– Portland transit study proves Rapid Light Rail best system

No one is building inter-city heavy rail transportaion. Every study now concludes light rail or rapid street cars will get people out of their cars.

Streetcars once served almost all major and most minor transit routes throughout most American cities. Streetcars were gradually replaced by buses in most cities between the 1920s and the mid-1950s, and buses have now served in most cities for well over 50 years.

In looking at expanding streetcar service throughout Portland beyond the urban circulator function, one of the first questions that is often asked is “Why streetcars?” Buses seem to provide adequate service, and in many cases the bus service is well used by existing riders.

The question needs to be answered, however, and this paper will show that there are advantages to providing some local line haul, medium-capacity transit services with streetcars instead of buses. After a brief examination of the transit vehicle types available for operation on city streets, this paper will examine the technology selection question from a number of angles:

  • Opportunities for service and operational improvements;
  • Opportunities to build ridership;
  • Opportunities to implement sustainable framework;
  • Opportunities for enhancing streetscape, catalyzing urban development and redevelopment; and
  • Financial considerations.

Streetcar lines provide significant benefits over bus operation for providing local line haul, medium-capacity transit services in a dense urban environment.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

CHART ABOVE summarizes the preceding tables of opportunity areas in a qualitative format, showing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of the technologies in areas that are being examined as part of the PSSP. For this chart, streetcar has been broken into Rapid Streetcar and Streetcar sub-modes, and each configuration has been ranked separately. This chart shows that rapid streetcar and streetcar clearly have more positive impacts and opportunities than either standard bus or trolley coach for both service and operational improvements, and for urban streetscape and development potential.


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