Tuesday, May 02, 2017


For the smarter denizens of our blog community, we have a special treat and just a bit of futurism for the late night hours . . .


A great many thanks to this reader who makes a great case for KCMO's unwise investment in outdated technology while the rest of the world is focused on more innovative solutions.


Sly, the Streetcar, and the Chamber

There are two parallel universes operating. In KC there is an effort to extend Streetcar going on secretly expecting to fund additionally for 150 million dollars. Never mind that does nothing for much of Metro, it is the "transportation" priority of the machinery of KCMO and the insider class of special interest politics. The Streetcar is fun, it probably helps with getting a building corridor, but it is poor transit, not in alignment with futures, and hijacks all attention to alternatives elsewhere, but wrong mindedness is so common as KC pretends to innovate. Please, those bureaucrats spend poorly and call it innovation, more on that later.

Meanwhile in the big universe, Tech is appreciating and analysts are coming to understand there are breakout opportunities where viable tech will just simple dramatically improve price and quality of services, experiences and outcomes.The Streetcar has generally limited quality as a transportation service, waits are often 10 to 15 minutes, oftentimes for use to go a few blocks, so the Streetcar authority quietly acquired more units, so we will have more large units running the route, no ability to optimize loads as you could with pools of autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous is front and center for tech innovation, but KC decided they had other priorities than excellent transportation that is applicable everywhere. Autonomous shuttles are streetcars that are more responsive, don't require tracks (and the incredible lack of flexibility and disruption, and expense that go with them).

In Phoenix Google is scaling up autonomous transport considerably, it is the ipod, while KC buys heavily into the Sony Walkman right at the inflection, with no particular concern about cost or futures (hurry, get the pork while you can). There is a unspoken race, to skunk in the extension, before autonomous shuttles are running everywhere. So much for the vaunted Google relationship for advancing city, somehow leadership forgot we should be in cue for the advances Google is working towards. Now the city talks about being so smart, for putting in Wifi in the Streetcar line, why was that not done in the first plan?
You have architects and planners making decisions on things they hardly understand, same bureaucrats. Get ready for some pork projects to be obsoleted, but the government types will say it was built with free money, or didn't come from that budget, haven't we woken to the shell games by now. Where is the transparent Streetcar budget, you know, the one showing the contract terms of the Utility monopoly contract for the rest of our lives. Sometimes the Streetcar is an important transit priority, other times it is not transit at all. Strange, it is usually almost empty at the beginning and ending of work days, so you can't pretend that is the purpose.

The outlying suburbs, have gotten the really raw deal, a posturing mayor, sucking all the funding and attention, for his pet projects, that don't address fundamental purposes of utility in governance. Those outlying areas should speak up, why are they not testing autonomous in Overland Park and Olathe, are they deferring to the "visions" of Sly James, I hope not.

We don't know what the Streetcar unit additions to address the lack of responsive service cost, original plan obviously was not addressing responsive pick up, kind of like comparing the 15 minutes to get a 10/10 taxi to the 3 minutes to get an Uber, but that is it's own story.

Amazon is knocking it out, Google is knocking it out, Tesla is knocking it out, and KC is pretending. Watch what happens to all the faux portfolio of Think Big when the government spigot is turned off, they repurposed with crony pork and the utility their failing collection of "wishful" enterprises. That passes for strategy in KC.

Think I am being harsh, go back over their portfolio of two years ago and tell me which one impresses you out of their holdings. That could be said for many of KCs incubators by the way, incubating wishful thinking as the juggernauts of our time apply the breakthroughs at scale to matter.

Win the future portfolio, on a tear, but it was not just a blip, it has legs. Downtown KC seems to be a dependent of perpetual pork, with more confidence in their "vision" than any results of the Google relationship to date should justify. Note, government has gone strangely mute on Google, while Google blazes ahead and KC shows almost no tangible Google ongoing interest in KC other than bandwidth and a left behind program. That doesn't exactly make KC strategic to Google.

So autonomous shuttles really are "the" magic ingredient of smart neighborhoods, be they city or suburban. We have seventy million disabled, how about transit on demand that is affordable and low cost, that should play in all neighborhoods, same for serving the aging population.

There is a think in concrete mentality, that is not moving ahead with models of tech, Google, Apple, Tesla, Amazon are not so building centric in focus, they prefer being smarter, and delivering better experiences and outcomes. KC should have been strategic on autonomous partnerships, logistics partnerships, aligning with key parties that are credible to be really driving tech supported advancement, with business leadership and policy purpose. As usual special interests got in the way, monies special interests who can't spell autonomous, much less have a plan that is superb to win the future, amateurs. Johnson County should ask, have we been well served by priorities of ATA, Sly James, and our own initiative towards working better with tech. Want to know the next priority of the Mayor and the Chamber in KCMO, look to what the "sponsors" of recent Chambers want done. Sly and Reardon are the front men of the usual suspects, prioritizing away with smug obliviousness while playing their pork games missing the excellence that should be a part of winning the future, applicable to all communities. Typical.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. More like this one please. You can tell the author (not Tony) really took time to formulate a well considered opinion and provide evidence and reasoning to back up conclusions.

Well done and a great example of how we must consider more options for the future of KC transit beyond just the streetcar.

Anonymous said...

I have been observing with great interest the evolution of AVs, especially as they will relate to real estate development and infrastructure needs - AVs are already up and running in KC in the form of Uber - the service network and tech support are in place - all that remains is for Uber to replace the driver and the private vehicle which is just right around the corner with the AV introduction into KC. Many experts in the industry say when this AV transition begins in earnest the cost to use a ride share will be less than the cost of owning and operating a private vehicle - just stretch your imagination - with AV capability instantly on call 24 hours a day, why do you want a private auto that statistics say sits idle 92% of the time - and what now is your justification for the three garage doors on your big beige box? Commercial developments will likely need much less parking with people increasingly using transient AVs - and unlike the streetcar which requires new - and VERY EXPENSIVE- infrastructure AVs can use the existing and already paid for road network - and finally because AVs being computer controlled are so much more efficient than human drivers, roads will be able to handle much more capacity - with less surface needed - meaning we can get a lot more capacity on less roads to maintain. Great that Tony is telling it like it is - I would NOT be a buyer of streetcar stock at this time - A very persuasive case can be made that our KC streetcar may be obsolete before Phase II even gets voted on. Regards.

Anonymous said...

Great article. We need to talk about other options before kc spends another 200 million.

Anonymous said...

Sly and the band of streetcar "activists" being mesmerized by the streetcar has never been about development, transportation, or certainly not about planning for the future.
It's about local elected officials once again being rolled over by planners and urban futurists selling their latest "don't be left behind" nonsense to sell more of their latest books and increase their lecture fees.
Followed by the usual local insiders who stand to benefit very nicely financially and who then will do anything to keep the trough full and the gravy train rolling.
Add in Sly's bullying and insistence on getting his way, even after a decision is proven mistaken, and the lemmings will continue to head for the cliff.
The proof will be clear when you look at all the subsidies poured into downtown, the massive amounts of debt incurred, and frou frou projects like the streetcar and the tremendously negative impact that all has on KCMO's general fund, basic services, quality of life, and future.
The turkeys will be coming home to roost.

Super Dave said...

Good story

Anonymous said...

Actually, according to the words expressed by Mayor James, Quinton Lucas, and others on the Council, the ToyTrain has never been about transportation.

While that certainly sounds antithetical in a streetcar discussion, their whole plan from the beginning was that a fixed-rail line would drive real estate development. Always remember who owns the Mayor and Council. They live and breathe for those pro-development (real estate/construction/attorneys)forces that financially support them.