Kansas City streetcars are back in business

More than half a century after one of the country’s largest streetcar networks disappeared, the once-popular form of public transportation has returned to Kansas City, Mo.

Unlike the days of yore, the new streetcar route is a short one, spanning just 2.2 miles. The plan is to expand the network beyond this $102 million starter line.

The sleek, modern streetcars are free to ride and make stops about every two blocks. They travel from the historic River Market area along Main Street through downtown and the Crossroads Arts District before ending at Union Station and the Crown Center commercial complex.

Visitors to the city could arrive via train at Union Station, step outside to catch the streetcar and hit many top attractions, such as the Arabia Steamboat Museum and the year-round farmers market at City Market, 20 E. Fifth St.

The new line passes through one of the city’s premier entertainment areas, the Power & Light District, where revelers flocked to celebrate the Kansas City Royals’ 2015 World Series championship. One of the 16 stops lets you off in front of the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet, a great spot for dinner and a movie.

Since debuting in May, about 6,500 passengers a day have been riding the line, which is equipped with free Wi-Fi.

Streetcars run roughly every 10 minutes 6 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. Friday. They operate 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. More info is available at www.kcstreetcar.org.

In the early 20th century, Kansas City boasted a sprawling streetcar system that encompassed some 300 miles of track. The rise of automobiles drove away passengers, and the city shut down its last route in 1957.

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