On Track: Kansas City Biz Journal Endorses Toy Train Streetcar TDD Phase Deux
The extension of the Kansas City TDD earns another major media win . . .
A bit of bragging from the pro-streetcar camp . . .
"This hit today. Citizens Association becoming more and more isolated from old allies, The Star and now Business Journal."
Here's the word:
Put KC on right track — support streetcar expansion
Staff Kansas City Business Journal
Cities sometimes find themselves facing the opportunity to move through a threshold into a bold new potential future — all they need do is take the step.
This is just such a time in Kansas City. On Aug. 5, voters will decide whether to create a transportation development district to partially fund expansions of the starter streetcar line. The TDD two-step requires a second vote, on Nov. 4, to decide whether to levy a sales tax and property assessment. Only people living within the proposed TDD get to vote on it.
Looking at the question from almost every angle leads to a simple conclusion: Vote yes. Four primary factors drive our support of the plan for the proposed streetcar extensions:
• Economic development: As Mayor Sly James has said, the eco-devo benefit from streetcars is not guesswork. Peer cities (Minneapolis, Denver, Portland) have seen this happen. Talent follows public transit, and business follows talent. (So, too, does further development.) Like every other major metro urban core, Kansas City needs talent. Property values on and near streetcar lines almost invariably increase, as does the properties’ desirability to developers, further generating development.
Infrastructure upgrades (such as sewer/water lines or power/cable conduits) done in advance of the streetcar further seed affected areas.
An added benefit of this plan is the linkage it creates between thriving areas along Main Street and Grand Boulevard and struggling areas to their east. The extensions include jutting eastward along Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard. Jobs mean very little if people can’t get to and from where they work. We can’t progress if we leave behind huge swaths of the city’s most disadvantaged.
• Recruiting and retaining talent: We’ve come a long way in the past decade toward building a thriving, vibrant core, and the results already are evident in our ability to attract and keep talent — the lifeblood of any city.
The creative types we seek crave an environment that exists only with viable public transit. This means living near where you work and play, and it means being liberated physically and financially from your car. In particular, the next wave of talent Kansas City needs — millennials — don’t live to drive the way their elders did, but they obviously still need to get around, so public transit greatly shapes where they live and work.
• Funding mechanisms: The three-pronged approach — TDD revenue, state funding, federal money — minimizes risk to the city’s budget and maximizes help it gets from elsewhere. The city already has arranged to receive $124 million from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s proposed sales tax increase (also on the Aug. 5 ballot). James has the eye (and appreciation) of U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who points to Kansas City’s approach as the paradigm for obtaining federal money for mass transit.
• Being transformative: Kansas City has a chance to take a quantum leap, adding another layer to Downtown’s renaissance and all the positive collateral changes that followed.
No rising major metropolitan area lacks viable public transit. And make no mistake: We’re competing against every major metropolitan area for talent. Millennials often choose the city first and the job second, and much of what drives that choice centers on a thriving urban environment that includes transit.
Now is the time, and should we fail to seize it, the window may not open again for a generation. That’s too late. We can’t afford to lose the war for talent, and we can’t afford to not have viable public transit in our arsenal.
The first step is always scary, but the momentum it creates will propel us into a brighter, more vibrant future.
Vote yes on Aug. 5.