FAQs

What is streetcar transit?

Streetcar transit is a simple mode of public transit that operates along a fixed rail guideway that is embedded within the surface of a roadway. While streetcars cannot deviate from the path of the guideway, the operator of the streetcar “drives” the vehicle, accelerating and braking to move along with traffic that may also operate in the same lane as the streetcar. Streetcars are typical “inner city” vehicles, operating on relatively short line in the metro area.

Streetcars are a way of life, not just a way to get around. Many view streetcars as an urban statement of livability. Streetcars enhance walking links and provide a way to get around the city without driving your car, dealing with parking multiple times, or better yet, provide a way to get around after taking the light rail system into town. However, streetcars are not just about ridership numbers or reducing auto trips, they serve as an excellent economic revitalization and development tool.

Is streetcar the same as light rail?

Streetcars are related to “light rail” transit; the difference is that streetcars usually run in the city, rather than from the suburbs to the city and typically run at lower speeds. They are also typically lighter, less expensive, and usually run in traffic, rather than in exclusive right-of-ways. Additionally, streetcars are capable of tighter turning radii which allows for easier travel within the tighter and well populated city streets. Powered by quiet electric motors, streetcars use a simple system, the pantograph, to collect power from an electrified wire that is suspended approximately 20 feet over the lane in which the streetcar runs. Streetcars can look either contemporary or vintage, with many body styles available, and can be outfitted with numerous features and customer amenities.

Why streetcars instead of buses?

Streetcars offer higher rider capacity than buses. Examples show that streetcars attract new riders and people who otherwise would not ride a bus. Several streetcar routes in the U.S. are located along former bus routes, and there have been dramatic surges in ridership and development that did not occur when the corridor was served by a bus line. Streetcars run on a fixed guideway line so businesses are more likely to invest in areas with streetcar lines than bus lines. Bus lines can be and often are re-routed. Streetcars therefore serve as a better development catalyst than buses. Streetcar routes are also easier to understand and if you miss a stop it’s easy to find your way back. This is attractive to riders, particularly tourists. Streetcars also offer friendlier boarding options to riders. Due to their low floor design, modern streetcars allow riders with strollers, bicycles, and wheelchairs to board the streetcar more quickly than dealing with a lift or feeling as though they are causing other riders to wait. Streetcars are convenient, comfortable, attractive, and reliable. Streetcars operate on electric lines, not fossil fuels so they are better for our environment and air quality.

How is transit changing in the United States?

Due to rising gas prices, the American people are turning to public transit. The American Public Transportation Association stated that U.S. mass-transit ridership is at a 50-year high. Lightrail/Streetcars/Trolleys are leading the way with ridership increasing 6.1 percent in 2007.

What are the characteristics of a modern streetcar?

Currently the most commonly used modern streetcar in the U.S. is approximately 66’ long, 8’ wide and 11’3” high, with maximum passenger capacity of 170. They are low-floored, air-conditioned and quiet. Streetcars can run between 10 and 20 miles per hour. While they are capable of going faster, to foster an enhanced, pedestrian friendly downtown environment, they typically do not run at their higher speed capability. The primary objective of most streetcar projects is to facilitate safe and convenient neighborhood connectivity, particularly for non-motorized travel modes, instead of allowing rapid travel on downtown streets.

How do streetcars operate in mixed traffic?

Streetcars operate in existing travel lanes and streetcar traffic occurs in essentially the same manner that buses do. The driver of the streetcar can accelerate and brake to move along with traffic but does not have to steer the vehicle because it runs along the rails embedded in the roadway surface. Streetcars improve congestion because they can reduce the need for additional buses and reduce automobile usage for small trips.

Do the overhead wires create visual clutter?

The overhead power is supplied by a single electrified wire, and involves much less overhead “hardware” than is seen with electric trolleybus systems. This single wire can be obscured by landscaping and tree canopy along the roadway. In other cities where the streetcar corridor is established with buildings and landscaping, the overhead wires blend into the streetscape.

Can bicycles be brought onto the streetcar?

Yes, the modern streetcar’s interior layout is designed to allow bicycles to be brought on board using the wide passenger doors that are level with the station platforms. The car is equipped with a retractable platform (bridge-plate) used for boardings and to “bridge” the gap between the car and the station platform. In addition, this is helpful for accommodating strollers and wheelchairs.

Are streetcars handicapped accessible?

Yes, and in particular the modern low floor streetcar allows for immediate on and off access with neither lift nor operator assistance required.

What are the advantages of a modern streetcar?

Modern streetcars offer rider friendly boarding options with their low floor and bridge plate design. They are also more efficient, more spacious, clean energy, decreased life cycle cost, and offer easier maintenance and spare parts availability.

Why choose an American Made streetcar?

Purchasing an American made streetcar brings back manufacturing jobs and technology that were once a large part of the United States economy and helps develop the local, regional and national economy. With an American made car you will not deal with currency rate exchange fluctuations and will be using primarily U.S. products and U.S labor. Vehicle manufacturing and parts and service will occur in a timelier manner due to manufacturing occurring in closer proximity to your state and by using a U.S. and often local supplier network throughout the United States. This is often a unique advantage if you use taxpayer funds to pay for your streetcar project. Most taxpayers like to see their money spent in the U.S. and locally if possible. In addition, our quality and safety standards are extremely high and we welcome your visit to our facility at anytime.