Steve Rose

Kansans also have a stake in KCI debate

Normally, when there is a controversy on the other side of state line, I butt out. In most cases, the controversies do not affect me directly. And, usually, it is the taxpayers of Kansas City who foot the bill for the issues that are on the ballot.

So, I said nothing about the $100 million streetcar line that was approved by a handful of voters. If that’s how they want to spend their money, that’s their business.

But the airport?

Legally I have no dog in that hunt. The bond issue to raise the $1.2 billion to construct a single-terminal airport falls strictly on Kansas City voters. However — and I think this is a big however — it is you and I on the Kansas side of the line who will pay about half the increased ticket fees used to help pay off the bonds.

Taxpayers are not on the hook for the new terminal. Airline passengers will foot the bill every time they fly out of KCI. And half the travelers live on the Kansas side.

So, that should give us in Johnson County at least a chance to voice our opinion, even though we will not have the opportunity to vote.

And here is what I hear from folks who live here: I haven’t found a single person yet who likes the idea of mothballing the terminals we have and replacing them with a single, fancy terminal to be built on the site of terminal A of the existing airport.

I think I am typical of one who uses the airport fairly frequently. And, in fact, I have had the privilege of flying through many, many terminals throughout the United States and around the world.

Ours, no doubt, is one of the least impressive airports I have seen.

But ours, without a doubt, is the most convenient.

I don’t have to sell that concept very hard. Anyone who flies in and out of KCI knows the pluses: You can pull up and be let out right near your gate, or whoever brought you can park across the street for a half hour for a buck. You can meet and greet arriving passengers right at the door as they get off the plane. Your security line is almost always just a few minutes long. The baggage carousel is just steps away from where you arrive. It’s such a sharp contrast to the newer, fancier airports that are such a hassle.

There are downsides, which the hired public relations agency will try to drum into the heads of voters before the bond election. Their message, really, is that you may love what you have, but you don’t know what is good for you. They do.

So, we don’t have lots of stores and restaurants, because the terminals are split up. The security spread out at gates, rather than centralized into a single snaking line, costs the airport millions of extra dollars. There are minor inconveniences, like you cannot get to the shops once you are inside the secured area. And for passengers making an airline change, it is a hassle to transfer to another terminal by bus.

There is also an image factor. Kansas City seems like a backward hole in the wall to strangers who arrive here. The airport is very underwhelming.

But if you had to list the single most important factor in determining an airport design, what would it be?

For me, the answer is simple: Convenience.

This is one time it would be appropriate for Johnson County citizens to have a say. After all, we will be paying our fair share to make this single-terminal concept a reality.

But, alas, all we can do is vent.

Or perhaps we can help persuade our neighbors to say no when it comes time to vote.