A recent New York Times article highlighted the resurgence of the street car in cities across America.  While extremely popular at the turn of the last century, many streetcar systems were dismantled in favor of the automobile.  Today, streetcars are being used to revitalize cities and recreate important connections between neighborhoods and services.
In Cincinnati, a new streetcar system will link several of the city’s vital destinations: its waterfront, stadiums, residential uptown and business district, including stops for the University of Cincinnati and six hospitals. Based on private and public funding, a street car fare is expected to be extremely reasonable at $1 or less.

The Times article states that more than 40 cities are currently looking into streetcar programs, while a handful of cities are making improvements to existing systems.

As evidenced in San Francisco, streetcar systems can act as a major tourist draw and help in creating sense of place in a city. Locals, visitors, young and old all flock to the city’s wonderfully preserved historic public transportation, making the streetcar an iconic symbol of the city.

New public transportation also encourages economic growth. After implementing a brand-new streetcar system, Portland, OR, has seen more than $3 billion invested in land within two blocks from the new lines.

(photo by the New York Times)

Streetcars are also useful in reconnecting parts of a city that have been physically separated by highways.  In the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, cut off from the rest of the borough by the Brooklyn-Queens expressway, neighborhood activists have been working for years toward rehabbing and reopening the local trolley service that served the waterfront until the 1950s. Forgotten New York has some wonderful information on the trolley line’s history and project’s current state.
Public transportation that links vital destinations in cities and reduces reliance on the automobile builds stronger, more vibrant communities!  Streetcars, which offer local character and affordable fares, are becoming a wonderful solution to traffic congestion and rising gas prices.