New KC Streetcar Rolls Into Town, Ridership Breaks 6 Million

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KC Streetcar #805 had an impressive police motorcycle escort during the last lap of its journey from Texas.

By Kevin Collison

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority got a belated present for its third birthday Monday morning, a shiny new vehicle fresh from Spain to add to its existing fleet of four.

The new streetcar, dubbed #805, arrived at Third and Grand by flatbed truck after leaving port near Houston Friday morning.

It was accompanied by a police motorcycle escort and greeted by a gaggle of well-wishers including Tom Gerend, executive director of the Streetcar Authority.

“Two years ago, we were recognizing that demand was exceeding what we anticipated and needed to plan for the future,” Gerend said. “Two years later, we’re looking forward to more capacity and looking forward to the next 10 years.

“With all the additional residents and employees downtown, we think demand will continue to grow and we want to provide the reliable service downtown will demand.”

The new vehicle is the first of two that will be delivered this summer, bringing the total to six. It was assembled in Spain and the cost for both is about $11 million, a price tag that includes spare parts and other support equipment.

It arrived just a week after the streetcar line celebrated its third year of service, May 6. During that period, 6.2 million passenger trips have occurred with an average daily ridership of 5,694. Each of the original four cars have racked up about 100,000 miles of use.

A 2017 survey found that 76 percent of the riders were metro residents and 24 percent visitors. Of those local riders, 38 percent lived downtown and almost half of them used the streetcar to get to their jobs.

Within the downtown transportation development district created to provide local funding for the streetcar, sales tax receipts have increased from $4 million in 2013 to a projected $6.5 million in 2019, a 60 percent increase. The line runs 2.2 miles between Union Station and the River Market.

Planning is underway to extend it from the River Market to the Berkley Riverfront Park, and ultimately extend it from downtown along Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Gerend said the addition of the two new streetcars will allow the Authority to create four-car service for peak passenger periods, and to increase frequency to eight minutes during peak hours.

The addition of the new vehicles also will help extend the life of the fleet. The average life expectancy of a streetcar is about 30 years.

It will be several weeks before #805 will be ready for service. It requires several days of final assembly and shop testing before it starts its test runs. Mainline testing will be primarily at night when the rest of the system is out of service.

KC Streetcar #805 is expected to be ready for passengers in early summer.

Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority.

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