America Rediscovers The Streetcar

May 11, 2009 57 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

America has rediscovered the streetcar. Will Jacksonville?

Streetcars were a common sight in U.S. cities at the beginning of the 20th century, but by the 1960s, they had been wiped out, usually replaced by buses deemed cheaper to operate and more comfortable. A few cities like San Francisco and New Orleans preserved several of their lines and continued to run historic trolley cars.

Until recently, though, there has been little interest in the United States in building new street-running train networks, with communities more likely to focus on faster - but more expensive - light rail transit systems, which operate in their own rights-of-way.

In 2001, Portland reversed the trend, opening a downtown streetcar line with brand new rolling stock, intent on using this mode of transportation to encourage transit-oriented development. 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. This map provides a description of current proposals for modern streetcar networks in metropolitan areas around the country and their development status. It also indicates where historic systems, either never terminated or newly restored, operate today.