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The New Streetcar Age

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The New Streetcar Age
Posted by John WR on Sunday, February 10, 2013 7:29 PM

Are streetcars about to return to American cities?  United Streetcar, a division of Oregon Iron works, thinks they will.  And United is putting its money where its mouth is building streetcars.  And it is located in American.  On their website they have a list of supporters of their work.  Here is the link:

p://unitedstreetcar.com/

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, February 11, 2013 6:43 AM

Streetcars running in the middle of public roadways as in the past?  I find it not too likely.  The trend in recent years has been toward light rail, which falls somewhere on the spectrum between streetcars and rapid transit.

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Posted by henry6 on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:44 AM

Today's philosophy is for "light rail" which is a combination of old trolley-street car running and interurban private right of way running.  When in streets, light rail is often kept to the side rather than down the middle and stops are at platforms or designated areas and not at every corner as was the old custom.  And when and where needed, light rail will get off the street on its own right of way, often along abandoned or little used rail lines.  A good example of this would be the NJT Hudson-Bergen Light rail using former Erie, CNJ,  NYC and other rights of way, its own new private right of way, as well as weaving along city streets with island stations along the sidewalk side.  Newark City subway's original line is all private right of way but the Broad St. extension is along side the streets with island protected platform stops.   The River Line has actual street running but is mostly on the former PRR's Camden and Amboy track.   All three encompass every type of running...most picturesque, historical, and interesting railfan rides you'll find anywhere.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, February 11, 2013 9:44 AM

There are cases where street runhinbg mixed with traffic is appropriate and many more cases when it is not.   The dividing line between streetcar and light rail is not firm, neither the dividing line between light rail and heavy rail.   The British call the Docklands system "Light Rail" but it is all third rail, high platforms, up to three-car train operation, end doors for security/inspectiors to walk between cars, and highly automated.   Their Tyne and Wear Metro is also classed as light rail by LRTA, with the same characteristics, except catenary instead of third rail.   Neither has any street running.

Shaker Heights, streetcar or light rail?    And shares some tracks with heavy rail!

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Posted by schlimm on Monday, February 11, 2013 11:53 AM

Modern streetcars run in many German cities, mostly down the street center, without difficulty.

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Monday, February 11, 2013 3:40 PM

Charlotte is building a street car line and it is the cause of a VERY acrimonious debate.

I am a supporter of rail, but I do not believe it should mix with rubber tire traffic in the street.

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/debate-over-charlotte-street-car-heating/nWFF4/ 

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:14 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
Streetcars running in the middle of public roadways as in the past?  I find it not too likely.

If you look at the United Streetcare website they show pictures of streetcars running in the street.  Beyond that I cannot comment.  

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:18 PM

henry6
the Broad St. extension is along side the streets with island protected platform stops.   The River Line has actual street running but is mostly on the former PRR's Camden and Amboy track.

You are absolutely right, Henry.  I've been on both.  Certainly the ideal is to have a separate right of way for any rail vehicles.  

John

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:21 PM

daveklepper
There are cases where street runhinbg mixed with traffic is appropriate and many more cases when it is not.

Dave,  

I grew up outside of Providence, Rhode Island.  I can recall freight trains running in the street next to cars on Allens Avenue.  I'm sure it wasn't common but it did happen.  

John

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:28 PM

schlimm
Modern streetcars run in many German cities, mostly down the street center, without difficulty.

In New Orleans part of the St. Charles Avenue line runs in the middle of the street without problems although most of the line runs down the neutral ground between the lanes of traffic.

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:31 PM

Dave,  

According to the article you link to the issue in Charlotte is raising the money to build the line.  There is no mention of mixing rubber tired and rail vehicles.  I'm not sure of the solution to rubber vs rail but I agree that you raise a valid issue.  

John

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Posted by John WR on Monday, February 11, 2013 8:38 PM

PS

Dave,

In Newark, NJ some streets have been made one way to accommodate bicycle lanes.  That could also be done for streetcars.  Two streets a block apart could be made one way in opposite directions.  Streetcars would get one lane and rubber tired vehicles would get the other lane.  Since it would still be possible to drive on the streets people would still have access to driveways.  

John

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, February 11, 2013 10:56 PM

John WR
I grew up outside of Providence, Rhode Island.  I can recall freight trains running in the street next to cars on Allens Avenue.  I'm sure it wasn't common but it did happen.  

Aw, that's nothing.  Three little words: "Jack London Square" ...  ;-}

Memphis has street running on the Cleveland Stt.Medical Center line, but the stops are only at protected, raised island platforms for the street running there.  There is some direct street running on the River Loop in the area adjacent to Central Station.  Most of the River Loop is either on the ex-IC ROW or in the Main Street Mall.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 4:11 AM

South Shore, Michigan City, freight trains too.

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Posted by John WR on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:57 PM

I guess Providence isn't as unusual as I though.  Rail and rubber shares the road in many places.  

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 3:35 AM

And then there are transitways with exclusive use of lanes by both light-rail-streetcars and buses but no private vehicles.   The Seattle Tunnel (with stations), Pittsburgh's Mount Washington Tunnel, Calvary's (or is it Edmonton's?) 7th Avenue are examples.

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Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:32 PM

Dave- Calvary? My friends in Calgary will be pleased to hear that! In Munich, for example, the streetcars run in the street with regular traffic and in rights-of-way depending on the area. The clever thing they do is when facing the wrong way on a one-way street, the streetcar ducks into it's own ROW, then back out again, often in the space of a block or two. It's a nice system they have.

Here in Toronto, the older downtown lines are in the street, ( and out mayor hates them and wants them gone) while Spadina avenue has it's own ROW. St Clair avenue was recently put in a ROW,  the way it was when the line was built. Local people screamed about both of those projects, but they got over it, both are a lot more pleasant than before the ROW with new business opening and so forth.Sort of like the Embarcadero line in San Francisco

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 3:57 PM

John WR

Dave,  

According to the article you link to the issue in Charlotte is raising the money to build the line.  There is no mention of mixing rubber tired and rail vehicles.  I'm not sure of the solution to rubber vs rail but I agree that you raise a valid issue.  

John

Some of the tracks were already installed during an unrelated upgrade to the road involved.  The tracks are in the driving lanes of one of the busiest streets in city center.

The Blue Line light rail extension is also being constructed up the middle of a different very busy road.  It will not run in the traffic lane, but it will create 11 more grade level crossings as it passes intersections.

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 4:17 PM

John:

Every project brings out an army of people who don't want the money spent in today's environment.  Not mentioned in this particular article are the objections of the businesses along Trade Street who are afraid of the loss of business while the road is torn up for the construction.  There are also many people who don't like the neighborhoods that will be served by the street car.  When the plan was first proposed, the eastern terminus of the line was the Eastland Mall.  That mall, however, has since closed.

The state governor mentioned in the article is a former mayor of Charlotte, and of the opposite party from the current mayor.  He, in fact, was the Mayor of Charlotte when the street car line was proposed, so it is just politics that he is fighting it now.  The line is part of a long term plan:

http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/cats/planning/2030Plan/Pages/default.aspx 

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Posted by John WR on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:41 PM

Phoebe Vet
Every project brings out an army of people who don't want the money spent in today's environment.

Dave,  

No doubt you are right.  Objections to government projects that use tax monies are common.  I certainly have my own objections.  And everybody and his brother has an agenda.  But here I was just responding to the article you posted.  

Best regards, John

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Posted by John WR on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 7:44 PM

54light15
Here in Toronto, the older downtown lines are in the street, ( and out mayor hates them and wants them gone) while Spadina avenue has it's own ROW.

Building a consensus to spend money to put in new streetcar lines is hard enough.  I would think getting a consensus to rip up existing lines and replace them would be harder.  A lot harder.  

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Posted by narig01 on Thursday, February 14, 2013 2:23 AM

About streetcars running down the middle of the street.   How about San Francisco?    Market St at one point was the last "Main St" that still had a streetcar line. Also the cable car lines up Powell, California and Hyde St.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, February 14, 2013 5:03 AM

Calgary is it.  7th Avenue downtown.   Edmonton;s light rail downtown is in a subway.  It is really heavy rail using light rail equipment.    But Edmonton also has heritage streetcar on the CP's high-level bridge.

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Posted by 54light15 on Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:37 AM

John- a plan was in place, financed by the province of Ontario to build 4 new streetcar lines which would mostly be LRVs with some street running. The mayor, Rob Ford comes from the suburbs and does not like streetcars not to mention anything that interferes with the easy movement of automobiles including bicycles and pedestrians. In his view, you are a lesser person if you are not in a car. the first thing he did when he became mayor was cancel the plan (Transit City) for streetcars  without the authority for doing so, as under the Toronto system of government, the mayor is only one vote on council, unlike say, Chicago which has a "strong mayor" system. City council went along with it as no one had a spine. 

      Once it was realised that the mayor really didn't have a clue as to what he was doing, council fought him on this and the plan was reinstated. He campaigned on a "stop the gravy train" promise, but that did not include the money pi$$ed away by him when he cancelled Transit City so more money must be spent than originally planned plus this put the plan back by several years. As far as taking out existing streetcar lines, that just isn't going to happen. It was tried thirty years ago and people screamed about it and so we still have them. Another thing he "promised" was more subways and he had the stupid idea that the private sector will build them to under-populated parts of the city which is not going to happen, not in my lifetime. 

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:05 PM

John WR

daveklepper
There are cases where street runhinbg mixed with traffic is appropriate and many more cases when it is not.

Dave,  

I grew up outside of Providence, Rhode Island.  I can recall freight trains running in the street next to cars on Allens Avenue.  I'm sure it wasn't common but it did happen.  

John

 That is actually going to happen again due to a major scrap metal processor opening a marine loading facility well up Allens Ave.(close to the Powerplant).

 I do remember seeing the Providence & Worcester RR running up that street to drop covered hoppers at the road salt terminal. Of course, that was just a locomotive pulling or pushing a couple of cars. I assume the era you are talking about is back when there were many more businesses located on the street with rail service (I didn't move to RI until 1976 but I've heard that there were major produce/grocery distributors in some of those buildings that received many cars on a daily basis)

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Posted by schlimm on Thursday, February 14, 2013 5:12 PM

54light15

John- a plan was in place, financed by the province of Ontario to build 4 new streetcar lines which would mostly be LRVs with some street running. The mayor, Rob Ford comes from the suburbs and does not like streetcars not to mention anything that interferes with the easy movement of automobiles including bicycles and pedestrians. In his view, you are a lesser person if you are not in a car. the first thing he did when he became mayor was cancel the plan (Transit City) for streetcars  without the authority for doing so, as under the Toronto system of government, the mayor is only one vote on council, unlike say, Chicago which has a "strong mayor" system. City council went along with it as no one had a spine. 

      Once it was realised that the mayor really didn't have a clue as to what he was doing, council fought him on this and the plan was reinstated. He campaigned on a "stop the gravy train" promise, but that did not include the money pi$$ed away by him when he cancelled Transit City so more money must be spent than originally planned plus this put the plan back by several years. As far as taking out existing streetcar lines, that just isn't going to happen. It was tried thirty years ago and people screamed about it and so we still have them. Another thing he "promised" was more subways and he had the stupid idea that the private sector will build them to under-populated parts of the city which is not going to happen, not in my lifetime. 

 
Penny wise, pound foolish.  Sounds rather like the Governor of  Wisconsin in regard to the rail service from Madison to Milwaukee or the governors of Ohio and FL.

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Posted by John WR on Thursday, February 14, 2013 8:02 PM

I really don't know how often trains ran along Allens Avenue but I always understood it was a common occurrence.  However, they were typically just a few cars being moved to a specific location.  Today the P&W is the only freight railroad in Rhode Island.  

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Posted by John WR on Thursday, February 14, 2013 8:07 PM

Schlimm,  

Thanks for the update about Toronto.  It is true that the line in the middle of the streets do interfere with cars.  But I can't see how they interfere with pedestrians and bicyclists.  Downtown Toronto is simply not the suburbs.  

I agree with you.  Anyone who thinks that the private sector is going to build a subway is naïve.  

Best regards, John

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Posted by 54light15 on Friday, February 15, 2013 10:15 AM

Sorry, John WR but you have it wrong, the mayor of Toronto does not like streetcars, bicycles or pedestrians in that approximate order. He said, "The streets were meant for cars!" This shows his clear stupidity since the streets were laid out basically as they are today in the early 1800s. Not a lot of cars around back then. 

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Posted by John WR on Friday, February 15, 2013 10:22 AM

54light15
Sorry, John WR but you have it wrong, the mayor of Toronto does not like streetcars, bicycles or pedestrians in that approximate order. He said, "The streets were meant for cars!"

Light,  

I missed a couple of things and I apologize.  Many years ago I lived into Toronto.  In those days it was about the most advanced city in North America when it came to public transportation.  But nothing lasts forever.  I can only hope you soon have a more enlightened mayor.  

Best regards, John

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