Applying the Brakes to the Streetcar Revival

With Los Angeles, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and many more cities hoping on board, seats are filling up quickly on America's streetcar bandwagon. However, experts caution gung ho cities about unreal expectations for improving mobility.
May 24, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"In many ways the attraction to streetcars is understandable," writes Eric Jaffe. "Advocates such as Darrin Nordahl like to point out that streetcars are far more charming than buses and are capable of drawing all types of riders — not just commuters. Done right, as in Portland, streetcar lines can be parlayed into millions or even billions of dollars of economic development for a corridor. Well-planned routes can also expand a city's transit footprint into areas where subway or metro expansion wouldn't be financially feasible."

"In just as many ways if not more, however, the attraction is a very curious one," he adds. "For one thing, as [Jarrett] Walker makes clear in his op-ed (and a popular old post from his blog, Human Transit), they don't offer much in the way of mobility improvements. At the end of the day, there's very little they can offer that transit buses can't."

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Published on Friday, May 24, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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