Hat tip to our reader TK for pointing us to this article…
Desire Grows for Streetcars By Cristian Lupsa | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 5, 2007 edition
Columbus, Ohio, might not be your image of booming America, but Mayor Michael Coleman says an explosion of jobs and immigration have made it the second-fastest-growing city in the Midwest from 2000 to 2005 (after Indianapolis). Now in his second term, Mayor Coleman is determined to shape Ohio’s largest urban area – once No. 3 behind Cleveland and Cincinnati – into a 21st-century city.
His plan includes a streetcar system that would connect Columbus’s spread-out downtown attractions, and bring an estimated 6 to 1 return on the initial investment, according to a city-commissioned study. They are riding streetcars into the 21st century? Is this “Back to the Future”? Well, yes.
After Portland, Ore., launched the first modern streetcar system in 2001, cities and towns from coast to coast – impressed by the financial success of Portland’s venture – have followed suit or examined the possibility of returning the forgotten vehicles to their streets. While not a solution to traffic congestion or pollution, streetcars have proved to be an attractive amenity to revitalized downtowns, encouraging street life and community, boosting development, and promoting energy-efficient transportation.
Streetcars fueled urban growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but as cars took over after World War II and fueled urban sprawl, most cities uprooted tracks.
Columbus is not a mass-transit city – it’s car territory, but Coleman says he is persuaded a streetcar will make a difference to jobs, connectivity, and development. Still, he’ll take it one step at a time – having most recently appointed a committee to examine how to pay for an initial two-mile route without raising taxes.