Op Ed
May 9, 2008

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Streetcars on Troost proposal

Dear Mayor Funkhouser,

Congratulations on your recent idea for a rail line along the Troost Corridor. The Citizens Transportation Committee has watched with great interest as light rail has morphed from 1. a Zoo to airport line, 2. a Main Street Plaza to Downtown line, 3. a Main Street Plaza to North Oak line, 4. a regional line, to 5. a Troost line.

In June of 2007, the CTC sent you and the council members a proposal (for discussion purposes only) for an East Side Streetcar line. While we both seek to improve the Troost Corridor, our proposal would cost 1⁄4 to 1/5 of a light rail system as well as providing far more economic development. (Note: The 2004 Downtown Streetcar Study commissioned by the ATA gave construction costs of $10 to $15 million per mile for streetcars.) Current construction cost for a light rail system is $50 to $70 million per mile. Development along light rail lines is primarily centered on the stations while development along streetcar lines is distributed all along the line. Our proposal would not require federal assistance and could be built in 3 to 5 years instead of the 7 to 10 years required for a similar light rail system. The CTC proposal uses real streetcars with real streetcar tracks instead of the fictional “fast streetcar” using costly and unnecessary light rail tracks.

I am including a summary of the CTC June 2007 proposal as a possible starting point towards finding a solution to part of the city's transit problems. The CTC proposal addresses the severe financial bind facing the city as it rebuilds its sewer/water system by providing a much cheaper transit alternative to light rail. Streetcars along Troost will foster maximum development while providing transportation to those who depend on public transit. Never forget that, in an urban environment, streetcars run just as fast as light rail. The ATA money currently projected for a MAX line on Troost would go a long way toward making a streetcar on Troost a reality but represents only a pittance toward a light rail line. I urge you to review our proposal (See the following) with an open mind. While streetcars enjoy neither the mystic of light rail nor the fanatical support of light rail advocates, they do the job a public transit system should do - they move people who depend on public transit.

I hope you will give streetcars on Troost careful consideration.

Larry Thrasher,

A Kansas City East Side Streetcar Line (a hypothetical line as envisioned by the Citizens Transportation Committee)

The hypothetical streetcar line is anchored by 2 colleges on one end and 2 hospitals on the other end. It is a single-track line. Bypass stops midway along the line allow for streetcars to travel both ways simultaneously. The line is approximately 4 miles in length. At an estimated cost of $10 to $15 million per mile, total line cost should be under $60 million for tracks and electric. Bypass track systems and electronic control systems would not prohibitively increase the cost of the line. The cost would be borne by the city without new or increased taxes.

New transit shelters would be paid for by a CID (or CIDs) formed along the route. The CID building the shelters would retain all advertising rights to the shelters for 25 years.

Streetcars would be donated by companies or organizations that would retain all rights to advertising throughout the life of the vehicle. New or restored streetcars are available for $900,000 or less.

The line could be served initially with a pair of streetcars, with pairs added as required. Electronic position monitoring devices such as GPS tracking units and computer controlled communications would enable the streetcars going in opposite directions to avoid interfering with each other. Streetcars capable of being driven from either end would eliminate turnaround problems. The line would also allow the city to work out any kinks in the city/private citizen working relationship.

The 4-mile route would be approximately as follows:

Begin at 52nd/53rd and Troost. (Rockhurst and UMKC)
Go north on Troost to a bypass stop at 47th Street
Continue north on Troost to a regular stop at 43rd Street
Continue north on Troost to a bypass stop at 39th Street
Continue north on Troost to a regular stop at 31st Street
Continue north on Troost to a regular stop at 27th Street
Turn west on 27th Street to Holmes
Turn north on Holmes to a regular stop at 26th Street. (Jackson County Juvenile Center)
Continue north on Holmes to a regular stop at 23rd Street. (Children‚s Mercy & Truman Medical Center)
Turn east on 23rd to a regular stop at Troost.
Turn south on Troost to a regular stop at 27th Street
Continue south on Troost to a regular stop at 31st Street
Continue south on Troost to a bypass stop at 39th Street
Continue south on Troost to a regular stop at 43rd Street
Continue south on Troost to a bypass stop at 47th Street
Continue south on Troost to 52nd/53rd Street (Rockhurst and UMKC)

Larry Thrasher is chairman of the Citizens Transportation Committee.


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