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In Kansas City and D.C., Two of the Newest Streetcar Lines Outdo Ridership Expectations

Two major urban streetcar lines are doing more than planners expected.

by / August 16, 2016

Two of the newest streetcar lines in the U.S. are doing pretty well, according to the numbers.

Washington, D.C., which launched a long-time-coming streetcar line in February, and Kansas City, Mo., which launched its own line in May, have both seen higher-than-expected ridership. The District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT)  filed an average weekday ridership of 2,645 in June, some 200 better than in the previous three months. According to WAMU 88.5, a local National Public Radio station in the district, DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo was expecting something more in the range of 1,500 people per day.

That’s not all — the streetcar line recorded an average headway of 14 minutes, basically meaning that each stop gets a streetcar every 14 minutes. That’s about a minute better than Dormsjo was expecting too.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) is reporting that as of Aug. 6, the new streetcar line has an average daily ridership of 6,822. That’s way ahead of what the authority expected — according to Donna Mandelbaum, communications manager for KCSA, the organization was counting on 2,700 riders per day.

In its first three months, the line has carried more than 630,000 riders.

Streetcars are undergoing something of a revival in U.S. cities, with metro areas ranging from Atlanta to Tucson, Ariz., setting up new projects in recent years, many of them for the first time in decades. Fashioned somewhat like light rail trains, streetcars run more slowly and make more stops. Functionally, they help people get around smaller areas, and planning conversations surrounding them tend to emphasize economic development.

Both projects are in a stage of development. In D.C., WAMU reported that DDOT will decide in the coming months whether to start charging passengers a fare, whether to start running more cars and whether to start running every day instead of taking Sundays off. Eventually the department wants to set up a system 37 miles long serving all eight of the district’s wards.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is in the midst of developing a regional transit plan that will involve an expansion of the streetcar system to the greater area of the city, according to its website.

Ben Miller Associate Editor of GT Data and Business

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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