Benifits for Riders

Tram-in-Dam-Square-Amsterdam

Why do rider prefer Streetcars.

Capacity – Many of you probably know this, but streetcars can carry more people than buses. They have a wide variety of designs and sizes, and you can even hook two of them up together when you need to, for events or along dense corridors. Toronto has new streetcars with 85 seats, and open floorplan streetcars can expand that even farther.

Electricity – Streetcars run on electricity. In a world of volatile energy prices, I can only imagine that transitioning to electricity as a fuel source will give transit agencies some sorely needed cost predictability. (The same reasoning applies to electrifying our rail system, or our auto fleet.)

Noise – The role of noise in cities is often overlooked. Our downtowns and neighborhoods are continually polluted by the sounds of combustion engines, and this daily harangue not only makes our streets unpleasant, but actually raises stress levels in strikingly unhealthy ways. Because they’re electric and run on rails, streetcars are quiet. The sound of a grunting diesel bus has a Pavolovian effect on me. That farting grumble instantly makes me more depressed. I feel like Charlie Brown on a bad day, slumping my shoulders and staring at my shoes. I imagine many others feel the same way.

Smooth Ride – The engine connects to ride quality. Yesterday I was riding in the standing room only express bus between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, wedged far back atop the engine. You feel every bump and pothole. The vibrations of the diesel shakes you like a paintcan. The bus rocks around corners and people cling to the waggling straps. Contrast that with the relaxing sway of a vehicle on rails.

Accessibility – For those with mobility challenges, streetcars are a godsend. They have flat floorplans [see the above photo], and boarding them thorugh wide doors from raised platforms makes life on unsteady feet, in a wheelchair, or perched on an electric scooter far more bearable.

Streetcar tracks on Lake Street, Minneapolis. 1920. [Img Our Uptown.]

Traffic Calming – This one’s my favorite. Streetcar rails signal to drivers that the street has more than one function. Streetcar tracks, and streetcars themselves, cause drivers to move more cautiously and carefully, to really be aware as they move through the city. Exactly that traffic calming function was a key reasons they were removed in the first place. Whether you ride them or not, everyone benefits from a safer street.

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