State of the U.S. Streetcar

Some projects progress, some cities hit bumps.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

From Detroit to Brooklyn, recently opened and proposed streetcar lines are popping up across the country, to mixed success. Here’s a look at some of the important U.S. streetcar updates to keep an eye on in coming months.

Kansas City
The Kansas City Council is expected to vote this week on whether to spend around $12 million dollars to buy two new streetcars.

“The KC Streetcar Authority says the new cars are needed because twice as many people as expected, two-million riders, boarded streetcars during the system’s first year,” Fox-4 News reports. “That’s led to crowded streetcars and longer than desired wait times.”

But while all are seemingly aboard in K.C., ridership is lagging in Charlotte, North Carolina. To be fair, that’s after the $37 million Gold Line exceeded ridership expectations in its first year. But according to the Charlotte Observer, those figures have fallen by about 7 percent in the streetcar’s second year and “there hasn’t been much movement toward building apartments or retail along the line, which was the city’s primary reason for building the Gold Line.”

New Orleans
In New Orleans, the streetcar system is about to get a much-needed transit hub. Construction is slated to begin next month, according to WWL TV, and for some riders, who have to navigate busy intersections to get between the streetcar and bus, the ground-breaking can’t come soon enough. However, some residents also worry about the cost of the new project, and the fact that it will displace green space.

El Paso
El Paso, Texas, meanwhile, just reached an important milestone in its streetcar construction process: completion of a $9.5 million 23,000-square-foot maintenance and storage building that will service all vehicles on the city’s planned 4.8-mile route. Construction has snarled traffic, K-Fox TV reports, but many residents believe the new infrastructure will help ease traffic when it’s completed.

“I think once they’re in they’re really going to help with the traffic downtown,” one resident said of the streetcars. “I think during the interim and having to deal with the construction is a little challenging.”

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: transportation spendingstreetcars

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