Metro Magazine

JUL 2014

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

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Page 24 of 47 Streetcars, a transportation staple in hundreds of American cities in the late 19th and early 20th centur ies, w ere largely abandoned by the 1950s, as car and bus travel became more popular. Today, many cities are taking a second look at streetcars, for many reasons. First, we are seeing a landmark cultur- al shift, in both the U.S. and Canada. Many cities are experiencing surges in their populations, as residents seek- ing convenience and easy commut- ing begin moving back to urban areas from the suburbs. They have found the pluses of living in a suburban setting are outweighed by increasingly longer and more expensive commutes, and are looking for homes where nearly ever y convenience is within walking distance. S econd, streetcars are a 'greener ' alternative to cars and buses. As gas pr ices and the she er numb er of ve - hicles on our roadways continue to i n c re a s e, a n d a s o u r s i m u l t a n e o u s concern about our carbon footprint continues to rise, cities are looking for innovative ways to get commuters out of their vehicles. Tird, while streetcars aren't expected to completely replace buses and other faster, more widespread modes of trans- portation, they are a perfect alternative for moving people efciently in distinct areas of a city — whether those people are commuting, shopping or sightsee- ing. Streetcars add more capacity than buses and are, frankly, more attractive. Also, streetcar lines in cities such as Portland, Ore., have been a tremendous boon to local business and tourism, pro- viding transportation that is safe, acces- sible and afordable. Finally, there is an improved recep- tivity to light rail and streetcars at the federal level, and the federal govern- ment is allo cating an unpre ce dent- ed amount of funding for these types of projects. Projects that had been in the planning stages for years can now move ahead, thanks to a new feder- al commitment to funding alternative modes of transportation that reduce both carbon emissions and our long- standing reliance on foreign oil. All of these factors are converging right now, making it an ideal time to re-introduce light rail, and the joy of streetcars, to whole new generation. HOW DO YOU FEEL THE CHANGES TO NEPA AND NEW STARTS ARE IMPACTING PROJECTS? O v e r a l l , t h e s h o r t a n s w e r i s t h a t NEPA and New Starts are having — and will continue to have — a ver y posi - tive impact on transportation projects, especially those that use innovation to limit their impact on the environ- ment. Rail projects, in par ticular — those that get people out of their cars — are getting a tremendous boost from NEPA's emphasis on environmental sensitivity and MAP-21's New Starts, which makes fast-tracking and fund- 21 JULY 2014 m ETRO m AGAZINE >

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