PDF Map of Streetcar Route:
Transit agency launches website touting streetcar potential
By: Deborah Johnson Wood
The results are many months off, but the streetcar feasibility study launched by The Rapid is well underway. To help residents understand the far-reaching benefits that could accrue to Grand Rapids given a serious investment in the modern public transportation infrastructure, the regional transit agency recently launched an information page on its web site this week.
The study will determine a number of factors, including the location and length of the initial route of the streetcar system, ridership potential, construction cost, funding, how fast it could be built, and the kind of economic development it might generate.
“In the past, Grand Rapids had a well developed streetcar the system that built up Eastown and Cheshire and East Grand Rapids around Ramona Park,” says Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid, “and that is exactly what it can do to re-stimulate the neighborhood business and residential aspects now.”
Transit leaders suggest the initial alignment could be a 3.2-mile loop from Newberry Street south along Monroe to The Rapid central station. That proposed route is expected to be approved as the top priority this week by a task force overseeing the project.
“It’s an extension of pedestrian activity,” Varga says. “It will also create a new nucleus of riders outside the core that will travel into the core. That’s a key component.”
Streetcar systems don’t come cheap, running from $12 to $15 million per mile to build, but the return on the expenditure is typically 10 to 20 times that as the new transit infrastructure stimulates private investment along and near the route. That's based on the experience of several U.S. cities that have invested in urban trolley systems.
The modern streetcar system has had phenomenal success in Portland, OR, for instance. The initial cost of building the first leg of the city's streetcar system approached $57 million. But the ROI in the first four years alone was some $2.39 billion in residential and commercial development.
Grand Rapids' streetcar project is following the Portland model. Projected costs will be known when the study is completed in June 2008.
& Peter Varga, The Rapid
The RAPID Transit Streetcar Page:
Grand Rapids is using the Portland model
as the one they will focus on to make transit a reality here.