This Article from Philladelphia talks about how streetcars are coming back to cities across the country including Seattle:

“Trolleys are taking back the streets,” says Harry Donahue, a founding member of the Friends of Philadelphia Trolleys.
Once-endangered, trolleys are experiencing a resurgence across North America.

“There was definitely a perception in the ’40s that anything dated before 1940 was old and streetcars fell in that category,” Dean said.

By the 1970s, only seven cities in the nation – including Philadelphia – were running trolleys, according to the Light Rail Now Web site.

There’s more to than that, but I won’t bore you with conspiracy theories. Unless you want me to.

There’s room for streetcars in transportation systems. They serve a similar function to a bus, but they create a more permanent presense, and are more comfortable to ride. People see them as more reliable, and that sense is a huge reason why places like South Lake Union and Portland’s Pearl District look to them during redevelopment.

On the City’s website there’s a report that was commissioned to study possible streetcar routes in Seattle. We are definitely getting on in South Lake Union that may eventually stretch all the way to the U-District. We’re also likely getting one from Chinatown, through Little Saigon up to First Hill and eventually to Aloha and Broadway. The report discusses other possible routes, including extending the Waterfront line to the Interlake area and one down through the Central District. It’s a good read, and discusses a lot of the benefits of streetcars and when building them is appropriate. Some of the advantages of Streetcars over buses:

  • Streetcars attract permanent investment because they are not easily re-routed.
  • Streetcars operate better in pedestrian environments because they are more easily accessed, especially by the disabled.
  • Streetcars attract more tourists and occasional riders than buses.

The report goes on to mention what seems to make a successful streetcar and what doesn’t:

  • They travel through high density corridors with a
    rich mixture of land uses.
  • Walking to, from and between streetcar stops is
    convenient and comfortable.
  • The mixture of land uses along the corridor
    encourages many short, convenience trips.
  • Street grades are 6% or less.
  • Travel lanes are 11 feet wide and intersection
    geometry is simple.
  • Overhead clearances are at least 14 feet.

We’ll see more streetcars in the next 20 years as the city completes it’s density drive.

6 Replies to “Streetcars Coming Back”

  1. Great article. Phoenix is finally getting a light rail car, probably 15 years late. I don’t know about Seattle or other major cities but our area is so spread out. Street cars would not be the answer but for the right city it would be very cool.
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  2. I believe that LID taxes are a big portion of what is paying for the streetcar in SLU. So that means Paul Allen. Since he owns 99.99% of that neighborhood. I think perhaps King County Metro is paying for some of it as well. I know they are definitely going to be operating it. They will be the ones that absorb costs. The Aloha Broadway car is going to be done by Sound Transit I think? That would be really nice because then you would put a ring around the city essentially, which would help develop these areas. Although, I am totally against Target going to the Little Saigon neighborhood. That is also another topic though. Having been on the Tacoma streetcar/lightrail it is really comfortable and very open. I liked it alot, and can’t wait to use the SLU line. I work in the neighborhood, it is amazing to see how far it is getting done. The Seattle.gov website has conflicting startup dates. One says as early as October 07 the other December 07. Any word on that D?

  3. As an aside refering to the first picture, if that were in Seattle, that lady would be beamed by something standing in the road lane like that!

  4. Yeah she would! I was actually hit by a car yesterday coming off the bus when some took a right turn without looking for pedestrians!

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