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Comparing America’s Streetcar Systems At The Same Scale

Matt Johnson created a nice graphic/map for streetcar lovers that shows all the streetcar systems that are open or under construction in the United States.

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Only nineteen cities in America have streetcars that are either operating or being added to transit systems in the near future. Considering streetcars increase smart growth, stimulate economic development, and bring more foot traffic to local stores — more cities need to revive this style of transit. For now, you can see all 19 cities above at the same scale.

Streetcars add flavor, sometimes nostalgic and historical, while also activating convenient transit options. US streetcar systems have been documented by academic research to have stimulated economic development. They shape land use development in their vicinity. City planner (by training) and CleanTechnica director Zachary Shahan has also reported that light rail lines “do get people to switch from their cars to transit.”

In Greater Greater Washington, Johnson discusses his graphic. Philadelphia has the largest system, as most of the lines survived because they were merged with the bustling Market Street subway, thus making them hard to substitute or rather “bustitute.” In the 1960s, many more cities had streetcars, and Philadelphia’s streetcar system today look much like they did in the 60s except for the newer streetcars on the system.

Another city that kept streetcars on, New Orleans, has the St. Charles Line that has operated since 1835. St. Charles Line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line not only in our country but the world. The cars that run this line have not changed much since being built in 1923 and 1924. The newer lines in New Orleans use recently built replica cars and new tracks.

Another trend, however, is to integrate modern vehicles. Portland has a modern streetcar line since 2001. Since Portland’s initiative, modern lines have opened in Seattle, Oakland, and Tucson. Presently, modern streetcar lines are under construction in Washington DC and a few other cities.

Not shown on this map are some similar systems such as Subway-Surface trolley systems which are more similar to light rail — such as the Muni Metro (San Francisco) and Boston’s Green Line. Both are former historic streetcar systems. Not included also are tourist lines.

Read more of streetcar revitalization at ExpertSure, in “Why Streetcars Are Important.”

Before the onslaught of the automobile, steam trains and streetcars were often how folks traveled short and long distances. Cheaper cars, cheaper gas, and the beginning of concrete in every direction changed all that. But many are working to bring that sensible, eco-friendly transit option back. “Lines in Portland have brought $3.5 billion of business investment and resulted in over 10,000 units of housing being built and filled,” Gas2 writes. A person can get around to all areas of Portland via the city’s public transportation system. They reduce traffic congestion and accidents are nice as well.

Tuscon followed Portland and surpassed ridership expectations right from the beginning. The streetcars, filled with passengers, initially met projected expectations of around 3,600 passengers a day, but quickly doubled.

Related Stories:

Streetcars Boost Local Economies, Light Rail Gets People Out Of Cars

A Desire Named Streetcars

Streetcars Are Making a Comeback, Thanks Largely to Obama

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)


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