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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ogden "Streetcar"

Reading the comments section on newspaper articles never fail to enrage. Regarding the Ogden Streetcar, the comments are nothing short of slanderous.
UTA seems not to understand the difference and is pretending to be experts at streetcars, when neither they nor their consultants have ever planned a streetcar route. 
Unless you count the Sugar House Streetcar or the San Francisco F-line streetcar...

Some are merely ignorant:
..It brings revitalization within two blocks of the rails....
All the data on streetcar revitalization is based on a study done in Portland five years ago. Damn the souls of the consultants who did so, for using blocks as a metric instead of feet. Forever after, everyone else is condemned to making the distinction that Portland blocks are ONLY 200 feet long, which is about 1/3 the distance of an Ogden block.

Some are inane.
The benefits of fixed-rail street cars moving in an existing traffic lane are well-proven in other cities, and are a cost effective way to rejuvenate existing neighborhoods 
Note that he/she mentions no specific cities or street-care lines. Very few streetcar lines have actually been built, and even fewer studies done on their rejuvenation effects. To my knowledge, precisely three. All cite the presence of large parcels of underutilized industrial land and/or rundown low density residential as being critical. Having visited Portland prior to the streetcar renaissance, I can guarantee it had plenty of the former.

Admittedly, some people had thoughtful things to say:
The last I heard the proposed route is 36th Street. This is a two-lane but extremely busy route across town. To interfere with this WSU traffic artery would be foolish. House on both sides of the street would have to be moved, since the last time this street was widened the road was moved to to only a few feet from front doors. There is nowhere to expand without destroying houses. 24th, 25th and 26th street are already wide enough for a trolley line. Population downtown is more concentrated that at the south end of town.
What is missing in his calculation is the section of Harrison between 25th and 27th, which is too narrow to both keep UDOT's lanes for cars AND a streetcar, thus requiring the taking of historic properties.

Some are just blatantly wrong:
UTA is promoting a design that drastically over-engineers the guideway. The projections they are using are almost twice the cost of what they should be ($12-15 mil. per mile). 
That cost estimate comes from a redevelopment project in Kenosha, Wisconsin used to redevelop an automotive plant, and was built on donated right of way, around a public park, and is totally devoid of expensive intersection crossings. It is also notable that a) The Kenosha streetcar is no longer operating; and b) the total ANNUAL ridership of the streetcar totaled about 67,000---about the same as the WEEKLY ridership for the Portland Streetcar. Kenosha built the street-car on the cheap, and is paying the price for it. Estimates for other modern streetcar systems have come out at a very similar cost/mile of $22-30 million per mile.

This one made me think:
The guideway needs to be fixed, but according to the Obama admin. guidelines, it does not need to be exclusive to the streetcar- there is no need for a separate travel lane- but w/ the streetcars operating in the same lane as cars. This is how street cars work- in the flow of traffic- this is not light rail. 
On one level, he/she is right--there is no 'need' for a streetcar to have a separate travel lane. It works in Portland. But it works in Portland because it has 200' long blocks, so a parallel street is never more than 200' away. And as time goes by, Portland is increasingly moving toward dedicated guideway, using 'Bus-Only streets', and prohibiting turns across the light-rail/streetcar lines.