Tags: Government | Streetcars

Governments Reassess Value of Streetcar Projects

Governments Reassess Value of Streetcar Projects
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By    |   Wednesday, 31 December 2014 08:24 AM

Municipal government interest in streetcar-based transportation systems is receding, Politico reported.

"If you want a streetcar because you think it will make your city a better place, then build it for that reason," said Jarrett Walker, a Portland-based transit consultant. Building streetcars, however, in the belief that they are "intrinsically faster and more reliable than a bus – well, that's just not true," Walker told Politico.

The Obama administration has set aside a modest half-billion dollars for streetcar projects – about one-ninetieth of what is devoted annually to highways.

Many streetcar projects have disappointed even their enthusiasts. Construction turns out to be more expensive than anticipated and not cost-effective when compared to buses.

Washington, D.C. is building a streetcar line that will share its lane with ordinary traffic along H Street Northeast. The project is three years behind schedule and is not expected to make commuting any faster. The planned network has been cut to eight from the original 20 miles, according to Politico

Arlington County, Va., decided to scrap its $550 million streetcar project. "The streetcar reality was not living up to the streetcar promise," said county board member John Vihstadt, Politico reported.

Local applications for federal monies to build streetcars have been tampering off from 14 in 2010 to seven or so more recently, Politico reported.

Still, Ray LaHood, a former transportation secretary, argues that "streetcars are coming back" because local governments want them – not to cut commuting time, but to help with urban renewal.

Tucson received $63 million in federal money to construct a streetcar connecting downtown to the University of Arizona. Backers like Democratic state Sen. Steve Farley say the project has benefited the city's development. "Most of the naysayers are trying to put transportation in a silo, where it's just about moving people," Farley told Politico. "It's not just about moving people. It's about a community's soul."

Dallas officials are also enthusiastic about streetcars. The city intends to spend $800 million to build a system of lines.

Streetcar advocates maintain that community-building deserves to be an important element in any decision to construct a network. Putting down streetcar tracks sends a signal to residents and business owners about a municipality's commitment to an urban area that running a bus line does not, Politico reported.

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Municipal government interest in streetcar-based transportation systems is receding, Politico reported.
Government, Streetcars
Wednesday, 31 December 2014 08:24 AM
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