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‘Seamless, safe’: New KC2026 transportation advisor Julie Lorenz discusses World Cup transit

Julie Lorenz KC 2026 KC2026
Posted at 5:45 PM, Jul 10, 2024

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Transportation is one of the biggest issues KC2026, the local organizing committee for the next men’s World Cup, has to solve during the next two years.

The contract with FIFA for Kansas City to serve as a host city for the world’s largest sporting event requires a free and dedicated transportation system for fans.

It seems like a daunting task, but not for former Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz, who KC2026 tapped last month as a senior advisor for transportation.

“This event is going to be something unlike anything Kansas City has ever experienced,” she said. “... It’s exciting. We have got a great team, and I trust in the collaboration that, when we have big challenges, this community’s going to come together.”

Julie Lorenz.png
Julie Lorenz

Kansas City will host six games, including a World Cup quarterfinal, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, but getting people to and from games is only part of the transportation puzzle.

The Kansas City region also has three possible base camp locations, which could draw teams — and possibly their fans — for much longer stays.

Meanwhile, the city still has to function for its residents.

“We have to be thinking much more like an ecosystem of transportation for match days, for fans and also our residents — the folks that live here all the time,” said Lorenz, who now serves as a principal consultant with Burns & McDonnell’s 1898 & Co. “Getting all those pieces to coordinate together, my top priority is for this to be a seamless and safe experience.”

Buses will be at the heart of Kansas City’s World Cup transportation plan, but the streetcar, which should run from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s campus north to the River Market by the time the World Cup arrives, also will play a central role in moving people around.

KC Streetcar FIFA World Cup
New wrap on a KC Streetcar supports Kansas City's bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Ride-share services will fill gaps in getting people the “last mile” to destinations, while the committee is also cognizant of the impact an influx of travelers, especially many from outside the U.S., will have on air travel and passenger trains.

“This event is going to be something unlike anything Kansas City has ever experienced,” said Lorenz, who has worked in transportation for more than 25 years. “We are going to plan, then we’re going to have contingency plans and more contingency plans.”

Officials from Kansas, Missouri, and the cities and counties that make up the Kansas City region all have a role to play in helping create that “seamless and safe” transportation experience.

“For more than a year, we’ve had a transportation working group made up of cities and counties and the state,” Lorenz said. “They really came together on their own to get started. Now, as we staff up at KC2026, we’ll put a lot more infrastructure — people infrastructure and skills — into the mix. We’re looking forward to working with that group.”

KC2026 will hire a mobility consultant to suss out realistic expectations for how many visitors Kansas City can expect from the World Cup.

Kansas City World Cup Watch Party
Fans rejoice the Power & Light District after Kansas City was awarded a hosting bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup

“Once you start building out those numbers, you can start matching system requirements to the numbers that we need to support,” Lorenz said. “Again, I want to really emphasize this idea of three pieces — it’s fans for matchday, it’s fans we want to host for their entirety, and residents that we need to keep in mind.”

That means improving existing services, which could mean streamlining some areas and beefing up others, and adding additional services, if and where needed.

“One of my biggest hopes for the Kansas City region is that as our residents experience better public transportation, they’re going to really like it and they’re going to say, ‘We need more of that. We’re not willing to have a community that doesn’t have better transportation services,’” Lorenz said Wednesday outside the Overland Park Convention Center. “That will become our legacy.”

The World Cup experience will be different than a typical Chiefs weekend. It will require accommodating visitors who often speak a different language and have a different expectation of public transit, but KC2026 officials want to create a world-class experience.

“We have the honor to be on the world stage,” Lorenz said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase what makes Kansas City so very special, but we also have a responsibility to provide safe and seamless service. Those are the cornerstones that we’re working on from the transportation perspective.”