Author Topic: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock  (Read 11165 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« on: August 20, 2007, 04:00:00 AM »
I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock



The River Rail Streetcar is a 3.4 mile heritage rail system that began operating in 2004, connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock.  As of July 2006, metropolitan Jacksonville had 448,965 more residents than metropolitan Little Rock.

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http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/544

tufsu1

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2007, 08:56:09 AM »
since the comparison to Tampa has been made in the past....

It is true that the Channelside area has experienced much new development in the past few years (and some of it can be tied to the streetcar)....but its also true that ridership on the streetcar continues to decrease forcing them to dip into the endowment to cover costs....this is because it is slow (23 minutes to go 3 miles) and is nothing more than a tourist attraction....now they have raised fares, and reduced schedule....its very possible the whole thing may get shut down in the next few years if things don't turn around!

Jason

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2007, 09:04:31 AM »
I can see the novelty in a street car line, just like the skyway.  But eventually the population builds up around it and provides a steady stream of users just as will be happening with the skyway when the new towers on the southbank fill up and more new development comes online.  The problem is that new mass transportation systems havent had a chance to be surrounded with complementing development so when the novelty wears off everyone calls it defunct versus giving it time to grow into itself.  For Jacksonville, the skyway will ultimately be successful (assuming the trend for downtown revival continues) and should be expanded to meet that future need before it is too expensive to build.

thelakelander

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2007, 09:12:21 AM »
I don't know about Tampa's streetcar ridership numbers, but it has been a major catalyst that has spurred over $1 billion dollars in the redevelopment of the Channel District.  That alone makes it worthwhile, imo and justifies the cost to build it, if compared with any other form of transit (ex. roads, bus, etc.).  However, as you say, it is clearly a tourist attraction instead of a true mass transit system that residents rely on.  It's speed is one issue, but another is it does not go where residents live and work, like the lines in New Orleans and Memphis do.  

For example, it does not serve the heart of the Central Business District, Hyde Park or even the University of Tampa.  So overall, it suffers from the same thing that our skyway does....inferior route planning.

Btw, I thought they were getting ready to expand the street car route up Franklin Street? Also, they are talking about shutting down their trolley bus before the streetcar.
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thelakelander

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2007, 09:15:34 AM »
I can see the novelty in a street car line, just like the skyway.  But eventually the population builds up around it and provides a steady stream of users just as will be happening with the skyway when the new towers on the southbank fill up and more new development comes online.  The problem is that new mass transportation systems havent had a chance to be surrounded with complementing development so when the novelty wears off everyone calls it defunct versus giving it time to grow into itself.  For Jacksonville, the skyway will ultimately be successful (assuming the trend for downtown revival continues) and should be expanded to meet that future need before it is too expensive to build.

The major negative about the Skyway is it's costs.  Simply put, it was the wrong type of transit system for a city like Jacksonville, in the same way that JTA's bus rapid transit proposal is off-base.  However, we have $184 million dollars sitting in it so we might as well work with it.  On the other hand, if we wake up, we don't have to sink $750 million to a billion in bus rapid transit.  There's a lot of cheaper and better options out there.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

thelakelander

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2007, 09:50:54 AM »
As for Tampa's streetcar line's effect on the once blighted, abandoned and crime ridden Channel District, images say it all.  Personally, I'm still kicking myself for not buying land down there six years ago, when I had the chance (this was around the time Channelside 212 lofts were announced). 

a few pics I snapped earlier this year






images by FLHawk at SSC






image by Paul Lamison at TBO


Here's an article worth reading about Tampa's streetcar line and how various systems have spurred millions in economic development along their paths.

A Streetcar Named Aspire: Lines Aim to Revive Cities

Quote
TAMPA, Fla. -- As a transportation system, this city's $63 million streetcar line is a dud.

Since the project opened in 2002, its financial losses have exceeded expectations. Last year ridership declined 10% to its lowest level yet. And the vintage system spans only 2.4 miles between the edge of downtown and a historic district called Ybor City.

"It goes from no place to nowhere," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, an opponent of the project.

But proponents say Tampa's Teco Line Streetcar System has delivered on another front: helping to spur development. Some $450 million in residential and retail space is complete along the route, most of it in the Channel District, a once-languishing maritime neighborhood. With another $450 million in development underway and $1.1 billion in the planning stages, local officials expect the district to be home to as many as 10,000 residents within the next decade. Like stadiums, convention centers and aquariums, streetcars have emerged as a popular tool in the effort to revitalize downtowns in the U.S. About a dozen cities, from Madison, Wis., to Miami, are planning lines. But while research shows that big-ticket projects such as ballparks largely fail to spawn economic development, evidence is mounting that streetcars are indeed a magnet.

Streetcar systems are slower, less expensive and smaller than light rail, with cars that carry a maximum of 125 people and the average line 2-3 miles long. The cars are powered by electricity and run on tracks, which developers tend to favor because they suggest a sense of permanence, unlike bus routes, which can be changed overnight.

In Kenosha, Wis., city officials say a two-mile line helped generate 400 new residential units and the redevelopment of a 69-acre industrial site into a waterfront park. The streetcar line in Little Rock, Ark., has sparked revitalization of the city's River Market and warehouse district. In Seattle, a new $52 million streetcar line is scheduled to open in December that will shuttle riders between downtown and South Lake Union, a formerly industrial area that is being redeveloped by Microsoft Corp. billionaire Paul Allen.

And in Portland, Ore., the poster child for such development, officials say the streetcar system has helped bring $2.7 billion in investment within two blocks of its 3.6 mile line, much of it in the 24-hour hub known as the Pearl District. "It's one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city," says Richard Brandman, deputy planning director for Metro, the Portland area's regional government.

Still, streetcars face considerable odds because they vie for the same money as transportation projects designed to serve the suburbs. This has been particularly true at the federal level, where funding has long depended on how quickly projects can move people from one point to another. Streetcars, which average under ten miles per hour, are at a distinct disadvantage. By contrast, light rail moves at 20 to 60 miles per hour.

full article: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118230925180141617-PC9jqb7RrRD5f3Ur0fhKYzhU1sw_20070720.html?mod=fpa_editors_picks



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thelakelander

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2007, 09:53:27 AM »
By the way, you'll (JTA/COJ) never find an American bus rapid transit system that has spurred this kind of economic development along it's path.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

thelakelander

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Re: I'm Smaller than Jax and I have Rail: Little Rock
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2007, 01:29:08 PM »
A little more on Little Rock's streetcar and it's association with new development in the area.

Quote
Builders Like Rail Line, but Riders are Sparse

By Jake Sandlin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Little Rock developer Jimmy Moses walked out of a downtown condominium not long ago to ride a River Rail streetcar to North Little Rock for dinner and a baseball game at Dickey-Stephens Park.

It's the type of an evening Moses said he envisions residential living can provide for the two downtowns tied by the 2 1/2 miles of streetcar track.

"Not having to drive a car to do that is a delight," said Moses, a partner at Moses Tucker Real Estate, which recently opened 98 condos at 300 Third Tower within two blocks of streetcar stops in Little Rock. "That's a wonderful amenity." While River Rail passenger numbers remain sparse after almost three years of operation in Little Rock and North Little Rock, it is helping to attract developers such as Moses Tucker in Little Rock and First Security Vanadis in North Little Rock to come along for the ride.

The River Rail isn't alone. Residential and commercial development has followed streetcar revivals in Portland, Ore.; Tampa, Fla.; and Kenosha, Wis., and that potential is also being touted for a future Madison, Wis., streetcar.

The $28.7 million River Rail, including the Clinton Presidential Center extension that opened in February, isn't a deciding factor for developers picking project sites, but it is part of the equation, said Betty Wineland, interim director at the Central Arkansas Transit Authority.

The growth of Little Rock's River Market District, which opened in 1996, the Clinton center's international draw on the district's eastern edge and the ongoing revitalization of North Little Rock's downtown all anchor the streetcars' path.

"We never tried to take credit for it," Wineland said of continuing growth in both downtowns. "We do think it adds to the appeal.

"The interesting thing is that it [growth] occurs along lightrail development, particularly with streetcar development, in a lot of other cities that have rail," Wineland said. "That leads me to believe it could be a strong attraction." Just the prospect of the streetcar in North Little Rock helped persuade First Security Vanadis to build its 56-unit Argenta Square Apartments at Seventh and Maple streets, said Paul Esterer, the company's president. The apartments opened in December 2002 on the trolley line, which was then still two years away.

"We felt the first thing to do would be to develop along the [planned] rail system and grow from there," Esterer said last week. "It connects Little Rock and North Little Rock, so it breaks down that barrier automatically." Vanadis now has under construction eight to 10 residences at the three-story Argenta Place at Main Street and Broadway and plans to start by January on 57 townhomes on Maple Street between Fourth and Sixth streets. Both projects are directly along the rail line.

"It's more than a contributing factor," Esterer said of River Rail. "It identifies and gives a sense of place to the area.

"It is very important to develop [the townhomes] on the rail line, because that's really what people want to live near," he added. "I would have to say that was one of the main reasons we were attracted to this site." Within the past five years, Moses Tucker has built the 300 Third Tower and 24-condo First Security Center within two blocks of the streetcar tracks and the 16-condo Arkansas Capital Commerce Center on the route. The partnership's recently announced River Market Place, which will have 138 residences, a hotel and stores, will have one side against the tracks on Third Street.

"It's by design," Moses said. "It really is a link for the major anchors now, so it's easy to see why that would make a good location to build housing." Not all new development has relied as strongly on the River Rail.

Developers for the 260-unit Enclave at the Riverfront apartments under construction in North Little Rock relied more on other features in choosing its site, said John Gilbert, senior vice president of Bomasada Group of Houston.

The apartments are next to Alltel Arena and the Junction Bridge, which is undergoing conversion into a pedestrian walkway across the Arkansas River. The site is also within walking distance of the city's new baseball stadium and its River Trail bicycle and walking trail.

"If it [River Rail] wasn't there, we still would have done the project," Gilbert said. "It just made sense to be in the middle of all the things there. The streetcar is one piece of the puzzle. It's all positive." Developers expect increasing residential choices downtown will add local riders on the streetcars, now mostly a tourism feature. A point of criticism from the public has been that the trolleys are empty on many of their trips through the two downtowns.

The River Rail carried 121,439 passengers last year, according to CATA, an average of 340 daily riders for two or three streetcars at a time. However, the second-phase expansion is meeting rider projections through its first five months.

Since adding the $8.7 million extension - 4,500 feet of double track linking Second and Commerce streets to the Clinton center and Heifer International - the River Rail has carried 68,089 passengers overall, according to CATA. That's about 2,975 more per month than the 53,215 over the same five-month period a year ago.

However, those ridership numbers are skewed by about 5,000 riders on a streetcar used to ferry Riverfest attendees across the Arkansas River during the annual Memorial Day weekend festival in May, Wineland said.

For the first time, festival bus shuttles this year didn't cross between Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Even with that subtraction, the trolleys would be averaging 1,975 more over the previous five months than those months in 2006. Projections for the extension, former CATA Executive Director Keith Jones said in January, were for about 2,000 more passengers per month by year's end.

Moses said he expects River Rail use to continue to grow as more housing units open and especially if plans to connect rail between downtown and Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field, become a reality.

"Once we put 400, 500 more units on the line, you'll see how it all works, and it'll work nicely also for all the people who work down here," Moses said. "Our thinking is to continue to invest and develop along that trolley line."

www.masstransitmag.com/web/online/Top-Transit-News/Builders-Like-Rail-Line--but-Riders-are-Sparse/3$3928
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Ocklawaha

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Tampa a failure?
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2007, 08:07:01 PM »
Wouldn't JTA love that... if it were true.

Tampa TECO streetcar opened to 20% more riders then the wildest projection. The first quarter of 2007, Tampa has chocked up a 7% increase in ridership over the previous year. It doesn't serve the CBD...yet, but it will in the near future. Yes, it IS a tourist development and downtown development tool and it is paying off huge at 2.7 BILLION in new development, directly announced TOD. The amazing thing is, how anyone could think this is some sort of failure. Sure, ridership may have dipped after the initial "WOW" stage, but then are the Jaguars sold out THIS year? How about the Devil Rays? BRT anyone? Tampa is so far ahead of us as to make me ill. THEY have taken the blueprint laid out in Jacksonville, in 1981-84 and turned it into "our" success story. DAMN JTA anyway! All of this and now planning a light rail system, built on a NJ style "River-Rail" DMU/LRV, which will operate or can operate right on the streetcar tracks downtown... Modern LRV, historic trolley, modern LRV, historic trolley...all day long and here we come with STUPID written all over our faces. Jacksonville, put to shame by a City who's name doubles as a feminine hygiene product. OUCH.
 


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