Streetcars back en vogue

  • File - In this Oct. 5, 2005, file photo a streetcar travels on tracks in downtown Little Rock, Ark. As Oklahoma City prepares to break ground on its first streetcar line in seven decades, and as other cities adjust to having them again, authors of a federally backed study suggest their routes move people with a purpose, not just target the tourist trade. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File) Danny Johnston

Associated Press
Published: 6/5/2016 11:26:11 PM

As Oklahoma City prepares to break ground on its first streetcar line in seven decades, and as other cities adjust to having them again, authors of a federally backed study suggest their routes move people with a purpose – not just target the tourist trade.

In a recent analysis covering five cities, researchers at the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose, Calif., found streetcar systems fare best when used to haul people from Point A to Point B. Routes in Little Rock, Ark. and Tampa, Fla., which cater to tourists, fared worse in key areas than lines in Memphis, Tenn.; Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

“They’re not really going into this thinking of transportation as the primary objective,” said Jeffery Brown, a co-author of the study who directs the master’s program at Florida State University’s Urban and Regional Planning Department. “The streetcar is playing a role for something else, like nostalgia.”

Streetcars were a common sight decades ago, but the automobile age led most communities to scrap their lines, as Oklahoma City did after World War II. Of the five cities studied, the researchers found that all wanted to boost economic development, with Little Rock and Tampa also desiring streetcars for tourism.

But those two systems are practically impractical for commuters: The study found that Tampa’s “TECO” line passes through high-density areas but doesn’t operate during the morning rush hour, and Little Rock’s 12-year-old streetcar system operates on two tight loops in Little Rock and North Little Rock, with a spur to the Clinton Library, but doesn’t run to where many people live.

Oklahoma City intends to break ground this fall on a system that will also operate on two loops – one covering the central business district and the other in the Bricktown entertainment area. In between is the Chesapeake Arena, home to the NBA’s Thunder.

“It’s a lot like Little Rock’s,” Brown said. “Now you really have to start asking, ‘Who would really ride this thing?’ ”

Nathaniel Harding, who chaired an Oklahoma City subcommittee that studied potential streetcar use, says the panel believes the system will appeal to downtown workers and out-of-towners.

“You can go to lunch in midtown, or go to Bricktown or to a Thunder game and not have to find a place to park again,” he said.

Ridership for the Little Rock and Tampa systems dropped by about a third from 2005-2012, accor ding to data from the Federal Transit Administration. While the economic downturn can be blamed for part of the drop, Brown said, the study panel noted both aren’t important parts of an overall transportation system.

In Little Rock on Saturday, visitors to the city's annual Riverfest noted the streetcar line is mainly a novelty.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy