Streetcar Route Possibly Extending to KC Berkley Riverfront Park


The Kansas City Streetcar Authority is in discussions to extend the popular starter route north to Berkley Riverfront Park, over the Grand Boulevard viaduct.

Berkley Riverfront Park is the future home of the Flaherty & Collins Properties development, Union. The project is a planned mixed-use urban village development and will consist of 410 luxury apartment units, 400 parking spaces and 12,400 square feet of retail. Amenities will include a resort-style pool with sundeck, sky boxes with views of downtown Kansas City and the river, a gaming lounge, fitness club, indoor/outdoor yoga and Pilates studio, a pet walk, pet wash and a bicycle bar.

A big part of the downtown streetcar’s popularity is no doubt due to the fact that the ride is free of charge. But other cities, including Atlanta, started out with a free system and still didn’t have ridership numbers near Kansas City’s.

Kansas City Streetcar Authority executive director Tom Gerend said the Kansas City system originally had expected to mark its millionth ride next May. But it now expects to hit that mark early next month and is planning for that, although there won’t be a huge prize for a particular person.

“We are fast approaching the millionth-ride milestone,” Gerend said. Streetcar Authority spokeswoman Donna Mandelbaum said they can generally predict the day when it may occur and are starting to organize a celebration pegged to that timeframe.

The system can afford to purchase new vehicles. Revenues now well exceed expenses, Gerend said. The budget through April 30 showed sales taxes within the streetcar taxing district came in $1 million over the $4.4 million projection.
To that end, the authority board authorized a feasibility study on the merits of extending the downtown route past the River Market about one-half to three-quarters of a mile to Berkley Riverfront Park. The Streetcar Authority, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Port KC would share the cost of the study, estimated at $225,000. Gerend said it may take a few months to hire the consultant, and the study itself should take about six months.

Gerend said Riverfront Park is an underused space, isolated from the rest of downtown and certainly not living up to its potential. He said the streetcar has already demonstrated an ability to connect disparate venues downtown and may serve that same purpose for the park.

The study would look at the possible route, cost and financial feasibility. It might not require a public election, if it could be part of a Port KC improvement district or get sufficient federal funds.

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