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3 CHAPTER one Introduction Background of an additional 3.3-mi extension from downtown Portland across the Willamette River. The success of this system, and In the past 20 years, numerous cities have planned and its relationship to further enhancing the Portland region's implemented new rail transit systems. This movement has extensive network of light rail lines, has made Portland a coincided with other urban regeneration trends, bringing leader in public rail transit. new life to urban centers and advancing strategies to manage growth that promote more efficient patterns of development. The streetcar "renaissance" has brought a strong desire Various forms of heavy rail, light rail, and streetcar systems by policymakers and planners to gain a more in-depth have been built, many with robust ridership and popularity, understanding of how this form of transportation interacts owing to a rediscovery of this form of transportation, as well with the built environment. This report provides a synthesis as concerns about growing traffic congestion, volatile fuel of published literature on this topic, as well as a summary of prices, and climate change. a survey of 13 streetcar systems recently built or expanded to identify impacts on the built environment. One of the types of rail under consideration or built by numerous cities is the streetcar, reviving an older form of urban transportation. At present, more than 45 streetcar sys- Purpose Of Synthesis tems are either built, under construction, or planned across the United States, ranging from larger cities such as Colum- The purpose of this synthesis is to document experience with bus, Ohio, to smaller cities such as Winston-Salem, North selected streetcar and trolley projects and their relationship Carolina; Pasadena, California; and Lake Oswego, Oregon. with the built environment. Local potential for changes in Streetcar systems have gained in popularity because of their land use are often used to justify investment in streetcar relatively lower cost of construction than light or commuter and trolley systems. However, the ability of these systems rail, the ease of integrating streetcars into the existing urban to spur growth and revitalization has not been documented fabric, and the convenience of frequent stops (see Figure 1). adequately. Questions remain regarding the direct role of such systems on the built environment versus other factors that also may be important. In documenting experiences, this synthesis examines selected, built streetcar and trolley systems to trace their evo- lution, define significant factors, and identify commonalities among levels of success in affecting the built environment. Definition of Streetcar Several definitions exist for what constitutes a streetcar sys- tem. According to APTA, streetcars are a type of light rail transit, which APTA defines as follows: Lightweight passenger rail cars operating singly (or in short, usually two-car, trains) on fixed rails in right-of- way that is not separated from other traffic for much of the FIGURE 1 Portland streetcar (Source: Portland Streetcar, Inc.) way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power being drawn from an overhead electric line via a trolley or a pantograph (1). The most showcased modern streetcar system in the United States is the Portland streetcar. Opened in 2001, the system has grown to more than 4 mi of track travers- Included within this classification are streetcars, tram- ing downtown, and currently is in the final design stages ways, and trolleys.

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4 To differentiate streetcars from other forms of light rail even though the vehicles are the same as those used in the transit, experts focus on system purpose as well as several Portland and Seattle streetcar systems. In San Francisco, physical characteristics of systems and vehicles. According several MUNI light rail lines meet many of the streetcar def- to one widely cited definition, the key difference separating initional criteria, along a substantial portion of their route, streetcar systems from other light rail transit systems is their but also operate as subways as they pass through downtown. intended usage: These and other systems straddle the definition between streetcar and light rail and are at times variously classified Streetcars are for local transportation. A Light Rail line may operate ten or 20 miles out beyond the downtown, as either typology. running at high speeds between suburban stations spaced a mile or more apart. Streetcars operate in the downtown Approach to Synthesis and perhaps a bit beyond it, picking people up and letting them off at almost every street corner. Often, people will use Light Rail to come into town, then use a streetcar to To clearly focus this synthesis on the impacts of streetcars get around town (2). on the built environment, distinct from light rail, and also to draw meaningful findings with respect to the unique quali- ties of streetcars' impacts, this report focuses on recently In addition to purpose, definitions of streetcars also focus built streetcar systems (i.e., developed within the past 20 on the following more tangible characteristics: years). Right-of-Way: Streetcars generally operate in mixed Hence, systems in Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, traffic rather than in separated exclusive rights-of- and San Francisco are not evaluated in this synthesis for way. their impacts on the built environment. These legacy sys- Vehicles: Streetcars generally use smaller, lighter vehi- tems have been in operation for decades and the built envi- cles than other light rail systems, including the use of ronments along the streetcar routes has evolved over the historic or vintage cars. course of decades throughout the 20th century. Rails: Streetcar systems often are designed to support lighter weight vehicles than other light rail systems. The following list of 14 currently operating U.S. streetcar Hence, it is at times possible to operate a streetcar on systems are the focus of this synthesis: a line designed to support other light rail vehicles, but not vice versa. 1. Astoria, Oregon Cost: Because of the use of shared rights-of-way and lighter weight materials, streetcar lines generally are 2. Charlotte, North Carolina substantially less expensive to build than other types of light rail lines. 3. Dallas, Texas (M-Line) Stops/Stations: Streetcars often stop in traffic along streets. As such, infrastructure at streetcar stops is 4. Galveston, Texas often no more elaborate than a sign or small, covered seating area. Other types of light rail systems often 5. Kenosha, Wisconsin provide more elaborate stations, with parking areas, ticket vending machines, and freestanding structures. 6. Little Rock, Arkansas Moreover, streetcar stops are often spaced every few blocks along the entire route, in comparison to other 7. Lowell, Massachusetts light rail systems, which may space stops 1 mi or more apart, outside of downtown areas. 8. Memphis, Tennessee Consistent with these criteria, Reconnecting America 9. Portland, Oregon has developed a typology that describes modern streetcars as follows: typically running in the street at grade on embed- 10. San Pedro, California ded rails, stopping every two or three blocks, moving at 8 to 12 mph, and providing low cost-per mile construction rela- 11. Savannah, Georgia tive to other light rail and heavy rail (3). 12.Seattle, Washington Although these definitions work well as a description of many streetcar systems, some systems blur the lines between 13. Tacoma, Washington streetcar and light rail. For example, SoundTransit in Seattle calls its Tacoma, Washington, LINK vehicles "light rail," 14. Tampa, Florida

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5 The Charlotte streetcar system operates weekends only Definition of Impacts on the Built Environment on a right-of-way shared with the light rail system. Service on the Galveston streetcar system was interrupted because of The definition of "impacts on the built environment" can damage caused by Hurricane Ike, but the system is expected vary quite substantially depending on the policy or research to reopen. focus. In the most direct sense, streetcar projects affect the built environment through their construction by altering Initial consideration of the diversity of existing streetcar streets, sidewalks, and rights-of-way. In an indirect sense, systems highlights a wide spectrum in the level of service streetcar systems impact the built environment by activating that is being offered in terms of routes, hours and days of neighborhoods (e.g., through an increase in foot traffic) or by service, and the types of users being served. This includes altering perceptions of an area (e.g., signaling that a district "fuller service" systems (Memphis, Portland, Seattle, and is "up and coming"), affecting a range of public and private Tacoma) that operate 7 days a week year-round, offer service investment decisions. throughout commute hours, and have longer routes enabling them to serve as urban circulators or multiple routes. At the Indicators that a streetcar system is working to activate other end of the spectrum, "shorter service" systems (Astoria, a neighborhood or enhance its perception could include Charlotte, Galveston, Kenosha, Lowell, San Pedro, Savan- increased land value or lease rates, increased pedestrian traf- nah, and Tampa) operate fewer hours excluding at least one fic counts, increased sales at existing businesses, increased commute period (typically mornings), offer less than daily employment, increased lodging occupancies, or increases service, or have a seasonal schedule. Many of these systems in other measures of economic activity near streetcar stops. are more oriented toward serving tourists than the full range Such changes tend to improve the climate for investment of transit trips, and they include a number of systems that use within an area, ultimately affecting the built environment heritage vehicles or replicas of them. Other systems (Dallas, through increased real estate development activity, which can Little Rock) fall toward the middle of this spectrum. be measured as the dollar value or quantity of construction. Streetcar systems that provide a fuller service, and tar- For this synthesis, the impacts of a streetcar system on get a broader range of riders, particularly commuters, the built environment were defined as broadly as possible, so offer a higher level of transportation amenity and would that it considers those factors that are indicative of an eco- be expected to generate greater ridership, and potentially a nomically vibrant neighborhood as well as those measuring more synergistic effect in stimulating changes in the built actual change in the quantity and types of physical develop- environment along their route(s). At the same time, these ment near streetcar systems. systems are not static, and as service hours are increased and routes extended, "shorter service" systems can become "fuller service."