Some Quick Thoughts

Hi everybody, it’s me.  I thought I would share some streetcar planning thoughts real quick.

1. Build Streetcars for Transit, Not for Development.  Don’t put a streetcar in just to spur development.  Streetcars are transit vehicles so the best streetcar systems will typically be the ones that transport people the best.  Lets not obsess about development.  Multiple studies from the Mineta Transportation Institute and Florida State University show that streetcars underpreform when they are planned for development and not transit.  This was especially true in Little Rock and Tampa’s systems.  The study authors in the FSU case blame the streetcars themselves and not the planners who designed them.  To get a successful streetcar system, plan it as a transit line and with maximum ridership.

2. Lets Redefine “Mixed Traffic”.    Streetcar proponents like to use the phrase “mixed traffic” to describe how well streetcars work in walkable urban areas.  Streetcar opponents rightly assume that means “mixed traffic lanes” with the streetcar intermingling with automobiles and buses.  I think the best solution is a “Mixed Traffic Street” with the streetcars (and sometimes buses) in dedicated lanes that take up 1/3 to 1/4 of the available lanes.  This is similar to what they have in some areas of Seattle and New Orleans.  These are called rapid streetcar systems.  That would preserve the walkabilty of the area while speeding up the streetcars.  Another way to do rapid streetcar systems is to leave streetcars in mixed use lanes in the downtown portions of the line then switch to dedicated medium running (e.g. the St. Charles Line in New Orleans)

That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll post again soon, thanks for reading!

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