Government & Politics

First KC streetcar vehicle rolls into town

Kansas City welcomed its first streetcar vehicle to town Monday.
Kansas City welcomed its first streetcar vehicle to town Monday. The Kansas City Star

Kansas City welcomed its first streetcar vehicle to town Monday, transported from a manufacturing facility in Elmira, N.Y.

A crowd of about 75 to 100 people were on hand for the arrival. The vehicle arrived about 9:30 a.m., even a little earlier than expected.

“It’s an historic day for the city,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. “It’s the result of years of hard work toward a vision for a robust transit system.”

The vehicle traveled more than 1,000 miles since Friday, and arrived with no incidents along the way. By 10:20 a.m., it was being eased onto the tracks at Second Avenue and Grand Boulevard where it will be towed to the Singleton Yard maintenance facility.

It will be examined for any maintenance issues and actual testing on the route is expected to begin early Friday morning.

Mayor Sly James arrived at the River Market location after talking about the Royals at an appearance at Union Station. “This is super,” he said. “I love it.”

This is part of the $100 million, two-mile route from the River Market to close to Union Station.

It’s the first streetcar in Kansas City since the old system shut down in June 1957. It’s been assigned No. 801, picking up from numbering where it left off nearly 60 years ago, with streetcar series 725-799.

This is not your father’s streetcar. It is a sleek, modern, bi-directional vehicle assembled in New York from components fashioned in Spain. It’s climate-controlled and Wi-Fi enabled. It’s approximately 77 feet long, weighs 78,000 pounds, and can carry a maximum of 150 passengers, most of them standing.

But it won’t be carrying any passengers for some time. The city purchased four CAF USA vehicles, which must undergo extensive testing before the line opens to the public, which city officials hope will be in time for the Big 12 basketball tournament in March 2016.

Kansas City offficials are still clarifying the prospective arrival times of the remaining three streetcar vehicles.

The first of four streetcars arrived in Kansas City Monday morning and was unloaded in the River Market. Video by Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star