The greatest strength of modern streetcar is the ability to change the mode it operates in, in dense urban areas it can stop frequently to service major corridors like downtown and Ohio City. This is referred to as “Urban Circulator Service” his is the most common type of service Streetcar operate in the United States, used in Portland and every streetcar system being built in the U.S. will operate as a Urban Circulator. If you increase the stop spacing and use signal preemption you can operate along corridor though the city stopping primarily at major points of interest and to provide pedestrian access to the community, like the Healthline BRT this is referred to as “Enhanced Local Service” . Finally the streetcar can operate as a “Rapid Streetcar” in dedicated right of way, at speeds of up to 50mph. Cleveland currently operates the Blue and the Green lines in this mode, which we call Light Rail.
It is the ability of the modern streetcar to move from a low speed circulator to high-speed regional transit link within the same route, could give a passenger a one seat ride from the their home or train station to their place of work or play. The ability of modern streetcars to move from expensive high-speed dedicated right of way to more affordable mixed traffic right of way allows rail transit to be used where it was to expensive to be used before. For transit it opens the door to lower cost service expansion to areas without high quality transit.
Average Service Speeds
Urban Circulator Service: 10 to 15 mph
Enhanced Local Service: 15 to 25 mph
Rapid Streetcar: 20 to 35 mph
Streetcars or Trams have up to 4 times the passenger carrying capacity of a traditional 40 foot bus, and up to double the capacity of an articulated or BRT bus. Capacity matters because for high volume routes because the quality of service decrease as the number of buses increase. Crowding and bunching are common on both the Pearl Road and the Broadway corridors because of the volume of buses that operate on this corridor. The capacity of streetcars allow for operating costs to be reduced and bus service to be expanded elsewhere.
For transit the capacity of the streetcar can improve transit throughout the transit system.
106 foot Streetcar
- The 106 foot streetcar would offer a 300-400% increase in capacity over 40-foot buses.
- 200% increase over 60-foot Articulated buses
- All operating with a single operator.
60 foot Articulated Bus
- The 60-foot articulated offers a 70-80% increase in passenger capacity over conventional 40-foot bus.
- When dedicated BRT buses are used the passenger capacity drops to 100 persons.
Attract more riders
Riders prefer rail based transit over buses especially riders that have the choice to drive. The Portland Oregon 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. Because streetcars run on an identifiable trackway infrastructure, they create a sense of permanence that both encourages ridership and can influence development investments. Streetcar systems, implemented in concert with streetscape and pedestrian improvements, can improve the urban environment considerably and contribute to the development or redevelopment of neighborhoods.”
Rider can also be intimidated by the complexity of bus systems where routes can often be circuitous and confusing. Streetcars can help to make transit more approcable and encourage more people to use transit. When you use streetcars to consolidate bus routes, you simplify the transit system as a whole. Our plan could reduce the number of routes downtown from 29-18, or replacing those 18 routes with up to 8 Streetcar routes.