Oakland’s Success With Transit Encourages Streetcar Plan

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Oakland is already setting a lovely example for other cities by offering a free bus service on Broadway. 2,700 riders enjoy the use of this service weekdays and 1,000 on the weekends. Every city should offer the same, in my opinion. Oakland is not stopping there, however. The city plans to integrate new transit options with smart growth, including the implementation of a streetcar line next.

Nostalgia, long-term investment stimulus, and adding to the city’s downtown renaissance all encourage this idea. The streetcar would run from the MacArthur BART Station down the Broadway corridor to Jack London Square.

4962313241_c3e6084854_bSan Francisco’s Historic Streetcar System

Redevelopment is on the city’s mind. Linking the uptown district with Jack London Square and the Broadway auto row would help with that. Oakland’s waterfront is the site of the Brooklyn Basin Project — the plan is to construct more than 3,100 units of housing, 200,000 square feet of new retail, and 32 acres of new parks. The city’s next dream is, naturally, a picturesque streetcar system.

SFGate, quotes Zach Seal, an economic development specialist for the city who leads the project, about “proof positive” there is a high demand for downtown transportation. “Shuttle ridership in Uptown and downtown has blossomed in the last few years, and we want to extend that energy north,” Seal said.

The city also wants to stir up the idea for a new downtown waterfront ballpark for the Oakland Athletics. Cost, as always, is being discussed. If Oakland simply expanded the downtown shuttle program, it would cost about $22 million. The cost of the streetcar project is estimated at $202 million — 10 times that amount. However, the key is that streetcars and other fixed-rail systems stimulate developer investment. Other cities, such as Portland (Oregon) and Seattle, have successfully stimulated private investment through such systems. Private investors value long-term options, and fixed rail promises.


Oakland wants and needs smart growth — housing near jobs and stores, and with good access to transit. That’s what the development of the Broadway corridor just north of downtown Oakland will be based on — mixed-use retail and housing development. SFGate notes that research by Seal’s staff indicated that, along with visual appeal and technology, the nostalgic yet modern streetcars can “give cities a boost in terms of attracting retail and mixed-use development,” Seal said.

According to SFGate, “The streetcar proposal will be presented to the Oakland City Council early next year for a final determination. If approved, Seal said it would take about five years to secure private and public funding for the project. The construction period would take about two years.”

Oakland is changing steadily and abundantly with a growing economy. A streetcar line could add some zest to help that along. Tucson’s recent streetcar success is an inspiration. Investments are paying off, and ridership has far exceeded expectations.

Another previous article, “Streetcars Are Making A Comeback Thanks To Obama,” discussed how a streetcar line “helps build up relatively dense, walkable, mixed use corridors [and] reduces dependence on automobiles.” Regarding the Portland streetcar line mentioned above, Rick Gustafson, executive director of Portland Streetcar Inc. in Oregon, said: “In ten years, there’s been $3.5 billion of private investment along the Portland Streetcar line. Fifty-three percent of the development in downtown since 1997 has been within a block of the streetcar line.”

Related Articles:

Portland’s Popular Streetcars Spark Interest In Other Cities

Public Transit Use Reaches A 57-Year High

A Desire Named: Streetcars!

Photo Credit: Tony Fischer (CC BY 2.0)

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor. Pronouns: She/Her

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