The readers of the Infrastructurist blog drafted this list. There is no question that buses are an important part of any city’s multi-modal transportation plan, but just as the city has different types of roads (highways, parkways, one-way streets) each serving a different purpose, different forms of public transportation should be implimented in the areas where they will produce the most benefits. For streetcars, that application is as a high density, high impact urban circulator connecting city neighborhoods, major attractions, and employment centers.
Some highlights from the list:
- New streetcar lines always, always, get more passengers than the bus routes they replace.
- Mapmakers almost always include streetcar lines on their city maps, and almost never put any bus route in ink. New investment follows the lines on the map.
- Streetcars accelerate and decelerate smoothly because they’re electrically propelled. Internal-combustion engines acting through a transmission simply cannot surge with the same smoothness.
- Perhaps the most over looked and significant difference between street cars and buses is permanence. You’ll notice that development will follow a train station, but rarely a bus stop. Rails don’t pick up and move any time soon. Once a trolley system is in place, business and investors can count on them for decades. Buses come and go.
- Technological advances already make the current generation definitely NOT your grandfather’s streetcar. Low floors are standard, for easy-on easy-off curbside boarding. Wide doors allow passengers to enter or exit quickly. So streetcar stops take less time than buses.
- Streetcars create more walkable streets. This is because streetcars, as mentioned above, are more attractive to riders than buses, which in turns prompt to more mass transit usage in general, which in turns prompts to more walking–a virtuous cycle that creates more attractive city streets.
- One great advantage of streetcars is that the infrastructure serves as an orienting and wayfinding device. The track alerts folks to the route and leads them to stops.
- Because they are a permanent feature of the streetscape, the routing is predictable and stable (unlike bus routes). So unlike a bus, a streetcar informs and helps citizens to formulate an image of their city, even if folks don’t ride it. It is a feature of their public realm. Because of this, these streets get greater public attention.