Streetcar and Buses - Working together in Downtown

Date:October 07, 2015
Streetcar and Buses - Working together in Downtown

One runs on rails.

The other on rubber tires.

As different as the Kansas City streetcar is from a bus, the two are very much like family, depending on each other to form a successful transit system.

Transportation planners are working to integrate Kansas City’s bus and streetcar systems to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for riders that will be emblematic of our regional vision of transit.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and the Kansas City Streetcar Authority are working in tandem so that both systems will feed off each other as part of a single transportation network when the streetcar begins operating next year.

While the downtown streetcar only stretches two miles from Union Station to the River Market, it will offer a fresh new look at public transportation in Kansas City.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to attract new riders to the bus system as well as the streetcar,” said Dick Jarrold, vice president of regional planning and development for the KCATA.

 “The streetcar will attract new riders to transit,” Jarrold said. “We expect that many people will then give the rest of the system a try because it’s easy to use.”

There are a number of ways the new downtown streetcar will mesh with the bus service, creating a synergy benefiting both transit options. This is how the streetcar and buses will mix:

  • The streetcar will share stops with Kansas City buses at Union Station, in the Crossroads District at 19th and Main, as well as 12th and Main downtown. There are hundreds of daily bus boardings at those locations. The Union Station stop will provide a key point where riders can transfer from the streetcar onto the popular Main Street MAX bus rapid transit route to reach the Country Club Plaza and destinations farther south. Union Station also is hub for riders from the Johnson County suburbs who might want to connect to the streetcar.
  • New liquid crystal display signs – the same technology used in cell phones and flat-screen televisions – will indicate when the next streetcar and bus will arrive. Real-time information signs for the streetcar and buses are possible because they will share the same radio system.
  • Engineers are working to guarantee that bus riders with disabilities will have the same access to a bus at a streetcar stop. They have been running tests on wooden prototype platforms to examine how bus wheelchair ramps work at the streetcar stops. Bus ramps for riders with disabilities are now being tested at already-constructed streetcar stops.
  • Many bus stops serving hundreds of riders are just a short hop from a streetcar station.  Streetcar stops are easily visible from transit centers at Third and Grand, 10th & Main, and 11th & Main. There are more than 2,000 boardings at those locations.

“We have a great promotional opportunity,” Jarrold said of the integrated bus and streetcar systems.  “We want people to use this to get around not just downtown, but to make transit connections to other parts of the community as well.”

KCATA and the Streetcar Constructors examine bus access at streetcar stations.