Kansas City Downtown Streetcar
Kansas City, Mo.
Owner City of Kansas City
Lead Design Firm HDR Engineering Inc.
Contractor KC Streetcar Constructors (Herzog/Stacy & Witbeck)
Transit Agency Kansas City Streetcar Authority
Consulting Engineering Burns & McDonnell
Nearly 60 years ago, Kansas City, Mo., shut down its streetcar system in favor of buses. The bus system effectively brings passengers to and from downtown but does not facilitate shorter trips within the area. Since May 2015, a 2.2-mile-long, $102-million streetcar project has proven to be an economic catalyst for the downtown area. Announced developments worth more than $400 million have cited the streetcar as a factor in the decision to build within the district.
The newness and unfamiliarity of a streetcar system initially raised concerns among corridor stakeholders, perhaps the project’s most significant challenge. Business owners expressed concerns about customer access during construction, and some were skeptical about its ultimate benefits. Person-to-person outreach to stakeholders and the public and careful attention to expressed concerns won acceptance and helped the team refine alignments, platform locations and other design elements.
Outstanding teamwork among all parties resulted in the project being one of the fastest federally funded streetcars ever, moving from initial planning to full operation in only five years, according to project officials. Following an aggressive schedule to complete the environmental assessment, the Federal Transit Administration issued a finding of no significant impact after just two days—a process that often takes months.
Kansas City prides itself on innovation, and the city says the streetcar embodies that pride. Four 78-ft-long, 12-ft-tall, 78,000-lb, low-floor vehicles are integrated into Main Street on embedded block rail and powered via an overhead contact system. The vehicle floors align with the platform surfaces, offering full accessibility for wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers.
The streetcar route is also smart. It includes 13 interactive touch-screen kiosks that provide route details, commercial content and local event information. A mobile app allows the kiosks to be synchronized with passengers’ smartphones. The system supports free Wi-Fi access along the corridor, and Wi-Fi will be added to the cars themselves within the next year.
Smart LED streetlights along the route provide 65% energy savings and 40% operational savings by automatically dimming when there are no pedestrians around and brightening as sensors detect approaching foot traffic. The streetlights also can count pedestrians, providing useful data that enhances the city’s ability to serve its customers.
The project was delivered on time and under budget and was free of any claims.