The Modern Streetcar in the U.S.: An Examination of Its Ridership, Performance, and Function as a Public Transportation Mode

Journal of Public Transportation Article in Volume 16, Issue 4 (2013) by Jeffrey Brown

Seven U.S. cities reported operating streetcar service to the National Transit Database in 2012, and many other cities are building or planning streetcar investments. Yet despite the increased popularity of streetcar investments, there is a lack of information about how these investments function as transportation modes, as opposed to urban development tools. This paper examines the streetcar as a public transit mode by examining ridership, service, service productivity, cost effectiveness, and other indicators of the streetcar’s performance and function in the carriage of transit passengers. There is considerable variation in all of these measures, with the variability a function of the different environments in which streetcars operate, the different roles they play in the local transit system, and differences in the operating characteristics of the streetcars themselves. Among the cases, Portland’s streetcar emerges as a strong performer, Little Rock’s and Tampa’s streetcars as relatively poor performers, and the other streetcars have mixed performance results. View the full article or the entire Journal issue.

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