Streetcars: The Latest Must-Have Accessory for CA's Cities

Los Angeles recently took a major step in its plan to return streetcars to downtown's streets. But they're not the only Southern California city pursuing the nation's trendy transit mode. Bill Fulton examines the attraction.
February 17, 2013, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Artist's Rendering

Los Angeles, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Fullerton. The list of cities pursuing new streetcar lines is long, and growing, and that's just in Southern California. Add places like Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, Fort Lauderdale and Kansas City to the list and you've got "the hottest thing in the downtown revitalization business these days."

"At first glance, streetcars would not seem to have much of a place in the 21st Century," says Fulton. "These self-propelled single-car vehicles are much slower even than light-rail trains and they typically run in the street with regular traffic. Yet they’re catching on all over the country as a more efficient downtown circulator than the typical bus or shuttle – and one that will generate new real estate development along the way."

"Like so many other streetcar projects around the country, the L.A. project is being put together entirely outside the traditional public transit structure. (L.A. Metro is supportive but has nothing to do with the project.) And as [Shiraz Tangri, a lawyer for Alston & Bird and the general counsel for LA Streetcar Inc.] and others often point out, when business leaders promote – and pay for – a transit project, it’s going to have different a completely different goal: economic development rather than mobility."

"We talk a lot about transit-oriented development," he said, "But this is development-oriented transit'”

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Published on Thursday, February 14, 2013 in California Planning & Development Report
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