A streetcar network Would be a catalyst to implement numerous city land use, transportation and urban growth goals. Some of the goals that a streetcar system could help realize are:
- Reduced reliance on automobiles
- Higher density, mixed-use communities
- More livable communities
- Better pedestrian environments
- More sustainable communities and transportation choices
In addition to realizing these goals the Streetcar reinforces the existing urban form which was created by Streetcar over 100 years ago. The ultimately create opportunities for neighborhood reinvestment through infill development, and improved land use.
The potential to integrate modern complete streets concepts on in Cleveland, including the pedestrian friendly elements of the Streetcar with a potential protected two-way cycle track would be a game changer for the corridor. Cycle tracks are separated bicycle facilities that run alongside a roadway. Unlike bike lanes, cycle tracks are typically separated from automobile traffic by a physical barrier, such as parked cars, bollards, a landscaped buffer, or a curb. A cycle track would be an integral part of the project, accomplishing two goals 1) improving bike safety on the corridor, 2) the best way to integrate bicycle facilities with the Streetcar. The result of tracks in the ground and accessible bicycle facilities is a reduction of pedestrian crossing distances by up to 50%, for pedestrian oriented feel and improved safety for cars, pedestrians and bikes.
Extend the Walk
Similar to new streetcar systems in Portland and Cincinnati, the streetcar would spur development along the corridor from Gordon Square to West 25th Street. When combined with multi-modal amenities like a two-way cycle track and other pedestrian centered amenities, the Streetcar will completely change the atmosphere and feeling of Detroit Avenue providing a sense of place that is proven to attract customers for businesses and residents for residences. It moves the Near West Side towards the “20-Minute Neighborhood” concept as defined by Portland city planners.
The “20-Minute Neighborhood”: Neighborhoods That Foster Shorter Trips
Portland city planners have defined a potential urban design concept for future growth and health of neighborhoods and communities, known as the “20-Minute Neighborhood.” The concept promotes an environment where one can walk, bike or take transit to essential amenities and services in 20 minutes or less. As illustrated in the graphic below, Streetcars can support and enhance this environment by connecting 20-minute neighborhoods to each other and to the regional transit network (The Portland Bureau of Transportation, 2009).
The key to the success of the Streetcar and the reinvention of the neighborhood is the integration of mixed-use development along the corridor, mixed does two things it provides customers for businesses and provides businesses for customers, this reduces the need for long trips for basic needs and encourages short walking trips. In Portland the data has shown that high frequency transit alone isn’t enough to move people from their cars, there has to be change in the form to move people out of cars and on to alternatives modes of transportation.
Premium transit corridor
Broadway Ave and West 25th st. are the most traveled transit corridors in the state, with the GCRTA the 15 routes that use these corridors had a combined 11.2 million per year. For current riders the Streetcar will offer a number of improvements, in speed, comfort and service quality. For GCRTA, the Streetcar can achieve several benefits. One is to reduce the cost of service on the corridor by gaining the ability to carry more passengers with fewer operators while reducing maintenance and fuel costs. Another is to increase local funding from local value-capture mechanisms (Transportation Improvement District, or TID, and Tax-Increment Financing, or TIF). Riders also prefer rail-based transit over buses especially riders that have the choice to drive.
Portland, Oregon’s Department of Transportation describes why riders are attracted to Streetcars: “Streetcars are relatively quiet, electrically-powered, zero-emission vehicles that can operate in a variety of right-of-way configurations. They offer a smoother ride than buses, as they do not weave back and forth to the curb to make stops, and are available as 100-percent low-floor vehicles for easy boarding. Visitors and tourists are more willing to ride a streetcar because they are easier to understand. When less frequent riders can see the rails in the street, they know a streetcar will come by. In contrast, a bus route is less intuitive without a map.” With premium transit ridership on this corridor ridership would grow as more People choose to use transit over driving.