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Clean Transport

Published on April 18th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


22 Cities that May Have New Streetcar Lines Within 2 Years

April 18th, 2010 by  

As I discussed yesterday, it looks like streetcars are making a comeback. Curious about which cities are on the move? The Community Streetcar Coalition held a summit earlier this year in Alexandria, Virginia where it brought together people working to get new streetcars running in 22 cities across the nation.

Cities that may be constructing streetcar lines within a year or two are below, as well as a few insights on and expectations for those most likely to be built.

Cities working on plans to create their first modern streetcar lines include:

• Little Rock, Arkansas

• Los Angeles, California

• Sacramento, California

• Fort Lauderdale, Florida

• Atlanta, Georgia

• Boise, Idaho

• New Orleans, Louisiana

• Baltimore, Maryland

• Grand Rapids, Michigan

• Charlotte, North Carolina

• Cincinnati, Ohio

• Columbus, Ohio

• Lake Oswego, Oregon

• Providence, Rhode Island

• Dallas, Texas

• Fort Worth, Texas

• San Antonio, Texas

• Salt Lake City, Utah

• Arlington, Virginia

• Kenosha, Wisconsin

• Tucson, Arizona

• Washington, D.C.

Leading Streetcar Cities

New Urban News highlights two of the potential new streetcar systems most likely to get off the drawing board in the coming years as well as extensions of two of the nation’s first modern streetcar systems:

• Tucson Modern Streetcar, a 3.9-mile line which, when it opens, may carry 3,600 riders per weekday on a route connecting downtown Tucson to the University of Arizona. The Tucson line received funding through a US Department of Transportation TIGER grant in February, as did lines in Detroit, Dallas, New Orleans, and Portland.

• Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar, a 2.2-mile line that would connect Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the International District to Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail. It would be Seattle’s second modern streetcar line, joining the South Lake Union Streetcar, which started operating in December 2007.

• District of Columbia Streetcar, a 37-mile network that would offer the first streetcar service in the nation’s capital since 1962. Construction of a two-mile segment linking Union Station to an emerging retail and entertainment district has already begun, its $75 million cost paid entirely by local funds. Another $30 million segment, also paid for with local funds, would connect a federal employment center to the low-income Anacostia neighborhood.

• Extension of the Portland Streetcar — the line that in 2001 kicked off America’s streetcar renaissance — to areas on the east side of the Willamette River, thus making a loop of the city center. The project, which could generate 2,500 housing units, has begun construction.

I went to a one-day streetcar workshop as well as a few transportation conferences a couple years and I know people in many more places than the cities listed above are interested in bringing a streetcar to their city or town. These cities are leading the way, but what will the future look like? Will streetcars become key features of just a handful of cities? Or is the streetcar finally going to be revived in the United States?

Image Credit: cuellar via flickr under a CC license

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • garytempleton

    You can scratch Cincinnati off that list.

    Yesterday or new mayor and council (on their third day in office) defunded our streetcar project in the middle of construction. Track is (was) going down, trains under construction, utilities being relocated and maintenance facility being built. $40 million spent so far. They’ve decided, despite two voter referendums approving this project, that it’s too expensive and need to “pause” the project while they get an assessment of the costs of stopping versus continuing. The project manager detailed the termination costs to be upwards of $80 million versus about the same to simply continue. This man, John Dietrich, is nationally recognized for bringing project in on time and on budget. Yet our mayor and majority of council don’t believe him. So yesterday our council voted on 11 emergency resolutions defunding the project in a 5 – 4 vote. Emergency resolution cannot be undone by forcing a voter referendum by the public. In essence, they did an end-run around to voters. By creating a “pause”, this will very likely get our $44.9 FTA grant taken away and putting us at the bottom of the list for future transportation projects. Losing the FTA grant is certain death of the project.

    To make things even more bizarre. An outside private entity said they would pay for the study and fund construction (at a reduced pace) for the period of doing the study (about two weeks). This was a no cost to the city alternative. This would satisfy the FTA because construction would not be stopped. City council rejected it. It’s absolutely mind boggling. Free money and they said no. They’re so determined to stop this project at any cost. Even if the cost of stopping it is the same as finishing it.

    Cincinnati has a rich history of screwing up transit projects that are under construction. 87 years ago another city council killed an under construction subway project. The tunnels are still under the city today and have never been used for transit. It took 40 years to pay off that debt with nothing to show. History appears to be repeating itself.

    Outside of a miracle or someone in the FTA feeling generous and wanting to give the city a break, this project appears dead.

    See for yourself:


  • St Paul Guy

    Minneapolis has a light rail system though it doesn’t quite look like the trolleys they have in Philadelphia or the type we had in Brooklyn, Ny way back when. Efforts are under way now to extend the LRT into St Paul. There is also talk that a new railroad depot is being constructed in down town St P.

    The cities would be far more liveable if we had more trolleys, or LR, or trams, or whatever you want to call them. Further, we should have had the ”bullet trains” that enable cross country travel a long time ago. After all, our tax dollars helped pay for travel/transit improvement in postwar Europe. Therefore, it is altogether fitting and proper that we use our money to improve these same systems at home.

  • Wow I cant believe who is creating all these silly posts. Your content is excellent and it attracts vast amounts of these forms posts. all the best and continue for the work!

  • How could you leave OKC off this list. It is probably further ahead in planning and funding than most of the cities listed.

  • Charles Vismeg

    Streetcars, electric buses (trolleys) and ICE buses have been providing extremely good transportation systems in Europe’s largest cities, where one of those I’m from. I miss that here, but when I lived in NYC, their subway system I really enjoyed, so I did not have a private automobile. I didn’t need one to go to work or any real reason.

    Housing and public transportation developed simultaneously, and in a very reasonable, natural setting (with some exception due to early real estate speculations)

    I rode streetcars in SF and LA in California in around 1960ish, trolleys were running in LA. I had no car at the time, it was convenient.

  • Many of the cities on the list already have implemented a modern streetcar system but are considering expanding them. They include Little Rock, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas, Tucson and Kenosha. As Transit Jeff rightfully points out, several others are looking to their first systems that are not on your list. In addition to the cities he names, there is also Austin TX and Ogden UT.

    Kind of confusing the discussion is your use of the word “modern.” Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle (plus DC, when it gets moving) operate “modern” styled streetcars manufactured from Czech Republic. Additional modern-styled streetcars are being manufactured in the US under license for Portland and Tucson. But most systems listed are historically-styled, albeit with modern technology often under the floorboards. New Orleans and Tampa are examples of cities that combine both approaches, where truly historic cars mixed in service with modern replicas.

    More information as well as a much longer list of cities can be found at the APTA Streetcar & Heritage Trolley Subcommittee website (http://www.heritagetrolley.com/).

  • So glad to see Atlanta and Ft Lauderdale on the list! Both could use some serious transit help.

  • Bob O.

    Umm, FYI, New Orleans’ St. Charles streetcar is the oldest continually running street car service in the WORLD. (1835)

    Plus, there is a “modern” line (it has air conditioning) running on Canal-Carrollton.

  • Transit Jeff

    There are several interesting omissions from the list. Minneapolis is planning an extensive street car system. It would bring street cars back to a city that lost them to a notorious scandal in the early 1950’s.

    Also planning to bring street cars back is Detroit. Detroit wants to return street cars to the Woodward Avenue corridor. When that line was converted to buses, it had relatively new PCC cars and was a very heavily patronized line. At the time, the Detroit Dept. of Street Railways considered retaining street cars on Woodward Ave., but decided against it. There was a public outcry about the conversion at the time. Most of their modern cars were sold to Mexico City.

    Another city omitted from the list is Savannah, Ga. They have already begun a starter line, which is to be the basis of a street car network. Also, Tampa, Fla. is considering expanding its modern street car system. Also add San Diego to the list. They have recently acquired and are currently restoring several vintage PCC street cars from St. Louis and Philly. And another possible street car network could come to Brooklyn, New York.

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