Kansas City Streetcar Project Wins Global Recognition, Passes 3 Million Rider Mark

Riders board Kansas City Streetcar.

By Kevin Collison

The Kansas City streetcar project can add some international honors to the national recognition its received since opening in May 2016.

During the same month the streetcar broke 3 million passengers, the streetcar was honored as Project of the Year in the over $50 million category at the 2017 Global Light Rail Awards Celebration in London on Oct. 4.

“It’s recognition of the project we’ve built and how its been managed from the beginning,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the streetcar authority. “We’re excited about the recognition we have good things going in Kansas City and we want to keep it going.”

Gerend also believes the overwhelming electoral support the new terminal project at Kansas City International received bodes well for the proposed extension of the streetcar route from downtown along Main Street to the University of Missouri Kansas City.

While a Transportation Development District and governing board has been established for the Main Street extension plan, uncertainty clouds the project because of the narrow approval of a referendum last summer that would require a citywide vote before any city funding could be used for the plan.

“The airport vote sends a strong message the city is looking toward the future,” Gerend said. “It sends a signal to the country that Kansas City is on the move and the streetcar is what’s next as far as a strategic initiative.”

There also is planning underway for potentially extending the streetcar to Berkley Riverfront Park.

The Global Light Rail Award described the Kansas City streetcar as the “project considered the most innovative, providing direct benefits to its passengers, and which has the greatest tangible impact on the community it serves.”

It was one of 100 entries in the competition, and the Kansas City streetcar won over two other transit projects for the honor: the Dallas Area Rapid Transit project and SETRAM, a tramway project in Manchester, England.

“We are humbled to receive this international distinction for our KC Streetcar project, which has reimagined transit in our downtown, and reinvented the environment for residents, businesses and visitors,” Mayor Sly James said in a statement.

By the end of October, the streetcar had carried 3,178,626 riders. Its daily average in 2017 has been 5,845 riders.

“We’re excited about what the future holds,” Gerend said. “Our goal is to keep growing.”