In the 1950s, the city of Minneapolis dismantled its streetcar system. Today, the city is studying the possibility of bringing it back.
As a part of a 2008 feasibility study, the city identified seven corridors for such a system, according to Anna Flintoft, a transportation planner with the city.
Right now, the city is looking to hire a consultant to examine the impact of streetcars on Nicollet and Central avenues. That project will likely start this summer and go through 2013.
Minneapolis also hopes to do a similar assessment of West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, she says.
Separately, Metro Transit
is trying to get a handle on the streetcar scenario for the Midtown corridor and other parts of Lake Street.
The next phase is a much more detailed “alternatives analysis,” which involves weighing streetcar and enhanced bus alternatives, which, she adds, run in mixed traffic, not separated from traffic like the light rail.
The idea is to find a “locally preferred alternative,” or the most ideal option for the city.
“There’s a lot of interest in streetcars because of the experience that Minneapolis and other cities have had with light rail,” she says. “It’s had great ridership performance.”
Light rail has been able to attract new riders and catalyze economic development around itself, she says. “Streetcar is a mode that doesn’t have as big of a footprint as light rail and it can fit in for less cost.”
Further, while light rail needs its own track, streetcar and enhanced bus systems don’t displace car traffic, she explains.
In Minneapolis, the space between one building face and another tends to be narrow, so there are few places where light rail can fit. “That’s the reason people are asking the questions--to figure out if it is a good investment to be making in these corridors.”
It’s a conversation that goes way beyond Minneapolis. Streetcar lines have started popping up once again in cities all over the country, including Portland, Seattle, and Atlanta. The federal government has been supportive of these systems, she says.
Source: Anna Flintoft, transportation planner, city of Minneapolis
Writer: Anna Pratt