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Study Casts Doubt on Streetcars' Ability to Spur Development

Examining Portland and Seattle's much-talked-about systems, the authors highlight the importance of treating streetcars as a viable transport option, rather than just a means to stimulate development.
December 3, 2018, 6am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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According to a report on two "pioneer cities" of the streetcar revival, "simply laying down trolley tracks to replace buses won’t bring development to those places unless other incentives are in place," Ashley Halsey III writes. 

Looking at commercial and residential development permits issued in Portland and Seattle following streetcar construction, the researchers found "mixed results." Streetcars, they write, do not guarantee additional development opportunities, and the development that does occur often differs from what planners and policymakers initially envisioned. 

"Although a streetcar may help stimulate development, there often need to be additional incentives that might include zoning changes, streetscape improvements, investment in public spaces, and tax and financing help," Halsey summarizes. It also helps to integrate streetcars into existing transit systems.

In a word, streetcar projects should be evaluated based on their effectiveness as transportation first, before the whims of the real estate market come into play.

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Published on Saturday, November 24, 2018 in The Washington Post
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