas City bus officials estimated Tuesday that they transported 200,000 people downtown for the Royals parade, but many people waited hours for a bus, and some never reached their destination.

Crowds far exceeded the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s expectations, especially after nearly all the area’s school districts canceled classes.

“The turnout was unprecedented,” said KCATA spokeswoman Cindy Baker.

She said the authority used all of its 256 buses, plus 125 school buses and 40 buses from Johnson County, to help transport people from seven park-and-ride assembly points.

The bus agency acknowledged that thousands of people were still waiting at 11 a.m. at Kemper Arena, the Country Club Plaza, the Northland, Red Bridge and other spots, trying to get to the noon parade.

The buses were trying to pick them up as quickly as possible, but they were caught in the same traffic jams that snarled cars also trying to get to the Royals celebration.

Nearly all regular Metro bus service was suspended while the agency responded to the overwhelming numbers at the gathering spots. The KCATA averages 55,000 riders on a normal day, Baker said.

At noon, when the parade was supposed to start, Tim Deveney told The Star that he, his wife, three kids and some friends from Independence were still waiting at a shuttle spot at the Kansas City Zoo, where they had gone at 10:15 a.m.

He said a huge crowd was waiting there. The Deveneys planned to stick it out to try to get to the Royals rally, even if they missed the parade.

Also at noon, Shelly Schuman of Raytown told The Star that she, her daughter and two grandkids had just gotten on a bus to downtown after waiting about two hours at the Country Club Plaza.

She had followed the city’s advice to take public transportation. But she had watched one man in a wheelchair give up and leave before a bus arrived.

“It broke my heart,” she said.

Schuman wished the city had done a better job of anticipating the enormous crowd, the need for more buses and the need to start collecting people even earlier in the day.

Another rider said that by the time she and four teenage boys got downtown after waiting more than three hours at Metro North Mall, the parade was over and the streets around the rally at Union Station were so packed that they couldn’t get to it.

City officials initially had thought that about 200,000 people would come downtown Tuesday, but by all indications the numbers far exceeded that. Baker said the numbers were simply much greater than anyone anticipated and probably resulted because so many school districts canceled classes.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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