Main Street was once the hub of civic life in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and the construction lining the road gives some hope it can also be the future. By the end of next year, the backhoes and utility trucks will give way to the first streetcar to operate in the city since the late 1950s—a two-mile starter route between Union Station and the River Market neighborhood. The line carries great expectations: officials hope it will anchor an expansion to the east and south, leading to a wide network of streetcars capable of carrying people from their homes to jobs downtown.
That vision suffered a significant setback last month. Voters along the planned expansion routes crushed a measure to create a taxing district that would help fund the new lines. City leaders thought the vote would be close. It wasn't. In a landslide, 60 percent of voters said no to the plan. What appeared to be a popular and potentially momentous effort to spur not only new development but also rail transit across the car-reliant city was suddenly, in a sense, derailed.