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What Was Lost When Streetcars Stopped Still Hasn't Been Found
Owain James writes in response to the ongoing streetcar renaissance, noting that many recently opened streetcar lines have struggled (as transit on the whole has struggled as well). The argument to made as the lessons of the streetcar renaissance begin to emerge, according to James: "public transportation doesn’t need to be made of streetcars to deliver what streetcars once did."
The level of transit service in U.S. cities in the heyday of streetcars has been unmatched since, but the switch from streetcars to buses is not responsible for this decline. As automobile traffic increased, streetcars had to compete for road space that was filling up quickly. While streetcars ran on tracks, these were almost always installed on roads that were open to all automobiles, so streetcars had to sit in traffic like everyone else.
With lessons from Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., any city operating a newly opened streetcar, and the cities about to open a new streetcar line, should pay attention.