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RideKC Streetcar

All aboard for a unified transit brand

Brand Strategy
Brand Identity

In January of 2014, Willoughby was chosen by the Kansas City Streetcar Authority to create the brand identity system for the $102 million streetcar project. At the same time, we worked with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to develop a new regional identity that would unite cross-state transportation under one brand. Because the streetcar would be a pivotal addition to the regional system, it would need to fully integrate into this unified brand.

We spoke with transportation advocates in the US and examined best practices in streetcar system design around the world. Many of our city’s public transportation advocates who had been working to bring a streetcar to KC for decades were invaluable resources. The pivotal conclusion was that the most successfully branded systems were intuitive, flexible, memorable and simple. This would be extremely important since a streetcar hadn’t been seen in KC in many years. 

We also didn’t want to reinforce the opinion of some very vocal skeptics who insisted this massive effort was just an expensive circus ride that should be painted pink with polka dots. And there would be no KC Jazzy Rail or BBQ Express as others had lobbied for. 

This brand would be sleek, refined, beautiful with a bit of fun. This is the Midwest after all.

Creating this new brand identity also meant deciding what the actual vehicle looked like, and there were many, many opinions. We ultimately chose a simple white, platinum and graphite. The exterior finish ensures the streetcar looks more like a train, less like a bus and even less like a carnival ride. The primarily white center of the car is a canvas for celebrating our city’s events or an opportunity for sponsorships.

And while working on the unified regional transit system we had landed on a simple name and brand, Ride KC, as the new umbrella brand for the cross-state system.

In the end, we demonstrated that even the simplest identities can exude huge personalities. The icon seems universal but has a wink of personality and is adaptable to multiple applications.

Kansas City Streetcar
Kansas City Streetcar Personalities
Kansas City Streetcar Pattern
Kansas City Streetcar Social
Kansas City Streetcar Stop

The $102 million project was delivered on time, under budget, and claim-free and has generated more than $400 million in development along the route. Streetcar ridership continues to remain strong, with total ridership at 11,197,266 from 2016-2022, 90% of whom are KC residents. A recent ridership survey had a 78.1% approval rating for all factors, with ease of use at 98.4%. Streetcar riders live and work in downtown KC, with 43% of downtown riders taking it to work.

A recent survey of downtown businesses revealed that 97% of respondents credited the streetcar with having a positive impact on their business and 80% have experienced a positive change in revenue. The next expansion is underway with a southbound extension from downtown to the UMKC Campus expected to be completed by 2025. A northbound route recently broke ground and will go from the River Market to the Kansas City Riverfront and CPKC Stadium, home of the KC Current women’s NWSL team. Willoughby is working with the KC Streetcar Authority to expand the brand to reflect these dynamic next steps in public transportation in our hometown.

Kansas City Streetcar Graphics
Kansas City Streetcar Graphics
Kansas City Streetcar - Day