The Streetcar Effect
Why Streetcars Make Sense in the 21st Century
STREETCARS HELP BUILD A CITY
An advocacy group, Reconnecting America, notes that streetcar systems shape a city. Their fixed rails influence land use, development and growth patterns. The “streetcar effect” stimulates desirable development along the line. Investments in streetcar rails assure permanence. A bus route can literally disappear overnight.
STREETCARS HELP BUILD A COMMUNITY
Streetcars promote compact, walkable, people-friendly development. They produce streetscapes where people want to walk, bike, shop and simply hang out. Streetcars also are popular image makers for rising neighborhoods.
People like to ride streetcars. The ride is comfortable and somehow upscale. As Reconnecting America suggests, maybe it’s our happy association with the choo–choo trains of childhood — whatever, it works.
Streetcars put more people on other rail systems. A streetcar system delivers passengers to light–rail, subway and intercity lines (Amtrak).
NEW RAILS ARE ENVIRONMENTALLY SMART
The cleaner air, reduced oil dependency, and climate
protection that makes public transit preferable to cars also applies to streetcars. Every transit user represents one less car on the street.
THEY DRAW POSITIVE ATTENTION
Streetcars attract tourists but also provide a steady stream of patrons to neighborhood businesses. Neighborhoods become destinations, producing greater sales tax and hotel tax revenues.
THEY PROMOTE SMARTER, EFFICIENT BUILDING
Development dollars follow streetcar lines. A higher quality of development becomes more economically feasible because less land–gobbling parking is required.
THEY HELP THE LOCAL ECONOMY
Streetcars raise property values. The “streetcar effect” in Portland has raised values for three blocks on either side of the line. Business improves through more walk–ins and new residents.
THEY ARE CHEAP TO GET UP AND RUNNING
Streetcars less expensive to build than any other rail system. They’re quick and simple to construct, affecting traffic for just a couple of weeks as rails are laid. And, like mules, streetcars are tough. San Francisco operates a fleet built in the 1940's.
THEY CAN MORPH TO MATCH THE COMMUNITY
Streetcars can be sleek and modern—or vintage and charming. Vintage reconditioned streetcars operate in Little Rock and Seattle as well as San Francisco. Old systems with vintage cars survive in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Toronto.