A new desire for streetcars

February 5, 2008
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Electric streetcars are an old idea that should be brought back, some civic leaders believe.

IBJ reporter Chris Oâ??Malley writes today that heavyweights including Indiana Convention and Visitors Association President Bob Bedell are backing a not-for-profit called Downtown Indianapolis Streetcar Corp.

The group wants to see streetcars zipping around downtown and linking IndyGo buses and other forms of transportation.

The idea is working in a revitalized Portland, Ore., so why not here? goes their reasoning.

Are they on the right track? Would you ride them?
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  • I love streetcars! I've always ridden them in New Orleans. They've very popular there and always seemed busy at rush hours. I wouldn't say it's the most punctual form of transport though. We waited one time for 45 minutes and then saw 2 or 3 cars packed full pass us by. The 4th one stopped, we boarded, only to have a collision with a car a short way down the track. If there was one that went around downtown I would definately ride it. It's a shame they got rid of them in the first place.
  • This is good and bad.

    I love the idea of a local street car, or trolley, that you can get on or off, and without a fare. Aside from the obvious value of connecting to other forms of transit, this would be incredible for downtown business, especially during lunch hours and evening events. If there is a fare, the utility (of convenience) is largely lost. The expense should be recovered from taxing downtown businesses/services or maybe via a tax district. Or a Superbowl tax.

    The big problem with street trolleys is two-fold. The traditional trolley has overhead electrical lines, which clutter street views (the cuteness of the occasional trolley is outweighed by the ever-presence of the wires) and create logistical nightmares whenever parades or large loads move through downtown. Maybe the civic leaders believe that future downtown construction is unlikely after the stadium is completed.

    The other issue is embedding rails into the pavement, and all the sturm und drang associated with repaving streets and servicing rails from time to time. This is less of an issue, in my mind, than the wire jungle above the streets.

    Of course, if the trolleys use an alternate power source, such as a clean diesel or battery power, then sign me yesterday.
  • awesome idea! we never should have gotten rid of them in the first place. can we get any of the antique ones and renovate them??
  • Ryan I like your thinking! A mix of the vintage ones and new ones would be great and add alot of character.
    Requitus, do you think it is possible to use some sort of power that is located in the rails or could that become a danger for pedestrians?
    I love this idea and I think it will do wonders for downtown and bring in more high density development. Add lightrails and we would have a great mass transit system! The original ones were closed down by GM. I think it would be great if the original rails were used and properly repaired as it would save money on metal and add charm(if the repair prices don't out weigh replacement).
  • This is a good idea but it ought to be streetcars like in Portland and cities in Europe-not just a downtown thing too. Scrap the elevated rail and use the dedicated ROW in a way that make sense. Then we can have true public transport.
  • I have links posted on the actual article of places in Tucson and I believce Portland. It hilights what Modern Street Cars look like, operate, cost, etc. Take a look.
  • I love the idea. Hopefully they can eventually connect to other forms of transportation like a mass transit system. It would be great for these cars to connect to the new Indianapolis Airport for conventions and sporting events for out of town visitors.
  • Love it!

    First the Cultural Trail and now this? Naptown gets better everyday!

    I hope they send a line down Virginia Ave to Fountain Square. Mass Ave seems a no-brainer, but it's a bit tight on room. Can't wait to hear more details on routes, technology, etc.
  • I love the idea, but there's very little chance it will happen. The costs invovled are just too high for a city as, how should I say this?, economically conservative as Indianapolis. For just a modest system we're talking about hundreds of millions dollars, along with multimillion dollar subsidies every year to keep it going. Let me ask this, how many people on this blog regularly take the bus?
  • Street cars alone will prove, in the long run, little more than a gimmick. However, if we take a page from San Francisco, coupling street cars with electric and biodiesel buses, a metro, express commute lines, etc., we might one day have an actual public transit system that people would really use. Add on fast-passes (monthly payment for unlimited rides) and you will see less congestion during commute time, less need for downtown parking monstrosities, etc. The only way to curb urban sprawl is to increase density and provide the citizens of the Circle City with true mass transit!
  • I totally think this is the best thing ever! Actually the idea of a mess of wires isn't true. Many people who have been to San Fran get the wrong impression. San Fran street cars and electric buses use the old style of overhead wires. Today in many cities, they use a single electrical wire, that doesn't take away the view, or make it look nasty.

    I think that this should start now, and I think this would be a big hit in a convention city like Indianapolis. It will possibly start the spark for larger forms of mass transit.
  • FANTASTIC NEWS!

    Everyone I've spoken with concerning the return of streetcars to downtown (and into the city's neighborhoods) is very excited about the prospect. For all of its recent amenities, downtown Indy still has a certain sterility, and lack of cohesiveness that would be greatly remidied by the presence of street rail transporation. Highways link the sections of a city with concrete, but streetcars bond a city together with soul.

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