© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As the Kansas City Streetcar expands on Main Street, it may get its own dedicated lane

Two men wearing dark work clothes and bright yellow safety vests work outdoors near a city street. In foreground are two long steel rails sitting on a bed of green rebar. In the background traffic is moving and there are many orange pylons.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Workers on the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension fit wooden forms near a section of track being installed on Main Street near Linwood Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

City Manager Brian Platt has until November to look into a streetcar-exclusive lane as it expands south to UMKC. Proponents say it would improve the efficiency of the streetcar.

The Kansas City streetcar may get its own dedicated lane as construction continues on its 3.5-mile-long extension that will run south through Midtown to 51st in two years.

The city council unanimously passed a resolution directing City Manager Brian Platt to work with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and the Kansas City Streetcar Authority to design an exclusive lane. The resolution also includes a suggested 30 mile-per-hour speed limit.

Platt must report his findings back to city council November 1.

Jason Waldron, transportation director in the public works department, said the city plans to have an exclusive streetcar lane from Pershing Road south to 27th Street, and from 45th Street south to 51st Street.

The resolution passed Thursday would explore a streetcar-exclusive lane running north and south from Pershing Road to the University of Missouri-Kansas City — the entirety of the streetcar extension.

Tom Gerend, executive director of the streetcar authority, said a streetcar-exclusive lane means better service and shorter distances for pedestrians to cross.

“What's most important is the reliability and dependability of the service, providing more predictability for the riders, a higher quality of service overall, not just for this section of Main Street, but really for the entirety of the alignment,” Gerend said. “Obviously, we have improvements to the pedestrian experience up and down Main Street. Pushing some of the auto and truck traffic off of the curb to some of the center lanes is an added benefit.”

Gerend said the city’s options for a dedicated lane downtown are more limited.

City council this week also considered two additional pieces of legislation focused on making streets safer for people who don’t drive cars. Council members on Thursday unanimously approved legislation directing City Manager Platt to explore implementing more road diets — specifically on streets with four or more lanes — which narrow a multi-lane road using things like a bike lane or curb extension.

City council also approved a plan to install more bike lanes throughout the city, which the ordinance also refers to as “personal mobility lanes.” These lanes are not exclusively for cyclists; walkers and people on scooters can use the lanes, too.

The Pedestrian, Cyclist and Vehicular Traffic Safety Plan aims to reduce traffic injuries and deaths. So far this year, there have been 47 traffic fatalities in Kansas City and 230 serious traffic injuries.

City staff have built several mobility lanes in recent years, including the Gilham cycle track, which is a two-way lane separated from cars by white posts. Some of the 21 proposed locations for mobility lanes include Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard from Main Street to Troost Avenue, and 19th Street from Baltimore Avenue to Grand Boulevard.

“They do a number of things to improve our streets in a right of way,” Waldron said. “It is proven that they do save lives.”

Waldron said the city intends to connect new mobility lanes to existing ones.

“We want to connect destinations, we want to connect places of employment, places of entertainment, places of residence,” he said.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.