Year after year Kansas Citians repeatedly say No! to expensive schemes for rail transit. I am Greg Allen and I have lived and worked in Midtown Kansas City for 40 years. I and many of my friends have repeatedly opposed rail projects, whether sprung from the imagination of Clay Chastain or hatched from millions of dollars of "study" by our City Government.
Kansas Citians know that street cars or light rail or commuter rail -- whatever you call it -- is transportation along a fixed line -- in effect, trains in a slot. The people know that you have to find a way to get to the slot and you have to find a way to leave the slot and reach your destination. The people know that rail transit is no solution for the transportation needs of dispersed American cities. We know that rail transit is all cost and little or no reward. It will never be adopted by riders in any number commensurate with its cost. It is a joyride for a relatively small number of enthusiasts.
Equally troubling about Question A, City Government's current effort to promote street cars, is that taxes are planned, only in central Kansas City, that would be inflicted largely on poor households and people on fixed incomes. This is perhaps the most unfair financial engineering to date to promote a transit project in this city. It is nothing less than robbing the poor to build touristy-frou-frou. These taxes would apply to food and medications. Even charitable institutions would pay. And we're talking a half billion dollars in cost to serve some areas that already have plenty of relatively economical bus service, including the MAX service on Main Street.
When the argument for rail transit as a transportation strategy fails, rail enthusiasts switch the case to economic development. But moving a few people in street cars won't create development. The existence of a rail line may influence some developers to build nearby, which is strictly a locational effect. What is built one place won't be built elsewhere, and typically locational effects are greatly influenced by cities concentrating development subsidies in an effort to vindicate their high cost and low return rail experiments. After all the promises, something has to happen -- made to happen if need be. Incentives rain in a torrent alongside the rail line while other parts of town go begging for development.
When promoters run out of other arguments, their last resort to shill rail dreams seems to be that you must have street cars or other rail transit because it is "cool." I say Kansas City is plenty cool without a half billion dollars wasted on frilly street cars. Kansas City would be far more cool if City Government would take care of basic needs and infrastructure that go wanting. Kansas City would be way more cool if City Government would get out of the way and permit ride-sharing here. If you want real innovation, don't spend a half billion dollars on street cars, an "innovation" from 150 years ago. Let Uber and Lyft operate here and enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies of personal transportation with ride sharing.
Kansas City would be way more cool if we actually addressed the transportation needs of those who are most without -- the poor, the elderly and those with special needs. They don't benefit from trains in slots. A city that works and delivers on basic responsibilities is cool. A city that denies the obvious and wastes resources on dinosaur transportation schemes is not cool at all. And emulating even one hundred other cities won't make a bad idea a good one.
Demand better of public officials. It doesn't seem to happen otherwise. STOP THIS TRAIN WRECK. Say no -- again-- to rail transit. The rail interests have powerful sway and are eager to raid your pocketbook. Say No. It is regrettable that we must be repetitious, but only repetition will assure that the people's voice will finally be heard.
- Greg Allen