Urban greenies across the US may finally get what they desire — streetcar lines in their home cities. Due to a change in federal transportation policy under President Obama, 22 American cities are reportedly considering building or expanding streetcar lines. Not only would the streetcar construction help revitalize many American cities, it could promote greater adoption of public transit and decrease reliance on cars.
When Obama took office, the administration made it easier for cities to obtain federal funds in order to build or expand streetcar lines. This past February, the Department of Transportation gave grants to Tucson, Detroit, Dallas, New Orleans and Portland to create new streetcar lines. A total of 22 US cities are reportedly considering streetcars, including Los Angeles, Baltimore and Atlanta, among other towns. If the cities secure funding, construction could start within the next year or two.
Portland, Oregon is perhaps the best example of how streetcars can become popular and help green a city. In the past ten years, the existing Portland streetcar line has earned about $3.5 billion in private investment. Since 1997, 53 percent of the area’s downtown development has occurred along the streetcar line. Plus, calculations show that 30 percent more people ride the city’s streetcars than would have ridden buses.
Instituting more public transit — especially transportation as charming as a streetcar — throughout America’s cities will undoubtedly revitalize neighborhoods and make urban centers more navigable. Plus, eliminating the need for traveling by automobiles will help all city dwellers live a little greener.
Lead photo by Jason Rodriguez