I have to admit, the Harrel family has been anticipating this weekend for a long time. Long before it was even possible to imagine.
The Kansas City Streetcar debuted this weekend and we eagerly joined the crowds to make sure we didn’t miss our first chance to ride.
My sons asked how much it costs and I said, “It’s free, at least until they expand the line.” This got us talking about how the streetcar line might expand. I pointed out some of the obvious places it could go and my youngest son said, “Then we’ll be like a mini Chicago!” All this conversation before we even boarded a streetcar.
Moving KC towards our Midwestern Big Brother seems so logical to me, yet I’ve met many people who aren’t (wait for it) “on board” with the streetcar system. They seem confused about why we have a streetcar at all and what the point is for such a short starter line. To answer the second question first, I’d say we have to start somewhere and it always makes sense to start small.
I’d like to answer the first question with another question: have you ever been to another city and used trains, subways or light rail? Chicago or New York? San Francisco, Washington D.C. or Portland? Kansas City can continue to step into the national stage as a destination and provide a coherent reliable means of transportation for visitors who wish to visit a few of the neighborhoods on the streetcar line.
We could discuss whether the current public transportation system (buses) could have offered the same service for a fraction of the cost, but they certainly can and do. Perhaps the streetcar fills the gap between the convenience of a car, with its easy to understand route system, and the occasionally convoluted bus system. Perhaps suburbanites like me just prefer light rail to a bus. Perhaps my hipster beard and frames mean I’m destined for a Portland-like streetcar system.
Who knows when or if the KC Streetcar route will expand, but if the opening weekend is any clue, the city and lots of people are excited about it. I see many more weekends where we fill our time on the streetcar. Check out the video below for a few of the pictures and videos from my phone.
Here’s what our first night looked like on the Streetcar. We parked at Crown Center. Isn’t that where you’d expect a suburbanite like myself to park? We hopped on the streetcar (had to wait for a crowd to board a car before us) at Union Station and rode to the River Market. From there we hopped off and had dinner at Minsky’s. We walked around for a bit, and if I wouldn’t have had my kids with me I would have stopped at a few more places, peeling off $5 bills for happy hour drinks like the high roller I am.
We boarded the streetcar at the same stop we departed before dinner (City Market) and rode back to the Metro Center stop. We left the kids to sit on the curb while we went in for a few drinks at Indie, since it’s 21 and over only. Just kidding, we went to Cosentino’s for ice cream and cookies. That sounds terribly boring, so I bought a 6-pack of IPA to haul back to the ‘burbs.
We got back on the streetcar at the Power and Light stop. Here we noticed the kiosk seemed to be malfunctioning. This happened before Aaron used his head to operate the touchscreen. Also, the first streetcar to arrive pulled up and only the front door opened. I’m guessing because it was very full and the stop button might not have been engaged elsewhere in the car. Someone in the back of the car seemed to want to get off and pushed the door open button and it only opened long enough for the pair to get off. In any other city, it’s been my experience that the doors would have opened and we could have shouldered our way on if we wanted to. Instead, we waited a couple minutes for the next car, which wasn’t far behind.
We hopped off at Union Station and faced our next mild irritation. We have walked across The Link 100 times, but never walked down the steps to exit, as we did when our journey began. We found out on our way back that the doors to The Link are locked from the outside, so we had to walk back by crossing the street and heading through the entrance to The Westin.
All in all, it was a good trip up and down the streetcar line. When does the expansion start? We need a ride to the Plaza and Westport.