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Kansas City is seeing even more traffic deaths this year. What's needed to achieve 'Vision Zero'?

Daytime photo of traffic moving along a four-lane street lined with trees and leading up a hill.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Traffic moves along Troost Avenue near 43rd Street on March 26, 2024.

Kansas City's Vision Zero program aims to completely eliminate traffic deaths by 2030. Except last year, fatalities went up, and in 2024 they're increasing even more. Leaders say the effort comes down to greater education, political will and cash.

Traffic fatalities in Kansas City are on the rise, despite the city's yearslong efforts to reverse the trend.

In 2023, the Kansas City Police Department recorded 102 traffic deaths, compared to 89 in 2022. This year's numbers are ahead, too, said Bailey Waters, the city's Chief Mobility Officer.

Over the weekend, Kansas City logged its 45th traffic death for 2024, compared to 32 at the same time the year before — that's a 40% increase.

Kansas City wants to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030 — but funding for doing so has lagged. The city earmarked $4 million for Vision Zero projects this year, up from only $1 million last year.

That's a "step in the right direction," according to BikeWalkKC policy director Michael Kelley.

Solving traffic violence depends on buy-in from political leaders, says Nora Anzawi, a traffic economist at HDR, an engineering firm in Kansas City.

"We are in a society that is still favors, you know, drivers over pedestrians, and bicyclists in community areas," Anzawi said. "It takes institutional change."

Community education and awareness are also important factors. BikeWalkKC is working with the Kansas City Public Library to screen "The Street Project," a documentary about the national movement to create safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The next showing and talkback are Wednesday, June 5 at the Library's Bluford Branch.

  • Michael Kelley, BikeWalkKC Policy Director
  • Bailey Waters, Chief Mobility Officer, City of Kansas City
  • Nora Anzawi, transportation economist at HDR
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