Looking Ahead: The Future of Streetcars

Posted on January 17, 2018 by Rhonda Bell - Also by this author

The Milwaukee Streetcar began construction earlier this year and is on track for a fall 2018 opening. Photo: The Milwaukee Streetcar
The Milwaukee Streetcar began construction earlier this year and is on track for a fall 2018 opening. Photo: The Milwaukee Streetcar
Over the last few months, we’ve talked about the resurgence of streetcars and explored recently completed projects across the country. So what’s next for modern streetcars? A number of expansions of existing systems are in various stages of planning and d  evelopment across the country, and for aficionados who want to see completely new systems, the following cities are vying for your next transit visit:

Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar began construction earlier this year and is on track for a fall 2018 opening. A newly announced sponsorship agreement with Potawatomi Hotel and Casino includes new branding for the streetcar, which will be called "The Hop presented by Potawatomi Hotel and Casino." The deal, worth $10 million, includes free rides for the first year of operation (future fares are anticipated to be $1). Capital costs for the 2.1-mile Phase 1 and 0.4-mile Phase 2 are estimated at $128 million and are funded through an approximately 50/50 federal/local match. That funding includes $54.9 million in Federal ICE funding and $14.2 million in TIGER IV grant funding, with the remaining $59 million supplied through a variety of local Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIDs).

The Hop is owned by the City of Milwaukee and will be operated by Transdev Inc. The new streetcar will provide patrons with access to downtown’s top 20 employers and hotels, and 90% of downtown attractions.

Rending of the OC Streetcar project. Image: Orange County Transportation Authority
Rending of the OC Streetcar project. Image: Orange County Transportation Authority
 
OC Streetcar: In the first half of the 20th Century, the Orange County and Los Angeles region were home to the largest interurban electric railway passenger service in the world, the Pacific Electric (PE) "Red Car" system. The new OC Streetcar will return to these roots, running along an old PE right-of-way for a segment of its route. This portion of the route will be streetcar, pedestrian, and bicycle-only and will connect users to regional trails. The new OC Streetcar stops are also designed to allow community personalization of each stop, both at the time of construction and in the future.

The 4.1-mile line is currently nearing design completion and submitted for a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA this year. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2018, with a target opening in late 2020. Orange County Transportation Authority, with support from design, program management, construction management, construction contractors, and operations and maintenance contractors, will build and operate the system. Capital costs are estimated at $299 million, $50 million of which was included in President Obama’s 2017 New Starts budget.

The 4.1-mile OC Streetcar line is currently nearing design completion. Image: Orange County Transportation Authority
The 4.1-mile OC Streetcar line is currently nearing design completion. Image: Orange County Transportation Authority
Tempe Streetcar: Strategically connecting commercial and residential areas, this three-mile system is divided into four character zones, and will run through downtown Tempe’s beloved Mill Avenue district, Arizona State University, and a number of Tempe neighborhoods. The streetcar will run off-wire through the pedestrian-focused Mill Avenue restaurant and retail  district and will include art at each of the 14 stops.Having moved into engineering and design in late 2016, construction began in June, with opening slated for 2020.

The system is being designed and built by Valley Metro, the regional transit operator, with Stantec as the prime. It is estimated at $186 in capital construction ($75 million of which were included in President Obama’s 2017 budget). The system will also cross an existing LRT route and will be designed so that streetcars can interface with/run on the LRT tracks if needed.

Ft. Lauderdale Wave: Culminating nearly two decades of conversations and studies regarding transit and pedestrian improvements, the Ft. Lauderdale Wave streetcar anticipates starting construction in 2018 on a 2.8-mile system, which has since been added to dubbed "The Wave". Earlier this year, County Commissioners approved the purchase of five new streetcar vehicles to be delivered for the projected 2021 opening. Six federal, state, county, and city funding avenues will fund the project, which is estimated at $195.2 million. Operated by Broward County, The Wave will uniquely cross the SE 3rd Avenue drawbridge, using batteries to run off-wire for the crossing.

If these projects are any indication, the streetcar has reemerged as a viable and attractive transit option for many cities. With new technology and designs continually evolving, we look forward to seeing how these new iterations will impact mobility in communities across the country.

This article is co-authored by Rhonda Bell, an Urban Design and Landscape Architecture Senior Associate with RNL, now part of Stantec (www.rnldesign.com).

 

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