borderless transit / borderless region

Private sector effort to extend streetcar to UMKC officially begins

The first step in a grassroots effort to extend the streetcar starter line advanced today as a group of Kansas City residents organized by the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance submitted a petition to the Jackson County Circuit Court to pursue approval of a new Transportation Development District (TDD) to fund the $227 million project.

Kansas Citians said “show me”, and that’s just what happened: The City of Kansas City, in a public-private partnership with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority, launched the two-mile starter line to rave reviews and higher-than-expected ridership.

“We’re taking the highest-ranked component of the NextRail Study ( and moving it forward incrementally, closer to what we did with the starter line, and like the starter line, with a conservative financing plan” said Doug Stone, attorney at Lewis Rice, who is representing the petitioners.

The petitioners include neighborhood and business leaders, as well as transit advocates. The lead petitioner is Gib Kerr, Vice President at Cushman Wakefield, a real estate service firm. Kerr also serves on the KCRTA Board of Directors.

KCRTA raised funds from the private sector and solicited support from the corridor over the last year and a half. KCRTA is 501(c)(3) and has been involved in all official efforts to expand public transportation in the region, including an education campaign for the Jackson County Regional Rail Plan promoted by former County Executive Mike Sanders.

The proposed new TDD runs generally from the Missouri River to 53rd Street, and from State Line to Campbell Street, and is intended to eventually replace the existing downtown streetcar TDD that helped to fund the downtown starter line. The new TDD proposes the same funding sources as the downtown streetcar TDD: a 1% additional sales tax within the entire TDD, and special assessments on property that would only apply to those now in the downtown streetcar TDD and property within approximately ⅓-mile of the line as it runs south of Union Station. The new TDD’s revenue sources would replace, not add to, those in the downtown streetcar TDD.

Assuming that the Circuit Court determines, as it has twice before, that the proposal meets the requirements of state law, voters in the new TDD can expect to participate in multiple elections — one to form the TDD, one to elect a board to oversee the TDD’s role in providing revenue for the project, and a final one to approve the sales tax and special assessments — starting late this year. The filing of this Petition starts the clock on a judicial and electoral process that will take more than a year, with even the first of the elections likely 5 or 6 months away.

If the elections are successful, the City of Kansas City will still need to apply for federal funding and complete engineering and design (which was halted in 2014). All subsequent design, construction, and operations will be covered by the revenue collected in the new TDD, in addition to any federal grants. No City contribution to the new TDD is anticipated beyond the amount the City is already contributing for the downtown starter line.

“The August 2014 expansion election results showed strong support in this corridor supporting a realistic hope that this new effort will be approved,” said Matt Kauffman, KCRTA Chairman. “The higher than projected use of the downtown starter line — even on weekdays — is evidence that fixed rail transit has its place as part of an overall public transit system, and extension along Main Street, through midtown to UMKC, is the next logical step.”

The Circuit Court Case Number is 1616-CV13710. It is anticipated that the Court will set a public hearing and a judicial hearing sometime late this summer.

David Johnson Vice Chair, Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance 816-336-9424
Doug Stone Attorney, Lewis Rice LLC 816-472-2539