Downtowners are leading on streetcar election
The Kansas City Star
It’s not unusual for a small group to be the catalyst for something bigger than themselves. That’s what downtown residents are about to embrace.
The voting process for the downtown streetcar is underway. This small project will trigger a transit renaissance in Kansas City, stimulating our economy and spurring private investment downtown. It’s the right project at the right time.
Downtown residents have the chance to make history in Kansas City with the election to form a Transportation Development District to fund the streetcar.
While the process might be unusual, the outcome is simple — this election will give downtown residents the opportunity to establish a Transportation Development District that will improve the quality of life for all those who live, play or work downtown.
It’s important to remember that the concept was created by the Missouri Legislature to encourage residents to fund transportation improvements on their own.
It is part of the state’s economic development toolbox — which includes Community Improvement Districts, property tax abatements, and tax increment financing — which has been used extensively to bring downtown back to life.
What’s more, a “yes” vote at this point in the process won’t cost taxpayers — or government — a dime.
It simply sets us on the right path to pursue federal funding and kick-start regional transit. A second election later in the year will determine what downtowners will pay into the district, also a simple yes or no vote. All around the country, our peer cities are investing in public transportation and reaping the benefits, from the development of underdeveloped areas to new jobs and increased tourism.
Kansas City is behind the curve but it’s not too late to right this wrong.
Downtown residents should visit www.connect-kc.com to get details on how they can cast their vote in this mail-in election.
To participate, voters must send in a ballot request application along with their voter registration by May 22nd.
The process takes just a few minutes to complete and all the information you need — mailing address and the link to attain voter registration status — is at the website.
At its peak in 1922, 136 million rides were given on Kansas City’s 319-mile streetcar network. Not a bus in sight at the time.
Population approaching 400,000 was confined to an area extending no farther south than the Plaza. Fast-forward to our new millennium — well after the demise of streetcar networks nationwide — the promises of cheap housing on the fringe and cheap gas to take you there are gone.
A new generation, hesitant to repeat the same mistakes and distracted by a need to be constantly connected instead of constantly driving, are rejecting the status quo.
But this isn’t fueled by nostalgia — since most of us don’t even remember the streetcar days.
It’s fueled by lessons history has taught us. Building cities takes a long time, repairing them takes even longer. Let downtowners lead the way, so that others may follow.
David Johnson is a downtown worker and residential property owner. He supports improved transit metro-wide and is the co-founder of Streetcar Neighbors, a grassroots organization of downtown residents in support of the streetcar project.