On Wednesday evening (Feb 5, 2014) there was a meeting at the Wornall Baptist Church for the “Save the Trail” group (they have a Facebook page for reference). This organization wants to prevent the possible streetcar expansion south of 51st St. I attended this meeting to learn more about some Brookside residents’ opposition to the streetcar line. Personally, I am neither for or against the project as I want to know more details. This blog reflects my impressions of the meeting–all quotes taken from my written notes.
As far as I can tell, three people are leading the “Save the Trail” group (there wasn’t a formal introduction, just names mentioned): Cindy Hubbard, Sandy Jackson and Sherri Donovan (a lawyer). All are Brookside residents; Sherri led the meeting. She started off by stating the meeting would not be an open discussion of the project, or a debate–the purpose was to explain what the group planned to do to stop the expansion and how others could get involved. Sandy and Sherri stated various reasons the streetcar should not run through Brookside: the MAX buses are “half full”; young families are “used to having two cars and won’t use it”; they “doubt the streetcars will be full” and their speed will be 20-30 MPH with “stops every two blocks”. There are no “environmental studies” about the project. They want “everyone to know the sacrifices that will need to be made for the streetcar”.
Patrick Touhey of the Show Me Institute talked about the “tragedy of light rail”. He stated studies have shown having light rail doesn’t get more cars off the road. Development along the route generally comes from businesses taking advantage of TIF tax breaks, and the expenses of the system end up cutting bus routes. He also directed attendees to check www.showmedaily.org for more information.
Sherri talked about and distributed detailed, useful information about the proposed 1% sales tax for a new TDD (Transportation Development District) and the additional special property tax assessment for homes and businesses within one half mile of the streetcar line. A big objection is residents in the larger TDD district will vote on taxing only Brookside property owners near the streetcar line –the group leaders don’t feel this is fair. One flyer also outlines the Action Timeline to Defeat the expansion.
About thirty minutes into the meeting, emotions started heating up, voices were raised and Mayor James took over for several minutes, answering questions from the crowd. The Mayor stressed there is quite a bit of misinformation and confusion over the potential Brookside expansion and there are “three or four other routes” so “the Trail doesn’t have to be sacrificed”. At this point the meeting became a complaint session–just what Sherri said would not happen. Resident after resident talked about other more pressing issues in KCMO that need money and attention, including the public schools, aging sewer system, high crime and blighted areas; big corporations want the streetcar just to profit from it; property values next to the line will go down; the noise level will be high; crime will rise even more in the Brookside area. The Mayor suggested everyone read a press release issued February 5, announcing an advisory committee being formed to study all of the issues surrounding the expansion into Brookside. (Applications for the committee can be found at www.kcmayor.org/streetcar).
I left around 8:15pm. Nothing was getting accomplished at that point. It was disappointing that attendees were shouting, some ugly references were made and the meeting got out of control. A civilized presentation of the facts as they stand now, and an explanation of what still needs to be decided (and who will make those decisions) is what should happen at future community streetcar meetings, hosted by pro or con groups. Personal opinions on the matter can be presented at the April 1 public hearing, Jackson County Courthouse, 1:30pm on the second floor.
If the streetcars run through Brookside, there would be a significant, permanent effect on traffic, taxes, neighborhood atmosphere,and property values. It is every resident’s responsibility to become better informed by asking questions and listening to the answers — then decide how to proceed with your vote or other activities.
Of course things get heated when people feel they are unfairly burdened with the cost of something like this, though it is a shame people cannot express themselves with a bit more civility. I’m open to learning more about it, though I’d need a compelling argument as to why streetcars are better than our existing bus service. Thanks for the report, Mary!
Thanks so much for this informative write-up of the meeting. I was unable to attend and appreciate this neutral take on the evening. As an aside, if anyone would like more information on the proposed streetcar expansions (not only Brookside/Waldo) visit http://www.nextrailkc.com If you’d like more information on how downtown is handling streetcar construction, check out http://www.kcstreetcar.org
I believe the last streetcar ran on the Trolley line through Brookside in 1957. Is it really a progressive move to re-institute, at the cost of many 10’s of millions of dollars, a transportation method that failed to be effective over 60 years ago? The initial costs are only part of the problem. Those half-filled buses driving 50 yards away from the proposed light rail speak vividly to the lack of popularity and effectiveness of mass transit here in the Midwest. Also, do not forget that the costs will never end. The ongoing property tax is permanent and insidious. Putting all of the tax burden on the unsuspecting home owners whose only mistake was believing in fairness in taxing when they purchased their property next to or near the trolley trail. What do you think will happen to their home investment value? And about all the business this will attract…businesses that are forced to charge their customers a 10% higher sales tax rate than competitors just a few blocks away, and out of the dreaded “zone” must charge. It is difficult enough for local stores to compete with the tax free internet, now our own local government wants to stack more stifling anti-competitive regulations on them. I actually wonder who is profiting from this initiative. It is so much money for so little benefit. In another 60 years (or less) I can easily envision a return to 1957 as Brookside once again turns off the switch to the last light rail route that didn’t carry through on its promises.
Thanks for your reporting. Your readers can learn more about the lack of support for streetcars as “economic development” on our blog: http://www.showmedaily.org/2014/02/an-open-letter-to-streetcar-supporters.html
So important to think about all the facts, and ignore the people who just want to promote how cool and modern they think a streetcar system is. What strikes me as so important is that quote from Russ Johnson about how the streetcar is just about drawing developers to KC, and he admits that it is not about ridership, saying that they know no one will ride it. He’s admitting that building this will not help current local business, and it’s all about luring outside investors to come to Kansas City for real estate deals. Why should we foot this bill for this? An additional 1% sales tax in a city that already has an outrageous sales tax of 8.something% is insane. I would vote for school improvements, or sewer and water, or help for the fire dept, but I can not vote for a streetcar that no one would ride who is not already riding the bus, and would not increase sales for current local businesses, and will do nothing for my property values. I live one block from the Trolley Track Trail, and the increase on my property tax alone is all the reason I need to vote no. $66.50 for every $50,000 assessed value on my property is insane. That alone should sway all Brookside residents to vote no. Even if I gave up my car to ride a streetcar every day it would not make financial sense. The property tax I’d be paying for this is more than a dollar a day.
I will ride the streetcar. What about all the people that will ride it? What about the people who take transit now? Just because you don’t ride transit doesn’t mean you can demand we don’t improve our transit system. You chose to buy a home in a popular neighborhood in the middle of the city. Did you really think there would be no development near your home after you bought it? You can’t live in a bubble.
I think it is incredibly ironic that some people in Brookside are against the streetcar. You know why Brookside has “that charm” you love so much? It is because it is a “streetcar suburb.” This neighborhood was literally built around a streetcar. It is the whole reason for its existence. Brookside deserves to have a streetcar once again. Keep in mind the reason KC shut down its streetcars initially was because of the auto industry. 1957 was a much different time, and one in which America made many mistakes in city development.
Just give it a little time. I am sure that your home value will increase with the streetcar nearby. Get ready to make money and regret your opposition!
So Zak, can you show us any definitive study concerning the ridership potential for this streetcar? Why are the buses that travel parallel to the proposed line ailing from low ridership? Is it possible to improve the bus stops and the comfort of the buses at a relatively minimal cost instead of spending huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to go back to 1957? BTW, are you a taxpayer? Will you be paying your extra property tax burden to support this project? Brookside was, I believe, a community developed by J.C. Nichols, along with the Plaza. He was a great visionary. You seem to think you could have done a better job. Somehow I wonder about that. But, moving on, this streetcar plan also involves destroying the two parking lots in the shopping center itself. Zak, do you think that will be good for business development? I don’t. So as ironic as it may seem to you, sir, please count me out.