Kansas City’s downtown streetcar will celebrate its first birthday May 6 with a party, games, food trucks and cake at Union Station.
At the same time, Union Station will unveil improvements to make the streetcar’s southern end safer and more welcoming.
“It’s going to be a fun, family-friendly event,” Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend told the streetcar authority board Thursday.
The festivities will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include a few speeches but mostly just a celebration of how far the streetcar and downtown have come in the past year.
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Union Station will unveil new landscaping, lighting, benches and an improved pathway from the streetcar stop in front of Union Station to the building’s entrance.
The streetcars were packed the first weekend and ridership has remained robust for most of the past 12 months. Gerend told the authority board that the system, which runs from River Market to Union Station, expects to mark its 2 millionth ride sometime just prior to May 6 or on that day.
The system counts trips, not individual passengers. Each time someone gets on and off, it counts as a trip, which Gerend said is the standard way ridership is measured on streetcar systems throughout the country. Each streetcar door has an automatic counter, but the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority also provides people to do manual counts periodically, as it does with its bus system.
The most recent streetcar manual count, Gerend said, showed the automatic counters are 98 percent accurate. If anything, he said, they undercounted by a slight amount.
The system so far has counted 1,959,809 trips or rides, including 560,656 so far in 2017. The average daily ridership for the past 12 months has been about 5,500. This year, including the cold winter months when ridership dipped, the average daily rides counted has been 4,875.
A recent citizen satisfaction survey done by the city of Kansas City found that, of those surveyed who have ridden the streetcar, 39 percent were very satisfied with the experience and 33 percent were satisfied. Nine percent were dissatisfied, while the rest were neutral or didn’t express an opinion.
The Streetcar Authority is now contracting with a team led by Burns & McDonnell to look at possibly extending the streetcar route north from River Market to Berkley Riverfront Park.
So far, Gerend said, that study has shown that the Grand Street Viaduct has the rating and capacity to handle a streetcar service. The cost and funding feasibility are still under review. Public meetings on the proposal will be held, probably beginning in late May, although those dates haven’t yet been scheduled.