Light Rail

Bring on the CAFs!

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A vehicle similar to the Cincinnati Streetcar is making the journey across Europe from Zaragoza, Spain to Wednesbury Depot in England. Trams Today posted about the much-anticipated Urbos 3, which was manufactured by CAF, the same company creating streetcars for the Queen City. The only difference is that instead of coming from Spain, Cincinnati’s streetcars will be built by CAF in Elmira, New York in compliance with the Federal Transit Administration’s “Buy America” incentive. The pictured Urbos 3 will ride the rails through the West Midlands, one of the most heavily urbanized counties of the United Kingdom.

More from Trams Today:

“The CAF built trams should then become a regular sight on the tramway. It is still the intention that they will enter passenger service later this year, ahead of the opneing of the extenstion of the tramway through the streets of Birmingham to serve New Street station.

The artists impression shows a taste of things to come for the West Midlands as a CAF built Urbos tram glides through the streets of Birmingham, approaching the future terminus of the line outside New Street Station. This sight should become a reality at some point during 2015.”

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Why Streetcars, Why Now?

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Cincinnati may have 300 feet of rail already laid in the ground for our streetcar project, yet some continue to question, “Why not build light rail or add more buses instead?”

Shelley Poticha and Gloria Ohland of Reconnecting America researched this inquiry, offering evidence contrasting streetcars from other forms of transportation:

WHY STREETCARS, WHY NOW?

Streetcar systems are uniquely suited to serve all the high density development underway in downtowns across the United States. They’re much cheaper than light rail, are hugely successful in promoting development and street life, and fit easily into built environments with little disruption to existing business, residents, and traffic.

They can provide high-quality transit service to support compact, walkable, higher-density development in small and mid-size cities that cannot afford bigger rail systems, offering the potential to significantly increase the constituency for transit in the United States.

Demographics are changing. American households are older and smaller. Singles, not families, are becoming the new majority. Combined with the problem of traffic, these changes are having a dramatic impact on the housing market, as evidenced by the renewed popularity of loft and condo projects in urban neighborhoods, many of them early streetcar suburbs such as the Central West End in St. Louis or Midtown Sacramento.

Almost every American city once had an extensive streetcar system which extended the pedestrian environment out into neighborhoods, served as collector for intercity rail systems, and stopped at every street corner to stimulate a density and intensity of uses that made for exemplary and engaging downtowns. If the high cost of providing parking drives development today, streetcars make it possible for developers to provide less parking and put their money into high quality design, building materials, and community benefits such as affordable housing and parks. Streetcars also enable more residents to give up a car, freeing up a substantial amount of money for other household expenses.

BUT…WHY NOT A BUS?

Fixed guideway transit, such as streetcars, attract more riders and serves as a greater catalyst to development than buses. Developers need the permanence of the rail investment to help reduce risk.

Fixed rail is easier to understand because potential riders see the rails in the street and know a streetcar will come by, whereas bus riders need a schedule and route map, and routes are often changed.

Streetcars and the higher quality service they provide appeal to a wider demographic range of riders, which translates into greater support and ridership.

Streetcars signify the local government’s interest in a long-term commitment to a neighborhood, which helps stimulate and enhance development and redevelopment.

STREETCAR HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Car owners spend $9,000 a year on gas, insurance, and car maintenance.
  • Streetcars are not like buses. they are easier to enter and exit from, don’t lurch in and out of traffic because they run on fixed guideways, they are quieter, less threatening to pedestrians, and don’t smell of exhaust.
  • Streetcars are one-third the per-mile less cost to build than light rail; $12 million per mile compared to $30 million per mile for light rail.
  • The permanence of the fixed rails, developers and investors say, helps reduce the risk and the higher density and lower parking ratios typically permitted in downtowns make projects more profitable.
  • Streetcars will increase property values and stimulate business because more customers will be walking down the street. The streetcar operations will be funded by revenue raised through business-improvement districts.
  • Streetcars have been proven to increase tax revenue sand sales revenues.

 

Cities with Streetcars and Light Rail

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From the Alliance for Regional Transit, North American cities with light rail and/or streetcars, many smaller and less-dense than Cincinnati:

Systems Now in Operation:

1) Baltimore
2) Boston
3) Buffalo
4) Calgary
5) Camden/Trenton
6) Charlotte
7) Cleveland
8.) Dallas
9) Denver
10) Edmonton
11) Houston
12) Kenosha
13) Little Rock
14) Los Angeles
15) Memphis
16) Minneapolis
17) Newark
18) New Orleans
19) Northern New Jersey
20) Philadelphia
21) Phoenix
22) Pittsburgh
23) Portland
24) Sacramento
25) St. Louis
26) Salt lake City
27) San Diego
28) San Francisco
29) San Jose
30) San Juan
31) Seattle
32) Tacoma
33) Tampa
34) Toronto

Systems under Construction:

1) Norfolk
2) Washington D.C.
3) Tucson

In case you were wondering where Kenosha was located
In case you were wondering where Kenosha was located

Streetcars are Part of Our Comprehensive Transit Plan

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Some have expressed hesitancy over the Cincinnati Streetcar saying it needs to be part of a larger, comprehensive transit plan for the region.  Fortunately, Streetcars are included as part of our region’s long range transportation planning goals.

The Cincinnati Streetcar will connect Uptown with Downtown, Light and Commuter Rail, Union Terminal,  and major bus hubs in Corryville, Walnut Hills, and Government Square.  The next two maps can be found in Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Government’s 2030 Regional Transportation Plan.

Rail Plan

The Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment would affect every line shown on this map
The Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment would affect every line shown on this map

Bus Plan

OKI Bus Plan

Closer View

This map illustrates how the streetcar provides connections between various forms of transit
This map illustrates how the streetcar provides connections between various forms of transit

As these maps illustrate, the region has a long range transit plan and the Cincinnati Streetcar is an important part of making it a success. Support Improved Regional Transportation–Support the Streetcar.