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Leinberger Op-Ed Supports Streetcars as Economic Development Tool

"Opposing streetcars and light rail today would be like opposing the building of freeways, the Beltway and Metrorail in the 20th century," writes Chris Leinberger in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
November 17, 2014, 12pm PST | justinbensan
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Leinberger argues that streetcars are the next step in the evolution of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area that began with Metrorail in the 1970s. 

Showing remarkable foresight, the civic leaders of this region invested in the first new heavy-rail system the country had seen in decades. Starting in the late 1970s, Metrorail radiated from downtown D.C. in a manner similar to the freeways. Today, more than 80 percent of new employment growth occurs within walking distance of a Metrorail station, providing employers and residents an environmentally sustainable way of living and creating wealth for their families and the region.

Streetcars in Arlington County and the District as well as Maryland’s proposed Purple Line light rail are the next steps in this evolution.

Leinberger also makes the argument in support of the much costlier investment in streetcars as compared to buses. 

Streetcars have shown that the corridors they traverse redevelop rapidly, which did not happen with buses. Why? Streetcar lines are permanent, signaling to the private market that the transportation system is not going to change tomorrow. Also, middle-class Americans like streetcars. Consumers who have a choice ride streetcars and other rail transit but generally not buses.

I have seen billions in privately funded economic development around streetcar, light rail and Metrorail stations. I have yet to see much private investment at bus stops.

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Published on Friday, November 14, 2014 in The Washington Post - Opinions
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