borderless transit / borderless region

Pat McLarney: 2017 Transit Advocate of the Year

Pat McLarney is best known as the first managing partner of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, one of Kansas City’s premier law firms. During his tenure, Pat oversaw tremendous growth of the firm.

Pat, like Mayor Sly James, is also a past president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.

But for transit advocates, Pat may be best known for managing the 2008 light rail campaign. That project was 14-mile $825 million project running from I-29 and Vivion Road down Main Street to the Plaza, then east to Bruce Watkins Drive and south 63rd Street. While it was a stunning defeat – considering it was the official replacement for Clay Chastain’s 2006 surprise-but-unworkable plan that passed – the end result was the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar.

Pat McLarney

The city used that failed 2008 light rail election data to form a new special district that consisted of solid voter support. That project won multiple elections handily in 2012 and is now considered the new gold standard for streetcar projects in the US.

More recently – and the reason he garnered our attention this year – Pat helped KCRTA close a critical funding gap for the Main Street streetcar extension when fundraising hit a wall. Requesting private sector donations to pay for legal fees and multiple elections is not a traditional “ask” – even though the expenses may be reimbursed by the special district once it generates revenue.

Regardless, voters along Main Street have consistently said yes to rail transit. We were finally able to leverage that support to build the regional transit spine this city has been planning for decades. None of these successes KC has seen, or will see in the future, would have been possible without the courage and leadership in that earlier light rail campaign. It was a building block in our journey and we have Pat to thank for that.

Past winners:

2016 – Councilman Jermaine Reed
2015 – Johnson County Commissioner Steve Klika
2014 – Mayor Sly James
2013 – Robbie Makinen
2012 – Senator Claire McCaskill
2011 – Councilman Russ Johnson
2010 – Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders