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Kansas City - August 2017

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Kansas City — Mixed Election Results

August 2017

The NextCity.org site reports that an initiative to fund the southern extenson of the streetcar passed one hurdle, while another was raised.

Kansas City’s downtown streetcar line has been very popular with riders, but extending it is more difficult. However, voters approved a new taxing district that could allow the route to expand to the University of Missouri Kansas City.

The vote was certified after a mail-in ballot process, and will form an expanded streetcar taxing district beyond downtown and through midtown along Main Street. The sales tax surcharge in downtown covers the line’s operating expenses, allowing passengers to ride for free — an unusual arrangement that has likely boosted its early ridership figures.

But last week’s vote was only the first of several needed to approve expansion south from Union Station to 51st and Brookside Streets, a length of about 3.75 miles. Voters still need to elect a streetcar district board and approve the taxes needed to fund the estimated $227 million expansion. ​

Complicating matters, streetcar opponents had their own petition initiative, which was voted on August 8, 2017. That measure prohibits any planning or construction of an expanded streetcar system without citywide voter approval, which could inhibit the expansion. This measure was approved by a 51 to 49 percent margin.

And complicating matters even more, notorious local transit activist Clay Chastain has floated his own petition initiative, also voted on August 8. That measure seeks to hike sales taxes for a rail system in its own right-of-way, which Chastain sees as preferable to streetcars moving through traffic. Chastain has sponsored at least nine LRT proposals, nearly all of which have been defeated by voters. The exception was one 2006 proposal, which was eventually repealed by City Council on the grounds that it was unworkable and unrealistic.​ Voters rejected his measure this week also.


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