Metro Magazine

JUN 2014

Magazine serving the bus and rail transit & motorcoach operations since 1904

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Page 15 of 63

Streetcar Renaissance Included in this list are Tucson, Arizona's $196 million Sun Link; the City of Cincinna- ti's streetcar; Kansas City's two-mile Downtown streetcar starter line; the 2.7-mile Atlanta Streetcar; and M-1 Rail's 3.3-mile Downtown Detroit streetcar. These projects and many others across the nation are a part of the streetcar renais- sance. At least three lines will open this year and more than a dozen others are in various phases of development and design. While the plethora of streetcar projects is a good thing, it also presents challenges with the scarcity of money relative to demand. As we were going to print, the Detroit streetcar project received stellar news, when JPMorgan Chase announced it would invest $100 million in the city, in the form of loans and grants. The money will go toward community and workforce development and small business support, in addition to a strategic investment in the M-1 Rail line. According to transit industry insiders, one of the challenges streetcar sponsors face is that streetcars are more about a vision statement on economic development and a more walkable, sustainable city and less about a solution to transportation mobility challenges. This thinking may pose a challenge with regard to obtaining funding. Strong federal support The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and the Federal Transit Admin- istration have demonstrated strong support for streetcars through the Urban Circulator and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) programs. "The modifications to the project approval process and justification criteria represent an opportunity for streetcars to be in a better position to compete for Capital Investment Grant funding," according to Jeff Boothe, principal with Holland & Knight and chair of the streetcar coalition. MAP-21 did revise the definition of "cost-effectiveness" to focus on boardings or rid- ers, which now rewards projects that connect to job centers, areas of current or proposed substantial economic development and entertainment venues, he explains. "Further, for Small Starts projects, project sponsors are rewarded for overmatch by having several of the criteria based on the federal investment and not total project cost," Boothe says. According to the U.S. DOT, applications for its sixth round of TIGER grants totaled $9.5 billion, 15 times the $600 million set aside for the program, demonstrating the con- tinued need for transportation investment nationwide. The U.S. DOT received 797 eligi- ble applications, compared to 585 in 2013, from 49 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. While the feds are making more options for funding of streetcar projects, there are still the hurdles to obtaining local and private funding to complete the picture. I think this quote from M-1 Rail COO Paul Childs from an interview with The Detroit News really nails the importance of streetcar projects: "Streetcars actually enable the activation of the sidewalks and they put people on the streets. It's people that drive businesses, it's people that drive neighborhoods. You can hook together why a streetcar does so much relative to transit oriented development." The June issue of METRO is primarily dedicated to rail-related coverage, which means it's time for our annual Top Rail Projects Survey. In this year's survey, conducted by Managing Editor Alex Roman, we find that participants will be spending $99 billion to build their rail projects. Streetcar projects account for $674 million total of the projects listed. According to the report, streetcars are becoming a greater presence. 12 < m ETRO m AGAZINE JUNE 2014 point of departure Streetcar projects that could Janna Starcic, Executive Editor janna.starcic@ "Streetcars actually enable the activation of the sidewalks and they put people on the streets. It's people that drive businesses. It's people that drive neighborhoods."

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