Cities around the country are planning or building new streetcar systems to focus development in their urban cores. After years of unsuccessful urban revitalization strategies, Jacksonville should consider the impact of viable mass transit investment on the surrounding built environment.
Why Streetcar, Why Now?
The streetcar is a powerful catalyst for economic development. Although the improved transportation provided by the streetcar will improve the character and feel of the city, the greatest benefits come from the streetcars ability to focus and spur investment all along the route.
In other cities, building a streetcar line has been an effective way to increase investment and development in their urban cores.
Despite having 266,005 fewer residents than Jacksonville, Tucson is currently home to a heritage streetcar line (Old Pueblo Trolley) and is aggressively moving forward with the construction of a 3.9-mile modern streetcar line. At the end of September 2009, the FTA gave its approval for Tucson to proceed with final design and construction should begin this year, with a projected late 2011 opening estimated.
Portland has seen $2.8 billion in added value to the city. Tampas streetcar line stimulated $1.1 billion of development. Little Rocks route brought $700 million into the city. Even Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city with 710,865 fewer residents than Jacksonville, has seen $175 million in added value along their streetcar line.
Streetcars promote growth and economic development in a myriad of different ways. They make downtown housing more affordable, bring in more customers to support downtown retail, improve property values, create a more vibrant city, and increase public safety by keeping more eyes on the street which improves the overall business climate. In short, the stimulate the type of development that the JEDC and DVI have dreamed about for years but have been unable to deliver.
Portland image provided by ForAteOh, a member of www.skyscraperpage.com
The Jacksonville area is expected to experience tremendous population growth in the next 50 years. A complete and easy to use transportation network, which the streetcar can be a part of, will ensure that a substantial percentage of this growth occurs in dense urban areas like downtown instead of at the fringes of the city. This form of growth is sustainable as it encourages development that maximizes existing infrastructure, decreases vehicle trips on freeways and arterials, reinforces walkable neighborhoods, and enables a wide spectrum of economic opportunities for a city in desperate need of them.
Article by Ennis Davis