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Thread: USA TODAY article: Cities rediscover allure of streetcars

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    USA TODAY article: Cities rediscover allure of streetcars

    Systems bring new business to older areas for less money
    By Haya El Nasser



    Highlights:
    The streetcars that rumbled and clanged through many American cities from the late 1800s until World War II helped shape neighborhoods. More than a half-century later, streetcars are coming back and reviving the same neighborhoods they helped create.

    "Streetcars have sex appeal," says Len Brandrup, director of transportation in Kenosha, Wis., which opened a 1.9-mile line in 2000. "It resonates with folks. … Developers don't write checks for buses."

    Streetcar lines cost about $10 million to $15 million a mile, compared with $50 million to $75 million a mile for light-rail lines.

    Most streetcar lines stretch for less than 5 miles, compared with 10 to 20 miles for light rail. They've become so appealing that some developers are helping pay for the systems, says Shelley Poticha, president and CEO of Reconnecting America, a national non-profit group that works to spur development around transit stops.
    Interesting website: http://www.reconnectingamerica.org/index.htm

    Does your fair city have a streetcar line ?
    Do you think they will make the comeback discussed ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Atlanta is trying to bring back the streetcar. Funny thing is that the effort is being led by Michael Robinson, the CEO of Lanier Parking Systems, the largest parking lot operator in the city. His fellow parking lot operators aren't happy with the prospect of more people using alternatives to the automobile which would hurt their business. Robinson's argument is that they have blocks and blocks of surface parking lots that could each bring in millions of dollars more when sold to developers if the city isn't a nasty automobile sewer.

    http://www.atlantastreetcar.com/index.cfm
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    In Minneapolis, the routes on the drawing board are

    W Broadway Ave, Central Ave NE, Chicago Ave S, Franklin Ave, Hennepin Ave S, Lake St / Midtown Greenway, Nicollet Ave S, University Ave SE / 4th St SE, Washington Ave, Lyndale Ave S / Bryant Ave S

    I've e-mailed the Mayor about overhead suspended light rail in a form between the J Pod and light rail standard size. He e-mailed back that alternatives are still possible.

    This is just a nightmare for me. I take the bus everywhere, but if streetcars and light rail keep getting built in traffic, and at grade, I may want to move.

    Not happy.
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  4. #4
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Anyone use them in SF at the APA conference? I love them...
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    We just ripped our last streetcar line out. It was more of a tourist trolley that ran from where the Hotels used to be to the Convention Center. I never saw many people on it. I rode it once, the problem was, it was faster to walk. It also had competition as it was within a block of an elavated train.

    The trolley was taken down in 2004, and in 2005 the street was restored to a Grand Blvd. The new Blvd has already brought some successful development including new eateries, and the restoration of the Book-Cadillac hotel into a Westin with several floors of condos (most of which are sold, with an openiing date of a year and a half from now!).

    The trolleys were old streetcars bought from various cities such as cairo and london. there were some unique ones among them including a double-decker trolley.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6

    Minneapolis streetcars

    Minneapolis is jumping with both feet into streetcars. They are already paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a city-wide transportation action plan, and now another $300,000 to include a streetcar study into the plan.

    It's funny because Minneapolis is a city built by streetcars. The neighborhood commercial nodes are the old streetcar stops and the community and commercial corridors still trace the streetcar tracks although the tracks were excavated years ago. It's not rocket science to figure out where 'new' streetcar lines should go - just look at the development that is already here.

    An interesting aside is that the first big push for the 'street'car renewal movement is for placement of a line in an old railroad trench (known locally as the Midtown Greenway). So the new streetcar wouldn't actually be directly supporting the commercial operations on Lake Street (THE major east-west corridor in Minneapolis) but pulling people a block to the north. Rather than helping to revitalize a once flagging commercial corridor that has made tremendous strides forward in the past several years, the streetcar in the trench could actually hinder some of the interactions of Lake Street. Folks will ride right by, oblivious to the activities available to them only a block away. That way it's easy for the rich and powerful to travel from the tony neighborhoods of the lakes on the west side of town right over to the still fun and novel LRT line in the middle of town without ever having to deal with 'dirty old Lake Street.' They don't know what they're missing!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Love the street car

    I lived in New Orleans from 18 months old until 11 and out house was about five blocks from the St. Charles Ave. streetcar. We used to ride the streetcar downtown or to Audubon Park, or just to the K&B Drug Store.

    I love the streetcar. As a child I liked the way it sounded moving down the tracks and the swaying of the car. The smell of the flowers in the spring coming in through the open windows. The clanging of the bell. The New Orleans streetcar was integrated long before the Montgomery Bus strike, though I do recall getting some queer looks from both white and black riders when I once gave my seat to an elderly black woman.

    Once Saturday the parents of one of my classmates rented a streetcar for the morning and we have a birthday party on it. That was really cool.

    My family also loved the streetcar for a more personal reason. My father, an attorney, represented the NOPSI ( the utility that ran the streetcar and bus system). Every time a streetcar hit a car or a pedestrian, my father got a retainer.

    Streetcars are a romantic form of mass transit. No one really loves a bus, but a lot of New Orleanians feel a great attachment to the streetcar. It is a pleasure to ride. It is attractive. It is communal with its center-facing seats. The St. Charles Avenue streetcar runs past some of the nicest houses in the city.

    On my rare visits to the Crescent City, I make it a point to get on the streetcar and ride it up and down the line. Never fails to please me.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Santiago used to have streetcars, now all that is left is the tracks that are partly hidden under asphalt, you can see the tracks in the potholes, I think they ran up until the 50's or so. I think it'd be great to have them back, especially complementing the busses and the subway.

    Valparaiso has it's famous elevators, that are somewhat similar to streecars, except that they work on hills, lack of maintenance and financial problems seem to be their greatest threat.

    As for Valdivia, I don't think it has ever had any, and quite possibly will never have, unless it stops sprawling out and starts densifying, Topography is also a limitant here, The rivers, swamps and hills make in hard.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian bocian's avatar
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    I prefer light rail over streetcars --- streetcars are nice for sentimental reasons or to haul some tourists around in downtown loops, but will not serve as viable mass transit (i.e good for commuting to work from miles away) or spur real-sized development.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bocian View post
    I prefer light rail over streetcars --- streetcars are nice for sentimental reasons or to haul some tourists around in downtown loops, but will not serve as viable mass transit (i.e good for commuting to work from miles away) or spur real-sized development.
    Although to be fair, they're not meant to. That's what light and heavy rail are for. If you want to reconnect local areas, you put in a streetcar.

    Streetcar is to normal bus route, as other rail is to freeway flyer.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamme View post

    Streetcar is to normal bus route, as other rail is to freeway flyer.
    Spoken like a true Milwaukee native :p
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I think the streetcar thing is a little silly. They are higher capacity than busses but way lower than LRT. The only real advantage is the tourism factor, but that's only big because they're still somewhat unusual.
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    A long time ago, the city that I currently live in had a streetcar route that ran from the train station to the harbour through the downtown core. It of course has been ripped out and replaced with streets.

    I actually do wonder what would happen if streetcars were reinstalled. Would the area along the old streetcar route revive? But, then I don't know if this area along the route has ever been good.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    There are 3 streetcars lines in New Orleans - St. Charles Avenue (the oldest line...but still inoperable post-Katrina), Canal Street/Carrollton Avenue (reinstalled about 3 or 4 years ago....just got back up and running a couple of months ago); and the Riverfront (mostly a tourist line connected with Canal Street...just started running as well).

    Prior to Hurricane Katrina, there was some momentum gaining in reinstalling streetcar lines in some other parts of the city, the Desire Street line to be precise. Since this line would have traversed through the 9th Ward, which was devasted, I don't know what's going to happen to those plans now.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  15. #15
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    You don't try to cut down a tree with a butterknife and you don't try to butter your bread with a chainsaw.

    Streetcars have a particular use and there should be very little overlap with light or heavy rail. The term we use here is "walking accelerator". A streetcar is not a good solution for getting people across town and certainly not for getting them around the region. It is good for walking out of your office at lunchtime and taking it seven blocks to meet friends at a particular restaurant. Without the streetcar, the lunch with friends wouldn't have worked out due to too much time spent walking to and from the restaurant. If I wanted to go more than a mile, I would be much better off using some other form of transportation but for intradistrict movement, they're a good solution.

    To me the important thing with streetcars is that they have frequent service. If I'm taking the heavy rail system from the suburbs to the airport thirty miles away, it is ok (but certainly not ideal) to wait ten minutes for the train to arrive since the automobile trip through the city to the airport would have been sixty to ninety minutes. Waiting ten minutes for the next streetcar so you can take it a half dozen blocks is not ok since walking would have gotten more than half way to your destination if you didn't wait for the next streetcar.

    In my opinion, streetcars in modern US are best used in high density corridors and because they enable people to make less use of cars to make those trips that are just a bit too far to walk, they do encourage denser development. If I'm going to open a drycleaners on the bottom floor of a midrise building with limited onsite customer parking, I'm going to want the streetcar there to expand the footprint of territory from which customers will come to my store.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  16. #16
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    Spoken like a true Milwaukee native :p
    [shakes fist] I realized what I typed after I read it later but just left it [shakes fist]

  17. #17
    Cyburbian bocian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle View post
    You don't try to cut down a tree with a butterknife and you don't try to butter your bread with a chainsaw.

    Streetcars have a particular use and there should be very little overlap with light or heavy rail. The term we use here is "walking accelerator". A streetcar is not a good solution for getting people across town and certainly not for getting them around the region. It is good for walking out of your office at lunchtime and taking it seven blocks to meet friends at a particular restaurant. Without the streetcar, the lunch with friends wouldn't have worked out due to too much time spent walking to and from the restaurant. If I wanted to go more than a mile, I would be much better off using some other form of transportation but for intradistrict movement, they're a good solution.
    How about riding a bicycle there?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by jordanb View post
    I think the streetcar thing is a little silly. They are higher capacity than busses but way lower than LRT. The only real advantage is the tourism factor, but that's only big because they're still somewhat unusual.
    I don't understand how streetcars, in that sense, are any better than London's double decker buses.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamme View post
    [shakes fist] I realized what I typed after I read it later but just left it [shakes fist]
    No worries. It was only after 5 years in Minneapolis/St. Paul that I called them expresses instead of flyers.

    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    I don't understand how streetcars, in that sense, are any better than London's double decker buses.
    Probably because they're not in London.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    Probably because they're not in London.
    Does London have the monopoly of quirky buses?

  21. #21
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamme View post
    Although to be fair, they're not meant to. That's what light and heavy rail are for. If you want to reconnect local areas, you put in a streetcar.

    Streetcar is to normal bus route, as other rail is to freeway flyer.
    Though if you look at the speed of light rail, when not in it's own ROW, the comparison is more like being in a traffic jam on the freeway.

    Slightly off topic. I just spent 8 hours at the Minnesota State Capitol steps, holding a banner to raise awareness of Safege monorail. The people I wanted to see the banner, enter and leave by the heated parking garages. Doh!

    It was in the teens and twentys today. Double Doh!
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  22. #22
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bocian View post
    How about riding a bicycle there?
    If everyone has a bicycle handy then that is an option but that is rarely the case.

    As far as buses go, local city buses and streetcars have a great deal of overlap in terms of the type of service they provide. Streetcars set the route in stone (well, pavement), which is what drives bus advocates mad but is also what encourages development along the route because you know the streetcar isn't one day suddenly going to be rerouted by the mayor's grandmothers house like it could be with a bus.

    The big issue here is that you have to fight against the reality of the perception of buses in the mind of the general public. Regardless of why people don't like buses and do like streetcars, the fact is this is the case and it has to be part of the decision making process. Saving money by putting in buses where you were thinking in streetcars to only see the ridership on the buses become half of what the streetcar would have attracted is not truly saving money (especially when you realize that other trips become automobile trips, with all of the increases in road capacity, parking, etc that those trips require).

    Jaws, isn't London getting rid of their double decker buses?
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb View post
    I think the streetcar thing is a little silly. They are higher capacity than busses but way lower than LRT. The only real advantage is the tourism factor, but that's only big because they're still somewhat unusual.
    People prefer streetcars over buses for the same reason they prefer Lexuses to Toyotas. Whether correct or not, streetcars are viewed as more upscale and permanent in America.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle View post
    Jaws, isn't London getting rid of their double decker buses?
    The old routemasters are being replaced for these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:W..._metroline.png

  25. #25
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws View post
    The old routemasters are being replaced for these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:W..._metroline.png
    Cool... I thought they were switching over to double length buses with a pivot in the middle. Perhaps they were thinking of that and decided on the new double deck buses instead.

    The new buses are pretty slick looking though it would be nice if they kept some of the old ones in the tourist areas for historic appeal.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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