Steel rails and streetcars convey some sort
of psychological permanence to riders, in a way that a bus do not.
This affects business and development along
Since the capital investment for street railway
infrastructure is high, versus the near non-existent investment needed for
a bus route, businesses are more likely to gravitate towards a rail route.
They know they’ll have a long-term investment of quality [comfortable]
and high-volume transit service along the street near the street railway.
The street railway also acts as free advertising in an indirect sense, unlike
subways, where people will see their business as they pass by it.
The same psychology applies to residential
development, as the rail corridor increases in value and demand along the
street and probably within a block or two from the rail route itself. People
moving to the area who rely on transit know that their service is less likely
to be threatened with decommissioning of a street railway compared to a bus
route. People also prefer the accessability of at-your-door service over that
How is the extra cost of streetcar
tracks justifiable over buses?
1. Developers of high-density urban residential, retail and
office space are much more willing to invest along fixed transportation facilities.
2. Steel wheels on rails
have only 1/7 the rolling friction of rubber tires on pavement, with the range
and energy savings that ratio implies.
3. The passenger-to-operator
ratio on streetcars is always better than on buses.
4. Given a choice, riders
much prefer rail vehicles so revenue ridership is greater.
A major benefit is being felt as light rail
is reintroduced in many areas over the U.S. That benefit is economic development.
Employers are attracted to cities which provide light rail transportation.
Investors gravitate to the alignment--just as “in the days of old.”
Development within three blocks of the alignment has shown in some specific
instances in Portland, Oregon, to generate massive development in areas of
only a few square miles of surrounding waste land near the alignment. This
development occurs on-going
over several years after the introduction of the tracks.
Thinking about light
Here's a track record of economic development to ponder.
Now NEWS LOG March 2010
Our recent article on New Haven's interest
in a light rail streetcar, New Haven: Streetcar starter line priced at "less
than $30 million", cited a feasibility study performed by the consultant
organization TranSystems, whose results were summarized in a presentation
to New Haven civic and community leaders in 2009.
Among the evidence provided, documenting the
economic benefits of various tyoes of light rail transit (LRT) systems –
both interurban-type and streetcar-type, was a tabulation of the economic
impact of LRT on the transport corridors of several selected cities:
Wisconsin — Streetcar line completed in 2000, has attracted
over $120 million in development...
• Little Rock --
• Tampa, Florida —
Streetcar line completed in 2001, attracted over $600 million prior to construction
and then more than $2 billion in economic development by the end of 2002...
• Memphis, Tennessee —
Original streetcar project completed in 1993, two additional projects completed
since then; $137 million in documented development, much more unaccounted
• Portland — Streetcar
starter line completed in 2001, has attracted more than $2.3 billion in economic
• Charlotte — Interurban-type
LRT that began operation at the end of 2007 has already attracted $400 million
in economic development.
As the Augusta Chronicle recounted in a
June 29th, 2009 article, "The streetcar system started in 2004 and has
spawned $400 million in development along the rails." This fast 3-year
return of adjacent investment and transit-oriented development, has persuaded
civic leaders to pursue expansion of system.
These benefits may be of interest to other
communities assessing possible advantages and impacts of LRT proposals for
their own areas.
Light Rail Now! NewsLog
is a Streetcar?
Streetcars are a type of electric light rail transit
that run in mixed traffic. Streetcars are part of a broader urban trans-s-portation
system and are used for short, frequent trips within a downtown area. In addition
to their transportation benefits, street
cars encourage develop-ment along their routes, making their surroundings
more desirable and increasing property values.
Streetcars are not
only people-movers; they are place-makers.
APPLIED TO TOPEKA
Much destruction of Topeka's
city scape has occurred over the last couple of decades simply because of
the elimination of the downtown core for being a destination for doing business.
This effect has been caused by the great streetcar scandal of the 1950's
by General Motors and their affiliates within the oil and fossil fuel industry.
They bought out the streetcar companies in order to tear up track and eliminate
streetcars. This was to promote fossell-fueled piston engine transportation–commercial
This great scandal uprooted
the very factor that shaped our cities and neighborhoods between about 1890
and 1940. Streetcar tracks, being a fixed infrastructure lured investors
of that colorful era, to place their interests near the alignment of the
tracts. This development occurred along the alignment within several blocks
in any direction. The permanence of the steel tracks laid in concrete promised
long-term investment security for developers. This in turn offered people-friendly
walking and shopping places along the alignment with interesting places
for people to "hang out". These places also would include turn-of-the-century
mini shopping areas with maybe as little as only a small grocery store,
ice cream parlor and quaint little parks with band stands. People could
ride the streetcar partway and get out and walk to various "people
hang outs" right along the streetcar tracks. Along the alignment, pedestrians
would catch a street car to return home or go to another people place. Do
to the permanence of the tracks, much effort was made by development projects
of various investors to create interesting parks and street car "depots"
along the way. This included much landscaping of gardens and mini-parks--especially
at main streetcar stops.
Certain Topekans have been
searching for ways to bring about an acceleration of the River Front tourism
project, and for ways to launch and/or empower the hundreds of good ideas
of our citizens. Now, a way has come upon us in Topeka--a light-rail system,
established initially for tourism reasons. That, in turn, would attract
multiple outside investors to the River Front proposed loop. This would
create new employers becoming established here. It would also create and
empower many locally originated businesses able to survive the upcoming
decades due to the drastically increased consumer demand created by tourism.
Suppressed areas would regain their fair portion “of the pie.”
Regional and localized tourism up front, and eventually national tourism
would become a major component of revenue which in turn would invite investors
to gravitate to Topeka along the River Front area. Some investors and developers
would set up industry where the light rail projects will be projected to
be installed by an eventual official plan– such as southward near
the Forbes Field area.
Finally, steetcars help
cities preserve their older buildings and preserve interesting older neighhorhood
scapes. The importance of preserving our skyscape and neighborhood scapes
becomes sort of a code that is embraced by investors who want to tie in
their future with a turn-of-the century theme.
Tying in with Economic Development and Tourism is the ability
of streetcars to blend in with landscaping, parks and gardens. More accurately
stated, they encourage landscaping by their mere existence. This ability
is evidenced by the fact that where streetcars go, landscaping and attractive
people places follow.
With that fact well illustrated worldwide, then add the
fact that streetcars can travel across turf, through parks and right on
the grass. Tracking across "the green" adds to the "green"
effect because of the absence of heat reflection off of the turf as opposed
to concrete. This tracking across turf is on a solid platform because concrete
ties are used on top of a gravel bed. These artistic, quiet, clean vehicles
are beautifully compatible with landscaping concerns of city planning and
parks and recreation departments.
For more on the subject of streetcars creating people places--go
to People Places on this web site.