El Paso Streetcar Marries History, Mobility, and Economic Development

The city’s streetcar line, defunct since 1974, is moving thousands of riders through a newly revitalized downtown.

1 minute read

October 18, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Orange and white streetcar in El Paso, Texas.

Refurbished El Paso streetcar. | Dietlinde DuPlessis / Adobe Stock

A historic streetcar line in El Paso is playing a role in the city’s downtown resurgence, writes Christian Betancourt in Next City.

The streetcar line was resurrected in 2019, and although it doesn’t run all the way to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, like it once did, “it did serve 47,000 riders during the last fiscal year — at zero fare. In April, seven months into the current fiscal year, 55,000 riders were recorded.”

The article describes the process of getting the streetcars back online, which included a survey of local residents that revealed that “residents wanted the streetcar to be included among the 2012 Quality of life bond projects, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters.” The $97 million project was ultimately funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) alone.

A key purpose for the streetcar, the article adds, is promoting more transit-oriented development (TOD) in dense parts of the city. “Beyond downtown revitalization, streetcar’s services are twofold: maintaining a regular route and timely schedule, while including fun programming for riders to enjoy. The streetcar hosts historic tours, readings and NPR Tiny Desk-inspired musical acts that welcome riders at each stop, with events lasting the 45 minutes it takes to complete the route.”

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