Transit activist Clay Chastain is asking voters yet again to approve a tax increase for rail-based mass transit in Kansas City.
It’s a bad plan. We urge Kansas Citians to vote no on Question 2 on Tuesday.
The measure calls for increasing the Kansas City sales tax by three-eighths of a cent for 25 years. For starters, Kansas Citians should worry about yet another hike in a regressive tax.
But even if a sales tax made sense, that would not come close to paying for the 25-mile rapid-rail transit system Chastain envisions.
The existing streetcar line downtown cost about $50 million per mile. If the Chastain plan costs the same amount, it would set taxpayers back $1.25 billion, not including interest or operating costs.
The sales tax would not generate anything close to that amount.
Chastain says the federal government would provide some of the needed funds through a new infrastructure bill. There’s no indication any such bill will pass soon.
No problem, Chastain says: The ballot is flexible enough to permit the City Council to build as much as the local financing would allow. That’s a recipe for confusion and delay, as neighborhoods fight for and against extensions on their streets.
After years of ballot failure — and one success — Chastain has improved his drafting skills. Question 2 does not take money from the existing bus system, a plus for many transit activists.
In fact some have suggested voters approve Question 2 and then ask the city to use the money for already-vetted streetcar projects. We oppose such skulduggery. The Chastain proposal, and only that proposal, is on the ballot.
Someday there may be a well-drafted, reasonably priced plan for miles and miles of rail transit in Kansas City. This isn’t it. Vote no on Question 2.