Streetcars, once ubiquitous in American cities, are making a major comeback, as noted by Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic.. This year construction will begin on new streetcar lines in Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Tucson. In addition, both Portland, OR, and Washington, DC, are already building streetcar lines, both scheduled to open in 2012.
Economic development goals are driving many of these new streetcar projects. Although buses can reduce congestion, increase accessibility, and decrease emissions, they do little to spur economic development along its routes because the routes are not fixed. (Proponents of bus rapid transit systems are quick to note that they may offer more streetcar-like opportunities for development.)
Cincinnati expects its new streetcar will foster greater population density, new office and retail space, increased downtown employment, and higher property tax revenues. The Cincinnati Streetcar Feasibility Study [PDF] estimated that the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized properties in the streetcar corridor will boost the economy by more than $1.4 billion.