Friday, May 09, 2014

C'mon, Kansas City!

Usually when I come back from a vacation to a bigger city, I'm bursting with pride over my hometown and its beauty.  This was not the case when I got off the Amtrak train at Union Station that brought me from New York and Chicago at 11:15 p.m. tonight.

It's bad  enough that the Southwest Chief takes people through some of the ugliest industrial areas of town and that Amtrak riders, many of them seasoned travelers who enjoy vacationing by rail, see absolutely none of the town's beauty from the train.

Wouldn't it be nice when people depart from the train if they saw a big sign of some sort that said, "Welcome to Kansas City!"  Maybe there was one, but I didn't see it.  It needs to be in lights and look so awesome that everyone who gets off that train (and those that stay on) feel like they are welcome here.

Instead, riders are greeted with a narrow, white, steel staircase that they are expected to carry their luggage up single-file.  If Kansas City wants to be a world-class city, let's get an escalator for these weary travelers!  Is there no money in the city's budget for a project of this scope?  I didn't see anybody greeting or assisting the new arrivals, many of whom looked confused about where to go or what to do.

As an alternative to the steel staircase, disembarking passengers can wait in line with their luggage to pack like sardines into a big elevator that is lacking obvious capacity guidelines.  "How many people can this thing hold?" was heard over and over as people squeezed in.

It was really embarrassing after I'd spent the whole trip telling everyone that would listen how wonderful Kansas City was going to be.  I saw people who had been friendly with me all the way from New York shooting me dirty looks as they dragged their bags up the narrow stairway.

First impressions mean a lot, and all the beauty of Union Station's interior is lost on people who are bedraggled from a long trip, coming into one of the most inconvenient and least appealing depots along the Amtrak line, as seen from the train.

IDEAS: Beautify the area of the track as it is coming through town, add convenience to the platform, and make it look awesome and inviting.  The view from the track, unseen by local motorists, is a great advertising opportunity for Kansas City's many attractions, and would get people excited about being here before they ever reach the station.  A woman from South Carolina who has been through Union Station many times on her way to visit relatives in Leavenworth had no idea that Kansas City has the National World War I Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum,  the Jazz Museum, Crown Center, or anything appealing.  I don't blame people who pass through KC often for not finding any reason to stop and spend their money here.

-or-

Use the Toy Train line to bring the Amtrak passengers to the station.

The train platform offers even better opportunities to tell travelers how awesome Kansas City is, because most people on the train never leave the train, continuing instead to more inviting places.

This is the first in a series of rants about "Why Kansas City Can't Compete and How It Could"

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