PDA

You are viewing a trimmed-down version of the SkyscraperPage.com discussion forum.  For the full version follow the link below.

View Full Version : Streetcar revival closer



Pages : 1 [2]

Cynikal
Mar 27, 2009, 11:49 PM
And I thought I was the cynical one. It is government and there is a process. But to clarify, it is a meeting about a study.

econgrad
Mar 28, 2009, 3:22 AM
And I thought I was the cynical one. It is government and there is a process. But to clarify, it is a meeting about a study.

A perfect example of the "bureaucracies" that delay developments and inflate the costs of developments. There's one example for you Wburg..

doriankage
Mar 28, 2009, 10:52 AM
And I thought I was the cynical one. It is government and there is a process. But to clarify, it is a meeting about a study.


So it's a meeting for a study that will be discussed at city council meetings?
Meeting is still a meeting.

Not cynical, practical! I have spent the last 15 years in the military and I don't know how many meetings for meetings I have been to.

Phillip
Mar 28, 2009, 8:18 PM
This thread started two years ago with a Bee article about West Sac's city council conducting a feasibility study. Two years later we're waiting for a meeting to discuss whether there should be another study.

Here's the first sentence from the first post to this thread:

The last time trolley cars rolled through West Sacramento was in 1941. Efforts in the area to revive the cars date back 30 years.

Studies and meetings aside is there a penny to pay for this? Initial costs were estimated at $50 million, with annual operating costs of $2.5-3.5 million.

I expect we'll still be studying this streetcar 30 years from now.

wburg
Mar 28, 2009, 8:26 PM
This is an even better example of how many folks don't understand how these things work.

Basically, the folks behind the streetcar proposal have a proposed route. The city of Sacramento's transportation department has some issues with the route, and the downtown Sacramento business community has some issues with how the whole thing will be paid for, because in the current plan most of the construction cost would be paid by property owners along the route. So the city council has to decide to either (a) go with the current plan, (b) scrap the whole idea altogether, or (c) try to figure out a route that Sacramento would like better, and/or a funding mechanism that the business community would be happier with. Considering that there are issues with the current plan, but they don't want to scrap the whole idea, (c) is the most likely option.

City council meetings are not the place where details are worked out. Plans are actually developed by city staff or consultants, who do so in their offices, where they have access to computers and documents and the time to sit down and draw out plans and type up reports. Once they have worked up a plan, they go to city council and let them know what they found, and City Council says yes or no or look at it some more.

Think of it like this: Buildings are approved or denied at meetings, but that is not where the architect draws up the plans for the building...they do so at a drafting table, or in this day and age, at a workstation. So no, this is not a meeting to hold a meeting.

I'd rather see things done sooner, but sometimes when you're working on a plan, obstacles appear and you have to figure out a way around the obstacle. The other options are to either smash into the obstacle and fail, or give up and go home.

Phillip
Mar 28, 2009, 9:32 PM
So the city council has to decide to either (a) go with the current plan, (b) scrap the whole idea altogether, or (c) try to figure out a route that Sacramento would like better, and/or a funding mechanism that the business community would be happier with.

I don't think the business community will be happy with any streetcar plan requiring any monetary contribution at all.

What businesses do you think will benefit from a $50 million streetcar that duplicates already existing bus service? The liquor stores and $45 motels along West Capitol? The office towers on Capitol Mall struggling with rapidly declining rents and occupancy?

Don't get me wrong. I think streetcars are neat and I wish we still had them. But this will be very expensive and bus service is already there.

econgrad
Mar 28, 2009, 11:19 PM
I don't think the business community will be happy with any streetcar plan requiring any monetary contribution at all.

What businesses do you think will benefit from a $50 million streetcar that duplicates already existing bus service? The liquor stores and $45 motels along West Capitol? The office towers on Capitol Mall struggling with rapidly declining rents and occupancy?

Don't get me wrong. I think streetcars are neat and I wish we still had them. But this will be very expensive and bus service is already there.

I don't think the streetcar plan is meant to serve these types of businesses such as the cheap motels and liquor stores. I believe the idea for the streetcar is to strengthen the area by convenience and transportation choices to help improve the area for new businesses to locate, as well as revive the area more by bringing people to a from. The logic is better businesses would move in and less desirable would move out. I am not fully convinced of the logic, but $50 Million for another transportation choice would be prudent if, and only if, many more residents can move into both West Sac and Downtown where the streetcar will be. That would make the $50 million more applicable.

Phillip
Mar 29, 2009, 12:40 AM
What's wrong with new residents along the proposed streetcar route taking the Yolo Bus that already connects West Capitol and Downtown?

The logic is better businesses would move in and less desirable would move out.

I don't think that liquor stores and trailer courts and cheap motels are inherently undesireable if they're regulated and policed, which West Sac's pretty much are now. The people who live in West Capitol's motels and trailer courts have to live somewhere. If they move out to make room for "better businesses" where would you want them to go?

If we can find $50 million for a streetcar I think a line connecting RT with Arden Fair and Cal Expo would be more viable, with much higher ridership than West Capitol-Capitol Mall.

wburg
Mar 29, 2009, 4:48 AM
philip: What's wrong with the Yolo Bus is that it's a bus. Streetcars are better than buses for several reasons: they're smoother and more comfortable to ride, the fixed route represents a more secure transportation investment than a bus route (which can change anytime, while a streetcar has a fixed path) and, honestly, people just seem to like streetcars.

Streetcars are sometimes called "development-oriented transit." 100 years ago, developers actively subsidized streetcar lines to run to their neighborhoods in order to spur development, and the streetcar revival of the past decade or so uses a similar strategy.

I wouldn't rule out an entirely separate streetcar line between Arden Fair, Cal Expo and the TOD at Swanston, but that's going to be a bit down the line. The reason why the current discussion starts in West Sacramento is because West Sacramento has taken the lead on this--they are actively pursuing a streetcar line for what they envision as a very busy, very developed waterfront area over the next 20 years or so. But the secret to effective transit-oriented development is this:

BUILD THE TRANSIT FIRST.

Recent experiments with streetcars in places like Tampa, Portland and even Little Rock have shown that when a streetcar line gets built, development happens nearby: the streetcar is a useful amenity and a selling point. People want to live near transit, so if the transit is there, the housing becomes easier to sell--even if it's a bit short on parking.

The hitch on the downtown Sacramento end seems to be that downtown property owners don't want to pay special assessments to be part of a streetcar district. Portland faced the same obstacles, but overcame them: one example I heard about was a Les Schwab tire store, about as car-centric a business as you could ask for. When the line was built, they were very opposed to it, claiming that they wanted people to drive as it was their business to sell tires! When the Portland streetcar opened, the operators gave the tire store 1000 streetcar tokens to give out to customers. Within a few months, the tire store came back and bought 1000 more: their customers could drop off their car, go ride the streetcar downtown to shop or have lunch, and return to pick up their car, instead of sitting around the tire store. The customers loved it, and started going there instead of other tire stores!

Phillip
Mar 29, 2009, 5:59 PM
philip: What's wrong with the Yolo Bus is that it's a bus. Streetcars are better than buses for several reasons: they're smoother and more comfortable to ride, the fixed route represents a more secure transportation investment than a bus route (which can change anytime, while a streetcar has a fixed path) and, honestly, people just seem to like streetcars.

Isn't a bus's ability to change routes anytime an advantage over streetcars? If there's an accident, or construction, or a large event at Raley Field a bus can alter its route and drive around the obstacle, while a streetcar can't.

I don't know if people like streetcars better than buses. Since streetcars went out of business in the 1940's I don't think many Americans under the age of 65 have much experience with streetcars, or an opinion about whether streetcars are better than buses. Mainly people want to get from Point A to Point B and I don't think they don't care if it's a bus or streetcar as long as the vehicle is clean, safe, and on time.

My only experiences with streetcars are Portland's and San Francisco's. Portland's is a fun ride and it feels civilized. Portland's streetcar also runs through the heart of the densely populated Pearl District, which didn't have bus service at all before. SF's Market Street streetcar is often crowded, with crazy stinky people on board and pickpockets. Personally I'm more concerned with who else is riding public transportation with me than about whether it's a bus or streetcar.

Streetcars are sometimes called "development-oriented transit." 100 years ago, developers actively subsidized streetcar lines to run to their neighborhoods in order to spur development, and the streetcar revival of the past decade or so uses a similar strategy.

I understand how streetcars spurred development 100 years ago, but I don't think a West Sac-Capitol Mall streetcar line would spur much development today. Capitol Mall and West Capitol are essentially built out already. And Sacramento's already suffering from excess supply of housing and commercial space; West Sacramento in particular.

Recent experiments with streetcars in places like Tampa, Portland and even Little Rock have shown that when a streetcar line gets built, development happens nearby: the streetcar is a useful amenity and a selling point. People want to live near transit, so if the transit is there, the housing becomes easier to sell--even if it's a bit short on parking.

I don't know about Tampa or Little Rock's streetcars (I didn't know they had streetcars until now) but Portland's streetcar is a success because unlike the proposed Sacramento line it connects places where people actually want to go. And most of those places were there long before Portland's streetcar.

The Portland streetcar runs through Northwest Portland and the Pearl District, the two highest density neighborhoods in Portland, denser than any neighborhoods in Sacramento or West Sac, denser than Midtown.

Portland's streetcar is within short walking distance of downtown's finest hotels; Nordstrom's, Saks, Pioneer Place Mall; the art museum, symphony hall, main library, several of Portland's finest restaurants; Powell's, the largest used bookstore on the West Coast occupying a full city block; a riverfront park; the tram; Portland State University with over 20,000 students; and two major medical centers that combined employ over 10,000 people.

It's Portland's good fortune that so much housing, culture, and shopping were built in such a compact space, easily connected by a streetcar line. Sacramento just developed in a different way. This isn't another "Portland is Heaven and Sacramento Sucks" post. I like both cities very much. They're just different and that something works in one doesn't mean it will work in the other.

I don't think a streetcar would be viable in very many contemporary American cities. Portland just happens to be one of those few. Seattle is larger than Portland but from what I hear Seattle's new streetcar line isn't as popular as Portland's. Seattle's residential, cultural, and shopping areas are more scattered than Portland's and not as many dots could be connected with a single streetcar line there. And I think even fewer dots can be connected in Sacramento.

But bottom line, even if everyone agreed that a Sacramento streetcar would be a popular and successful enterprise, there's no money to build it now. Popular as it is Portland's streetcar is heavily subsidized, not remotely sustained by farebox revenues.

econgrad
Mar 29, 2009, 9:21 PM
I don't know what is better either Philip, streetcars versus Buses. But I think streetcars are cool, its a cool concept for Sac, so I like it for that. I understand this is not a very economical argument, or is it? :cool:
Maybe people would enjoy the area for the streetcar and in turn help revitalize.

wburg
Mar 29, 2009, 9:30 PM
Isn't a bus's ability to change routes anytime an advantage over streetcars? If there's an accident, or construction, or a large event at Raley Field a bus can alter its route and drive around the obstacle, while a streetcar can't.
An advantage on one hand--a disadvantage on the other. A streetcar line gives more of a sense of permanence, where a bus is, well, transitory. It also drives how development is managed along its route--buses don't. Think of streetcars as DEVELOPMENT-ORIENTED TRANSIT.


I don't know if people like streetcars better than buses. Since streetcars went out of business in the 1940's I don't think many Americans under the age of 65 have much experience with streetcars, or an opinion about whether streetcars are better than buses.

Part of why people like them is because they haven't been commonplace in a while--people have more sense of history than you give them credit for. For example, steam locomotives haven't been commonplace for over 50 years, but every three-year-old knows that the sound trains make is "choo-choo!" Today, when I go to San Francisco I see people let buses on Market go past so they can ride on the old PCCs or Peter Witts instead--because they like them.


I understand how streetcars spurred development 100 years ago, but I don't think a West Sac-Capitol Mall streetcar line would spur much development today. Capitol Mall and West Capitol are essentially built out already.

Downtown Sacramento was "already built out" when our first streetcar system was built in the 1870s! The whole point of a streetcar line is you put one end in the built-out area, and another in the new-development area. In a modern context, instead of greenfield development they run to redevelopment areas...like West Sacramento's waterfront, or Portland's old industrial warehouse district.

Portland's streetcar is a success because unlike the proposed Sacramento line it connects places where people actually want to go. And most of those places were there long before Portland's streetcar.

The Portland streetcar runs through Northwest Portland and the Pearl District, the two highest density neighborhoods in Portland, denser than any neighborhoods in Sacramento or West Sac, denser than Midtown.

Until about ten years ago, the "Pearl District" was called the "Northwest Industrial District." It was a former warehouse district, not a residential area. In 2000, the population of the 300-acre Pearl District was around 1100 people: that's around 3 or 4 people per acre.
http://www.portlandmaps.com/detail.cfm?action=Census&x=7643159.605&y=686914.544

The streetcar started running in 2001, the following year...and NOW, just a few years later, the Pearl is a much more densely populated place.


It's Portland's good fortune that so much housing, culture, and shopping were built in such a compact space, easily connected by a streetcar line. Sacramento just developed in a different way.

Good fortune had nothing to do with it. Portland was built out the way it was because they had a streetcar line to carry people from downtown Portland to their nearby streetcar suburbs. Sacramento developed EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Both Sacramento and Portland grew up around their streetcar and interurban lines, and abandoned them in favor of auto-centric and freeway-based sprawl in the 1950s.

The current density of the "Pearl District" is not the product of good fortune: it was facilitated by the fact that they had a convenient, handy form of transit running through the neighborhood from the early stages of its redevelopment. (That, and they didn't knock down the old industrial buildings willy-nilly, and could do adaptive reuse...but that's another story.) It drew developers to invest their money because it showed the city's level of commitment, and drew residents because they no longer needed a car to get around.


I don't think a streetcar would be viable in very many contemporary American cities. Portland just happens to be one of those few. Seattle is larger than Portland but from what I hear Seattle's new streetcar line isn't as popular as Portland's. Seattle's residential, cultural, and shopping areas are more scattered than Portland's and not as many dots could be connected with a single streetcar line there. And I think even fewer dots can be connected in Sacramento.

Portland's population density: 4,288.38/sq mi
Sacramento's population density: 4,711/sq mi
Seattle's population density: 7,086.2/sq mi

Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar reported over 500,000 boardings its first year...not quite up to Portland's numbers, but it is a newer route, and shorter.

Density isn't the problem...and the point of a streetcar is that IT HELPS YOU MAKE MORE DOTS, and puts them closer together. It helps MAKE density.

But bottom line, even if everyone agreed that a Sacramento streetcar would be a popular and successful enterprise, there's no money to build it now. Popular as it is Portland's streetcar is heavily subsidized, not remotely sustained by farebox revenues.

No transit system anywhere is sustained solely by farebox revenues...and that includes freeways and public roads (paid for by tax dollars) and airlines (paid for by public subsidy and infrastructure maintenance.)

We subsidize them because they are a catalyst for development: they make other developments possible. And if you want to encourage dense, urban, transit-oriented development, the best way to do it is with a streetcar.

As to the times, rough economic times are exactly when spending money on infrastructure is the most necessary, and can bring the greatest return. When the housing market comes back, we'll have the infrastructure in place. And that's the whole idea.

snfenoc
Mar 30, 2009, 4:39 AM
Hmmmmmm. I'm not sure I want to force business owners to pay more in taxes just because some people never let go of their childish fascination with choo choos. Yeah, street cars and smooth rides are cool, but not cool enough to spend 50 million. F**k that s**t.

wburg
Mar 30, 2009, 5:03 PM
Enough people liked them to spur a couple billion dollars in development, from a comparatively small investment. That's the point--it's a catalyst for growth all along the route.

One way or another, growing cities require transportation infrastructure. The difference is that transit systems like streetcars encourage vertical, infill types of growth, while transit systems like highways encourage horizontal, greenfield types of growth--and often end up costing more.

The HOV lanes soon to be built along Hwy 50 from Sunrise to Watt are going to cost about $100 million, and will expand 50 by only one lane in either direction, and their net result will be to encourage more development out in the suburbs, which will fill those new HOV lanes with more traffic.

If Sacramento wants more skyscrapers and more dense urban infill, we're going to want a transit system that facilitates that kind of development. Streetcars can do that, no matter how one feels about "choo-choos."

Phillip
Mar 30, 2009, 8:18 PM
I think Portland's Pearl District would have happened whether the streetcar was built or not. The abandoned warehouses were already being renovated before the streetcar was conceived. The streetcar enhanced and accelerated something that was happening anyhow.

The density stats you posted showing Sacramento denser than Portland are misleading. There's an urban forest inside the Portland city limits, thousands of acres, and it brings down density figure for the overall city.

What's more relevant is density of the neighborhoods adjacent to the streetcar lines. Anyone who's visited Northwest Portland or the Pearl would agree those neighborhoods are significantly denser than anything in Sacramento.

I think we just have to disagree on this, wburg. You think a streetcar will catalyze new development Downtown and in West Sac and I don't. If we could build this for $10,000 I'd say let's try it and see. For $50 million no. Lightrail to the airport first.

wburg
Mar 30, 2009, 9:42 PM
The streetcar enhanced and accelerated something that was happening anyhow.

That's exactly the point--the streetcar enhanced and accelerated the process. That's what they do! They make dense, urban cities easier to develop, easier to build, and easier to live in.


The density stats you posted showing Sacramento denser than Portland are misleading. There's an urban forest inside the Portland city limits, thousands of acres, and it brings down density figure for the overall city.

Sounds a lot like the American River and its associated parkway, not to mention large regional parks and golf courses within the city limits...plenty of Sacramento, thousands of acres if you add it up, is green space.

Read up on Portland sometime: the reason why they started promoting streetcars and light rail and urban infill was because sprawl was a huge problem for them. The reason why Portland gets mentioned so often in context with Sacramento is because they were facing the same problems and found ways to solve them--and streetcars were an important part of that solution.


What's more relevant is density of the neighborhoods adjacent to the streetcar lines. Anyone who's visited Northwest Portland or the Pearl would agree those neighborhoods are significantly denser than anything in Sacramento.

But they weren't like that ten years ago. Before the streetcar lines were built, there were three residents per acre. And as you mentioned above, having streetcars magnified and accelerated the process of getting that density--both by attracting developers and then residents. Again, that is the point. Streetcars were a redevelopment tool.

For $50 million no. Lightrail to the airport first.

Light rail to the airport will cost about 15 times that, by the most recent estimates. Streetcars cost less than a third what light rail costs per mile.

econgrad
Mar 31, 2009, 2:36 AM
Hmmmmmm. I'm not sure I want to force business owners to pay more in taxes just because some people never let go of their childish fascination with choo choos. Yeah, street cars and smooth rides are cool, but not cool enough to spend 50 million. F**k that s**t.

:haha:
I am not sure if the "cool" part of your posting was directed at me, but I do agree with your point about forcing business owners.

Phillip
Apr 1, 2009, 8:55 PM
Jumping back to post #105:

Basically, the folks behind the streetcar proposal have a proposed route. The city of Sacramento's transportation department has some issues with the route, and the downtown Sacramento business community has some issues with how the whole thing will be paid for, because in the current plan most of the construction cost would be paid by property owners along the route.

Who are "the folks behind the streetcar proposal"? It's easy to identify the streetcar's likely opponents (RT and Yolo Bus; business and property owners along the route who would pay for it); but who are the streetcar's present advocates?

wburg
Apr 1, 2009, 9:57 PM
Actually, RT and Yolobus don't oppose it, they are part of it. The feasibility study was undertaken by an ad hoc consortium of the Cities of West Sacramento and Sacramento, the Yolo County Transportation District, and the Sacramento Regional Transit District. They received a grant from SACOG to carry out the feasibility study. The streetcar system would most likely be operated by RT, using their servicing facilities at Swanston and their tracks on 7th, 8th and K Street (assuming the current alignment is used.)

West Sacramento has been the lead agency on the project, and the citizens of West Sacramento voted to continue a sales tax surcharge to fund a portion of the project. The city of West Sacramento wants to build in a denser, more urban fashion, and realize that a streetcar can help them do that, but it is of limited utility if people can't use it to get to the nearest major urban center...downtown Sacramento.

Phillip
Apr 2, 2009, 2:57 AM
I'm sure you know more about the streetcar proposal than me, wburg...the players and political process. All I know about the streetcar is what's in this thread, and I haven't read the whole thread.

I have no contacts at RT or Yolo County Transportation District, which runs Yolobus, and no info about what those agencies' views are on the streetcar. If they've endorsed the streetcar and that was mentioned in a prior post I missed that. I don't consider willingness to partcipate in a feasibility study the same thing as approval. Since the streetcar affects them they'll want input into the study whatever their views.

As an outsider it's difficult to understand why RT and YCTD would advocate for a streetcar line that will bring them major operational issues during construction (torn up streets, temporary bridge closures); then divert paying customers away from services they already provide. Yolobus especially would lose out if RT runs the streetcar.

Also, RT's mandate is to provide public transportation to the greater Sacramento region, not just downtown. If RT runs the streetcar it will be difficult for them to justify spending $50 million on this at the same time that funding shortfalls force them to reduce schedules and service to other Sacramento neighborhoods.

wburg
Apr 2, 2009, 5:56 AM
I recommend checking out the Riverfront Streetcar website:
http://www.riverfrontstreetcar.com
There is a lot of information there that can hopefully answer some of your questions.
I recommend looking at the Documentation page, Section 6, Financing and Organization.

Let me see if I can clarify, though. The group that wants to build the streetcar is a consortium of four different groups: the Cities of West Sacramento and Sacramento, the Yolo County Transportation District, and the Sacramento Regional Transit District. So when I say "the folks who want to build the streetcar," that is who I am talking about.

Any new transit project causes operational issues, whether it's street re-paving or a light rail extension. Part of the appeal of a streetcar system is that the construction process is a lot faster: the rails and roadbed only go about a foot deep, so they don't require extensive excavation, rerouting of utility lines, etcetera. It can be built at a rate of about a city block a week.

The streetcar won't divert paying customers, because RT and Yolo Transit are the ones behind the streetcar system. Some Yolobus and RT lines will become redundant: they will be replaced by the streetcar. This will provide an operational savings to RT and Yolobus. The customers just move from buses to streetcars--and if other cities' experiences are any example, they will be joined by a lot more customers.

The funding plan does not take money from RT's construction or operating budget. It uses a separate funding scheme for both construction and operation: again, see Chapter 6.

Another key thing to remember is that this is a modular system: once you build a starter system, you can expand it into more neighborhoods very easily. Portland's streetcar system actually started building its first extension before the first segment was completed--and has built several extensions since. So just because the first phase is downtown doesn't mean it can't stretch considerably farther out in the years to come--but it has to start somewhere.

I'm not an industry insider either. I just read the articles, go to the occasional public meeting, and study streetcars (historic and modern) in my spare time. Part of why I post here, despite the occasional difference of opinion, is because people here seem to be interested in this sort of thing. I post this stuff because I think it's interesting, and want to share with folks who are also interested in urban planning in general, and Sacramento in particular.

wburg
May 11, 2009, 3:58 PM
Here's an editorial from Sunday's Bee. Some interesting ideas, although there is some complexity to it: running a streetcar on the existing Sacramento Southern right-of-way bumps into the fact that those tracks are actively used for the tourist line and to display railroad equipment, and occasionally carry freight, plus there is no permanent way to cross the UP tracks at I Street (currently they have to drop in a panel track at pre-designated times to move things from the Shops to Old Sacramento) which would complicate having it run north up Jibboom to the science center.

But nice to see more editorial support for streetcar projects, and the fundamental premise is right--a streetcar can tie together destinations that are too far apart to walk, but close enough together that driving from one to another (and finding parking) is an annoyance.


Pia Lopez: Develop the riverfront; make streetcars key
ShareThisBy Pia Lopez
plopez@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, May. 10, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 3E
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 10, 2009 - 9:47 am

The transcontinental railroad, celebrating its 140th anniversary today, was the audacious dream of a handful of Sacramento merchants who pledged their small fortunes. The push from Sacramento over the Sierra Nevada was accomplished by the backbreaking work of thousands of laborers, mostly immigrants from China. And it happened after bank failures, a financial panic and the Civil War.

Two days before the May 10 Last Spike ceremony, where east and west were joined at Promontory Summit in Utah, a celebration in Sacramento drew thousands from all over the region. Their banners celebrated "The Enterprise of California, the Energy of Sacramento."

We need similar enterprise and energy today to reclaim the Sacramento River waterfront as a historic, cultural and recreational hub for the region.

Unlike San Francisco, Sacramento is unlikely to have a catastrophic earthquake to undo the freeway that separates the city from its waterfront. San Francisco tore down the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake and launched a waterfront renaissance. The three-mile stretch from Fisherman's Wharf to South Beach now is a mecca for pedestrians, historic trolleys, living spaces, and cultural and entertainment attractions.

In Sacramento, Interstate 5 remains a great physical barrier between downtown and the river. But The Bee's own Eleanor McClatchy and other civic leaders did the region a big favor, fighting to move the route three blocks from the river, saving most of the Old Sacramento historic quarter.

In doing so, they sowed the seeds for developing the beauty of the waterfront in Sacramento and West Sacramento as an attraction for residents and visitors. Since the late 1960s we've seen the creation of Old Sacramento as a state historical park; the arrival of the State Railroad Museum; the docking of the Delta King riverboat, the creation of a pedestrian/bike trail, Raley Field and more. What's missing is a way to tie both sides of the river with a transportation network that moves people without adding new traffic congestion.

Here's my dream.

Let's make it a priority to link both banks of the Sacramento River with a streetcar system.

Other cities have seen the value of a transportation network in reclaiming their waterfronts. In Portland, Ore., for example, a streetcar line began with a study in 1990, groundbreaking in 1999 and opening in 2001. And just at the end of April, the city received federal funds to build a three-mile extension for a riverfront loop – across Broadway Bridge in the north, along the east side of the Willamette River, and then across the river once again to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Savannah, Ga., just opened a streetcar line in its historic district last year. It was a five-year effort. A big plus to this project is that the streetcars are fitted with an onboard generator fueled by used cooking oil from Savannah's restaurants, eliminating the need for unsightly overhead wires.

In the Sacramento region we have many noteworthy arts, cultural and sports venues, but they're "scattered and developed in isolation." That was the conclusion of a January study, "Planning for Civic Amenities in the Sacramento Region," commissioned by Valley Vision, the American Institute of Architects Central Valley and Urban Land Institute Sacramento.

This is especially true of the waterfront, where facilities are strung out along a three-mile stretch of the Sacramento River. We need to tie together the river's attractions with easy access, building on existing and historic rail lines. I envision three stages in creating a transportation loop:

Stage 1: Expand use of the existing rail excursion line that runs south from Old Sacramento along the Sacramento Southern rail line.

Introduce a streetcar on this rail line that would make a series of stops from the Sacramento Zoo to the proposed Sacramento Docks area that will have housing, shops and a relocated California Auto Museum (formerly the Towe) north of the Pioneer Bridge, to the Crocker Art Museum to Old Sacramento to the railyard's historic Central Shops, which are to become home for a rail technology museum and a marketplace.
Finally, extend this existing line north of Old Sacramento to the historic PG&E building that has stood empty for nearly 50 years. The Discovery Science museum is moving to the site from Auburn Boulevard, and it has plans for a premier science and space center.

The Sacramento River District planning project should make a streetcar connection a priority, so science museum visitors could step off a streetcar in time for the May 2011 grand opening of the newly named Powerhouse Science Center.

Stage 2: Move quickly on the proposed Riverfront Streetcar project, linking Sacramento and West Sacramento across the Tower Bridge.

After fits and starts, the partnership between the two river cities, Regional Transit and the Yolo County Transportation District has been revived. A proposed starter route would cross the bridge and run a mile into each city's downtown – with a stop at Raley Field.

West Sacramento proposes extensions along the Sacramento River, north to the California Indian Heritage Center, which is in planning stages, and south along the Triangle area. West Sacramento residents have voted to support a quarter-cent sales tax that would fund streetcar operations beginning in 2013.

A rail switch near One Capitol Mall on the Sacramento side of the river could link this streetcar line with the existing Sacramento Southern line.

Stage 3: Launch an international design competition for the 2003 Riverfront Master Plan's proposed pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the Sacramento River near the confluence with the American River.

Include a streetcar rail line in this new river crossing to complete the loop from the Indian heritage center in West Sacramento to the science museum in Sacramento.

"Californians have always thought big," proclaims an exhibit just opened at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. "Just getting here was a significant challenge for the forty-niners, and the Transcontinental Railroad was the most prodigious engineering and construction achievement of the 19th century."

The exhibit, "The Rail Splitter and the Railroads: Lincoln, the Union and the Golden State," tells the story of how boldness and persistence can transform a place.

In conclusion, the exhibit asks: "Can we still dream big dreams?"

I think so.

The Sacramento River can, once again, be the bustling hub of the region – if we harness the "energy of Sacramento" and bind the isolated pieces.

A streetcar rail loop could do just that.

For more information For the planning project to develop Sacramento area civic amenities, go to www.valleyvision.org. In the left-side column under the heading "Partnership for Prosperity 2.0," click on the link to the recently published "Civic Amenities" report.

innov8
Jul 13, 2010, 3:03 PM
Streetcar hits roadblock
by Kathleen Haley, published on July 12, 2010 at 8:29PM

Plans to set up a streetcar to connect the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento have hit a roadblock. At the same time, the streetcar project is still on the agenda of both cities.

The federal transportation department bypassed the Sacramento/West Sacramento streetcar project last week when it chose projects for federal grant funding.

Instead, the federal government decided to award funding to cities in Texas, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said on Monday that he would like the project to compete for federal funds again if President Barack Obama’s Administration offers another grant program.

“We’re going to get it done,” Cabaldon said, expressing optimism about the project’s future. “It’s one of those things that’s kind of captured the imagination in the urban core.”

Meanwhile, Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn said the streetcar will not be running anytime in the near future. One of the weaknesses of the streetcar plan rebuffed by the federal government was that it didn’t have a route for the city of Sacramento, Cohn said. Under the old funding plan, the streetcar would have connected part of West Sacramento to Old Sacramento, but would not have gone further than that.

The city of Sacramento has not yet planned Sacramento’s streetcar route. Cohn said the city needs to spend time to decide where the route will go.

While there isn’t money available right now to put the streetcar on the street, there is funding for planning, according to city Transportation Department spokeswoman Linda Tucker.

Funding for streetcar planning will be on the City Council’s July 27 agenda, she said.

A pot of $310,000 in federal funds and $90,000 in local dollars is available for streetcar planning, she noted.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press

http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/32650/Streetcar_stops

CAGeoNerd
Jul 14, 2010, 4:31 AM
Streetcar hits roadblock
by Kathleen Haley, published on July 12, 2010 at 8:29PM

http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/32650/Streetcar_stops

A streetcar going down West Capitol? For what, to give all of the hookers and their clients quick transit around the motel district? ::sigh::

Mass transit is supposed to connect people with places. Why not have a streetcar stretch down Jefferson Blvd to all of the new developments in Southport? Why not have it connect to where people live instead of connecting a run-down part of town with downtown? Or do they honestly think it will bring tourists to motel alley? What are they thinking?