10 Big Transportation Ideas: An Old Idea Returns

Did you know New York City once had streetcars? Now, other cities are getting them.

Did you know New York City once had streetcars? Now, other cities are getting them.

By Micheline Maynard

I am a streetcar geek. I’m pretty sure my love of streetcars stems from my first visit to Boston, when I was seven. We stayed a bit away from downtown, and to my delight, the T ran above ground right near the apartment hotel my dad booked for us.

Not long after, I discovered the streetcars in Toronto and from then on, I was a certified streetcar fanatic. I make it a point to ride the streetcar in any city I visit that has them. I’ve learned to navigate driving across streetcar tracks, just as these cyclists in Zurich manage to maneuver around the tracks there.

So I was delighted to learn that streetcars are making a comeback.

Minneapolis is the latest place where local officials have approved a streetcar project. It joins at least a dozen cities that are launching new streetcar lines, or expanding lines already in place. They include Atlanta, Tucson, New Orleans and Los Angeles, where streetcars will return after more than half a century away. Of course, streetcars have never fallen out of favor in places such as Vienna and Berlin, where they’re alternatively called tram systems.

With demand for public transit reaching record levels, many cities see streetcars as less costly than light rain or subway lines. Newer streetcars are quiet, and more electrically efficient, looking almost like buses on rails. And, they have a certain charm that buses lack.

Not everyone agrees with the push. In Atlanta, construction for the new streetcar line has held up traffic in an already clogged city. Moreover, streetcar lines are more limited than bus lines, which can be more easily redrawn,

But none the less, new street cars are rolling again. Check out our list of transit projects that Rick Meier compiled. Is your city set to get a streetcar system?

Next: Paris Kicks Off A Global Bike Sharing Craze

Read the other stories in our 10 Big Transportation Ideas series here.

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