Clay Chastain - Crazy, or Simply Insane?
Chastain's list of nefarious organizations trying to stop him is much larger and more comprehensive than his plans for light rail, which seem to hinge around using unprocessed cornmeal for tracks. When a professional engineering firm stated his plan would end up a scant $600 million short, he labeled them members of some horrible conspiracy involving the public bus industry. When the ex-mayor mentioned him in a newspaper interview, he tried to sue them both for "feelings of shame and despair." When informed there was a successful petition completed to throw out his plan, he claimed it was somehow "unconstitutional" and he would have his wife fight it in court (I'm not kidding). When asked why he seems to be the only person supporting his amazing ideas, he compared his crusade for Kansas City light rail to Jesus Christ's preaching of the Bible. Now I'm no expert on Christianity, but I seem to have forgotten the Bible chapters where Jesus talked about the trains. Perhaps it's after the part where Jesus addresses feelings of shame and despair.
As my final point regarding this issue, I'd like to draw attention to Chastain's fetish for "aerial gondolas." Aerial gondolas? Who in their right mind willingly wants to cram themselves and their family into an aerial gondola, much less one that travels solely from Union Station to Liberty Memorial? 95% of Missourians have no idea what an "aerial gondola" is, instead mistaking the phrase for a sexual disease spread by rubbing your vagina against a mailbox. Raytown residents would probably confuse them with UFOs and unload a few hundred rounds of buckshot into them before one of Kansas City's 50 million sobriety checkpoints could bust them.
ISSUE #2: People Will Use Light Rail to Escape Kansas City
While downtown Kansas City isn't the dump it used to be, and the city has been actively courting businesses that don't deal in crack rocks, a certain aura of hopelessness still blankets the city. Back in 1990, every block seemed populated by endless warehouses and bankrupt garden hose resellers. Now downtown hosts a couple art galleries selling $2,000 paintings of angry red triangles, so I guess that's progress. There are a few pretentious restaurants catering to adventurous suburban white people who receive an adrenaline rush by eating mere minutes south of scary black people and minutes east of scary Hispanic people. Oh and how could I forget the wonderful Kansas City Art Walk, an event which sounds good in concept but inevitably ends up like a tour through My First Berkeley.
If we create a cheap, fast, and easy way to enter downtown Kansas City, then it stands to reason this service could conceivably be used to leave downtown Kansas City. If we allow the people hanging around there to escape, we'll find ourselves in a situation like in Ghostbusters, when the city shut down their containment unit. Light rail will let loose classic specimens of downtown Kansas City, showering Overland Park and Shawnee with homeless guys inexplicably itching themselves nonstop, grey-haired art majors with pony tails and complaints of George Bush, and gangbangers hauling suitcases of nuclear-tipped bullets. Actually that would end up being pretty funny, so this issue could be seen as a positive. The city would need to construct a refuge camp for the inevitable flood of fleeing Hummers. If we could convince the government to drop an atomic bomb on the remains of Bannister Mall, we could let them stay in the crater. They won't complain if you set up a coffee shop with free wi-fi.
ISSUE #3: Nobody Will Use Light Rail At All, Ever
I realize this point kind of contradicts the previous one, but if that really irks you then feel free to pick up a marker and cross out one of them on your monitor. Kansas City is a giant blob of concrete stretched out over a 400-square mile radius, covering most of Missouri, Kansas, and the northern hemisphere. Areas of town continually alternate from "uncomfortably poor" to "uncomfortably rich" to "just plain uncomfortable," often within walking distance. $400-a month slums are routinely purchased and transformed overnight into $3500-a month "luxury living suites," which is the fancy way to say they include black refrigerators and Cinemax access. This income and social inequity would invariably end up alienating residents, who list "class warfare" on their job resumes. With the exception of curious tourists who read about Clay Chastain eating an entire peacock and burning down his house in support of light rail, the majority of Kansas City residents will refuse to board unless their car explodes and the flaming debris burns down all surrounding vehicle dealerships.
The light rail will primarily travel from the Kansas City Zoo, recently upgraded and expanded to include a total of nine different animals, and the Kansas City Airport, located a couple miles south of Minnesota. Its path will cut through majestic Troost and eventually coast over the Missouri River on imaginary bridges which could possibly float through air and defy all conventional physics. I'm not sure exactly where else the light rail will snake through, but I'm assuming Chastain's plans include stops at both Molasses Swamp and the Gumdrop Mountains.
Aside from tourists flying in to Kansas City's concrete airport and heading directly to Kansas City's concrete zoo, I really fail to see the demand for light rail as it stands. The only times traffic in downtown Kansas City stalls is when the KC Orange Cone Squad appears and surrounds hapless businesses with neon flashing lights until they bribe them enough to leave for the month. Sure it'd be nice to have fast, easy, and cheap transportation to the Kansas City Airport, but you know what would be even nicer? If the Kansas City Airport wasn't actually built in central Iowa.
Therein lies the problem with light rail in Kansas City. Everything is too spaced out, too far apart from each other to make some sort of basic, linear public transportation system efficient. Compact, dense cities optimize light rail, unlike places such as Kansas City which were planned by drunkenly scattering a handful of Monopoly buildings across a map. If most folks would have to get in a car or take a bus to the light rail station, you're kind of defeating the entire purpose.
Combine this with the limited route, questionable requirements (oh we only have to destroy a FEW hundred city blocks?), escalating price, and Chastain's utter madness, and you're left with nothing but good intentions and the concept of light rail being an excellent idea... on paper. Perhaps the same type of paper I use to toilet train my dogs, whom I am now teaching to savagely bite people in the crotch when uttering the phrase "Clay Chastain."