Kaid Benfield Archive


Streetcars are popping up all over!

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:36PM

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Almost completely dormant for practically a century - with much of their once-rolling stock suffering the indignity of conversion to cheesy "ye olde" city tour buses - streetcars are now making a major comeback across the country.  And they are poised to become a commonplace feature of the country's surging boom in transit ridership.

  map of America's streetcar revival (courtesy of the Infrastructuralist) 

Courtesy of the excellent, provocative blog Infrastructuralist, the map above shows some of the principal locations where streetcar service is in the works.  (The map is a little hard to read, but you can click on it for a larger version.)  It helpfully indicates which featured projects are historic legacy operations as in New Orleans, new systems partially operating as in Portland, in advanced planning as in Albuquerque, "shovel-ready," or other stages.

Streetcars aren't necessarily faster than buses, but they move more people more efficiently, and their popularity spurs revitalization.  The Infrastructuralist post, by Yonah Freemark, cites the impressive success of Portland's new downtown streetcar:

"The results have been impressive: $3.5 billion in new construction, 10,000 residential units, more than 5,000,000 square feet of office and hotel space. Politicians and transportation experts have flocked to Portland to see the results, and cities across the country are now pondering systems of their own."

Check out the full post, and also the comments, which serve as a sort of de facto FAQ section on modern streetcars.