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Kansas City Streetcar: Tax Now, Answer Questions Later

 

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By Patrick Tuohey

Kansas City Mayor Sly James told a meeting of streetcar opponents a couple of weeks ago that the effort to save the trolley trail — a band of green space running through the city once dedicated to a streetcar but now used for walking and bicycling — is misinformed because:

There’s multiple options, three or four of which have nothing to do with the trolley trail; won’t touch it, won’t run on it, won’t use the lines on it.

The problem for residents and businesses is that no one will tell them what those “multiple options” are, so they are left guessing. The Kansas City Business Journal has published a map of where the rail lines will be laid, approximately, but this is just a broad route. The “multiple options” the mayor speaks of seem to be only a series of cross-section cartoons of what a rail might look like on the road, or on the trail, or in a mixed setting. For all the reality it represents, it might as well include subway tunnels or Clay Chastain’s gondolas. It is not a route and it is not binding on the city. (Note that in the bottom image they just extended the graphic out into the left margin to insert a third turning lane, in effect increasing the land available to them. You can’t do this in the real world.)

Kansas City voters are being told to vote to increase their sales and property taxes now and discuss what it is going to pay for later. And what comes later could easily include eminent domain, dead-end neighborhood streets, bulldozed neighborhood parking lots, railroad crossing gates placed over every street that the route crosses, and the destruction of green space all along the route. No one knows.

Amid such little transparency, it is understandable that voters do not want to give City Hall broad power. If transportation planners want support for their plans, they should come to voters with a complete proposal, not non-binding — and physically impossible — ”options.”

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