"The Electric 7" A Streetcar Proposal On A ShoestringAugust 17, 2012 38 comments Print Article
Metro Jacksonville's Robert Mann takes time to explain his proposal for taking advantage of former city-owned rail lines to connect Gateway Town Center with Brentwood, Springfield, East Jacksonville, the Stadium District and Downtown Jacksonville, stimulating needed economic development through all of these communities in the process.
In the rough shape of the number "7", from Gateway Town Center southeast, skirting the line between Springfield and Eastside, all the way to the stadiums and/or downtown, the "7 Line" offers the struggling city's most historic and economically depressed neighborhoods and businesses an opportunity not found in Riverside-Avondale or San Marco. Affordable, and doable even by volunteers, no matter how you cut it, not many cities have ever had the opportunity for quality business spawning transit at pennies on the dollar like Jacksonville is now presented with. So how do we do it? Get a shovel and let's roll.
Jacksonville may be oblivious to it's greatest transportation opportunity, a chance for redevelopment, streetcar track, parks and trails, sidewalks and stations and of course concessions and small business development.
The purpose of this article is to introduce a concept of a lineal park running from the St. Johns River to Gateway Plaza, 50' to 200' across and several miles long, this could become the centerpiece for further Springfield, Brentwood, New Springfield or Eastside restoration and development. Following a typical pattern the residents of the areas served would see their property values rise.
We already have the largest park system in the United States, why not toss in a transit line, park, trail system, historic and tourist attraction? America loves its trains, and our cities love our streetcars, otherwise why else would transit bus builders be buying truck chassies and building vague trolley like bodies on them? Why aren't Amtrak or New Orleans, Ft. Smith, or Kennosh's streetcars painted to look like buses?
As proof of this ideas merit, when it was discussed in a JTA citizens meeting a couple of years ago, it was immediately attacked, in fact your writer and one of their own planners were called "A pack of flying monkeys." So sold out to the highway lobby the same planner then went on to tell the audience that rebuilding this railroad over Long Branch Creek would be paramount to bridging the Nile.
The beauty is, with a citizens streetcar plan this parkway could be developed with or without JTA participation. The only thing we are missing right now is you.
Building a heritage streetcar system would unleash great synergy and economic development of the urban core. In a recent HDR study, a streetcar line in Cincinnati costing $102 million dollars to build would increase property values along the route by $379 million, in fact the current total economic cost benefit ratio is now $3 - 5 dollars in new economic activity for every dollar spent.
Leaving their cars behind, people often fall in love with their streetcars. Case in point is simply mention the words San Francisco and what image appears in your mind? That's a brand that no amount of money could buy. In 1984 the downtown development authority study in Jacksonville found that a heritage streetcar system with a complimenting museum was estimated to attract 500,000 riders per year, the reason? Who else has a world class streetcar museum that does double duty as a transit link strung between Disney and New York City.
The streetcar can help save the wonderful structures and houses that remain in Springfield, New Springfield, Brentwood and Gateway by cutting down parking ratios, encouraging renovations of old buildings, and increasing home ownership levels. By lessening the importance of the automobile renovations and rehabilitation's are encouraged.
Developers are proven to make long term investment decisions based on a streetcar line, decisions that won't happen with any amount of PCT trolleys (Potato-Chip-Trucks-Painted-Like-Trolleys) that they wouldn't make on a bus line. The streetcar is a permanent improvement that cant be easily changed. Changing a bus route only requires a can of orange paint.
Young professionals have embraced urban living nationally but are often priced out of downtown condo's. With fixed rail transit, the city would be free to encourage development in the central business district by reducing parking space requirements. With an condominium costing $1 million dollars, a parking structure might account for $50,000 dollars for every two spaces or 5% of the cost. But with a Jacksonville realistic $200,000 condominium those parking spaces are 25% of the cost. In this scenario the streetcar is capable of reducing the price of that downtown unit by $25,000 dollars.
Photo Courtesy of Adam Maroney via Flickr
Did someone say "railroad?" Railroad as in Amtrak? The gates are down in Memphis and you were expecting maybe The City of New Orleans to charge past? As I've pointed out streetcars are in fact trains, oh and Amtrak's "City of New Orleans" will pass this same spot tonight on the near track.
"Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it run on time. Once I built a railroad, buddy can you spare a dime." The words to this old song from the Great Depression seem to speak to our situation. 1.4 million people and growing rapidly, if we are to get ahead of the curve, now is the time to build the foundation of our future transit system.
People electing to use transit do so because the cost and inconvenience of their next best
alternative is greater. They use heritage streetcars for this and as a tourist attraction meaning that the trolley can do both, save money and develop more tourism dollars.
The principal categories of benefit associated with streetcar development are:
1. Travel cost savings (including vehicle operating costs, safety and environmental factors);
2. Mobility-related benefits;
3. Community economic development;
4. Increased Tourism;
5. Revitalizing the urban core;
Minimizing Cost by Using Inexpensive mechanism
Building a streetcar line on a shoestring isn't as hard as it might sound. The first hurdle in streetcar 101 is to understand that streetcars are in fact "trains." Streetcars are a form of light-rail and even the newest light rail vehicles can operate on the track, moreover a streetcar or light rail vehicle can operate on regular train track. Of course in the name of safety you probably wouldn't want to mix a CSX freight train with a streetcar, and there would be a need for overhead wires, something not found on CSX.
Waterfront streetcar lines have been built using old freight railroad track in Seattle, New Orleans and Memphis, and Jacksonville offers a golden opportunity for the same. investigating the presence of abandoned track or right-of-way is a worthwhile activity when planning a heritage line in the city. From the Matthews Bridge Expressway at the Union Street Warehouses and just north of Maxwell House there is an abandoned railroad that runs all the way to gateway plaza. A railroad that is already owned, or the majority of it owned, by the City of Jacksonville. With the 5Th busiest Arena in the nation, the Jaguars, Suns, and Sharks, parking on game day for residents from throughout the Northside could take place at or near Gateway Plaza. Add that traffic to the Gateway district and watch it bloom once again into a premier shopping area.
One Track or Two?
Like any railroad, a streetcar line can be built with a single track or with double track. Double track in usually single directional, per track, and single track is usually bi-directional. Single track with passing sidings where two cars meet from opposing directions can get around each other. Neither is superior to the other in function unless of course, you are dealing with track in a two way street or extremely heavy traffic. Thus a single track with calculated meeting points for passing is quite economical and can always be upgraded to double track in the future. When the wildly successful Portland MAX Light Rail System was built long stretches were single track.
Reuse of paving bricks where the streetcar line enters a road such as Beaver or Duval Streets is one way to save money. Reuse of paving brick or stones brings with it a double benefit. Auto Traffic will avoid driving in the "brick lane," and thus the path of the trolley has a passive deterrent to collisions, and maintenance is cheaper because the brick is removable and re-reusable.
Rail and ties in good condition are often available used for little more then scrap value, sometimes just for removing them. Several hundred miles of trolley and railroad museum track have been built using exactly these methods. Switches from freight railroads are also reusable most anyplace where there is no auto traffic. Likewise, used utility poles are usually available and are suitable for use in constructing an overhead wire system. When streetcar track is in the street city light poles are sometimes the exact same poles that held the wires of the Jacksonville Traction Company. Further, in more congested urban settings span wires that support the trolley wire can be attached to buildings, (with permission).
The cars that will operate on the tracks are available on the used market, and car bodies may be in your neighbors backyard. A fully restored, original Jacksonville Streetcar would be a local symbol and treasure. 100+ cars were in the original Traction fleet and odds are that at least a handful survive as parts of houses, chicken coops, sheds, barns etc. As I write this there are 4 operational historic cars that can be tailored to our local needs, rebuilt, shipped and delivered to JAXPORT, for under $500,000 each (compare to $500,000 - $900,000 for a new bus, and generally the buses tend to be smaller). Another sits by the side of the road in a rural Ohio community with a "FOR SALE" sign hanging on it, and yet another is waiting a new home "FREE" in Baltimore. All are collectible with as different from one another as a Corvette is to a step side pickup truck.
Car Barn or Buildings
A number of heritage lines have reused existing buildings for car storage and maintenance facilities saving the cost of building from scratch. Sometimes metal or prefabricated warehouse type buildings can obtained for the cost of disassembling them and then rebuilt into suitable car barn structures.
Photo Courtesy of Maine Trolleys via Flickr
With the benefit of both museum and transit junior members of the orginazation actually have a chance to touch the controller (under adult supervision), ever see JTA do that? In this case a Maine Library Celebration aboard a 1905 vintage open-air car.
Volunteer's for Everything
Starting with the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport Maine, in 1939 relayed 2 miles of former interurban railroad track entirely with volunteers. Fort Smith, Dallas, Tucson, Fort Collins etc. all operate with volunteer labor. In fact in the entire McKinney Avenue Streetcar transit line in Dallas, a line which restores cars and operates on a regular transit schedule there is only one paid employee, a master mechanic. Even on San Francisco's highly vaunted MUNI, volunteers play a significant role.
Along with volunteer railroaders and railroad buffs there is a huge pool of possible assistance right here in the city. Work release programs often offer a chance learn a skill and get out into the fresh air. Electrical Union Local's can often supply a list of volunteers with expert abilities, and often the use of bucket trucks and other specialty vehicles and equipment. The Navy's Sea bee's construction battalions, the Florida National Guard or the Reserves, can often work projects into their schedules with sufficient lead time.
Streetcars can operate on private rights of way or in reserved medians or along the side of streets or railroads. While buses were originally sold as more "flexible" one is hard pressed to find a bus that can operate on railroad track, highway, elevated, subway, median or side of the road. Since streetcars can operate in the street, duplicating bus service, and off the street on the railroad, the city doubles its options. The cars are capable of negotiating very sharp turns and passing through very narrow areas, meaning they are easily adapted to existing conditions in the older sections of cities where they are normally used. Because streetcars are on a fixed track, it is possible to run them between buildings with only a couple of inches on each side no matter what the operators skill level, something definitely not suitable for a bus with a rookie driver.
Photo courtesy of Mc Kinney Avenue Streetcar
Heritage Trolleys are electrically powered, drawing 600 volts of direct current via a trolley pole from an overhead wire (modern cars are typically 750 volts) though both can and do operate on the same tracks.
The current returns to the power station via the rails. Today many people new to the electric transit field inappropriately use the term "catenary" to refer to any type of overhead wire construction. However, planners developing heritage trolley systems should specify carefully the type of wire construction to be used as the system chosen can have a significant effect on both the cost of construction.
Both trolleys (original as well as heritage) and light rail systems are powered by electricity, normally drawn from wire suspended above the track. However, the choice of overhead wire construction style can have a major impact on the appearance of the system. Two principal types of overhead wire construction exist: Direct suspension trolley wire and catenary construction:
Direct suspension trolley wire is typical of urban streetcar systems and consists of a single wire running parallel to the center of the track, suspended at a height of about 18 feet. The wire is suspended either by span wires which connect to poles or buildings at the side of the street or by bracket arms that are attached to poles next to the track. Both bracket arms and poles can be decorated with creative designs to enhance the appearance of the streetscape. Carefully designed direct suspension overhead can be quite simple and thus be minimally intrusive to the appearance of the urban area served by the line.
People have always objected to overhead wires for electric streetcars. Good design minimizes visual impact. Overhead wire system is proven, operates reliably with zero emissions, and has reasonable maintenance cost.
Electrification with d-c and overhead contact is suitable for both Urban Circulators and Light Rail Trains. Streetcar systems use smaller components than light rail. Electrification must deliver needed power; be attractive and maintainable. Streetcar vs. light rail - how does
electrification differ? What questions should be answered before final design begins? How do the parts work together?
Current Collection Pantograph Accommodates high currents. Guided by the vehicle. At curves: OCS is positioned to the outside of the track center line. Trolley Pole Used on legacy and heritage streetcars. Contact shoe is guided by the OCS. Slants upward in the trailing direction; double-end car has two poles. At curves: OCS is positioned to the inside of the track center line. Voltage drop depends on current and resistance Volts equal Amperes times Ohms. E = I * R (Ohms Law). Resistance is proportional to length, inversely to cross sectional area. Shaped to fit trolley clamps. Hard-drawn copper or bronze alloy. Size 4/0 AWG: for 1000 feet weight = 642 lbs. resistance = .0507 ohms.Wire expands & contracts with temperature. Weights keep tension constant, or frequent support mitigates sag. Nominal wire height above rail 18 feet. Height may vary from 13 to 23 feet. The OCS is double-insulated. Hangers can provide one level, additional levels from strain insulators. Poles
Round steel, direct-burial, with epoxy paint.
Round steel, with foundation & bolt circle.
Less Common: Wood Concrete Glue laminated wood Steel H - beam.
Substations convert a-c utility power to d-c, at 600 or 750 Volts. Power ratings together must provide the power used by all the cars on the line. Can be supplied prewired in weatherproof housings. Rated 400-800 kilowatts. Nominal voltage is at 100% load. Feeder wires connect substations to OCS. Feeders can parallel the OCS to reduce voltage drop.
Buried May be expensive.
Aerial Has visual impact.
Traction current returns through the rails. Insulate, bond, and cross-connect tracks. Keep rails at ground potential. The type and number of streetcars affect the electrification. Heritage cars have trolley poles, draw 60 to 300A at 600V. Modern cars have pantographs, draw500A at 750V.
Trolleys are electrically powered, drawing 600 volts of direct current via a trolley pole from an overhead wire. The current returns to the power station via the rails. Today many people new to the electric transit field inappropriately use the term "catenary" to refer to any type of overhead wire construction. However, planners developing heritage trolley systems should specify carefully the type of wire construction to be used as the system chosen can have a significant effect on both the cost of construction. Both trolleys (original as well as heritage) and light rail systems are powered by electricity, normally drawn from wire suspended above the track. However, the choice of overhead wire construction style can have a major impact on the appearance of the system. Two principal types of overhead wire construction exist: Direct suspension trolley wire and catenary construction: Direct suspension trolley wire is typical of urban streetcar systems and consists of a single wire running parallel to the center of the track, suspended at a height of about 18 feet. The wire is suspended either by span wires which connect to poles or buildings at the side of the street or by bracket arms that are attached to poles next to the track. Both bracket arms and poles can be decorated with creative designs to enhance the appearance of the streetscape. Carefully designed direct suspension overhead can be quite simple and thus be minimally intrusive to the appearance of the urban area served by the line.
Putting the power of streetcar to spur transit oriented development, an repurposing and rebirth of the Gateway Plaza area may become possible.
Finally, Why Vintage or Heritage Reproduction Streetcars? Even with all of the whistles and bells, with Heat/Air, a vintage or "heritage" streetcar is going to cost us about 1/2 of what Charlotte or Houston have paid for their electric rail vehicles. Not a thing is lost in ride quality, or creature comforts, in fact for the romantics among us, it would be very hard to beat the warmth of polished brass and exotic hardwoods, cane, velvet and hemp These are elements of a long forgotten excellence in craftsmanship, enjoyable enough, just to ride.
IMAGINE! A green and cream colored, two toned car pulls away from the terminus at Gateway. It's a restored Jacksonville Car that was found serving as part of a house in the northside. It is recreated as a streetcar - lounge just as some of the original Jacksonville cars were. You'll recall that during Mayor Sebring's term in office the city had worked with the traction company and the movie industry to provide a limited number of nearly unique lounge cars. The 100 year old craftsmanship is everywhere, we are immersed in history and the glory of the industrial age. Plush velvet seats mix with some wicker furnishings, carpet lines the floor, curtains, shades and lamps round out the settings that could just as easily have been found in the Epping Forest mansion or Machine Gun Kelley's palatal Ortega Point home.
Click clacking along at 35 mph the trolley seems for all the world like a time capsule hurtling along a railroad track. A muffled Interurban horn blows for the crossing, gates down and lights flashing. Rolling across Main Street a startled trucker from the Midwest stares in disbelief as this relic of the past makes its way southward.
At the Arena station the car stops and the fresh scent of ozone is heavy in the air, enjoy it, it only follows thunder storms and trolleys. No damage done, this is a natural occurrence that has a very short shelf life and is gone in an instant. Leaving the station the car is now going down Duval Street just like any other city bus might have, we stand and watch as it bounds up and over the viaduct and disappears heading west into downtown. Blinking back to reality, the here and the now, and invigorated by vision the citizen activist is left but with one choice... Get a shovel and go to work - lets build a streetcar system.
The highly acclaimed 'Atlanta Belt Line' which includes a plan for streetcar has seen record volunteerism.
This is a conceptual image of what a parkway dividing Springfield and the East Side could look like.
Note the trail following the track, this same concept has been used on the new Denton, Texas 'A TRAIN' route, and could be used in Jacksonville both on this 'electric 7' and the 'S' line.
Where are the original Jacksonville streetcars today? Amazingly they might still be among us. When the Jacksonville Traction Company was dismantled the cars, stripped of their trucks and electric gear were sold for a token amount. They became sheds, restaurants, chicken coops, Florida rooms, and any manner of other purposed structure. Perhaps we just haven't looked hard enough.
Anyone who worries that Jacksonville having a historic streetcar as both transit and attraction might kill the chance at modern light-rail, relax, they are both trains, and as you can see, they can both operate on the same tracks. One should simply ask, which type of street railway is cheaper to build and after it is built, what can we do with it in the future? Heritage streetcar offers us a back door to rail transit.
Article by Robert Mann