Streetcars Back on Rails in America


Portland Oregon Streetcar at curb

Anyone who has seen "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" knows that streetcars were the victim of a conspiracy by a certain automobile company to promote automobile and bus sales by eliminating efficient rail transit. Others say that rising car ownership and development of low density suburbia doomed the streetcar with no help from evil conspiracies. Now it appears that conditions are right for their return and expansion. "Several cities have resurrected the streetcar tradition and about three dozen others plan to — from Tucson, and Birmingham, Ala., to Miami and Trenton, N.J. This return to the past is less about satisfying a sense of nostalgia than about enticing developers and people to old industrial areas and faded neighborhoods. As cities experience a much-publicized urban renaissance, streetcars have become another draw for investment in housing, stores and restaurants. Cities hope that streetcars can do in this century what they did in the last: Connect neighborhoods and provide a relatively cheap alternative to walking and driving." Streetcar lines are a lot cheaper than subways, carry more people than buses, and use less fuel per passenger mile. Depending on the source of electricity, they can be carbon free.
When Portland's new line was put in, It attracted about 100 projects worth $2.3 billion in less than five years, all within two blocks of the line. They include 7,248 housing units and 4.6 million square feet of office and retail. Proximity to mass transit allowed developers to build fewer parking spaces. Ridership was more than triple projections.::USA Today

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