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Modern Streetcars could be coming to Downtown Kansas City

August 23, 2011

Today, while randomly exploring Kansas City, I walked into Union Station during a Open House event featuring a modern trolley that KC leaders would like to see downtown by 2015.  The model on display, courtesy of Kinkisharyo, was a new ameriTRAM designed specifically for American cities wishing to bring back streetcars.

ameriTRAM on Display in Kansas City, MO

Its bragging points include a 100 percent low floor and an “e-hybrid” system designed to run on overhead power or lithium-ion batteries for up to five miles.  Even while operating on batteries it has several security cameras, wireless internet, and lcd information screens.   The light weight cars will not necessitate bridge replacement on the proposed routes through downtown Kansas City, and will help to lower the cost of laying track.  Because the plans include only routes that are around two miles long, overhead wires are unnecessary, eliminating not only a possible eyesore but also the associated expenses.

Map of Proposed Streetcar Routes in Downtown Kansas City

Coincidentally, the length of the Loop Trolley in St. Louis is approximately two miles long as well.  Could our local streetcar project use the ameriTRAM?  Could completely eliminating overhead power help lower the price tag?  One of the first things that this blog did was come out against the Loop Trolley project.  I still don’t think that this particular implementation is a great addition to our transit system because it does little more than duplicate the coverage of the Metrolink and the 97 Delmar Bus.  Other critics have argued that it just connects Blueberry Hill to the Pagent.  If the project is perceived as a failure, it could help prevent new investment in more substantial public transit infrastructure in the future.  On the other hand, streetcars are awesome, and the potential for this project to spur expansions is too exciting to ignore.  To best take advantage of this opportunity, we must make sure that the Loop Streetcar is effective and well received.  One easy and substantive way to make this project more legitimate is to use cutting edge technology – the latest modern streetcars.  In my opinion, a sleek, modern and attractive streetcar will be even more enticing to the curious pedestrian or motorist than a replica of a historic trolley.  I think it’s an option worth considering.  The advantages are considerable.

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5 comments

  1. Battery technology is something the Loop Trolley project hopes to make extensive use of. As planned, wires will only be hung along the single track sections between the the two MetroLink stations. Through the Loop and around the History Museum, no wires. And yes, this is supposedly a cost saving measure.


    • Do we know more about the proposed rolling stock? Do we know what kind of expenses are related to the “heritage” trolley’s historic appearance?


      • Vehicle costs from the Draft EA:

        Vintage: $250,000 – $400,000
        Replica: $800,000 – $1,000,000
        Hybrid: $1,000,000 – $1,400,000

        The Hybrid vehicles are replicas with batteries. Modern streetcars were not even considered (Joe wants a trolley). Modern streetcars cost $3.5 – $4.5 million and significantly larger than vehicles being considered for the Loop Trolley.


      • Sounds like I need to read up a little more on the specifics of the Loop Trolley. Still, I don’t like the idea of vintage trolley replicas.


  2. This is too logical to work in St. Louis.



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