TRANSIT: Streetcars losing steam, or are they?

Many major cities are deciding whether or not streetcar systems are worth the pricetag

March 18, 2015

The fate of streetcar systems is losing steam as many cities are abandoning building plans.  Most recently, Arlington, Va., decided revitalizing its streetcar system was not worth the expense. 

The faltering support has stalled larger cities from accelerating plans to revitalize citywide trolley lines. Washington D.C. is rethinking its plans, after spending $160 million to reinstate a streetcar system, and the cars may never run.

San Antonio has also reversed its streetcar plans and reallocated the $92 million originally set aside for the transit project.

However, not all major cities are derailing plans and remain firm believers in the potential commercial success streetcar lines can bring. New Orleans, Atlanta, Tucson and Salt Lake City have all hopped aboard the streetcar revival trend.

 “The overall trend is very much on the side of streetcars,” said Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to the New York Times. “That doesn’t mean every project in the planning stage is going to happen. In the long run, there will be a lot of projects built.”

Streetcar or light-rail ridership saw an increase of 3.6% in 2014, according to the APTA, and while infrastructure investment remains murky in some areas of the nation, public use and approval of light-rail transit seems to be solid; to wit: ridership speaks for itself.