This summer I was lucky enough to be able to drive across the county and visit 29 states and dozens of different cities. One city that really stuck out to me though was Portland. It was young, hip, and, although cool in its own right, was not at all my scene (I’m a country boy through and through). What really stuck out to me about Portland though was the traffic, or lack thereof. See, Portland has a rather complete public transportation system, which includes a lot of streetcars.
The streetcars have been a success for Portland, and other cities are taking notice. Combine that with changes to the Department of Transportation’s new guidelines for building public transit, and we could see a real streetcar renaissance.
It used to be that there was hardly a city anywhere that didn’t have a streetcar line running down most major roads. Before cars became popular, streetcars and steam trains were the most popular methods of travel. Unfortunately, streetcars and trains died together as Americans flocked towards cheap cars and cheap gas. Those days appear to be coming to an end though, and streetcars are poised to make a major comeback.
Portland’s streetcar system is a driving factor behind many new streetcar projects. Studies suggest the streetcar lines in Portland have brought $3.5 billion of business investment and resulted in over 10,000 units of housing being built and filled. My experience is that you can get almost anywhere in Portland via their public transportation. If more cities would use streetcars, it would likely lead to similar results, all the while reducing traffic congestion and bringing in jobs. And more jobs is exactly what our country needs.
Source: USA Today | Image: Associated Press