Spurred by opportunities for federal financing, and the desire by cities to enliven their downtowns for a new generation of city-dwellers, streetcars are making a return to America's cities en masse, reports Caroline Porter.
Portland, Oregon's streetcar, which is credited with spurring the construction of more than 10,000 new housing units and 5.4 million square feet of office, institutional, retail and hotel construction since its first leg opened in 2001, is the gold standard for demonstrating what such projects can provide. Examples of less successful streetcar projects, however, can be found in Tampa and Little Rock.
Streetcar critic Randal O'Toole, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, argues that Portland's success was driven more by city business incentives than the return of a vintage means of transport. "Putting 125-year-old technology into modern cities is going to create more congestion, dangerous situations for pedestrians and divert taxpayers' money from transit that people really need to transit that is silly," Mr. O'Toole said.