Sunday, April 15, 2018

The new reason for new streetcars

From Forbes:

The revival of American cities over the last 20-25 years has also coincided with the revival of a relic of the earlier urban heyday -- the streetcar. But don't mistake the streetcar revival for a newfound affinity for mass transit. Today's streetcars -- indeed, streetcars throughout American history -- are about stimulating development and rising property values, and not about improving job or neighborhood access.

Curiously, this is happening just as transit ridership seems to be on the decline nationally.

It's been done before. Streetcars were initially developed in the late 19th century to open up new areas for urban -- and suburban -- development. Streetcars enabled the development of areas beyond the edges of old, crowded cities, and led to a new, more dispersed development pattern.

As for today's iteration of streetcar development, however, I'm ambivalent. Streetcar development is happening now for two reasons: 1) there is a new and growing demand for city living, and 2) the demand for city living currently outpaces the supply. Streetcars systems are being built as a recognition of those factors, and an attempt to spark similar development in areas where it hasn't yet taken off. Just as parks and highways have been used as economic development tools in the past, streetcar systems are being utilized in the same manner. Their use comes into question as we consider the broader impacts of streetcar development. Do they improve access for the region? Are they playing a role in reducing the rapidly growing levels of inequality we see in our cities? Or are the new systems simply being constructed to serve a select group of favored urban newcomers?


ron s said...

This is clearly an opinion piece by someone who doesn't like the rapid transit/developer link (which might be reasonable). However, it completely ignores the fact that streetcars were not removed due to their inherent problems or obsolescence. The automobile was viewed mistakenly as the best way to get around cities, and it hasn't worked. The return to mass transit, both subways and light rail, is a logical response to the failure of the automobile in the cities. The article also ignores the major economic campaign by auto/bus manufacturers, tire manufacturers etc. to systematically gut the streetcar systems in the 1940's and 50's. Their return in countless cities across the country indicates that they are reasonable solutions for urban transportation beyond the developer link that is accentuated in the article.

Anonymous said...

The exorbitant cost of building anything today just makes it unjustifiable and fiscally prohibitive to build anything that will not move sufficient amounts of people. It becomes alost a luxury rather than a viable and justifiable improvement.

Anonymous said...

This is the cheapest way to provide transportation to boost real estate values dependent on developers need for accessibility.
Building underground lines is time consuming and costly.....NOT WHAT RAPCIOUS DRVELOPERS WANT.
Time is money!
The quicker access can be provided, the quicker the overdevelopment can proceed.
Bingo....light rail...the new trollies.

Anonymous said...

You name it and South Africa has an abundance of it.

Luis Perez said...

Freaking BS. First month out and a few Ubers will run into it. Liabilities.

Anonymous said...

Now it is easier than ever, so they avoid it? See

georgetheatheist said...

[1:13] "It could create even 28,000 new ones [jobs].

Says who? Don't just throw out unsupported numbers.

Anonymous said...

Umm, if so many people are working along this corridor why don't they use the B62 that already connects Queens Plaza, LIC, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the Fulton Street Mall? Or the B67? Or the numerous other buses that run in the area?

The B62 runs every 7 minutes during rush hour, connects to the E/M/R/N/Q/7/L/J/Z, works with your metrocard, and is wheelchair accessible. I don't see how this streetcar will be able to be cheaper, move as many people, or work as well on streets that are already busy. Parts of this ride is already moving faster with the addition of bus only lanes.

Are people not utilizing this service because it is a bus? Not a sleek streetcar? Do transplants not want to take a bus? Why have we spent millions of dollars on this stupid streetcar system?

This is just a ploy to get lots of money into certain people's pockets. We will probably build it and then in 10-15 years tear it up. It's a waste.

Use the bus system. Use the millions of dollars to implement more bus lanes and enforce them.