Ding Ding

Downtowns See Streetcars as Development Tool

U.S. mass-transit ridership, already at its highest in 50 years, is set to keep rising, with nearly 400 new rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects proposed, according to a new report by Reconnecting America. Americans’ 10.1 billion trips on transit in 2007 saved 1.4 billions of gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of a supertanker leaving the Middle East every 11 days. The Community Streetcar Coalition reports that at least 40 U.S. cities are exploring streetcar plans, not only to ease traffic congestion, but also to draw people back from the suburbs and spur economic development.

More than a dozen cities have existing streetcar lines, including Portland, Seattle and New Orleans, which is restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, North Carolina, have introduced or are planning to introduce streetcars. Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, are investigating financing options.

Modern streetcars, which cost about $3 million each, run on an overhead electrical wire and rails flush with the pavement, and carry up to 130 passengers per car. Because they pick up passengers on both sides, stops are shorter than with buses.

Portland, Oregon, built the first major modern U.S. streetcar system, in 2001. Residential and commercial development is up significantly within two blocks of the line, according to Portland Streetcar, Inc.

Sources: ReconnectingAmerica.org; NYTimes.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

In Vitro Corals

Frustrated by vanishing reefs, scientists are fertilizing coral sperm and eggs in labs and returning them to the wild.

Algae Alchemy

Two Dutch designers are processing live algae into material that can be used for 3-D printing of such items as shampoo bottles and trash bins.

Lower Overhead

Cincinnati has purchased 100 percent renewable energy to operate most of its municipal buildings through at least 2021, cutting its utility rates by more than $100,000 annually.

Independent Action

More than 50 mayors from around the globe have signed the Chicago Climate Charter, intended to guide cities toward reaching greenhouse gas emissions reductions similar to those targeted in the Paris climate accord.

Deadly Cargo

The Iranian tanker Sanchi oil spill in the East China Sea has scientists worried about unknown impacts caused by the toxic nature of the ultra-light, highly flammable oil.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags