Friday, December 10, 2010

Your Daily Dissent

Decided to bump this to its own post. A reader dissents to a previous on streetcars:

Reader from Austin M1EK:
I'm one of those naysayers - and the problem is these are being sold as mobility improvements rather than amenities for urban development. We've backed down our plan here in Austin to almost as stupid as Fort Worth's now, because relatively few people are willing to be honest about the fact that a streetcar running in a shared lane is actually even worse than a bus if you care about speed and reliability.

But yeah, if you're a tourist, or have gone voluntarily car-free, a streetcar might be nice. How about if the developers pay for it then, and not just the initial capital cost - but bond out the operating cost as well? In the meantime, transportation funds should go to things that can actually shift mode choice - like light rail.

My response:

legitimate points.

Let me raise others that many don't often think about.

First, I want to mention something I heard last night, that the McKinney Avenue Trolley is up to 300,000 riders per year. And if you've ridden it recently during peak or rush hours, you understand. It is literally packed. Far more so than when I rode it to/from work every day living in uptown 2004-06.

The significance of this suggests a mode share change by the typically younger demographic that lives in uptown, millennials.

Secondly, as we begin to price parking more appropriately, people will be looking for outlets that don't require paying 100/month in parking downtown.

Light rail has an appropriate service length as do modern streetcars. Streetcars can better serve the neighborhoods within 1 to 3 miles with very frequent stops that light rail can provide only 1 or 2 stops at best. These immediately downtown adjacent areas are where the greatest gap between existing and potential lies, aka profit, opportunity, value, and of course, interesting walkable urban neighborhoods.

Lastly, and perhaps most out of the box, is the idea of mobility, shared lanes and traffic calming. The MATA trolley often makes driving on McKinney Avenue a pain in the ass. And that is a good thing. It is harder to speed, thereby making walking along McKinney and crossing it, much safer and more enjoyable (despite the narrowness of sidewalks).

It may hurt long distance mobility, but it increases localized mobility and the interconnection or "tethering" of neighborhoods.