My county is on the verge of spending taxpayer funds on a streetcar, all in the name of revitalizing an undesirable neighborhood, and I think it's ludicrous. Outside of San Francisco, do streetcars really serve a practical purpose? Aren't they more than a little outdated in the modern age? I'm willing to concede I might be looking at this through a narrow lens...any thoughts?
We have streetcars now in Portland (in addition to our light rail) and they are supercool and have reduced car traffic and have made life much easier for people who cannot afford cars or who are ethically opposed to owning them.
[quote]Outside of San Francisco, do streetcars really serve a practical purpose?
New Orleans and foreign cities.
"Chug, chug, chug," went the motor,
"Bump, bump, bump," went the brake,
"Thump, thump, thump," went my heart strings,
When he smiled, I could feel the car shake.
They were originally going to do light rail in my city (Detroit) along Woodward Avenue into the suburbs, but decided against it because of questions of whether we can afford it, who is paying for it, and how long will they be paying. Instead, for less money than light rail would have cost, they are going to set up a bus rapid transit system along three major thoroughfares - Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan Ave, with the idea that if it is successful, they will consider building light rail. This is one of the few things going on in Detroit/Michigan that I'm optimistic about - where they are actually thinking in a forward manner instead of reactively, or unsustainably.
I think streetcars/light rail can be a great tool in revitalizing neighborhoods and downtown areas, but you can't do it in an "If you build it they will come" manner. I think trialing with BRT is a great way to gauge support before you pay a huge amount of money for permanent infrastructure.
Agree with R4. BRT is economical and is a good backup system fro heavy rail, subways and LRT in metro areas with functioning transit systems. Detroit's move was very wise since, in many cases, BRT usually leads to LRT when numbers warrat. Curitiba, Brazil has a great one and others liek Ottawa in Canada were efficient for decades, but now higher commuter numbers mean that LRT can be built (and justified cost-wise).
I love the ones we have in boston. both green line and red line.
St. Louis is attempting to build a street car line in and around the University City Loop and into Forest Park. I believe it's nearing the construction phase.
The last street car line in St. Louis was the Hodiamont line, which ran on it's own dedicated right of way. The ROW is still there, and spans the city from its western limits to midtown St. Louis. All they'd have to do is lay down track and rewire it and it would be good to go.
In SF, they really don't serve any purpose. MUNI buses and trains are more efficient, though less charming.
[quote]We have streetcars now in Portland (in addition to our light rail) and they are supercool and have reduced car traffic and have made life much easier for people who cannot afford cars or who are ethically opposed to owning them.
Unless you need to get someplace in a hurry. My own feeling (as someone who used to own an extraordinarily cheap annual pass for the Portland streetcar) is that they're a big boondoggle from a transit perspective. BUT - they've been very effective in promoting development.
Dedicated bus lanes make a lot more sense, if you ask me.
St Petersburg in Russia, Helsinki Finland, Oslo Norway have streetcars
We have streetcars on the Left Bank of the Hudson. The connect towns in 2 counties with major transit hubs. There are two other light rail systems in the state,
Outside of SF... Most of the european cities have large effective tram systems. If only americans weren't so obsessed with their farting devices called cars...
r8 in SF the "trains" to which you refer are streetcars; they run on tracks on the surface and underground. You and OP are confusing streetcars with cable cars. Cable cars are the historic ones that most people think of. Apparently new streetcar systems are referred to as light rail in some places. So SF streetcar system is a light rail (well except for the historic F line--which will take too much explaining).
Our transportation system in Philly includes cable cars that have been restored. We also have regional rail, buses, and a subway.
I've been on them when visiting Toronto. I like the idea but that overhead wiring is really ugly
R4 where are the passengers going to come from for express buses in Detroit? Yuk! Woodward is the only corridor with a ghost of a chance, although you could make a case for Big Beaver Road.
They're talking about putting some back in Los Angeles. Only in a certain area of downtown.
I live in a European city with a top-notch public transport system. I love the streetcars, except that they -- like buses -- can get stuck in traffic unless you really build a dedicated rail line parallel to the road.
But unlike buses, they don't pollute the city, and I don't find the overhead wiring that ugly.
Subways are, of course, the fastest, most reliable way to cover longer distances, but they're very expensive to build, so you really need a lot of traffic to justify them. And you don't get the view that you get from a streetcar.
Cable cars R20, and they were superior to streetcars in holding up to the weather. Chicago had the world's largest and most profitable system before they gave them up to streetcars, which were cheaper to build but more accident and breakdown prone.
Are you sure it's not LRT that your city's getting, OP?
Toronto never got rid of streetcars. They move a lot of people. The city is now replacing them with ultra-modern, next-gen, articulated streetcars with 4 or five sections stretching about 100 feet long.
Buses suck. Nobody like to ride a bus.
Actually r23 they were not cable cars (though NY did have cable cars) they were electric streetcars but because overhead wires were banned in Manhattan, they ran on a system called "conduit current collection" which essentially meant that there were two metal rails of opposite polarity running under the street (about 18 inches) and the a "plow" (a kind of trolley) ran between them and connected beneath the streetcar. Much the same as a cable car but it was electric.
Atlanta is tearing up the streets putting a trolley in. It will run from Centennial Olympic Park through the Historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and ends at the King Center. It's strictly a tourist thing targeting black folks, because the East/West MARTA train runs right beside it.
Somebody is always trying to come up with an attraction that will lure the suburban white people to come downtown. They proposed a giant Ferris wheel in the park. The truth is, that is a dangerous area, especially after the sun sets.
Houston started a substantial addition to its existing single-line LRT system, but then realized it didn't have the money to finish all of it; a bond referendum last month effectively defunded it entirely and switched the money to be put towards road improvements instead. Suffice it to say, the residents of the areas with half-completed tracks (mostly along four- and six-lane thoroughfares now permanently reduced to two lanes) aren't happy, but since they're mainly po' folk of color, the city doesn't seem to particularly give two shits.
The aerial tram in Portland is just for one purpose: so people who work at the top of the hill at the Oregon Health Sciences University and hospital can park (there's not nearly enough room to park on the top of the hill--and even with the tram, there's something like a five-year waiting list to get parking for the people who work there).
That's why it's the only urban aerial tram in the US. It's really not for the general public (although they do take trips on it as a tourist attraction).
[quote]That's why it's the only urban aerial tram in the US.