KANSAS CITY, MO – The next four years will bring a lot of changes as Kansas City prepares for the 2026 World Cup.
Some of these changes will be temporary, but transportation and multimedia advocates hope that improvements to how we move around the metro will continue long after the final World Cup whistle.
Kansas City, Missouri reiterates that it will have enough transit options when hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the subway for the games, but much of that work will focus on getting to GEHA’s Arrowhead Stadium, airport, and area hotels.
“I’m not much of a sports fan, but I’ve been pursuing this opportunity because it’s so much more than just a sporting event,” said transportation consultant David Johnson. “It’s a huge economic opportunity and certainly a challenge in transportation.”
Transit advocates such as the CEO of BikeWalkKC say that getting through any of their long list of other attractions can be trickier.
“Carrying them around the city, not just to and from the games, but also to bars, restaurants, and shopping, and making it accessible to visitors to see all the great attractions in our neighborhood,” Rogers said.
The problem is that the Central American Council’s Peer Cities Transit Report shows that Kansas City is trending toward the bottom in per capita public transportation spending.
“At the end of the day, more services will be running if there is more money available to run them,” Johnson said.
This has caused challenges for Kansas City residents trying to live on the metro without a car, but it also makes preparing for big events more difficult.
“We’re investing a lot less than comparable cities are doing, so we’re starting from a really low position to begin with,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of land to make up for.”
These challenges are not unique to KCMO, said Kansas City, Missouri City Council member Eric Bunch.
“There are very few cities in the world that can adequately handle this level of visitors with current public transportation,” Bunch said.
Bunch said he would push for more investment in public transportation even without the World Cup, but the mega event could help draw attention to generations of underfunded public transportation. His goal is to ensure that transportation solutions not only get Kansas City past the World Cup surge, but that those investments are permanent so that citizens can enjoy them afterward.
“I want to make sure that residents of Kansas City get to experience some of these things, whether it’s improved public transportation or new parks and public spaces, these things need to be made permanent and incorporated into our daily lives,” Bunch said.
It will make all the difference for cyclists like Erica Clinton, who hits 10 miles every time she commutes to work along the Gillham Cycle Track.
“We definitely need more bike lanes, especially as we get closer to downtown,” Gilham said.
Protecting the designated driveway, behind the columns and sidewalks, is important to her but is lacking in the city centre.
“When I see people on bike lanes riding bikes or walking or running in wheelchairs, it all makes a huge difference because you have a straight line with bike lanes and you don’t have cracks in the sidewalks,” Clinton said.
Bunch said the 2023 NFL Draft would bring in fewer visitors, but would still be a good test the city could use to see how to better accommodate large crowds.
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